By perfecting your brand and increasing your credibility, retaining and attracting your target audience becomes much easier.
Jim Henry, Zone 34 Membership and Rotary Coordinator, 2009 - 2011.
In Rotary Zone 34, and throughout
North America, indications are that Rotary still has
credibility but has ceased perfecting its Brand. In the five years from 2005 through 2009,
Zone 34, with over 34,000 Rotarians, inducted 22,467 new members and lost 23,053. This indicates that, after decades of
building respect and credibility, the name Rotary still attracts its target
audience – members – but many Rotary clubs have lost the ability to retain members.
Examine possible reasons why from a different point of view. Successful Organization History 101 (reference Distinctive Position Edition workbook on the right sidebar) tells us that when organizations begin, they furnish goods and/or services different from others that compete for their target audience’s time, talent, and treasure. This difference is the organization’s Distinctive Position, its driving force; its Brand. If the organization wants long-term success, it is critical that it adheres to, perfects, and jealously guards its Brand.
Second to the Brand, and this first/second relationship is vital, is that the organization must have attributes that Relate to the target audience’s wants and needs, which change with time and location. Why? It is the manner in which the organization’s attributes Relate to the target audience that builds Brand loyalty.
The extent to which the organization fulfills its stated or implied Brand establishes the Respect the target audience has for it. Respect does not occur without having a Brand and attributes that Relate. Respect reflects the credibility and reputation the target audience has for the organization. Respect can outlive the Brand by many years.
Knowledge the target audience has of the organization follows Respect and can also outlive the Brand by many years. Knowledge means that the target audience has bought into what the Brand stands for, its difference, and further enhances the organization’s credibility. Brand Knowledge cannot be purchased with advertising or public relations. It must be gained through experience and education. In Rotary, that translates to retaining members, which will enhance attracting members.
What has this got to do with Rotary?
Some organizations reach their mountaintop and score high in the Brand, Relate, Respect, and Knowledge categories, then falter and start slipping down the mountain or fall off the cliff. Why? Most often it is because its leaders become complacent about perfecting the Brand and allow, or encourage, attributes to exceed the Brand in priority. This affects everything the organization does: strategic planning, daily operations, associate educational programs, advertising, public relations, etc. The leaders mistakenly believe that its attributes, things like products, projects, and programs, are its Brand, but an organization’s Brand cannot be defined by attributes; attributes must support the Brand. Attributes change with time and location and frequently lose Relevance. Popular attributes are often copied. Respect and Knowledge continue to attract the target audience, but they soon learn that the organization has forfeited differentiation, hence credibility, strictly because it failed to perfect its Brand.
This relates to Rotary at all levels. The target audience, and only the target audience, authenticates a Brand. Rotary International can't; The Rotary Foundation can't; the over 34,000 Rotary clubs can't! If target audiences are not properly identified, and their wants and needs are not served by Relevant attributes, Rotary's Brand cannot be perfected. Respect and Knowledge will slowly slip away, and the North American experience indicates that Rotary is in danger. Will, or can, Rotary revitalize its Brand?