VPPR: When You Promote It, They Will Come!

Tips for VPPRs on promoting their clubs worldwide.

By Craig Harrison, DTM

Imagine a role in Toastmasters that lets you speak to inform, tell stories, lead programs and campaigns, and tell the world about the wonders of your club. That, in a nutshell, is a description of the role of Vice President Public Relations. Best yet, each club member is your assistant. And together you spread the good news of Toastmasters!

What Is Public Relations for a Toastmasters Club?

Club public relations involves the generating of publicity about your club for the purpose of helping it grow. As VPPR, you and your committee spread the word to non-members, aligned organizations and the media about your club’s existence, activities and successes.

Share the Secret of Toastmasters… with the World!

You know of the benefits that members receive from the Toastmasters experience. Among them:

  1.  Increased self-confidence
  2.  Powerful speechmaking skills
  3.  The ability to speak extemporaneously
  4.  Leadership development
  5.  Career advancement through the development of these skills

Your challenge: to tell the outside world what awaits them when they join your club. And there are more ways than ever to get the word out.

The Club Web Site

These days many people will find your club through your club’s Web site. Does your group have one yet? Such a site tells people when and where you meet, and how to get to the location. It provides answers to frequently asked questions: What does it cost to join? Is there pressure to speak? How does one dress?

Make your club site as inviting as possible. Photos can help. If you don’t already have a club Web site, you can obtain one from www.FreeToastHost.com. Here’s a few tips for designing yours:

  1.  Make sure your club site is linked to your district’s site.
  2.  Make sure Toastmasters International’s Web site includes your site’s URL in its “Find A Club” list.
  3.  Make sure your site has a title, description and keywords, as well as meta-tags that reference “Toastmasters,” “public speaking,” your location and related terms in its header information (ask your Webmaster how to do this).

Club Flier or Brochure

A club flier or brochure helps tell your club’s story in writing. It can be handed out, posted on bulletin and notice boards, and left in stacks at your local libraries and community centers, as well as your company lunchrooms and break rooms. It can also be brought to fairs, community events and town hall meetings.

Your handout should have the usual who-what-where-when-why-and-how information. Include a phone number, e-mail address and Web site URL for more information. Make a smaller electronic version of your flier (using the PDF file format) that can be e-mailed as an attachment or downloaded from your club’s Web site.

Your club may wish to purchase Toastmasters International materials at www.toastmasters.org and customize them to your own club’s meeting specifics.

Give your Flier Wings!

Distribute your flier throughout the host meeting site, and throughout the company, building and com- munity where you meet. Get it to corporate or local newsletters, put it on the windshields of cars in the nearby parking lot, and post it in local businesses close to your meeting place. Each club member should be given a stack of handouts to disseminate using their own promotional channels.

The Business Card

Many clubs create their own business cards to personally hand to Toastmasters prospects of all kinds – colleagues, friends and strangers. Such cards are a form of currency in the business world. Yours can have the usual information: time and place of your meetings, and you might use the back of the card for an explanatory paragraph about Toastmasters, a map or other information. Some clubs print a coupon on the back: “Good for one free visit to our club!” You and I know it’s always free to attend as a guest, yet people cherish the “coupon” and regard visiting as more valuable with this free “Get Into Toastmasters Meeting” card!

Give business cards to all your club members. Hold a contest to see who can generate the most guests from handing out business cards. The template for these cards are available on the Toastmasters Web site.

Club Newsletters

In a world full of ads and promotional copy, newsletters provide readers with substance. A club newsletter, whether monthly or quarterly, gives you a great printed piece to help nonToastmasters understand the magic of Toastmasters. They reinforce the successes that occur at each meeting. They also bring pride to members, strengthening your club’s community. You can print and pass out these newsletters, mail them, or convert them to a PDF to be e-mailed or downloaded.

The Open House

Open Houses are wonderful events that showcase your club, its meetings and what Toastmasters is all about. Attending a meeting may be scary to a non-member, but attending an Open House is often more inviting. Include food and beverages, a Q&A session, a sampling of what occurs at a meeting (a speech, some Table Topics and an evaluation), and informal time, too, for small group discussions.

