The appointment of retired journalist David Ellis as communications advisor to the covid-19 communications effort will not do much to solve the residual vaccine resistance problem still present in Barbados.
Since journalists are immersed in communication, it is understandable why many organizations recruit them as PR officers or whatever fancy title they are given. They are employed, for the most part, because of their ready-made contacts with the media houses and their comfort level with presenting to the public.
The purpose of this is to ease media access; it does not necessarily mean that those recruited understand communications strategy, far less persuasive marketing communications.
True journalists, unlike mere reporters and announcers, are expected to go beyond presenting the facts and attempt to critically assess them. This where Mr. Ellis has made his mark.
If Mr. Ellis is true to himself, we can expect some level of friction with his bosses, even though it may very well be concealed. God knows that there are already enough controversial issues over covid-19 vaccines to generate rivers of divide.
But then again, as the wise man noted “money speaks to everything.” (Ecclesiastes 10:19, New International Version).
Mr. Ellis’ engagement is no doubt intended to help a covid-19 weary government persuade residual vaccine “hesitants” and vaccine refuseniks to take the jab. The emphasis is on “persuade”.
Competent performance in this assignment requires Mr. Ellis to cross over from journalistic communications to marketing communications which, as we have hinted above, is designed to be persuasive.
In order to assess whether Mr. Ellis can give any help as he claims he can, we must first note that government’s current covid-19 communications strategy is flawed because it is has been relying, for the most part, on what we call in communications theory, peripheral route persuasion.
Incidentally, this strategic faux pas also explains why government continues to hire people on the basis of irrelevant criteria, source incompetent people to head organizations and make boo boos such as the tourism advertisement fiasco. Nepotism, cronyism and pure snobbery are the worst enemies of progress in this banana republic. But we are digressing.
Government’s covid-19 communications strategy is flawed because it is predicated on manifest ignorance of and/ or disregard for, the characteristics and understandings of the audience as vaccine consumers. It was precisely a consumer orientation that was used to explain hesitancy with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. The article can be found here.
We cannot fault the government for being zealous about beating the virus. But those who know the Scripture understand that one can have a “zeal [for God] but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2 Berean Literal Bible).
While the Supreme Communications Czar may have the “gift of gab”, an overrated ability in this country, an understanding of higher level communications principles is manifestly lacking. Only a miasmatic audience will be unable to see this, of course.
As a consequence of this ignorance or disregard, recent covid-19 communications have relied too much on fear and personality appeals.
Therefore, covid-19 communications have now reached the “over-communication” stage and is teetering very dangerously into propaganda territory.
It is reliance on personalities that partly explains why these “communication czars” are replaced so frequently. When the initial effect of one personality wears off, new magic must be found in the person of some other VIP. Hence Mr. Ellis’ appointment; ergo the backgrounding of Liz Thompson, Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, etc.
We are willing to admit that some of this shuffling may be due to fatigue but that in itself may be due to working harder rather than smarter.
Regrettably, Barbados is a country steeped in personality cultism. This is not only a sign of creeping idolatry but a symptom of an enduring massa-slave complex as well as an indication that we are intellectually immature as a nation, despite all the formal education that we claim to have.
Very few people are prepared to take the time to THINK and break through the veil of personality to deal with the facts in front of their noses far less those that are implied. Over forty years of experience in higher education teaching and assessment tells me that.
Yet some of the social media comments we are seeing suggests that there is still some hope of redemption.
I am not going to help Mr. Ellis earn his alleged $15,000 monthly remuneration which is just some $2,000 shy of a minister’s salary. I have said enough already. But if our assessment of the situation is correct, his appointment is yet another blatant waste of the taxpayers’ money.
If Mr. Ellis is as smart as we think he is, his shelf-life may very well outlast that of his predecessors and his bank account rejoice at the same. On the other hand, if he is true to himself, he will soon make himself redundant!
YOU CAN MAKE FACEBOOK COMMENTS RIGHT HERE
AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE.
DO LIKE AND FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK TO BE NOTIFIED OF NEW ARTICLES
Dr. Aldon D. Tull is a retired educator who holds the Master of Science in International Marketing from Strathclyde University, Scotland and a Doctor of Education from Sheffield University, England.
He can be reached at 246-228-3720 or Whatsapp 246-846-3191