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The region will need to have proper communication mechanisms in place to effectively deal with any crisis that may occur during the staging of the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) during the months of March and April.
Among the mechanisms suggested are designated national and regional spokespersons; the capability to update websites quickly; the establishment of a regional journalist email database; and the further development of contacts with international news agencies such as Reuters, the Associated Press, the BBC, and CNN.
These were some of the ideas put forward by 22 participants from the Government information services of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), who recently benefited from a CARICOM sponsored two-day workshop on Crisis/Security Management for Press Officers for Cricket World Cup 2007, in Barbados.
The workshop was led by a team headed by Deputy Director of the Public Affairs Directorate of Scotland Yard, Chris Webb, who shared experiences of the London bombings of 2005 and also addressed key issues such as the creation of a hostile environment for criminal elements; the use of the media in fighting crime and terrorism; and the use of communication mechanisms in crisis management.
Adviser to the Public Information Unit with the Office of the Secretary General of CARICOM, Leonard Robinson, also proposed a plan of action for the region in the event of a crisis. He presented a flow chart to provide a context within which information would be disseminated on a systemic basis and at the same time, deal with queries from international journalists in the event of a crisis.
The chart outlined a number of steps required to create an effective regional communication process with the regional communication centre being the information hub due to the fact that the region will be operating as a single domestic space.
“The regional spokesperson will be the face and the voice out there saying what is happening and not happening and this is what we think will happen,” he posited.
“Feeding into that process at the regional communication centre is the national media liaison officer. These are the people at the national level, who will be the repository of all information, simply because experience has taught us that it makes no sense having to be in contact with 15 different people at one time to try and get the information out,” Mr. Robinson remarked. The occurrence of any incident, he noted, would not only impact on the individual nation but the region. “Therefore, there will be a need to provide timely and accurate information about any incidents or events and the action being taken by the relevant authorities as well as ensure that the information is shared with all partners and shareholders so as to demonstrate a unified response, said Mr. Robinson.
He pointed out that “once you have the international media and once you have those television stations around and mobile cameras.what you would want to do is be the first person putting out your version of the truth.”
“Nothing is so difficult as to pull back from misinformation because once that thing is out there, you could always try to take it back all you want but as far the public is concerned first impressions are lasting,” he added.
The workshop forms part of the regional public education and public relations strategy for ensuring a safe and secure environment for the staging of CWC 2007.