Like many people I was sad to hear of the death of cricket commentator Richie Benaud on Friday.
Richie Benaud defined cricket commentary for my generation and I’ll always remember his rich words during that iconic summer of 1981 and the greatest test series I think ever took place - Botham’s Ashes.
But it was Richie Benaud’s articulate, measured, soothing descriptions of events taking place on the pitch that elevated the games from brilliant to unforgettable.
And it spawned my favourite piece of sporting commentary ever when he described a huge six from Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham against a flagging Australian side:
“Don’t even bother looking for that, let alone chasing it. It’s gone straight into the confectionery stall – and out again.”
It’s been a much repeated quote since his passing but those who were around at the time didn’t need a reminder, it was tucked away in the memory bank for life. A truly brilliant and totally unplanned line.
To me he was just an incredible communicator and storyteller.
Richie’s approach to commentary was of the face of it incredibly simple but something few others ever achieved.
When asked about the secrets to commentating he said:
“Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.”
And it’s an approach that works for us communicators too:
- Less is more
- Don’t fill gaps with unnecessary words or feel the need to state the obvious
- If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all
- Always be supportive of your fellow professionals
- Be honest
- Respect the audience
- Know your craft inside out
I’ve been thinking about the art of communications a lot lately, and which people across the industry have it nailed regardless of a changing world, passing fads, PR being dead and everything else which is the backdrop to our industry.
The comms professionals I admire most are the one who embrace change and innovate but who also have the uncanny, not necessarily teach-able knack, of instinctively knowing what works and how to manage comms whatever new toys come along. Social media? They just take it in their stride and adapt accordingly without making a big fuss about things.
Richie Benaud in his 42 years of commentating saw huge changes in the game of cricket: from all-whites, non-televised games, 70s streakers and cucumber sandwiches and madeira cake at the tea interval, through to Sky TV, mega player contracts, sports psychiatrists, 20-over blasts and gaudy multi-coloured kits.
But, none of it really mattered to him as a commentator, he just carried on being the best at what he did.
There’s a lesson for us all in there.
Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0, vice chair of LGcomms, a head of comms and a cricket fan.