Special Educational Section: Public Relations
Guest Edited by Daniel Sandars DTM, District 71 PR Manager
Hearing what Public Relations are working for other clubs can be a wonderful way to pick up tips for your own. In this section:
- Avril delves into the success of websites,
- Tom gives insight on the success of Spa Speakers Social Media strategy which runs synergistically to their website/ blog
- I take a step back and look at navigating the maze of diverse social media channels.
- Beryl describes the Public Relations that went into an Open night which chartered Lee Valley Speakers, and
- Moira develops the messages that emerge from Beryl’s case study into a bigger picture on PR
Solving Problems with your website
By Avril Stringer, Division S Director
People have problems! Their toaster just blew up, they can’t cope with their 2-year-old or they hate their job. The miracle of the internet is that the solution to these problems is often just a click away.
As Toastmasters, we know what problems our clubs solve. We can help overcome nervousness, getting the message across and even getting that promotion at work. Our website goals are firstly to ensure people can find our website when they are looking to overcome these problems and secondly that the website convinces them that we are the answer to their problem.
Let’s look at the first goal – people will find our website if we include content which addresses their specific problems.
Search for “public speaking courses Linlithgow” and our website (linlithgowspeakers.org.uk) comes up in the first 3 non-advert spots. We’re not so good with “public speaking courses Scotland” – but the Division Website (publicspeaking.scot) is in the Top 10. Note to self – “spend a couple of hours improving the rankings of both websites”.
To rank highly, each page or blog post needs a keyword or key-phrase (KW) which is aligned with the terms people are typing in. I use a paid for tool through my company but there are free tools through google to find the best KW.
Use the KW as the slug for the page (i.e. www.domain.com/your-keyword). Use it in 2 – 5 places in your text, as the title of your page and as a heading. Set the “alt text” for pictures as your KW. Include it in a link, put it in the meta-description and title (this is what is listed in the search engine). If you use WordPress, get the Yoast plugin [yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/] – it is easy to enter your meta-tags and it will tell you how to improve your SEO for each page.
To make your page even better, use other keywords like Toastmasters, Public Speaking, your local area. Include pictures to add interest and make sure your content is at least 300 words long, is relevant to the KW and is of a high quality. Add additional content regularly – a meeting report is a fantastic way to keep the website fresh. Get links into your website from other websites and social media.
Employ these techniques and soon you will be receiving lots of visitors. Use Google analytics [analytics.google.com] to measure your success and spend some time every few months checking your website.
Great, now you have them on your website, what now? You need to convince visitors that your club will be the answer to their problems. Remember the mind-set of these visitors – often they are nervous so make them feel they will be welcomed into a friendly place.
How do we try to do this on the Linlithgow website? Right up front on the home page, we give them some basic information – Speak, Lead, Flourish, Brush up your speaking skills, gain confidence, every second Tuesday then hit them with a Call to Action, “Join us”. The picture is highly relevant, showing a speaker and a diverse group of smiling people.
Scroll down and we present visitors with 3 common problems they may have. We show “us” with a video and a photo of a friendly face. Visitors are shown how we will help and encouraged to visit the club. We display the date of the next meeting and provide contact details.
Can this website be improved? Hell Yeah! For starters, the educational programme is out of date. We need more posts about how you can develop skills and I’ll complete the Pathways project to address this.
The subject of websites is vast and changing all the time and I have only scratched the surface. Help may be at hand in the form of a series of online workshops – let us know of your interest so we can organise this. In the meantime, have a look at your website and see how you could tweak it.
By Tom Hebbert, VP Public Relations Spa Speakers
One of the key roles of the Vice President of Public Relations is letting as many people know about your club as possible. Whether you love it or loathe it (or are hopelessly addicted to it!) social media can be used to generate plenty of publicity. At Spa Speakers we received 162 enquiries about the club, regularly saw 10-12 visitors at our meetings, and recruited 37 members in TM year 2017-2018 and social media played a big part.
If you’d like more guests to visit your club, here are a few ideas on how to use the power of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to achieve your objective:
1 Think about what you want to post and why
At Spa Speakers, we posted out pictures of our regular meetings, information about our social events, links to our blog posts, and most importantly of all, directly invited interested parties to book a free meeting to see if the club could help them. The idea: show the club is a fun, friendly and supportive place to learn public speaking, and that you try it for yourself for free. Have in mind that the final goal of your efforts is getting more people to visit and that will help make your communications purposeful.
