If you’ve heard the term “strategic communications” and wondered how it relates to your private club, then you’re considering an important question that has profound strategic implications. While private clubs are just that – private – they do exist as important members of their broader communities, so it’s essential that any and all communication directed outward be well-planned and executed.
When it comes to external communications for private clubs, everything your private club spokespeople say when interacting with the media and/or key community stakeholders on behalf of the club should have a defined outcome in mind. Messaging should convey relevant facts and insights that are crafted in ways that elicit desired impressions, opinions and feelings on the part of target audiences.
Your club’s board of directors, working in collaboration with an experienced media professional (and every club should have one), should assemble 4-5 key talking points that reflect essential general messages about the club. Sometimes this is referred to as the club’s “elevator speech” which articulates its mission, vision and goals.
To ensure consistency in how messaging is delivered, the entire board should undergo media training, with the Club President or General Manager designated as the club’s official “voice.” Club representatives should practice interviewing and become comfortable with delivering the message. One proven way that media spokespeople hone their craft is to record these interviews as videos, then review them afterward, paying close attention not only to the messaging but also to body language and voice inflection. Practice makes perfect, and while it can be uncomfortable for some to interact with media members and community stakeholders, it does get easier with time, practice and experience.
It’s also important to develop the ability to “bridge” your answer so that, as appropriate, you’re able to articulate one or more of your club’s key talking points. Common and effective bridge phrases include:
In your response to any question, you should address the question but drive home your message, all while displaying confidence in your answers.
As for an actual interview, be positive and avoid negativity. Focus on solutions rather than problems, say what you know, don’t guess, never lie, be yourself, watch your body language, and look at and engage with the reporter. Don’t feel like you have to fill in gaps when a reporter stops talking.
Plan on leveraging your key messages during an interview or in community engagement sessions and be ready to “bridge.” Ensure you know the subject matter before the interview, and if you don’t have an answer to a question, be honest and tell the reporter or stakeholder you will check into that. Never guess.
In today’s times, a private club never knows when it will be thrust into the limelight. It pays to have a solid external communications strategy driven by a controlled, stable and knowledgeable voice sharing key messages about your club.
About the Author
Terry Anglin, CCM, CCE, ECM, a Principal with GSI Executive Search, has over 40 years of experience in the private club and hospitality industry. Terry has served as General Manager of private clubs in Tennessee and California. Most recently, he served as GM/COO of San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC), a world-renowned private club. Under his leadership, SDYC rose to the rank of number-two yacht club in the country and was selected as a Platinum Club of the World as voted on by the Club Leaders Forum. As a Principal with GSI Executive Search, Terry focuses on placements throughout the Western U.S. He is also available to consult on executive searches throughout the country. You can reach Terry by email or at 901-550-9338.