by John Borst,

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh

What do I stand for? What do I stand for?

Most nights I don’t know anymore…

Lyrics “Some Nights” by fun

The above lyrics from “Some Nights” by Fun (stylized as fun), 2012’s super group with six Grammy nominations seems to express perfectly the dilemma web-editors and social media folk (Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter etc) and likely just plain Rotarians must be feeling when every January, Rotary’s President-Elect roles out his new theme for the coming Rotary year.

Last-10-RI-themesAfter only three years I am beginning to ask “Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what Rotary stands for; oh What does Rotary stand for?  What does Rotary stand for?

Engage Rotary, Change Lives, Peace through Service, Reach Within to Embrace Humanity, Building Communities, Building Continents, The Future of Rotary is in Your Hands, Make Dreams Real, Rotary Shares, Lead the Way, Service Above Self, and Celebrate Rotary 100 years together represent the past decade. And everyone one of them can still be found on one or more club or even in a few cases on District websites.

What a mess! As a Rotarian who has volunteered for the past year and a half to be the District Communications chair I can only wonder,  over the next six months, what message I am supposed to be spreading. Heck most Rotarians aren’t familiar with the outgoing presidential message let alone the new one.

In 2012 Rotary released a statement and I quote:

To support the implementation of the strategic plan, RI will no longer have presidential emphases that change every year. This decision will help us to have greater continuity in our service, and achieve more significant goals over the long term.

So what happened in 2013-14?

As a web-editor, I am likely more aware than most Rotarians the extent to which Rotary is attempting to digitize the management of clubs. Data Integration and Rotary Central are being rolled out. Electronic dues direct and Foundation direct deposits are still in their infancy. Crowd funding methods are on the way. Why? Partly, because we have the technology to do it but more importantly because  it reduces our management costs. Changing those themes not only creates confusion in “What we stand for” it costs money; money which could be better spent on other management initiatives.

Rotary has a study underway to address its image and messaging problem. It is scheduled to report over the next, I believe, four years. Sorry that is too long. We need one message, one consistent Rotary PR program, and we need it now.