By Daniel Sandars DTM, Public Relations Manager
It is obvious when you think about it! Across the District we have a diverse range of clubs appealing to different catchments and these each require and have evolved different Public Relations strategies. I’ve decided to seek some best practice examples to help provide ideas that others could take inspiration from. This is not a complete typology of model PR strategies, far from it.
- The big city club: Manchester has a population of c.510,000 and Manchester Orators came to my attention because they had already added 34 new members by mid-February. I was impressed by their website with online joining facilities.
- The county or county town club: Prominent open or guest nights and an earlier open night case study by John Cox brought clubs like East Midlands Speakers to my attention. There are c. 250,000 people living within their 30-mile radius catchment. A similar number live near Northampton Speakers club where I have personal experience
- The rural town club. Speak Easy Mallow, Ireland came to my attention with the most robust press coverage. Mallow has around 12,000 people. I’ve also been able to get Naas Toastmasters in Ireland to tell me about what they do, and they have c.22,000 living in their area.
- The campus club: Another club I have experience with is Cranfield Speakers, which is a campus-based community club and the fresher’s fair open night is the heart of their PR strategy.
A pattern, if it exists, across the top three categories goes from most new members finding the club for themselves via good web presence to the club going out finding the new blood with boots on the ground community PR.
By Jim Gregory DTM
After I had presented a session at the division contest in Leeds, Daniel Sandars asked if I would write an overview of Manchester Orators to share with readers of the magazine, and here it is…
Manchester Orators chartered in 2003. It was set up by me and 2 others. Only one of us had ever heard of Toastmasters and the ‘expert’ who had visited clubs in the US was a German guy called Thomas Bungard. From the very earliest days the club embraced diversity. The club always had a welcoming, casual but committed atmosphere.
Being based in Manchester meant that we attracted many students and people from all over the globe that were temporarily working in the city. We never ‘targeted ‘ any demographic or area but the club was targeted by all the people of all ages and backgrounds that wanted to develop their personal skills.
Today we do very little active promotion of the club. We are currently running a SpeechCraft course that will produce new members. In addition to personal recommendations and friends bringing guests, we do get visitors joining via Meetup and from their search of the Internet. For that reason, we have always had a website that is aimed at answering questions but telling them that the best way to experience and judge the value of Toastmasters is to visit the club.
When the club reached over 40 members we decided to have extra meetings each month. We now have 4 meetings per month. Two are open meetings and two are members only meetings. Attendance at the open meeting is usually between 40 and 50 people with 12-15 being visitors. The members only meetings have around 25 attendees and because we need less explanation we manage more Table Topics and 4 speeches.
All guests are welcomed at the door and available members then usually chat with them and give them the agenda. We never try to rush or push membership on them. Guests can visit an open meeting as often as they like without joining, but of course we do remind them that to get the full benefit of Pathways and all the club benefits, they need to join.
Signing members up at meetings used to be an issue. Factors such as the pro-rata effect (Which can delay some people signing up) and the need to read often bad handwriting caused delays and errors. Since we switched to an online sign up, using the services of Go-Cardless to set up Direct Debits (DD), we have had a very smooth sign-up process. The DD also means that we do not have to chase everyone at renewal time and club ‘cash-flow’ is always healthy. We usually manage to get the Beat-the-clock and Talk-up Toastmasters etc. awards.
With the old road to DTM we used to just use educational speeches and individual mentoring to ‘onboard’ members. The new Pathways has had an unexpected effect of some members becoming confused and reluctant to embrace the online system. We have had special training sessions and have produced videos to share with new members to get them started. Recently, we have set up a series of automatic emails using MailChimp. The auto generated emails are set to be sent out as a drip feed over an initial period. These introduce the new member to the club procedures in small digestible chunks. They introduce them to the use of EasySpeak and Pathways.
The club has always also had a strong social aspect for members to get together outside of meetings. There is the regular cinema club, and there have been fun runs, theatre visits, comedy club visits, restaurant visits, show visits, TEDx visits and hikes and even rock climbing to ‘enjoy’.
One area that the club has always had to work on is that of long-term retention of members. This is because of the nature of our base. Since the club has a high proportion of transient and student members there is always going to be a ‘churn’. Fortunately, we have always had a strong core of regular capable members to work on the committee and help. Some of our members leave to join other clubs and even start new clubs if they move to an area or country that does not have one. Some have remained members of our related online group Advanced Orators.
