Marketing & PR

Sponsored clubs as a marketing tool and public relations boost

Key Points
  • Create a sponsored club for positive PR
  • Use the organization’s name in the club for free advertising
  • Promote the good works of club members to increase brand awareness
  • Boost employee loyalty and morale, while reducing turnover

Public Relations (PR) is always a challenge for any organization, it’s an ongoing battle to maintain a positive outlook in the face of growing discontent toward corporations in our society.  Sometimes the best PR an organization can get is the kind that comes from outside groups, be they interest groups, community groups, or sponsored clubs.  In this post, I will explore how organizations can harness the power of clubs to provide free or low-cost PR.

I’m a bit of a radio nerd, I grew up playing with CB radios and FRS radios (Those little two-way radios you can buy at Walmart) and as I got older I started getting into Amateur radio (Ham radio) and I’m a licensed GMRS operator.  Recently I’ve gotten into something called Meshtasic, it operates on the LoRa radio band and is used for off-grid text messaging.

The Idea

I’ll be focusing on radio, but you can create a club for whatever you want or more closely fits your industry.  So I propose creating a radio club, not an Amateur radio club, just a general radio club.  I say radio club because I feel the sponsored club should be welcoming to all interests and saying ARRL Amateur Radio Club makes other radio enthusiasts feel they won’t be welcomed in.  This isn’t to say that the radio club can’t be part of the ARRL, just that it shouldn’t be the sole governing body for the club.

I’m going to focus solely on the United States but this could apply to any country or just to a single location, just adapt things to meet your needs and local laws.  So let’s say you’re a major corporation with industrial-type locations across the country with several locations in each state.  So you announce the sponsorship of the ABC inc. radio club, and the managers in charge of each location are encouraged to allow employees to form chapters of said club.

Amateur radio clubs regularly do community outreach, they provide communications for public events, and in times of emergencies (ARES), and all the while they display their club name so everyone can identify them if they need help.  Now imagine if throughout the country there were radio clubs volunteering at events and emergency situations with “ABC inc. Radio Club – Chapter 001” prominently displayed.  They will be out there helping their community with your organization’s name displayed for all to see.  All you have to do now is make a public comment about how proud you are of your employees and their company-sponsored club for helping their local community, and you just got great PR for your organization.

So how do you start?

First, decide if you want to sponsor a club and decide what kind of club it should be.  Continuing with my example you decide to start a radio club.  Now you assign someone to head up the company-wide club and have them start to put together bylaws and determine the manner in which chapters will be named.  A great way to speed this process up would be to reach out to already established clubs in the field and pull from their club charters to build your own charter.

Next, you need to announce your club and publish the charter and bylaws.  You can really show your seriousness by creating a website for the club and allowing each chapter to have its own subpage.  Now you’ll need to register employees as members and form a chapter of the club.  I would suggest that you have a minimum of 3 members before a chapter can be formed.

Now you have multiple chapters across the country and things are starting to take off, it’s time to make the public announcement.  Use this club to show how you are giving back by sponsoring a non-work-related club for your employees.  You could also say that in times of emergency employees who are club members will be given paid time off to go and volunteer to aid first responders and their community.

For Amateur Radio (Ham) licensed members you could even sponsor club-branded and member personalized QSL Cards.  Hams send QSL cards to each other when they make contact with each other.  Having a QSL card with “ABC Inc. Radio Club” on it will allow the club members to send out subtle advertisements to non-members and those who receive the card will be happy to have received the ad because they won’t see it as an ad.

Thoughts on chapter naming

If your locations already have names you could just use those, so you’d have “ABC inc Radio Club – (Location) Chapter” and that would work just fine, it would tie the club to a specific location that you can easily keep track of.

But here are some other ideas if your locations aren’t already named:

  • State
  • City
  • Zip Code
  • Sequential numbering (Chapter 001)
  • State plus Sequential numbering (OH-001)

Obviously, it’s your club, you can handle the naming however you like, but these are just some common ways that it can be handled.

Repeaters

One thing to consider is if you are going to allow your club to set up repeaters.  This is why I said earlier “So let’s say you’re a major corporation with industrial-type locations across the country with several locations in each state.” having an industrial location would be far better for setting up a repeater than an office building.  While an office build can host a repeater I think most employers would prefer to keep them at the industrial locations.

So why repeaters?  Well, radio clubs love setting up repeaters, they allow radio operators to reach farther than they could with just their radio alone.  Also, it can be fun and satisfying to provide this service to the local community.

In your club charter and bylaws, you can set the rule for when repeaters are authorized, and how they have to be named (ABC Inc. Radio Club Repeater) to ensure that you are always getting the PR boost you are looking for from the club.  And don’t think you have to have a tower built for a repeater, an antenna on top of a large warehouse can still provide adequate coverage for most use cases.  All you have to do is provide a small space for the repeater and antenna to be set up on the roof (with some weights to hold it in place) and lay down the ground rules like don’t drill holes in the roof and other common sense things.

Why a general radio club and not just an Amateur Radio club?

As I stated before having a general radio club leaves the door open to more members.  I have two Amateur radio clubs in my area and while both say they work with other radios they also “encourage” members to be licensed Amateur radio operators.  Right now I have neither the desire nor the time to get my license, yes I enjoy listening to the Amateur bands but I just listen and learn and that’s good enough for me.  While I’m sure both clubs would accept me as a member if I wasn’t licensed, I’d feel pressure to get my license and since that’s not something I want right now I don’t bother.

This is why I recommend I general radio club, if you’re interested in radio, and you are an employee (or employee’s direct relative) then you are welcome to join the club and find like-minded individuals.  The club can host license training classes, and if members are licensed high enough they can even perform testing for those wishing to get licensed.  But the key to the club should always be the interest in radio, not the license.  And the best part, the training and testing can have your organization’s name all over it through the club name.

Conclusion

Sponsoring an organization-branded club can be a low-cost or no-cost way to promote your brand and get good PR with the public.  With a small investment upfront the club and its chapters could even become self-sufficient if structured correctly.  Through public announcements of each chapter’s community involvement and assistance in emergencies your brand will get positive PR and your employees will thank you for sponsoring them, it’s a win-win situation.

Looking for other ways to build positive Public Relations without using the standard methods?  Check out some of my previous posts on the subject linked below.

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