I spent some time with an ex-Rotarian yesterday (I’m gonna get this guy back into Rotary. He is an ex-award winning club president for pete’s sake) and he was complaining that “Rotary needs to rethink its marketing.” How many times have we heard that? If only the “Mothership” would spend tens of millions on advertising, Rotary worldwide could take its rightful place as the preeminent provider of “do-gooding” in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
I’m pretty sure most folks have little idea of what it costs to create “brand awareness” in today’s incredibly crowded marketplace of people trying to sell us stuff. What most Rotarians think of when they imagine the Rotary ad campaign that will resolve our membership problems is a Madison Avenue “Coca-Cola like” ad campaign. Hey, we could steal these from Coke at any moment: Things Go better With Rotary; Rotary, It’s the Real Thing; I’d like to buy the world some peace (part of our “Real Thing” campaign); Always Rotary, or, have you seen this one? Amazing!
Of course the problem is that Coke’s worldwide advertising budget in 2010 was $2.9 billion, so all we have to do is raise our dues by $2,416 per member, per year, for all 1.2 million Rotarians and we got this licked. (For a little perspective, last year Rotary’s $52 US dues per member are reported in our financials as total dues revenue of $62.5 million. Of our $52 per member, $9.58 goes for “messaging and communications.” I’m not sure about this, but I think we come up a little short.)
Here’s the good news. YOU DON’T NEED a huge Coke-like ad campaign to effectively market your Rotary club. To raise awareness about Rotary we need to do a little “guerrilla marketing,” those unconventional, interesting, low cost, and creative techniques we can use to very effectively promote our Rotary clubs. Public Relations is one of the big focuses of RI’s strategic plan, and it is consequently a big part of the strategic planning for District 7620. It should be a big part of the strategic planning for EVERY Rotary club.
I know this is pretty “old school,” and low tech, but what if we think about how to use signage on our projects to promote what we do? Here’s an idea that comes to you courtesy of the Howard County Rotary Clubs, who made a $75,000 five year commitment to fund scholarships at Howard Community College. The clubs had already been individually supporting scholarship programs at the college, but Rotarian Joan Athen (Past President of two different Rotary Clubs, former Board Member of HCC, and all-around super woman) came up with the idea to coordinate these efforts into one five-year pledge. To make a long story short, the pledge earned Rotary the naming rights for the Atrium of the brand new Health Sciences Building on the HCC campus. All of which is pretty much old news around here…until I saw the actual sign. I hope the pictures do it justice because it is a breathtaking “thank-you” from HCC to Rotary, and it can’t help to 1) make any Rotarian’s heart beat a little quicker with pride, and more importantly 2) have absolutely everyone who enters the building think about Rotary and perhaps wonder if its worth learning a little more about what we do.
If the large sign wasn’t enough, there is a smaller plaque that names all of the individual Rotary clubs that participated in the project. We should all spend some time thinking about: What does your club do in your community? What could the clubs in your area do together? How newsworthy would it be? How do you, or could you, promote your good work in your community?
RI President, Gary Huang gets this. He is asking us all to do a “Rotary Day” in our communities to help raise Rotary Awareness. Pretty good idea…don’t you think?
We can do this!!!
NOTE: For more information about the great PR tools available to Rotary clubs, try getting started at Rotary Brand Central on the RI website at https://brandcenter.rotary.org/en-GB?
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