Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Toastmasters VPPR planning - part 1

In one week it will be my nine year anniversary in Toastmasters. Back then, in my second week, I attended makeup training as the newly elected Vice President of Public Relations (VPPR) of my club. I sat at a table with three Toastmasters - Fred Punko, John Baragar and Bob Larmour. Sitting at that table was more than a hundred years of Toastmasters experience.

I'd like to pretend that that single event taught me all I needed to know about being a VPPR but in fact over the last nine years I've steadily picked away at the different resources and approaches to public relations. What works for me doesn't always work for others, and vice versa.

Recently my club held elections and we elected a new VPPR for the January-June term. At the same time I work with Quesnel Toastmasters in a coaching capacity. Being the lazy person that I am, I thought it was a good opportunity to get down some of my VPPR thoughts in a fashion that was constructive for all.

The subsequent posts will outline some of these resources that I feel are essential to good public relations. If you have any thoughts or comments then I always welcome feedback at .

#1 - The Brand Manual (link)

The brand manual was released many years ago (5-6?) and by the title you would expect that it provides instruction with respect to the Toastmasters brand. In reality, it is an absolutely essential public relations tool that encompasses many aspects of the program. Frankly, this is not at all obvious to people.

To give concrete examples, pages 22-26 outline the five main target audiences for Toastmasters clubs. That is: (1) corporations, (2) current Toastmasters, (3) young professionals, (4) mid-career professionals, and (5) people involved in personal skill-building. On each page you see what benefits these groups traditionally gain from Toastmasters and you see the sample messaging they would suggest for these groups.

So say we are going to create a poster for our club. It could equally be a page on your website, an ad in the paper, an email that you're crafting, whatever. Where possible we want to make sure our message is aligned with the brand manual.

Above is a sample advertisement that I often use for PGTM. The basics like location, time, etc. are covered as is a specific call to action in the bottom of the ad. More relevantly look at the three taglines that we use:
Want to stand out from the crowd?
Boost your resume with leadership experience?
Invest in yourself!
In this particular advertisement I'm targeting groups 3-5, that is, young professionals, mid-career professionals and people involved in personal skill-building. Young professionals don't have practical experience, they are generally speaking trying to distinguish themselves from a horde of people with similar qualifications, and building an effective resume is a very concrete thing that Toastmasters can (and will) help them with. Mid-career professionals traditionally have a hard time gaining leadership experience - how do you get experience as a supervisor or running projects if you don't have the workplace experience - and they often see this sort of training as self-investment. Frankly the first time your work puts you through a $2k weekend training course when you could have paid $150-200 for a year of Toastmasters, well, you see the value of the self investment. Anyways, hopefully this advertisement illustrates some of the concrete ways you like the audience to the ad.

The specific colors, fonts, photos, etc. are all from various other parts of the brand manual as well. Toastmasters blue is shown on page 28 along with the associated color codes for whatever program you're using.

Another really important component of the brand manual is the concept of the "elevator pitch". You'll find it outlined from page 11-15. Being able to know what an elevator pitch is is essential in a PR capacity and more relevantly having your members be able to do so is equally important. People, generally speaking, don't trust advertisements but they do trust personal recommendations so the more you can effectively speak to Toastmasters in a conversational fashion, the better. Even if you're comfortable doing so the other members of your club are likely not - the new members particularly but often many of the older members.

I like that the brand manual talks about the various length of elevator speeches as well. If you have two minutes then you'll speak to different things than if you have two sentences to work with.

These are only two things that are covered in the 69 page branding manual. If you take the time to read it in depth you will find many other insightful suggestions. I had no idea that the brand manual existed for most of my Toastmasters life but now that I know I refer to it regularly when communicating with the public!

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