Another beneficial aspect of having a relatively high membership and a strong bank balance has been the club’s ability to sponsor and help set up new clubs. In addition to Advanced Orators, Manchester Orators sponsored and helped to set up Warrington Toastmasters, Didsbury Speakers and Salford Speakers. The club is now set to spin off another club and members are currently launching Manchester Communicators which will meet in rooms kindly donated by Manchester Metropolitan University.
Manchester Orators could be described as a successful club and with the continued support and dedication of key committee and general members it is certainly set to continue developing its members and new clubs. We all appreciate what Toastmasters adds to our lives and the joy of sharing the Toasties ethos.
If anyone reading this should want to ask any questions then I will be happy to respond via firstname.lastname@example.org. …Cheers.
County/ County town
Personal experience from chartering and running Northampton Speakers club (c. 215,000 population) taught me the power of a good Website and Meetup in coming to the attention of people we did not know already. Local Radio helped as well. Of the four of us that started Northampton only one of us had personal contacts, the rest of us came from away. Yet we had a steady stream of guests.
Word of mouth helps as well with guests coming in from training and networking groups. In the early days two of our members were socially active in Meetup and that helped make our meetup group popular and procure guests.
We are now adding open nights to our strategy and the most recent brought in 10 guests, four returning guests and two lapsed members. This year we have seen a better return from using paid for Facebook advertising than we did last year of trying to leaflet the train station, library, and café’s
East Midlands Speakers’ Club
Ian Joynes, Vice President of Education
1. What is your target market and what are the demographics of your target members?,
We have no target market. We cover a large area in the East Midlands with members travelling 30 miles to get to the club. We get a few members from Rolls Royce which is the biggest employer in Derby.
2. How is the club promoted? What works best?,
We promote via Club Website, Facebook, Meetup and recently Eventbrite. We ask members to try and tell people about the Guest Night.
3. How are guest welcomed?,
We have a special Agenda for Guest Nights which is a mini meeting format and we explain roles etc. We also have a Questions and Answers panel.
4. How are guests converted to members / how do they join (online, on paper)?,
Most guests join online. A few pay on the night.
5. Do you make use of the TI membership drives (Smedley Award, Talk Up Toastmasters, Beat the Clock) or the Individual Membership Sponsor program?
We don’t use TI membership drives. Turnover of members is high and it’s a struggle to get members to do roles and officer roles.
6. Are there limits to the number of times a member can visit as a guest?,
No limits I am aware of. 1 or 2 guests come a couple of times and then don’t join.
7. How does your club orient new members and get them involved?
We are not very good at orienteering new members as explained above. It depends on the Club Officers. VPE books the Ice Breaker speeches in. It’s hard to get a balance with new members between them volunteering for a role and pushing them to do one.
8. What does your club do to ensure longer term member retention?
Nothing, currently. We have nothing for retention. We are good at getting members but they seem to leave after a couple of speeches.
Pat Sexton, the Vice President of Public Relations of Speak Easy Mallow (c. 12,000 population) has been rather too busy contesting at the District Conference of late. However, I’ve been really impressed with the Public Relations at that club. Every month, without fail, Pat has obtained coverage in two to three local newspapers gaining very many column-inches of coverage. In addition to this the club vigorously promotes and judges a schools speaking contest and takes part in the town literary festival. This community PR is backed up with an effective blog site and Facebook.
Literary Speaking Literary Speaking John B Keane’s The Letter is hilariously delivered by Sean Corcoran.
Pat’s mission has been to keep the club in the public eye at the heart of the community.
Stephen Mulvaney, Vice President of Public Relations
[What is very noticeable in contrast to the bigger city examples is the well-defined poster drop off run requiring boots on the ground to deliver them as well as local radio and press]
Social Media Tools
- Website: Naastoastmasters.com
- Facebook page
- WhatsApp group (two groups; existing members and guests who have attended a meeting)
- Hootsuite (can use to post to Facebook, LinkedIn & twitter at the same time)
- Meetup (currently not used by Naas Toastmasters as there is ~€8 monthly charge to setup a group)
- Agree PR budget with committee approval. Example expenditure includes flier printing costs and promoting Facebook posts
Start of year:
- Prepare for first open night in September
- Setup recurring Facebook event on Facebook and setup all meeting dates for coming year to end of your term on 30 June.
