"We don't have the money to do a massive media campaign," RI President Ravi responded, according to DG 7620 Ken Solo's recent Blog post. I suspect President Ravi also knew, but didn't want to cast shadows, that a massive public relations media campaign would be a massive waste. Contrary to what many Rotarians believe, very few people in the world, or in any community, have any interest whatsoever in joining a local Rotary club, much less the discretionary time and money.
The Rotary network serves a niche market, and the most effective niche market PR is word-of-mouth, be it face-to-face or through social media. The most effective way to build word-of-mouth PR is for the Rotary network to continuously deliver value to existing clubs and Rotarians that is worth the time, treasure, and talent that they are willing to exchange. Perhaps this common-sense fundamental is best illustrated by this story from a 2011 Rotatorial and forums/auran.com:
A few years ago, British Rail had a real fall-off in business. Looking for a marketing answer, they went searching for a new ad agency - one that could deliver an ad campaign that would bring their customers back.
When the British Rail executives went to the offices of a prominent
ad agency to
discuss their needs, they were met by a very rude receptionist, who insisted
that they wait. Finally, an unkempt
person led them to a conference room - a dirty, scruffy room cluttered with
plates of stale food. The executives
were again left to wait. A few agency
people drifted in and out of the room, basically ignoring the executives who
grew impatient by the minute. When the
execs tried to ask what was going on, the agency people brushed them off and
went about their work. London
Eventually, the execs had enough. As they angrily started to get up, completely disgusted with the way they had been treated, one of the agency people finally showed up.
"Gentlemen," he said, "your treatment here at our Agency is not typical of how we treat our clients. In fact, we've gone out of our way to stage this meeting for you. We behaved this way to point out to you what it's like to be a customer of British Rail. Your real problem at British Rail isn't your advertising, it's your people. We suggest you let us address your employee attitude problem before we attempt to change your advertising."
The British Rail executives were shocked — but the agency got the account! The agency knew that British Rail had an image (brand) problem, and its passengers did not consider its service worthy of their time and money. The agency also knew that PR campaigns could not correct British Rail’s image problem – only those who delivered value to its customers could.
Like the agency in this story, Siegel+Gale Research showed that the Rotary network has a self-image problem. This is the major reason it has difficulty retaining members and potential donors. President Ravi, President-Elect John, and President-Nominee Ian now understand that the Rotary network must deliver services that its niche market - clubs, members, and donors - consider worthy of expending resources. This requires internally marketing to the Rotary network so it can understand and deliver Rotary's differentiating image and value proposition. Otherwise, all the external PR the Rotary network generates will not retain and attract Rotarians or donors.
Rotary's actions speak louder than words and are beginning to show results. Under transitional leadership, internal marketing (communicating) should continue to improve, as will word-of-mouth PR and membership retention and attraction.