Monday, 4 November 2013

Mis Communicator of the Week: Sir Alex Ferguson

"History will judge us kindly", Winston Churchill told Joseph Stalin and President Roosevelt at the Tehran Conference in 1943; when asked how he could be so sure, he continued: "because I shall write the history". Once the war was won he set about making sure history was detailed how he remembered it - extensively across six massive volumes of The Second World War.

So it is certainly not new for a public figure to write about events in which they have been a significant player. Politicians are the most likely to put pen to paper; setting out the whys and wherefores of their successes and failures in a bid to secure a positive legacy. The modern trend is for those at the height of their fame - whether sport or soap stars - to have an autobiography ghost written in time for Christmas. These vacuous hardbacks are often in the bargain basement bin by Easter.

This made the publication by Sir Alex Ferguson - the former Manchester United manager - of his autobiography a significant moment just months after he had retired after 26 years as manager of a global sports brand like Manchester United.

There has been a large amount of interest in the book. Sadly mostly for the petty minded nature of Ferguson's observations rather than anything else.

The sports (and news) pages of the newspapers could have been full of what Ferguson's views are on a wide range of issues in football and sport more widely. His stature as a man who won consistently could have secured a positive legacy with those who do not support Manchester United or indeed care a sausage about football.

As a nation traditionally sceptical of those who succeed maybe he could have given us an insight into what needs to happen in schools to change this? Teambuilding, reputation management, crisis management, media relations all could have been covered allowing us in communications to pick out case studies from his career.

What do we get instead? A slating of his most hated opponents, score settling with former players he fell out with, a failure to accept any wrong-doing and a willingness to re-open old wounds. During his time at Manchester United I had a grudging respect for someone as successful as he was but also a deep distrust as to the kind of man Alex Ferguson is. He has written his history now and, if anything, my view of him has diminished not been enhanced.

A book of this kind is an opportunity to change perceptions, secure a legacy and enhance a reputation. None of these have been achieved by Alex Ferguson which is why he is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

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