Sunday, April 6, 2014

OCA needs a communications upgrade

One of the major issues that led to the problems facing the Ontario Curling Association is a lack of communication.

At the March 30 meeting, the OCA acknowledged its shortcomings in this department. Board member Gord Gark even apologized for it. Good on the board for owning up to this.

In my opinion, much of this entire episode could have been prevented or at least lessened had the board communicated with the membership. But as we know, the zone reps, the first link down the chain, weren’t updated of the spat with the CCA. They received no communication from Nov. 24 until mid-March.

I even believe that some of the board members didn’t know what was going on or at least weren’t made fully aware although I don’t have that confirmed.

The board says now that it couldn’t reveal any info or even discuss the situation while it was happening. But if that’s indeed true, then it should have said that. It should have issued a statement or two re-assuring the membership that it was working to put an end to the situation, that it was sorry some resources has been cut off from clubs, that while it couldn’t discuss specifics that it was working with lawyers to act in the best interests of the membership.

But it did none of that. And the best way to get rumours started, to have those brown envelopes dropped off with the media and to have the membership rise up in arms is to not communicate.

At the meeting, the board was even shocked to discover that most in the room didn’t think the OCA website was doing a very good job of disseminating information. Past president Joan O’Leary was the most shocked, saying: “Are we not communicating?”

So moving forward, what should the board do? In my opinion, it needs to take a multi-pronged approach to this and it should be one of the most important things on the board’s plate.

The easiest and most effective (and probably cost effective) way is to harness both the Internet and social media. Currently the OCA has a web site that is basic, along with a moribund Facebook page and Twitter account.

A look at some other associations shows some good activity from B.C., Manitoba, Quebec and PEI. They regularly tweet out information ranging from upcoming courses to sign-up deadlines to scores from competitions. The key is that they are consistent and regular. Curlers come to expect and look for the information.

A monthly electronic newsletter is another easy way to reach the membership. Items can be culled from a variety of sources and board members an other influential people such as ice technicians or players, could offer up regular columns.

The web site isn’t all that bad in my opinion but it could be so much better. Take a look at the CCA’s site and a few of the other provinces’ and you’ll see what can be achieved. You can include so many more people, you can attract more players and keep everyone up to date with just a little more effort.
It really isn’t hard. However easy doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Gark said at the meeting that the board discussed hiring a co-op student. I think it’s a little more important than that and to me that shows how the board views communication.

Right now, there isn’t even a board member whose job it is to oversee communication. In my opinion it should be a fulltime position. The OCA has lots of money in the bank – reportedly more than seven figures – and this would be a good way to utilize some of that and get things back on track by allocating some money for someone to come in and take on this duty.

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