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It's Good to Talk - Why You Should Own Your Narrative

11/06/2014 12:39 BST | Updated 10/08/2014 10:59 BST

Poor Adrian Chiles. A football match being suspended is every presenter's worst nightmare, and he has suffered it twice. Two years ago Poland versus England was rained off, and on Saturday England's final preparation match ahead of the World Cup Finals was stopped for forty minutes due to "inclement weather", or lightening as we know it.

Forty minutes is a long time to fill, especially when you are limited to conversation about football with Lee Dixon, Ian Wright and Glenn Hoddle. Cue a lot of mobbing of sweaty brows and inane chat about football tactics, local stadia with roofing and players probably not wanting to continue with the match. However, there was a shining light in the middle of this; a referee explained his decision and thus controlled the message.

Yes, that's right, a referee talked fluently about the weather suspension, why it was needed and when he hoped the match would re-start. For many watching, this will have been a first - in the UK referees do not speak to the media in the same way. When I worked in the game, I was struck by how poor the image of referees was. This dying breed had personality, and were doing a good job in difficult surroundings week in, week out, but these messages were not reaching the public because referees are dehumanised through a lack of engagement.

That's a shame. Imagine if referees were allowed to explain their decisions after each game and own their own narrative. Even if they took incorrect decisions, we would understand where they were coming from in making them. And that's a great lesson for any organisation or leader.

For good communicators, it is good to talk. Not talking for the sake of it, but speaking publically when you have something important to say.

Just look at another of the weekend's big stories for an example of how good communications can help. Do you remember the news that 89 year old War Veteran Bernard Jordan had escaped his care home to join fellow heroes in Normandy at the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings? Great story, but one that could have led to difficult questions for the Pines Care Home in Hove. Had they stopped this war hero from going to Normandy? Had they put him at risk by allowing him to abscond in this way?

Good proactive communications ensured that wasn't the case. Despite many commentators stating that he would "be in trouble" with the care home, their spokesperson, Peter Curtis, was busy all weekend bringing the story back to a place where they were seen as good humoured, responsible and caring - merely wanting him to be safe and happy. Their plans for a hero's welcome for his return have been abundantly communicated, as has the fact that at "no stage was he banned from going to the commemorations".

Talking often gets bad press. Some people do it way too much. However, most organisations and leaders don't do it enough, particularly when there is an issue in play. Whether you are a football referee, or Chief Executive of a care home from which a war hero has absconded, the rule is simple: When you have nothing to say, keep quiet. But when you do, make sure you say it or others will say something else that you may not like.