When A Business’ Actions Are The Message
Posted on Jul 23, 2012 by By Mark McDonald, Director of Western Operations and Client Delivery | Subscribe to this RSS feed |
A recent Lincoln Journal Star article described the dire situation of the Lincoln public golf courses facing an $800,000 budget deficit. The story outlines the fiscal challenges facing Lincoln public golf courses and how the financial situation devolved during the last decade.
The reporter gives Lynn Johnson, the director of Parks and Recreation, a chance to respond to the issue, and she gives the readers a dose of, “last year, we had the fewest rounds played on the city courses in more than 20 years.” Not exactly inspirational, but then she goes on to describe city solutions:
- Fire some people with deep ties to community golf
- Raise fees on rounds for people who do play golf (a sure crowd-pleaser)
- And my personal favorite, form a committee
There are two colossal communication blunders at play here (no pun intended).
The first, and most obvious, is when given a chance to discuss your project or program, don’t pile on the negative side of the story adding fodder for the reporter. Instead take the opportunity to highlight the long-term solutions you have for the problem. At least attempt to leave the reader with the impression you have answers.
Next, and more importantly, the reader walks away from the article with the belief that the city doesn’t understand what the problem is.
The real problem is that not as many people are playing golf. The writer briefly touches on in it, but Johnson never mentions it. And she doesn’t use this chance to talk about ways of getting golfers back on public courses.
So in this article you see:
- No actions being taken to encourage more people to play golf
- Money being lost
- A larger strategic problem of not enough golf being played
- The city seems not to understand the problem or addressing it
But some private courses do have it right …
In sharp contrast, private courses like Wilderness Ridge (for full disclosure: they are a client of Vox Optima) have the opposite focus. They hired an award-winning agronomist to ensure the course is in prime playing condition; hired one of Nebraska’s most well respected superintendent’s to orchestrate the program and perhaps most importantly developed community outreach programs that encourage people to … guess what? Play more golf.
When Wilderness Ridge’s general manager Bruce Berres talks to the media about the golf course, you don’t hear the woes of golf compared to the boom days of the 1990s or why young people don’t want to play.
Instead he focuses the message on the positive momentum and enthusiasm created by the free military kids golf clinic developed by head PGA professional Chris Thomson, or the free clinic created for Nebraska Special Olympians. He also talks about evening specials targeting families, adult clinics and lessons, and junior programs designed to attract a new generation of golfers.
Wilderness Ridge actions ensure the message is: golf fun and exciting and this is where people want to be.
With this communication strategy, it’s no surprise the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is playing its national women’s golf tournament at Wilderness Ridge for the next two years or that the course hosts the University of Nebraska men’s and women’s golf team.
The point the city misses is Wilderness Ridge communicates to the Lincoln population with their actions AND messages – all aligned to growing the game of golf. Their actions are encouraging people to play more golf and it’s getting players on their links.
If your business has difficulty getting visibility or foot traffic, remember there is no magic formula. To succeed, commit your business to actions within your overall strategy that creates public interest with your target audiences. Public visibility, interest and profitability in your project will follow.
Mark McDonald is Vox Optima’s western regional director and senior media trainer with more than two decades of expertise in defense industry, international and national public relations consulting, crisis and strategic communication planning, media relations, media training, and reputation and branding management. Mark can be reached on Twitter or Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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