Say “Cheese”…

So I am delighted to have been invited by Rotary District 1010 Governor Mike Halley to speak to their District today (Sunday) In Perth, Scotland about increasing the publicity in the press and media across their many Clubs. The District boss has asked me to make special reference to taking press photos – which as regular readers of this blog will know is one the many ‘bees’ I keep in my bonnet.

Therefore on the basis I have been working on Rotary research this weekend, I thought I’d turn the information I am going to be speaking to into this weekend’s blog.

So in preparation for the presentation to the Regular Rots in the largest District in RotaryGBI I undertook a fairly thorough search of the words ‘Rotary Clubs‘ and ‘Rotary Presentations‘ on Google images and, having trawled through literally thousands of images it appears the message is still not getting to Clubs in terms of how to positively present the organisation in and around the media. So it seems that the leadership in District 1010 is not only proactive but also frankly right to raise the issue once again – and therefore so should many others.


It seems that despite all the information available and the training offered by District Marketing and PR Officers the message is still not getting through in terms of media photos

Flipping through Google images I was effectively tripping over line-up after line-up of besuited men in ties and Rotary pins smiling into the camera as if recreating their primary school photo (obviously – and thankfully minus the shorts).

Then there was the competition to see how many cheque presentations (with regular, standard sized cheques) from Club Presidents Google images was willing to accept. Still so many photos of one man handing another man a piece of paper – with the picture telling you nothing other than the men (again, generally in suits and ties) like to haggle over a little rectangle of paper.

We then have the mandatory plethora of ‘grip and grin‘ photos – where we effectively have two grown men stage-managed to hold hands while they stare down the barrel of the camera pointed at them all in the name of Rotary. The point of which is…hmmm…well, erm to be honest…I don’t actually know?

I understand when Barack Obama stands on the steps of 10 Downing Street and poses in a similar stance with David Cameron – as that reflects the friendship, bond and camaraderie between both countries. But having the Rotary Club El Presidente shaking hands with the local butcher doesn’t quite have the same effect when it happens at the front door of the local hotel.

But the big one – and still the out and out winner – is the number of photos where the President absolutely has to, without question wear his bling! Whether rightly or wrongly in contextual terms of the photo – you’ll generally find one of the men with the big gold and shiny medallion slung around his neck. Every opportunity, there it is swinging there on his chest…I’m sure some Presidents would even insist on wearing it if they were doing a Swimarathon photoshoot in their speedos!

What is it with the necessity to wear ‘bling’ in every photo opportunity?

If you check out some of the Rotary images searches, there’s more jewellery on show than you’d find in a Cartier retailer outlet. Why? Is it because they’re President and they should wear the bling at every opportunity? Or could they just be proud to wear the jewel of office? There are likely to be many answers – but in terms of a press photo shoot – there really needs to be serious consideration as to whether the regalia is required – and my advice would be – in most cases, it’s probably not!

Just as bad as the bling is the fluorescent hi-viz tabards and waistcoats? Yes, I get the fact that they are emblazoned with the Rotary Wheel; but there are so many other ways of getting the brand image into a Club’s publicity. Strangely, when doing the Google news search – loads of images of Rotarians in hi-viz came up, and to be frankly truthful they just looked like a line of local authority workers having their photo taken by the side of the road.

Rotary is more than just hi-vis traffic management operatives – so let’s ditch the fluorescent tops and get a bit more catwalk than Council.

Taking all this into account, it poses a few questions. Surely all the great work by District Marketing and PR Chairs can’t have been for nothing? It cannot be the case that they haven’t actually advised their Clubs that these inane photos are less likely to be used in the press while at the same time are not representing the wonderful organisation that is Rotary particularly well. There is enough information out there from RotaryGBI available to Clubs to ensure their photos are to as high a standard as possible.

It is essential that the quality of photos being published on behalf of Rotary are substantially improved in order to engage the creative minds of various publishers around the country.