2. Make your posts fun, visual and where possible humorous
Post to entertain. Having excellent quality photos and captions really helps to convey a professional vibe.
3. Post regularly
The more you post, the greater the likelihood it will be seen. You can use free tools to schedule a limited number posts across several social media platforms, so your platforms don’t go “dead” when you haven’t the time to post. At Spa we use Buffer [buffer.com/].
4. Measure whether it’s working
Without measuring performance, you don’t know whether your arduous work is paying off or whether you need to change tack. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram all provide data on what is working and what isn’t. The all-important litmus test, however is the number of enquiries your club receives. If that goes up, what you are doing is working!
Total Facebook and Twitter impressions charted against new enquirers per month in 2017/2018. The more you post, the more people see your posts and the more enquiries you get.
It’s challenging work posting on social media regularly. But it works! If you’d like to grow your club, the tools are there, and they are free. At Spa Speakers we spent no money on flyers or social media tools, but we did invest time. Do the same, and I’m sure you’ll see success too.
Look at our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website for inspiration!
Spa Speakers Committee 2018 (L to R President Joy Kurian, Secretary Marie Long, Treasurer David Cumming, VP Public Relations Tom Hebbert, and Social Secretary Diana Toma)
Navigating the Social Media maze
By Daniel Sandars DTM, District 71 Public Relations Manager & President Northampton Speakers
Social media is a fast-emerging phenomenon. No longer are the public, or prospective members, passive recipients of our Club’s Public Relations. People use social media to interact with our organisation, which creates new types of relationships. Social media has emerged as a relatively low-cost way for Clubs to gain new members and build relationships with them. Too often this can leave Clubs struggling by not knowing how to get started, how to keep going, and as important how to keep up.
Headquarters staff at Toastmasters International find that in addition to their website they get best results from five social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. These are all big platforms with Facebook having 2.2 billion active users, YouTube 1.9 billion, Instagram 1 billion, Twitter and LinkedIn 0.3 billion each.
Facebook is well known as the most popular social networking platform on the web with around 1 billion active users logging in daily. Facebook also owns WhatsApp (1.5 billion users) and Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion users) the two most popular messaging Apps that many clubs use for real-time discussions within their committees. LinkedIn focusses on Business to Business networking for professionals where ‘Motivated’ is the most overused word in the English language. Twitter is known as the real-time, public microblogging network where news breaks first. YouTube is a video sharing platform whereas Instagram is a platform for mobile sharing photographs and short videos.
These platforms all do different jobs. Kietzmann et al (2011) proposed a honeycomb model of seven key functional building blocks that make up Social Media. Most channels major on one element and adjacent elements are closely related.
In the diagram I’ve indicated the level of importance in coloured capital or lower case initial letters of each channel.
Content Sharing is a key feature for Twitter, YouTube and Instagram with Facebook and LinkedIn catching up.
All the platforms have the option for people to comment on the content in Conversations, but it is very much optional.
Identity; as in who, why, what, when, where, how and Brand, is a key feature of LinkedIn with some support in the others, especially Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook and to some extent LinkedIn and YouTube allow topical special interest Groups and communities to form and interact.
Mirroring the Sharing is Reputation. All platforms allow users to like content and thus infer quality, but it is a key feature of the content sharing platforms and less critical to the other two.
Relationships are key features of Facebook and LinkedIn in the form of followers, friends, friends of friends, or 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree contacts. Network connectedness is not a feature of the content sharing platforms.
The final polygon of Presence is not a key feature of any platform. There is some support like checking in and signing up to events of Facebook. If we need to know where each of us is or will be then we must do it another way or not at all.
This structure indicates a strategy. We are complimenting websites by establishing brand Identity and then Sharing content and information. Our content will attract Conversations and build Reputation which we can leverage through Groups and
further develop networked Relationships. In this context part of Facebook’s popularity is providing support in all Areas and YouTube’s emphasizes the power of visual multi-media. Sharing is caring! The power of Social Media is to give guests a look behind the scenes at what we are really like and for us to form an interactive online community.
Understanding how to manage a strategy is also important. Parsons and Lepkowska-White (2018) have developed a very useful conceptual managerial framework for Social Media marketing. There are four activities to manage: putting content out there, monitoring what is happening on Social Media and what reactions there are, assessing that information and finally responding to it. They argue that a defensive or conservative organisation will use social media like traditional media and simply broadcast content (as in Identity and Sharing). Conversely an exploratory organisation will cover all of the social media building blocks and be interested in responding to context and reactions. This continuum will also be mirrored by risk averse Conservatism v open flexible Modernism cultures, Hierarchical control v. Networked collaboration, and Autocratic v. Anarchical governance.
