EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS: REACHING OUT BEYOND MEMBERSHIP
Strategies for communicating with government, press and the community
Presented & accompanied by a Powerpoint Presentation (also posted on this Blog) by Peta Stuart-Hunt | Press Officer Royal Southern YC to the 7th ICOYC Forum on 13th September 2012
No club can afford to exist in microcosm and in the case of the Royal Southern we embrace the maritime, on-water AND the local shoreside communities, from residents, through the business community to local government at all levels.
We take the view that the Club needs to maintain and expand its positive profile with the world at large with clear short-term and longer-term aims that reach beyond purely gaining column inches.
That increased profile will attract higher profile sailing and shoreside activities, encourage new members to join from those who come and compete and enjoy what they experience and, importantly, we leave a legacy for our Members after the 175 Anniversary.
I am highlighting the 175 Anniversary as being the most topical and wide-reaching example of our communications tactics and delivery, and I hope to steer a concise course through the objectives, strategy and resources employed to deliver a striking, memorable… and on-going campaign.
In terms of positioning, this Club is rationalising the traditional club structure by bringing in outside audiences who are naturally looking more closely than ever at what we’re doing. That external scrutiny demands on-going and realistic appraisal of everything the Club does and how it presents itself.
Nearly thirty years of devising and orchestrating PR campaigns and planning events suggests to me that it is still helpful to create an internal theme or statement around which to work when kick-starting the planning process for any campaign as far-reaching as this.
So, one of the first things I did on being appointed by the Club in the Autumn of 2010, was to create a specific Anniversary mission statement to help position the Club in all our minds when moving forward with our plans.
MISSION STATEMENT :
A MODERN YACHT CLUB WITH TRADITIONAL VALUES
Having such a statement helped us when considering options for example, for the Anniversary logo – a modern fresh approach with history and tradition worked into the design – a theme adopted throughout all our marketing materials.
BRAND BUILDING :
THROUGH OUR 175 ANNIVERSARY CAMPAIGN WE HAVE AIMED TO ELEVATE THE CLUB’S BRAND IN ALL EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS
But a brand is far more than just a logo. A brand is everything an organisation does and says; it is its past, present and future, made visible to the world. Through our 175 campaign we have aimed to elevate the brand that is the Royal Southern Yacht Club in all our external communications.
But we also deal in realism and are fully aware of our capabilities and limitations.
Our communications agenda has to reflect and work with what the Club can deliver, afloat and ashore and we don’t try to sell what we haven’t got.
There is very little point in promising the earth only to deliver a clod and I have always tried to avoid claiming to have all the answers, as there are few guarantees in PR, especially when specialising in yachting PR and sailing events that are so often at the mercy of outside influences, not least of which is the weather!
All one can do is put the best affordable resources together, do the research, talk to your media colleagues, find out what works best for them and try and deliver the goods on behalf of your client, your sponsors, the community and the media.
To return to the sub-heading of this presentation, there is no single strategy employed by the Club to cover the areas of government, media and community relations. We treat them as interlinking elements as – in our community – they overlap. Frankly speaking, the marketing resources employed need to be experienced, professional and flexible enough to respond to and deliver individual strategies where necessary and –at times -with little notice.
KEY STRATEGIES ARE INTERLINKED
1. LOCAL COMMUNITY
2. LOCAL GOVERNMENT
3. MARITIME COMMUNITY & PEER GROUP
We maintain a strong PR profile within our area in order to inform and carry the community with us in Hamble and the local environs.
The Club tries to maintain a politically neutral stance but we maintain our PR profile with local government, from parish, through borough, to the county beyond, in order to position ourselves for future activities, such as commenting on local matters that concern the Club collectively or, for example, the more delicate matters of planning advice.
Beyond the Club membership we embrace regional, national and international maritime communities using invitational events, regattas and championships, and PR to ensure an on-going presence within the specialist marine leisure press, online and in print. This last strategy also encompasses our peer group.
CLEAR OBJECTIVES FOR 175 ANNIVERSARY YEAR :
RAISE PROFILE, ATTRACT NEW MEMBERS & LEAVE A LEGACY FOR MEMBERS
So, what are the key objectives in celebrating this milestone Anniversary?