- Setup dates in the calendar on the website calendar
- Ensure visitors to website – see the next meeting date on website on the landing page. So, they know the club is active. I usually update the webpage once a month, for the next 2 meeting dates.
- Prepare an open night flier and share it on social media. Print 20 copies and put up around Naas town (1 hour); Garda station, Supervalu, Kildare Co.Co. (side door often open), Tesco Extra, Library, Swans, GAA club, Tea Convent Rooms, Town House Hotel, your workplace.
Repeat for open night in January
Regularly post social media to keep potential guests and members up to date
Try make posts either educational or have a news factor (who won the gavel etc.). Best posts have pictures of members at the meeting, Christmas party etc. Gets more clicks.
Use Facebook and pay to promote posts (usually €2 is enough at a time). Do this ahead of big events only (open night (Sep & Jan), ahead of contest, unusual meetings etc.)
Do radio interview on Kildare FM
Write article in local newspapers (Kildare Now, Leinster Leader, Kildare Post)
Attend committee meetings and give update on PR activity
Respond to queries from potential guests received via social media. Link in with VPM where appropriate.
Ensure website ALWAYS shows next 2 meeting dates very clearly on first page (time & date). Webpage is designed to get potential guests to contact VP Membership & Eileen takes over from there in converting them to members. Front page of website is basic but is up to date and covers
- Next meeting dates (time & place)
- Reasons to attend
- Membership Costs
- How to Join
There are two articles here. The first is a reprint that describes the Fresher fair and open night (District 71 Newsletter December 2016 p6-7) and the second is the emerging PR strategy that underpins it all
Cranfield Speakers Club: Fresher’s and demo night success!
By Vicky Lester, Mar Batista, Sara Fane, and Daniel Sandars
October for Cranfield Speakers club is without doubt the busiest month for both our PR activities and guest attendance at meetings.
It may be unique to our club but being located on the campus of Cranfield University gives us a peak interest period that starts in October when new students arrive on campus to start their studies.
The University is a research-intensive postgraduate university located just outside of Milton Keynes in Bedfordshire. The majority of the students are studying yearlong Master’s degrees, but there is a significant population of doctoral students studying for around three years.
The Cranfield Speakers club (District 71, Area H 44) membership base is drawn from community members, staff, and students. It benefits from being highly multinational and multicultural, but regularly expands to nearly 30-40 members or shrinks to 10-14 core members with the comings and goings of students.
There are fresher’s fair events that take place early October where students can find out about what’s going on in the area and sign up for things they are interested in. It is key for Cranfield Speakers club to be seen at these events. The earlier students can find out about us and how Toastmasters can help them with both their communication and leadership skills, the better, they can make sure it’s in their schedule from the start!
A focus we must peak their interest is highlighting how the club can help them prepare for presentations, practising to deliver their message to their tutors and peers confidently.
Along with promoting our club at the fairs, we advertise that we are having an open demo meeting in October that they can come along to and find out more about the club and exactly what happens at a meeting.
On average we receive 200 names/e-mail addresses signing up as being interested, this helps us also e-mail them all prior to our demo meeting as a reminder of when it’s taking place and where.
Our committee members work brilliantly at the fresher’s fairs talking to students, and then also networking at the club meetings ensuring we’re speaking to as many students as possible and answering their questions.
We are also very lucky to have faculty on campus that mention our club when doing their own lectures on communication skills as they know the benefits it can bring to their students.
Both last year and this year we had approximately 100 students at our open demo meeting, and of course we welcome guests to come to any meeting, therefore some of the following meetings usually have high numbers too where some were unable to make the main demo evening. For these meetings we ensure we book a lecture room that can cater for more people!
At the open demo night, we focus on a shorter program with an example of an experienced speaker and a beginner as well as fun accessible table topics, well explained roles, and a strong well led evaluation team. We also allow ourselves more time for networking with our guests all helped along with an exciting range cakes and refreshments.
