Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking to a group of college students about professional networking. As part of that presentation, I highly recommended joining Rotary or Rotaract (for students).
Here are my top five reasons to join Rotary:
Increased knowledge of the community and current issues. The majority of Rotary clubs have a guest speaker each week. The topics vary widely, so you get a wide variety of information. We all have busy lives and there are topics I either don’t have the time or wouldn’t even think to research, but Rotary gives me a chance to hear from experts on those topics.
Professional networking. Rotary allows you to develop meaningful relationships will fellow community leaders. The weekly lunches give you the opportunity to really find out who your fellow Rotarians are. I once had a President I worked for who commented on the strength of my community connections and inquired how I’d gotten them. “They are all in Rotary with me,” I responded.
Make the world a better place. Whether it is holding a roadside cleanup, building a playground, or donating together to fund a much-needed well in an impoverished country, Rotary offers a structured and safe way to make a difference. You know your money and time is going to a great cause and it’s so rewarding to see the results. I’ve worked on community service projects, interviewed students for scholarships, and reviewed and voted-on grants submissions. Each has been rewarding in its own way.
International programs. There are a wide variety of opportunities to learn more about different parts of the world. You can travel and do community service work, be a host family for an exchange student, or be a short-term (usually one week) host for a young professional in the Group Study Exchange program. I’ve done the latter and it was an incredible experience. I met some amazing young professionals from Rome that I am now grateful to call my friends. And, I had the chance to visit them in Rome, Italy.
Share your passions. I don’t just working in marketing, I live and breathe it. I’m also a teacher at heart, so I truly enjoy sharing my marketing knowledge with others. Rotary has given me a way to present to my fellow Rotarians in my own club and other clubs. In 2011, I gave a presentation to my local Rotary club titled, “Effective marketing using the broken windows theory.” Approximately 70 people showed that day at lunch and a fellow Rotarian taped my presentation for me and I posted it on YouTube. From the people in the room referring me and the YouTube link, I’ve been able to give that same presentation to more Rotary clubs, at a national marketing conference, at an Air National Guard leadership conference, to many individual businesses and organizations, and to two chambers of commerce as their keynote speaker. I would have never had the opportunity to do any of those talks had it not been for Rotary.
So, now that I’ve convinced you that Rotary is definitely something you need to be a part of, research a local club and get involved! Technically, you have to be invited, but I guarantee you, if you show up, someone will step forward and “invite” you on the spot. For those of you in Rotary, what things would you add to this list? How has Rotary enriched your life and your community?
I would like to thank everyone who came to these talks (approximately 320 of you!), promoted them ahead of time by publishing them in their newspapers and websites, promoted them via social media, sent good vibes and prayers, came up before to wish me luck, came up after to tell me how much they enjoyed it, sent cards and emails of congratulations, and helped in some other way (took photos, set-up technology for me, put-out my materials, etc.).
I’ve also received several emails from business owners and marketing managers telling me how they’ve incorporated the things I spoke about into their organizations and the results they’ve seen from doing so. These emails inspire me and I’m grateful for those who send them.
There is a lot of great crisis communications advice available, so I won’t reiterate any of that information here, but I’ve noticed that there is one thing that is relevant to a lot of industries that typically isn’t emphasized in crisis communications:
After the event, you must be visible in the community again as fast as possible
The natural instinct after a crisis is to skip the community meetings you regularly go to because, well, you are busy dealing with the aftermath of the crisis. While that is understandable, I don’t believe that is the right approach.
Obviously, if you really are in the middle of the crisis, you can’t go. But, when the immediate threat is over, it’s important to get back to your regular community relations as fast as you can. Why do I think this is the best approach? Two reasons:
You being there signals that everything is under control. After a crisis, people will be looking for you at your regular community meetings. If you aren’t there, people are going to naturally assume that you are still dealing with the crisis, which signals to them that it’s not necessarily over with.
You want them to come to you to answer their questions. Following classic cognitive dissonance theory, people will seek to understand the crisis situation. Where there is a lack of information, they will look for the information and/or make assumptions to fill in the voids. It is my opinion that this is how a lot of false information is started. Instead, you want to be where the community influencers are, encourage them to ask you questions, and then answer them as honestly and openly as you can. That should minimize any long-term pr and community relations damage, especially when it comes to false rumors.
I know dealing with a crisis is not fun, but as soon as you can, dust yourself off and get right back to your community meetings. It will do you a lot of good in the long run.
Fear is an incredibly powerful tool. I don’t think any marketer would debate that. Where we do differ is in our opinions of the use of fear marketing and the ethics associated with it. So what is fear marketing and is it the right approach?
Fear Marketing Definition
Depending on who you ask and what their background is, you will get various opinions on what exactly fear marketing is. My general definition is that fear marketing is any marketing that elicits severe emotional fearful duress and drives people to act in a way to reduce that duress. In this definition, I am not including warnings, such as the black and white plain text labels on cigarette packs that say, “Surgeon General’s Warning, Smoking Causes Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.” Instead, when I talk about fear marketing, I’m talking about ads such as those found in the Montana Meth Project campaign. Below is one of their tamer ads. In fact, some of these ads are so disturbing that I must caution you to be prepared before you go to their site and see the rest of the ads. I know personally some of them bother me so much I will never, ever, forget them.
Is it the right approach?
When I think about whether or not fear marketing is the right approach, I usually think about three questions:
Is it true? Taking a page from Rotary’s Four Way Test, fear marketing should only be used if it is the truth. This should not be used to promote a VERSION of the truth, but only actual truths. This rules out using qualifiers such as “may” or “could” or statements that you cannot prove to be true. For example, “[name the political party you don’t like here] is going to take everything from you” or “Eating chocolate may be bad for you” are not regarded as universally true and thus should not be used to justify a campaign. However, “If you try meth once, you will be hooked” is pretty much accepted as a universal truth.
Is there another way that is just as effective or more effective? Fear may not always be the only tool or the most effective tool for a campaign. In fact, research has shown that sometimes presenting opportunities can cause more action than presenting threats (e.g. “Threat as a Motivator for Political Activism“). Also, fear campaigns may cause a reaction that the marketer does not want. For example, some people “freeze” or are unable to act when their fear reaches a certain point and others may just become desensitized to so many fear messages.
Is it a matter of severe public health or safety? In my opinion, these are the two main reasons that a fear campaign might be the right approach. For example, if the mainland United States is going to be bombed (as in another country has the missile prepared, aimed at us, and their finger is on the launch button), then, by all means, go ahead and scare the whole country. Or, if the Food and Drug Administration finds that a new black market drug is causing people to go insane and harm other people and themselves, I’m ok with them scaring a few people. However, I intentionally put this third on my list because it absolutely has to meet the first two criteria before I think this criteria can be used as justification for a fear marketing campaign.
Clearly, a lot of the campaigns today do not follow the above rules and I think we as a marketing community and as the general public need to take a hard look at the marketing that uses fear and ask ourselves if it is the right approach. If it’s not, we need to start letting our voices be heard that the abuse of such a powerful tool is in no one’s best interest.