Put simply, we wanted to create a 12-month programme of activities to raise profile, attract new members and leave a legacy for existing Club members.
It has taken two years to sell-in the entire 175 concept to the membership, create the Anniversary programme of events, target potential sponsorship of specific events, and then pull together the resources required to bring it to fruition.
I was brought on board to help formulate and steer the PR campaign as part of the internal and external marketing communications mix.
A Marketing Group was formed comprising individuals with specific experience in delivering major events from both within the Club and myself as the only external consultant.
2011 was spent putting the building blocks in place and maintaining a throughput of Club PR whilst preparing for the 175 launch events to the media and the members during Cowes Week in August 2011.
Researching the Club’s history produced some unexpected bonuses. It transpired that our third Commodore was concurrently the Commanding Officer of the Regiment that led the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Its successor, The King’s Royal Hussars, is based locally and draws recruits from this area so in a unique and powerful salute to our Armed Forces and as a prelude to launching the Anniversary in January 2012, the Club invited the Hussars to twin with it in July 2011, a unique and successful precedent.
DAILY ECHO & PORTSMOUTH NEWS / HUSSARS
We enjoyed a tremendous PR coup and produced lasting colourful memories for the Club, the community and the Regiment.
We also shone the spotlight on the Club’s Chef in Hampshire Society magazine, took part in a high profile television series called The Hungry Sailors and have hosted the BBC Radio sailing programme H20 from the Club on a number of occasions.
HAMPSHIRE SOCIETY FEATURE – CHEF LAWRENCE HALL
So as we laid down the basic requirements of the 2012 PR campaign and identified the specific resources required, put elements out to tender, reviewed, secured and briefed the personnel, we also kept pitching ideas to the Marketing Group.
Throughout this process we ensured that the relevant Club personnel and committee members were consulted and kept fully appraised.
PLATFORMS FOR COMMUNICATION :
INTERNET NEWS SITES
TRADITIONAL PRINT MEDIA
One very important area for communicating our 175 anniversary plans and events both internally and externally is our website. This was heavily scrutinised but we eventually agreed to evolve it rather than start afresh.
I think we would all agree that traditional print media is becoming a less dependable form of communicating news to our target readerships whilst a key tool now being adopted by the Club and being covered in a later session by my colleague David Fuller, is Social Media, an immensely powerful series of platforms for getting targeted messages ‘out there’.
With Facebook and Twitter starting to make a real impact in terms of reach and targeting of news etc, a substantial amount of time needs to be devoted to ensuring that as a Club, we are contributing and monitoring our social media responsibly.
We prioritised those events requiring some form of external PR support and awareness and we created a detailed historical background document and a simple Timeline to help sell-in the anniversary to the print media, alongside a CD of relevant images, resulting in some great feature-led opportunities rather than relying purely on getting event news coverage.
We also produced bespoke event branding to use on clothing, marketing literature and PR.
We worked up a campaign that was realistic and deliverable by the Club. The Marketing Group agreed that we should focus the PR around a broad variety of events and news, including the Patron’s Lunch at Buckingham Palace in February, new sponsorship announcements in March and a whole raft of Club event and regatta news during April, May and June.
This achieved significant results in terms of feedback from all our stakeholders and has gained some excellent press coverage to date.
Some Anniversary events have suffered in as much as we didn’t always have as many media on site as we would have liked, as a direct consequence of so many other visually tantalising yachting events taking place this Summer attracting the writers and more importantly the photographers to attend but we have maintained a stream of valuable coverage of all our events via online sailing news media sites.
With the best will in the world, achievement doesn’t always match expectation and we do occasionally find ourselves managing expectations, particularly when we have sponsors involved in our events, as is the case this year.
PRESS LOGO SHEET
Not meeting expectations is not the same as being unsuccessful.
A successful PR strategy is never just about securing column inches and our 175 campaign has been no different. It sinks or swims as a result of clear thought, realistic planning, operational flexibility and top-class organisation.
The Club has put itself on the line for 175 and by general consensus, has raised its profile in ways that even we did not envisage. That is the unexpected bonus from communicating externally as much as hitting the soft internal targets of specialist marine media.
HAPPY 175th ANNIVERSARY! PATRON’S LUNCH
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Warren Buffett