The relatively few core members of the club are helped by half a dozen or more visiting Toastmasters from Area G44 along with a few former members. On behalf of the Cranfield Speakers club I would like to thank those wonderful Travelling Toasties.
When the students have completed their studies, they leave to go back home and hopefully continue their Toastmasters journey at another club near to them. We hope we are helping raise the profile of Toastmasters internationally with the diverse member base we have each year!
A key benefit we find with having a high turnover of members is that you regularly have a different audience to talk to, never getting too ‘comfortable’ with the same faces looking at you.
One of our aims as a committee is to try and increase our percentage of members to be from local businesses, this will help reduce the risk of having too few members to keep the club running particularly during the Summer when students leave…and then having more of us to network at the demo meeting, it’s an absolutely fantastic night, but we all need plenty of rest after it!!
If you’re in the area we’d love to welcome any passing by Toastmaster to visit us!
We meet every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, 6pm, L&D room, building 33, Cranfield University campus, Beds.
At Cranfield Speakers PR is everybody’s responsibility
By Anita Devi, VP of PR #TeamCranfield and is developing a growing team of individuals to support succession planning and club growth.
Whilst the Toastmasters calendar runs from July to June for Cranfield Speakers (#TeamCranfield hereafter), situated on a university campus, they need to think about the academic year cycle. In this article Anita Devi, walks us through their recruitment drive and on-going Public Relations (PR) activities.
#TeamCranfield consists of members who are in employment and locally established, as well as visiting students at the university. We strongly believe PR is a team effort and involves four key stages:
We all lead busy lives, so informing members and prospective members about upcoming events is a vital part of the on-going cycle of PR. It builds momentum and excitement. We communicate this through five different social media channels using a combination of designed graphics, suitable text and our #TeamCranfield hashtag. The platforms are used interdependently too. For example, a link to Meetup is placed on other platforms. We avoid using a branded template, as each message we want to be specific to the event to demonstrate creativity and diversity. Toastmasters set the themes and are given creative licence to suggest any suitable graphics. On some occasions, the PR Team take on board the theme, but create their own graphic, suitable for the audience. Our messages are designed to invoke curiosity, awe and wonder. Many involve a ‘call to action’ to get involved or respond to a question. The consistent branding element of our campaigns is our use of colours and #TeamCranfield.
For our Open Demo night each year (held in October), we also produce an A5 flyer that is distributed at Freshers’ Fairs and other university events. Club members volunteer to stand at stalls and talk to new students. We host a main open night, which usually attracts over 100 students … food being the main attraction! The format of the meeting models a usual club meeting with an X-Factor edge. The club meeting following open night is also demo night, so students still thinking about joining can come again.
All #TeamCranfield members know they have a responsibility to invite people to the club, throughout the year. So, in addition to sharing our social media posts, many share their stories on their timelines. This has led to people within their network asking questions and sometimes joining #TeamCranfield as well as clubs in other parts of the country.
To start the recent storyboard for our #WowFactor Film, we asked members and guests how they would describe #TeamCranfield These are the words that came forward:
- Multicultural / Diverse
- Safe to share vulnerability
All these words describe the culture of our club, that is a collaborative responsibility to embed and sustain. Giving feedback is a regular part of the club and often used for social media messages. Guests at our everyday meetings, all receive a welcome ribbon and are invited to briefly share how they found the meeting.
Follow-up, after a meeting is critical. At #TeamCranfield this operates on three levels:
- From a PR perspective, we share photos, videos and animations on our social media outlets, usually within 24 hours. This is particularly useful for keeping connected with #TeamCranfield Alumni. Members are tagged in and so they too share and celebrate club successes regularly.
- Our Vice President of Membership follows-up with guests, encouraging them to either join or come again.
- Finally, new members are allocated Mentors, who support them through their first three speeches.
At #TeamCranfield, we are very proud of our members, club ethos and team approach. So, what’s next? We are currently exploring the use of video recording of speeches. We’ve invested in some equipment and are now experimenting in how we can use this effectively. Watch this space for updates.
Richard Branson is often quoted as saying, “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.” For #TeamCranfield this is SO true because we believe PR is everybody’s responsibility.
Cranfield Speakers Club have recently produced a #WowFactor Video https://youtu.be/0DKkYSbqPhc