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If membership is Job 1, why aren't we teaching marketing and PR at all our schools?

I recently received these questions in an e-mail: "If Membership Growth is the Society's greatest need/problem, and now is our leaders' first priority, (1) why does the list of Harmony U 2009 classes, and Anaheim convention interest classes include practically nothing that could be considered Marketing & PR? and (2) can HQ now pressure the Districts to stress Marketing & PR in their upcoming COTS/Leadership courses?" I want to share my (not necessarily the) answer with you here on the blog.

Excellent question. Thanks for asking it. I believe I am clear on your point – that Marketing and PR (M&PR) are the areas where non-Barbershoppers hear about Barbershop and are attracted to come have a listen or participate with us, and of course as long time Barbershoppers, you and I know that once they participate a good number will get hooked like we have. So, if M & PR is where we recruit new members, why aren’t we teaching new strategies (and old ones) that will attract new people? Is that a summation of your point? If I’ve gotten it right, it’s a very good question.

Here are a few points to consider – first, what kind of shape is any particular chapter in, to hold a new recruit once they’re in the door. Our recruiting is higher this year than last, as the fruits of our existing marketing. If those recruits walk into a vital, active chapter, with good to average singing and a healthy chorus, I have a pretty good feeling they’ll stay. Too many of our chapters, however, lack the fundamental planning and forward vision to remain healthy for long. Before we can teach them M & PR tricks, we need to get them on the road to health as a chapter. Hence the “Year of the Chapter” with the slogan “It’s Your Chapter” and the focus in the blog and the Harmonizer on things to make your chapter experience better. The product (Barbershop) is attractive, but not all presentations of it are so great. Orientation guides, planning guides, radio toolkits, program guides; they're all available, but most chapters don't bother.

Second, if we constantly pound M & PR, we begin to lose people’s attention, even the ones who are in it for the love of Barbershop The purpose of Harmony University is not administrative, it’s musical. Magical, musical experiences that motivate people to go home and improve their chapters to better performances, higher skills, and greater understanding of how to transmit to audiences the gift of Barbershop. I have resisted most attempts to reduce the HU experience to administrative things, although they are important. Even greater than my resistance, however, has been the fact that the curricula is presented like a buffet to the attendees, and we HAVE offered some M & PR classes in the last few years. Our members voted by not attending them. That same thing is true for our convention, where most people don’t attend ANY classes, they would rather sing and/or watch others.