The trick for clubs is to avoid the extremes. Social media is vast and ever changing. Don’t leave VP PR responsible for doing it all and kept on a tight uncreative leash as they will soon become overworked and undermotivated. It also leaves the club very prone to loss of skills and momentum at committee changeover. On the other hand, taking the line of everyone is responsible for PR can broaden the club’s skills base and resilience, but potentially loses focus as no one quite knows what to do or who should do it and they might also be afraid of dabbling. What I think works better is, yes do empower the club and committee to help as social media Admins, Moderators, and Editors, but to also provide Leadership as vision, guidelines, and support on: content sharing, conversations, networking, groups, and reputation building. Remember to add ample recognition and appreciation for those members getting involved.
In summary when organising a club’s social media channels think about the channels with big reach and growth, how they fit together into a complimentary ‘ecosystem’ or strategy, and final consider how best to lead and manage the team that work this suite off digital assets.
Lee Valley Speakers: ‘Not resting on their laurels’
By Beryl Cronin CC ALB, Lee Valley Speakers
Lee Valley Speakers had to exploit all channels of Public Relations this year as they embarked on a venture that would bring them over the line to become a Chartered Toastmasters Club.
Toastmasters groups are popular in Cork and County (D71 Division A). However, the rural town of Macroom, County Cork was without a club for over 4 years until 2015. At that time, local resident Moira O’Brien decided to set up a Toastmasters in Macroom called Lee Valley Speakers. From humble beginnings meeting in a local town hall the group expanded and were able to move location to the Castle Hotel in Macroom.
The group continued to meet for the next 3 years embracing the Toastmasters ethos and placing an emphasis on humour and an encouraging atmosphere.
In 2018 a decision was made by President Moira O’Brien and club officers that this great little group needed a big push to get more guests in the door and convert these guests to signed up members.
It was time that this club gained Charter Status.
A membership and public relations campaign were embarked on and the club chose a date that they would aim to charter by.
An Open Night would take place on March 8th, and to give time for follow up of guests the club would aim to charter within a month April 2018. Of course, this would depend on the success of the Open Night.
Preparation began in February:
We looked at our target market and decided on which PR channel we would use to target our audience.
This is what worked for us:
We wrote a press release which told ‘the story’ of Lee Valley speakers from its beginning in 2015 to the benefits to the members over the 3 years:
- We included testimonials as we realized for our public relations to be more powerful you need credibility,
- We supplied photographs of members and their progress was highlighted,
- We asked the readers to support our open night as this community group needed support if it was to grow and flourish, and
- Our press release was published by the local newspaper the Lee Valley Outlook and it certainly contributed to our success story.
From the printed media we moved to social media–
Facebook was our choice.
- We created the event for our Open Night on Facebook and posted on average twice a day,
- We timed our posts to lunchtimes and evenings, and
- Members shared the event and shared as a message for friends to like our page.
Beryl Cronin who was our VPE and now our VPM and club mentor visited several clubs in the Division as a guest and used every opportunity to ask club officers to mention that Lee Valley were aiming to charter and encouraged the members of those clubs to share the event on Facebook with family and friends.
2 weeks to go:
- We contacted the local radio station and put our message out there, and
- We started to use flyer marketing.
There are so many cool ways to promote your event on social media, why did Lee Valley choose flier marketing? We considered our target audience and there were 2 reasons:
- The first is that people still often prefer something in their hands that they can touch, read, save on their desks and come back to and refer to when they are ready. They can save a flier and if they don’t use it right then, they may make use of it later, and
- The second reason flier marketing worked for us is because it is still practical.
We decided where the fliers were delivered, and we used it as a hand-out when we called on business in the town.
We visited the local library, chamber of commerce, shops and businesses.
Due to the rural location of the town, we had to consider outlying areas also, so neighbouring villages were also on our Public Relations radar. From putting notices in church newsletters to word of mouth we did a mass saturation in the days leading to our Open Meeting.
The Open Meeting was a resounding success. We had guests from all walks of life.
Ted Mellamphy, club mentor and a seasoned Toastmaster, was delighted with the feedback and comments from participants. “I believe this club has a bright future and on a personal level I enjoyed meeting the many fresh faces. While public speaking is at the core of Toastmasters, it is also a networking organization and a bit of craic!” he said.