So having listened to many newspaper Editors and Photo Editors here is a quick rundown of some of the pointers I will be offering in my presentation today:

  • Think about the story you are trying to tell – and try to let the photo help you to do that;
  • Use a decent resolution image – do not send photos that are blurred or in low resolution;
  • You don’t need a professional photographer just someone who knows what they are doing;
  • You no longer need an expensive camera – modern phones take amazingly high quality images;
  • Think about your location – does it help the story? Make sure the surroundings are not untidy and your subjects don’t have things growing out their head;
  • Do not use grip and grin photos – try to animate the photo using your subjects;
  • No cheque presentations – and if you insist on doing them – use proper large presentation cheques in the photo, but still try and have other things going on in the photo;
  • Understand that grip and grins and cheque presentations will not be printed by some newspapers (as a rule);
  • Use people who are good for the camera and want to be photographed – there’s no use in dragging someone in front of a camera who doesn’t want to be there;
  • Don’t have massive groups of people – in general up to five maximum, unless a large group is essential to tell the story – but still have key individual at the front of the photo (the people in the photo should relate to your text);
  • Think whether the ‘bling’ is absolutely necessary in the photo?
  • Think whether hi-viz tabards are absolutely necessary in the photo? Take them off wherever possible;
  • Have a chat with your local Editor and find out what kind of photos they would like from you – and make sure you do not send the ones that they will not print.

Ultimately the message needs to get out there. Some of the images being used for the organisation leave a great deal to be desired and an awful lot to the imagination of the reader.

Remember if in doubt, just ask – your local editor will be more than happy to have a chat with you about what they need. Remember your photos help promote and sell their paper – so they want good images in it – and if you can supply them to their specification – then all the better.

Images by Michael Broad by CC

Here we go again…

It now seems like this time every year we’re going to be revisiting and questioning the whole Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland’s Presidential elections process – so here’s the 2015 contribution.

Over the last few years we’ve been promised “change”, “modernisation”, “new Rotary”; “refreshed Rotary” and some have even spoken of “radical Rotary”; but as suspected these turn out be exactly what we all know them to be…nothing more than words!


…and so the discussions surrounding the election of President at Rotary in Britain and Ireland commence for 2015

Yesterday (Friday) saw the announcement of the four candidates who have decided to put themselves forward to be considered by the 50,000 Regular Rots in these islands as President of the organisation in July 2018.

Those who have met the criteria are – in alphabetical order: David Ellis (Salford and Swinton); Debbie Hodge (Ware); Graham Jackson (Irlam) and Mukesh Malhotra (Hounslow) all vying to be the top banana, the grande-fromage, king (or queen) of the hill and head up the organisation that is Rotary in the British Isles in July 2018.

Now all may seem to be well up to this point…but this is Rotary remember – nothing can ever be simple. So despite the fact we should be congratulating the team at Alcester for having listened and allowing the four candidates to each record a three-minute piece to camera outlining their ‘Presidential Vision’ – once again this is all sadly going to be overshadowed by yet more governance issues surrounding the process.

Wasn’t this meant to have moved on after last year’s Annual Business Meeting in Belfast…?

It seems not, as what many readers may not know is there were actually another two potential nominees Nick Corke (Framlingham) and Mike Jackson (Fordingbridge) who had the novel idea to run for President of RotaryGBI on a joint ticket, in a job-share role so-to-speak – but were disallowed purely as a result of the “rules”.

A statement from the joint running-mates makes it clear they were informed that applying on a joint ticket was not “valid” accordingly to Tom Griffin, Chair of the RotaryGBI Constitutions Committee due to the fact that the constitution “implied” that the job should be done by only one person.

Now some Regular Rots may think the ‘joint-ticket’ is the most modern idea to hit Rotary Leadership since email was installed in Alcester. Others on the other hand might think this is the craziest, most half-cooked idea since the membership voted not to disband the Selection Advisor Committee (wonder if that one will now be revisited again after this?)

Regardless, if nothing else the Corke/Jackson or ‘Corkeson’ ticket was an overt challenge to the modernising agenda at Alcester that was made for all the right reasons by two very experienced and committed Regular Rots. But it seems it was just a step too far on this occasion. Too modern? Too radical? Too much in line with current equal opportunities agendas? Too anti-establishment? Too out-of-the-box? Seems so…

Should the powers-that-be should have taken a decision to allow the joint ticket to go through and left to rest the membership? That’s almost a moot point now.

RotaryBlogger (and many others) have known about the ‘Corkeson‘ proposal since summer earlier this year. In fact Corkeson haven’t been hiding their intentions at all and even proactively checked to see if they would be able to run on the joint-ticket in terms of the constitution and were told,

“It doesn’t say you can but it doesn’t say you cannot”.

RotaryBlogger has been informed by Corkeson that despite a ruling by the General Council in November which stated that in future years the President will share Club and District visits with the Presidency as a whole – they were informed only last week by the Chair of the Constitutions Committee – some five months after they originally asked – that they couldn’t actually share the role of President with each other. Does this mean the Chair of the Constitutions Committee is therefore in conflict with the thinking of General Council’s views?

