When it comes to content there are two areas of focus, Rotary the institution and the community. Do you notice what I left out? I did not say the Rotary community.
Ask any Rotarian why they joined Rotary and the first reason they will give is “to improve my community.” Rotarians want to give back to their community as a way of saying thank you.  This is as true in large urban centres with multiple clubs as it is in small places with only one club.
 
Three Examples of Normal Content
 
1. Custom Overview Pages
 
It is therefore normal for a club website to create content for the majority of citizens who do not know what Rotary is or does. Much of such content is not likely to be in a story. Instead, in the new beta designer, it will be found on custom pages or previously in site or subsite pages.
 
These will usually be overview pages. Rotary International’s “Avenues of Service” and “Areas of Focus” (now Our Causes) are two such examples. These in turn lead to the creation of content on how the club responds within the local community.  Thus, custom pages on Community, International, and Youth Services are created. These require little maintenance and are accessed through the menu.
 
2. Stories that provide examples of the local activity described on a Custom Page
 
Let’s take just one example from the Youth Services page. Many clubs participate in the Youth Exchange Program. A YEP student is an opportunity for many articles every year.
 
An article about the new student drawn from the biography provided; a second of the student being met at the airport and their first impressions of their new community, a third about their adventure when they meet with all the other District YEP youth from around the world, a fourth when they speak to the club about life in their home town, family, and first impressions of living in the club’s community to fifth, their report on their two week District excursion to see more of the host country to sixth, their concluding summary on the year and their future plans.
 
Over the years stories on Rotary Youth Exchange will add up. And here is where keywords and dating the post helps. ClubRunner posts on the Story archive page, a list of all of the keywords. If you have put the short tail Keyword “Rotary Youth Exchange” the number 20 is beside it. To see all twenty articles listed type in @Rotary Youth Exchange and all twenty are listed. Similarly, “@ First Impressions” or “@District Excursions”. Then as the webs editor, you can place one or two of the best YEP stories in the current year's story.
 
In this way, you increase the visitors time on your site and the number of page views visited. At the same time, you are educating your citizens about Rotary and what it does locally.
 
Whether it is your annual fundraising event, yearly highway clean-up, local elementary school public speaking competition or Paul Harris Community Award Night each year’s event adds to your story list.
 
3. Stories on your weekly speaker’s talk.
 
Without a doubt, this is the most underutilized opportunity to create club website stories. It should be a no brainer. Ask yourself what is news? Ask yourself what is local news? Most speakers are from your local community. The member in charge of creating "the speakers' list", has already decided the guest has something of importance to share with the club.
 

Examples of Speakers News Stories 

 
In my 10 years as a Rotarian, I have concluded because of the diversity of speakers Rotarians as a group, are the most knowledgeable members of the community. Yes, the topic is not about Rotary, but it is about the club’s community and should be shared with the community. It is also the audience from which you want to draw your next member.
 
Many clubs have the local mayor speak to them annually. A picture with a caption or short blurb is not a story. A story is about the message and information shared. It needs to be presented with a dynamic headline, and lead sentence with details expanded upon in the body. In other words, written the way a professional reporter would write it.
 
It took five years of writing news stories based on what our speakers said for reporters from the town’s radio station, newspaper and cable TV supplier to send a reporter to our meetings. Today we compete with them, and because it is their work, they get the story out faster than us.
 
Three novel way to create content for your club website.
 
These ideas come with a warning; they are each controversial. They are ordered from least to most in what follows. Their goal is to increase traffic.
 
One of the most pervasive trends in our society is the death of the local paper. This is true whether a large metropolitan newspaper or small-town weekly. Three years ago, my town experienced such a loss. It left major holes.  No place for community groups such as churches, and other like organizations to advertise their fundraising events, no list of garage sales, no for sale items, no news items, no little league results and no editorials or commentary columns.
 
Rotary is a service organization. Ask yourself as a Rotarian, is this a service need we can fulfil through our Rotary club website. I think the answer is yes and it has the benefit of being a means to draw local citizens to a site where they can learn more about Rotary with the potential to draw more citizens to join us.
 
In Dryden’s case, the community has two local radio stations. Both increased their news stories output. One went further and filled other gaps as well. Neither risked or perhaps had the resources to write editorials or commentary columns.
 
If your community has neither a radio station nor a weekly newspaper then the vacuum and opportunity are much more urgent.
 
1. Open your club website up to the community.
 
Although one of the local radio stations provides an opportunity for local community groups to post posters of events on their site at no cost, we are considering doing the same. Bazars, teas, garage sales, etc. can never have enough ability to reach their target audience.
 
Another similar option is to open the site to the free sale of personal items. Yes, many people sell at and monitor such Facebook pages. But adding one more such forum will attract perhaps a different cliental. Regardless, it is an avenue worth exploring, particularly if there is no such competition in your particular community.
 
Providing a means by which minor league sports can report results or write stories if they do not have or can not afford to have a website may be another opportunity to serve in some communities.
 
These are just a few ideas of ways to serve our communities in new ways. It has the potential benefit of getting more members involved in website work and management.
 
2. Blogging or Writing Opinion Pieces on Rotary
 
This is something I started doing while managing the District website, which I perceived as a news site for Rotarians, not the public. What I learned was that the blog could draw as much traffic or more than the District site. (It was housed separately on a WordPress site because at that time ClubRunner did not have the ability to comment.) After I stopped doing the District blog, I blogged privately as Wethe4.
 
Because the Club site wasn’t growing as fast as I wanted, I did an experiment and placed some Rotary opinion pieces on the club’s ClubRunner site.  The results were spectacular.  Traffic just about tripled during the three-month trial. The club, however, were of mixed opinion. And the downside from my perspective was that the audience was not the local citizenry, but rather worldwide.
 
I did, however, leave those posts in the archive and they remain month after month as the most-read pieces on the site. For example, place “Rotary diversity” into Bing search and watch the result.
 
3. Blogging or Writing Editorials on the Community
 
However, the lack of “local citizenry” did not exist if the editorials were about the community, so without consulting the club’s leadership, I did a piece on why losing a local paper was a real loss to a community and then followed by attending a council meeting and writing what I intended as a complementary piece on installing equipment to Livestream council meetings.  
 
The lack of consultation was an obvious mistake as three members of the club were on the city council and at least one of them saw the piece as uncomplimentary which of course is always a danger with editorials of any sort. The club’s communication committee, on which I did not sit wasn’t happy with the idea for obvious reasons.
 
I did not continue the practice and there was not enough content to produce a spike in local traffic.   Regardless, the vacancy is still there, as neither radio station will touch the idea. It is a service all towns need if democracy is to function properly. Done right with club support, I still think it a viable idea.
 
As Rotarians, I think we have an obligation to ensure that democracy prospers not just within our own organization but within our society as well. How we do that is a challenge we need to explore more deeply.
 
Conclusion
 
In conclusion, one way or another many clubs must expand the content on their site if they are to achieve maximum value for the cost. Clubs must pay more attention to their website, its content, and the amount of traffic that is generated. Club members must come to accept that everyone has ownership of the website in a way that is more dramatic than with social media pages. That has not happened yet. However, the failed experiment with editorials in the community was the trigger that began the Rotary Club of Dryden’s greater member involvement, one that has continued to grow during the past year.
 
Innovation always involves risk. Failure always involves learning. For Rotary clubs, websites are first-generation experiments. Only by sharing our successes and failures can we continue to grow in this new and exciting era of communications.  
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