(Read Lindy Sinclair’s article in this issue of the Toastmaster for more details about holding an Open House.)

The Press Release

A press release is the standard way in which an event or campaign is announced to the media. Radio, TV and newspapers all prefer to receive such information through a press release: a short, typed announcement containing the vital information about your event, along with contact information. Write it in terms of the benefits to the audience. Press release samples can be found in the back of the VPPR training manual.

Public relations expert Mitchell Friedman, APR, who is the director of MBA Career Services at the University of San Francisco, offers some tips about writing a press release:

  1.  Keep it to one page (or two at most).
  2.  Always list contact information for further inquiries: name, phone number, e-mail address, Web site URL.
  3.  Topic should be timely and newsworthy in nature.
  4.  Catchy title and explanatory subtitle always helps.
  5.  Should address the who, what, where, when, why and how.
  6.  Avoid sales speak. This is not a marketing piece. Emphasis is on newsworthiness for reader.
  7.  Use these standard symbols – # # # – to end your press release.

Save your last several lines to explain that Toastmasters International has been the world’s foremost communication and leadership development nonprofit since 1924, or something to that effect.

Release and Catch!

What can press releases promote? Open Houses, contests, member accomplishments, noteworthy guest speakers, club activities like Speechcrafts, Youth Leadership Programs, training programs and roles in community affairs. Send your release to all the local media: radio stations, TV and newspapers. Include business and community publications.

These days press releases can be e-mailed as text or sent as small PDF attachments. Now, don’t forget to use your verbal skills to follow up with a phone call. Media people receive hundreds of press releases and public service announcements a day. Make yours stand out through its writing and your ability to follow up by phone.

Calendars, Chambers, Cable and Craigslist!

Most newspapers have a community calendar where clubs can list their regular meeting time and place for free. As a nonprofit, Toastmaster clubs should avail themselves of all discounts and free opportunities to publicize meetings.

Your local Chamber of Commerce should be informed about your club. Get fliers and brochures to them for dissemination. Get your fliers added to the packets that are provided to newcomers upon arrival in your city, town or community. Don’t forget the local Small Business Administration office. They, too, need to know about your club. As do local colleges, universities and adult education programs. Most business professors recommend Toastmasters to their students; reach out to them to help you spread the word.

Most communities these days have local cable access TV stations. Take your place alongside Garth and Wayne of Wayne’s World and promote your club through free cable access. The Internet can also be a great source for new club members. Use free Internet calendars to list your meetings. Many communities worldwide have a Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) where organizations can list their meetings for free. Conduct an Internet search for community calendars your club can post to, so that online visitors can easily find information about your club.

Doctor, Doctor

Many clubs drop off past editions of the Toastmaster magazine – with a club business card stapled to it – in the waiting rooms of their dentist’s or doctor’s offices.

Plenty of Toastmasters members have joined after reading about the organization while waiting for a check-up. Four out of five doctors recommend Toastmasters to remedy poor communicators.

Word of Mouth: Elevator Speeches and Success Stories

Don’t underestimate the one-on-one approach to membership growth. As VPPR you can teach your club members to deliver an elevator speech – that 16-second promotional sound bite – when they’re telling people about their club.

A more persuasive tool for selling the benefits of Toastmasters conversationally is to deliver 30- or 60-second “success stories” about yourself. The stories should share the setting by which you joined your club, the situation you sought help with, and the solution Toastmasters provided for you. Your personal experience is a compelling testimonial. Use Table Topics to help members hone their own success stories.

Pin to Win!

Remember to wear your Toastmasters pin wherever you go and be prepared to share your elevator speech or success story in response to inquiries about the pin and Toastmasters. As VPPR you should be collecting testimonials from members about the benefits they’ve received from joining the organization. No more powerful endorsement exists!

Tell the World!

As you can see, there is no shortage of avenues to promote your club. The fun is in exposing others to the magic of Toastmasters. Tell the world!

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