It is understood that despite a short interview with the joint candidates, the Selection Advisory Committee could find no reason to overturn the decision of the Constitutions Chair – and Corkeson were duly sent packing. But surely if the constitution didn’t clearly state they couldn’t run on a joint-ticket the increasingly precarious SAC could have been brave (on the back of their ‘win’ in Belfast) and thrown the dice on this one; gone against Griffin and Co. and taken a gauge from the Regular Rots…no?

The matter of the joint application is certainly not over – as it is understood that Corke and Jackson are regrouping and reforming to consider their options in terms of where next. There could be a PR lifeline to RotaryGBI as Corkeson are good Rotarians who do not want to cause unnecessary angst or bad publicity within the organisation – so much will depend on feedback and external advice over the next few weeks. But there is no doubt that they are both very upset and disappointed in the way they have been treated and how backward facing they believe the decision was to reject their application.

Therefore instead of the ‘new’ Presidential campaign complete with online video representations taking the headlines – one has to feel sorry for the four candidates as what should be an exciting process potentially becomes tainted and overshadowed by what many would say was an entirely reasonable and bona-fide ‘two-as-one’ application and the way it has been handled.

But wait…that’s not it, it’s not over…

Let’s revisit the four candidates left.

But before getting into the second part of this blog post – it should be made clear that this is not in any way canvassing for or against an individual. The blog post is looking at the processes not the individuals.

So despite a very tight challenge to their very survival at the Annual Business Meeting in Belfast the Selection Advisory Committee have once again opted to select only one preferred candidate from the grouping of applicants. However the new terminology for 2015 seems to be to have changed in a way many will feel leaves them needing to adjust their balaclava from their eyes!

If you become very observant and pull out your microscope, you will note there is no preferred candidate – what the SAC has said is:

The Committee recommends that of the candidates listed below Rotarian Debbie Hodge of the Rotary Club of Ware D1260 has fully met the criteria as defined in the job description and person specification agreed by General Council for the role of President 2018/2019 (and Vice President 2017/2018).”

So being what some may say slightly pedantic, Debbie Hodge is not the preferred candidate of the SAC. The Committee isn’t even suggesting you may wish to vote for her. However, it’s perhaps what they are not saying which is more telling as apparently Ms Hodge meets the “criteria as defined” but there is no mention of Messrs: Ellis, Jackson or Malhotra doing the same or even coming close.

2361164281_fb678ff92c_oAre we therefore to read into the statement that the Selection Advisory Committee are saying the three gentlemen in the Presidential race do not meet the said criteria? Surely this can’t be the case otherwise they wouldn’t have got through the initial selection process?

So what does this “recommend” statement actually mean? Perhaps Ms Hodge meets the criteria better than the others. Perhaps she’s the best candidate or perhaps she’s the one the SAC would prefer to follow in the footsteps of the great and good but just haven’t said it. Perhaps the Regular Rots need clarification on this particular statement…

In this, the first year where the selection committee had the chance to pick more than one preferred candidate – they could have scored a winner with the Regular Rots and those who voted for their cessation by selecting all four candidates (i.e. not selecting any) and leaving the rest to the Clubs. Now that would have been a bold step to take…

Last year was poorly handled in terms of PR administration and selection – where readers of the blog will recall the six candidates could not speak to RotaryBlogger for fear of disqualification. Which in itself ruffled some feathers, particularly on social media. (There will be more on canvassing in a future blog – so make sure you subscribe on the right hand banner so you won’t miss it – as it will be pretty mind-blowing!)

For some, there will be no doubt that this year’s rejection of the joint application and the selection of yet another single preferred candidate could be viewed as saluting using two-fingers to the democratic processes within this “modernising” and “changing” organisation. A thistle waiting to be grabbed but actually where instead a very wide-berth is taken around it.

Could this be the first year where democracy says, “enough is enough” and the single “recommended”, “preferred” or “candidate with most criteria checks” actually isn’t appointed? Something is indicating this could be a very closely run race.

But in closing, and as a timely analogy for this time of the year, remember what happened not that long ago when the public decided X-Factor wasn’t going to get away with yet another win in getting the Christmas Number One in the UK – starting a nation-wide social media campaign to make sure the ‘establishment’ didn’t win…!


Images by Edward Balch and Torley by CC