33. Bridge: Will ACBL’s new Director of Communications play bridge?

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Not necessarily!  The last sentence of ACBL’s posted job description closes with “Bridge experience . . . not required, but strongly preferred.”  I find that odd–I do remember, however, a complaint in some bridge blog about the number of ACBL employees who don’t play.

As an amateur writer on the topic, I would find it a distinct handicap to have to write and edit other writing (part of a communications job) about bridge if I’d never played it myself.  Nobody asked me–and it may be too late  anyway since the posted job description gives no deadline for applicants–but here’s what I’d do if I were on the screening committee.

One, give preference to candidates with demonstrated success in promoting lifestyle issues/products, especially in the area of Retro pop culture and nostalgia, and with the ability to write evocatively and/or edit other’s writing on those themes.

Two, require candidates to play, or have played, bridge even if only social bridge.

Three, down to 3-4 finalists, require each to read the following:  New York Times Bridge Book by Allen and Dorothy Truscott, The Backwash Squeeze by Edward McPherson and my book Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway?  The books should be read by era–first pre-Culbertson (Chapters 1-3 of Truscott; Chapter 4 of McPherson; the Prologue and Chapters 1-3 of my book), THEN pertinent chapters in each for Culbertson Era.

Then STOP and read The Devil’s Tickets by Gary Pomerantz.  Immersing in that era of contract bridge is the only way to understand the kind of pop culture phenomenon it once was–and envision a marketing plan for the future.

Four, after reading The Devil’s Tickets, go on to the Goren era, the decline of bridge in the 70s,  and where bridge is today–reading those topics in all three books listed above. Spend some time googling bridge blogs about bridge and its future (not blogs just about bridge hands) for views of today’s experienced bridge players.

What if a qualified candidate shows up who had the wit and curiosity to have read (and Googled) about the history and pop culture of bridge BEFORE being asked to do so? Hire him. . . but I’m hoping it’s a her.

When the job description says (as it does) that the ACBL is looking for a “creative and curious person who wants to shine and make a difference” in an organization that has “recently engaged motivated new leadership” I’m going to assume real change in marketing is the goal. And that the phrase ability to “communicate complex marketing issues to a broad audience” means–in plain English–ability to reach out to both serious and sociable potential bridge players and thereby recreate  some of the ambiance of the 50s and 60s that made bridge America’s favorite card game.  If I’m reading into it more than is there, I’ll just have to be disappointed later. I prefer being optimistic.

Another good sign today of things to come. While browsing the ACBL website  I happened on the June 2012 issue of Marketing Matters. It features an article by Mark Pharaoh of London, one of my favorite bridge bloggers.  Go check out http://web2.acbl.org/documentlibrary/marketing/marketing-matters/Summer_2012.pdf and read Mark’s first article. See also his blog www.ibridgeplayer.com. Also, while you’re at it, check out blogs #21 and 22 in my archives. I’ll have to browse the ACBL website more often.

I may have started this blog kind of doubtful about hiring a communications director who doesn’t play bridge, but finding Mark Pharaoh at Marketing Matters is cheering enough to end it with a happy face. Don’t know how to do that so I’ll settle for two exclamation points!!


4 Responses to 33. Bridge: Will ACBL’s new Director of Communications play bridge?

  1. We should not discriminate against someone who does not play bridge. They could have such an understanding of the human condition and what motivates people to do things that they could get loads of people to at least try the game!

    However, examining the track record of those who have tried to popularize the game, the ones who play have done a lot better that those that do not.

    It comes down to each person being judged on their own merit, but generally a bridge player has done a better job of marketing and/or leading this league than a non-player.

  2. I respectfully disagree with Steven Gaynor that the marketing person must have extensive experience with duplicate and tournaments to “understand current clientele”–my whole premise is (based on reading of contract bridge history)to pattern marketing (as much as possible giving changing times some 9 decades later)after what happened in Culbertson era. Make bridge a “talked about” part of pop culture–draw in NUMBERS of people rather than target the selective few who will ever take up tournament play. They will inevitably emerge once hooked on bridge and even then, they need to have the DNA of a relentlessly competitive games player to take that path.

    Just some loose statistics I remember is that at its height 40 million people played bridge in the U.S. and even then the ACBL membership never reached beyond 250,000 or so–those actively seeking masters points. Probably can increase that quite a bit by insisting on better manners but the demands of tournament player will always limit its #s (no matter what the sport) to the elites.

    Someone should think up an intermediate kind of “membership” in the ACBL that provides a service warranting a modest annual dues for those who will never take up masters points and tournaments. That way you’d finance a growing national organization and have that all-important growing email list for marketing. Perhaps Friendly Duplicate? Or maintain national subscription list of social bridge players so they can find one another? Haven’t really thought it through–needs brainstorming.

    Anyway–seems to me a marketing/communications person’s general aptitudes wouldn’t be those of the typical tournament player. Aren’t they mostly lawyers, math people, engineer types rather than creative workers as marketing people must be?

  3. I think, sadly perhaps, that the last sentence you mention is probably boilerplate in all their job descriptions. A good friend of mine recently applied (and intreviewed) for the position of Assistant: Office of Recorder/Director of Elections, and that job description contains the same line. For what it is worth, my friend started playing bridge about 3 years ago and has been a life master for about a year now.

  4. Hi Maggy

    I totally agree that anyone involved with any ACBL marketing sould be have extensive experience playing in duplicate games at ACBL sanctioned clubs and tournaments. You have to understand your current clientele in order to know how to reach new people who may enjoy this experience.

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