Club member, Tom, joined to give himself the confidence to deliver the father of the bride speech at his daughter’s wedding. “The year I have been in Lee Valley Speakers has given me much needed confidence. Even though the wedding was last July, I am continuing with Toastmasters as I can see myself improving every week”
Many guests signed up as members after the Open Meeting. All guests got a follow up e-mail thanking them for their attendance and some of those have since joined.
The figures speak for themselves:
- On 7th March 2017 Lee Valley Speakers had 12 members on the 20th March 2018 we had 22 members! and
- We chartered in April 2018 we met our target and we realized our dream.
From a public relations point of view, we realized that we had to vary the channels we used to suit our target audience, the message we wanted to put out and consider our location.
Moira O’Brien who was President of the unchartered club for 3 years and who took on many roles at each meeting and drove the club from the beginning was delighted this year to hand over the chain of office to incoming president Claire O’Leary.
Claire has a formidable team of Club Officers now in place and having just attended their Club Officer Training this team are determined that the club will continue to grow. The club officers have started their succession plan by ensuring that deputies are appointed for every role and that they are being trained at an early stage.
Lee Valley Speakers are going from strength to strength, they are embracing Pathways while some members are continuing the traditional educational system.
It is very much a team effort at Lee Valley Speakers and they are proof that
‘From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow’.
The next open event is taking place on 18th September and the club already have plans in place for that. With many more members now and deputies in place for Officer roles the club has the resources to have a sub-committee for public relations. This sub-committee will be maintaining the website, updating the club blog, twitter and other social media channels.
PR Tricks and Tips
Moira O’Brien ACS ALS
Club Vice Presidents for Public Relations often get the wrong idea about what Public Relations (PR) is. You see, publicity is something that touches every role in a Toastmasters club. But there is a difference between PR and advertising:
- Advertising is the promotion of a specific event e.g. and open night, and
- PR is the promotion of the “idea” of Toastmasters
The Club Leadership Handbook quotes from the Club Constitution (http://bit.ly/2No2mGq) as follows:
The Vice President Public Relations ………. Is responsible for developing and directing a publicity program that informs individual members and the general public about Toastmasters international.
The Handbook continues by giving examples of social media and club website information all of which is very useful and worth reading. The final part relates to the Toastmasters brand, Trademarks and Copyrights. This is an important section and one which every PR should be aware of as it is not difficult to fall foul of the rules regarding the use of the Toastmasters name and logo.
From our point of view as Club PR people, we are mainly concerned with publicising our own club to gain members. In a recent Club Officer Training session in Division A, the most common issue facing clubs today is membership – so PR is going to take a key role in helping to promote membership to keep our club healthy.
We have mentioned Social Media and a club Website, but there is a myriad of other ways to promote Toastmasters and our club. Here are a few suggestions to get the brain cells working:
- Leave magazines in Doctors surgeries, Dentists & NCT [National Car Testing] Centres waiting rooms with your club details in the white box provided.
- The handbook mentions Meetup.com (not free) which I have found to be great for gaining Meetup members and next to useless for getting new club members. Instead I have found that Eventbrite (free for free events) is slightly more productive. As it is free, it’s worth a punt.
- Open meetings – probably the best way to gain members. Publicise the meeting with posters and leaflets. Lee Valley Speakers plastered the local area with posters and this produced six new members, enabling them to charter. A poster was put into every shop window that allowed it or leaflets left on counter tops.
- Club Blog – if you use Easyspeak for your website your will find a blog under the home menu item. You can use this to post a report on each meeting which you can then share through Facebook, Twitter etc. This has the double effect of giving information and taking the reader to your website.
- Put up a poster in your local GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] club.
- Get a mention in your local Parish Newsletter.
- Contact your local newspaper and get an advertorial (often free), or even better an article, about an upcoming event or a report on a past event (e.g. an Open meeting).
- Facebook Advertising – OK, you must pay for it, but it can be VERY targeted. Use this to promote an Open event or just to gain “Likes”, which expand your Facebook audience and thus your reach.
These are just a few ideas, but whatever you do, think outside the box and be creative with your publicity. Use your Area, Divisional and District PR people to help you with specific ideas and network with the clubs in your Division.
The September 22nd and 29th episodes of The Talk Show for Talkers dealt with PR:
Open Nights > PR > Public relations > Social Media > Website