About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

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Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

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Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Saturday, 25 October 2014

How do you Create a Rotary Media Event? It’s all in the Details!

 (LR) Greg Weadick, Betty Screpnek 
Pat Killoran, Dr. Bob Scott

Written by Robyn T. Braley


May and June are exciting months for Rotary. This is a time for planning the new year led by an exciting new President and group of directors.


The group tasked with raising the profile of the club is usually the PR Committee. Younger members bring new ideas involving social media to creating awareness within the community.

In April, 2014, we used traditional and digital media to let the world know that Alberta Rotarians had triggered $2.1 million dollars in funding for polio eradication. Our District 5360 Conference was used to stage an event which produced world-wide circulation.


Media Plan 

In February we started the planning process. By mid March we had our media plan in place and material developed.   
  • Media kits including fact sheets, backgrounders and other documents
  • Media training and preparation of the key spokespeople 
  • Co-ordination with the RI Public Relations team
  • 2-3 personal contacts with key media
  • Custom media contact list
  • Professional photography

Online Media Strategy


  • Online newsroom
  • Newswire distribution
  • Focused email campaign
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • SoundCloud
Dr. Bob Scott, seated, Pat Killoran,
Betty Screpnek in Iron Lung  

Where to Start

If you are thinking our plan was way over the top for a local club, are probably right. As a media specialist, I was able to bring my experience to bear to create and then execute our action plan. 

So, let’s get to the basics. To get started, the Rotary International website has an excellent guide called ‘Effective Rotary Public Relations’ which offers tips for writing news releases and how to interact with the media. The 2014 edition includes a helpful section about social media.

Next, choose one or two major events during the year that make great stories. When DG Pat Killoran and I the discussed the project in January, we agreed that the focus should be on polio and not necessarily the conference. Choosing an “event within the event” gave us a focal point which became the trigger. However, as it turned out, other stories were also covered by various media.



Media Basics

Once you have your story set, write a media release. This will be the foundation of your strategy. When well crafted, media will often build their story around the release. Some will use it word-for-word or lift sections from it.

All media – new and traditional – is driven by quality content in a well crafted news release. For online pickup, today’s releases use a slightly different format.

  • Write the heading using 120 characters or less. It can be copied, tweeted, and retweeted with links to the main document
  • Answer who, what, where, when and why questions in the first paragraph
  • Write the release as an inverted pyramid; the most important information is at the top 
  • Keep it simple highlighting the key points. Keep it relatively short, to-the-point and relevant. Just the facts, ‘mam. 
  • One pages is best, but two is acceptable 
  • Use subheadings and bullet points to make scanning easy 
  • Include the date and contact information including social media channels 

 Media Freindly

As the leader, Pat played a key role in agreeing to make the conference media friendly. Treating the media as a customer and going out of your way to understand and meet their needs make it easier for them to cover your story. 
Bob Scott is interviewed by CTV for provincial Coverage

If you have never interacted with media but are a strong communicator, you have an advantage. Contact the media a few weeks before your event and give them an abreviated news release called an alert. Three to four paragraphs are all you need to get your event on their radar screen.

Our strategy generated coverage on CTV throughout Alberta, Global TV in Lethbridge and Edmonton, 2 stories on NEWSTALK 770, one on CHED, 3 major stories in the Lethbridge Herald, and pick up or mentions in other media in Canada and other parts of the world.


Distribution on Canada Newswire and Rotary world distribution was picked up by various mainstream and social media services. The release was picked up by Yahoo and Google News.


Online Action

The week after the event the story dominated the first three pages on google. The full release showed up on Canada News Wire, Google and Yahoo Business News, News.nom, online magazines, blogs, and other social media. Charlene Beardon Facebooked and I tweeted messages during the conference.

What impressed me was the Rotary family. They became active world wide.

  • RI placed the story on various organization websites and social media sites like facebook, linkedIn, and twitter.
  • Districts and clubs around the world published the story in newsletters, websites, facebook and blogs
  • Rotarians around the world retweeted messages from the conference
  • Rotarians at the conference retweeted messages 
X Factor finalist Emmanuel Kelly 
captivated Rotarians


Sweet Tweets

There is a new kid in town. Well, actually an adolescent.

Social media connects you to the world. Traditional and online media intersect in ways we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.


We can write a how-to column about twitter, and one day we will. One of the tips for generating traffic and awareness using twitter is to tweet during an event. I tweeted about 40 messages on the day of the gala. Different communities around the world retweeted specific messages:

  • Emmanuel Kelly has a huge following, especially in South America
  • Polio was in the news world-wide
  • The Alberta Government retweet anything mentioning them
  • The Blood Indian Pow Wow had big fans in New York.
  • Rotarians will retreat about anything that mentions Rotary. 

Some of Our Tweets

#DrBobScott has moving stories about @polio vaccinations in dev nation. @rotary making a difference @worldhealth organization

#JimFlaherty Great politician, humanitarian, #Rotarian, man. About #values & #principles. Honored round the world @rotary

Last night @rotary @rotary5360 #gala. @TheXFactor @emmanuelktwiter Kelly Wowed the crowd. Long. Standing O. Earned it.

#NelsonMandela #motherteresa #Gandi Marten L King most quoted by great speakers. Why? Think about what they did.@rotary

#moirakelly - Start meeting people's needs. Knock on doors. Ask for help. Things will grow. @rotary discon 5360

Think about it! @TheXFactor @emmanuelktwiter Kelly UTube video - 13mil hits. #disabilities. Overcoming obstacles. Inspired

Rep for @rotary prez #richardburton #Gerrysummerhays challenged #Rotarians. Innovate. Find new ways 2 #serve people

Lunch @rotary 5360 Discon. Nothing more disturbing than Rotarians lined up at #buffet table. Messy.

Thanks @GregWeadickMLA of @YourAlberta gov for $350 K donation for @rotary fight against polio. Part of $2.1 mil total.

Thanks #bloodindians Amazing POW WOW @rotary district 5360 convention. Fantastic native #costumes, #dancers, #singers


Robyn T. Braley is a member of the Calgary West Rotary Club. He served as the District PR Chair and was the marketing team leader for two projects awarded the RI Public Relations Award. 

Robyn is the President of Unimark Creative which focuses on web design, video production, media relations and graphic design. He is a business writer and speaker and blogs about various marketing topics.


Contact Robyn

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