“Giving golf course architects a voice”
EIGCA’s brief & objectives
Make the EIGCA’s five-year plan come to life and turn this professional association into a widely-recognised body for golf course design within the golfing community.
Business objectives (BO) in the five-year plan which PR would contribute towards achieving were:
- BO1 – Communicate offering to members/partners
- BO2 – Raise profile of members and their capabilities within golfing community
- BO3 – Maintain membership level
- BO4 – Provide opportunities for members/partners to engage with EIGCA
PR objectives (PRO) contributing to the above were identified as:
- PRO1 – Increase website performance
- PRO2 – Create content to ‘hero’ member expertise
- PRO3 – Encourage engagement by members/partners
- PRO4 – Systemise communications activity
Research, Planning & Strategy
A 25-question survey of members, partners, specialist media and a cross-section of the golfing community provided valuable insight for the strategy. Responses included:
- Convince golf clubs/developers of the benefits of contracting members
- Emphasise the breadth of members’ capabilities
- Communicate what differentiates members from non-members
Next, a stakeholder analysis exercise prioritised four audiences:
- Golf course architects – members and non-members
- Industry partners – current and potential
- Consultant partners – current and potential
- Wider golfing community – national federations, course management, players
To meet the objectives we needed to change the behaviour of members/partners to encourage engagement with EIGCA*, enhance the reputation of members and their capabilities amongst stakeholder groups 2-4, and build/maintain relationships within the golfing community. * It is notoriously difficult to rally members/partners. Demonstrating how EIGCA promotes capabilities to ultimately attract contracts for members/partners is vital.
The strategy was for EIGCA to raise its head above the parapet and be the voice for golf course architecture and source of expertise on golf course design. This would be supplemented by highlighting the role architects have in influencing how golf is played.
To position EIGCA in this way cannot be tied-up neatly with a beginning, middle and end. This is an ongoing story – a story not intended to generate stand-out dramatic results, but one, in its telling, will professionalise EIGCA’s PR activity by rooting it in a strategy aligned with its organisational objectives. (Case study relates to stage 1)
Rationale behind campaign, including tactics, creativity and innovation
EIGCA traditionally made very little noise and did not have a unified voice. It needed to create a drumbeat of activity to get used to communicating and to being heard. A firm base for communication needed to be established and it was decided to utlilise channels already in place where stakeholders were already used to hearing EIGCA as messages would resonate louder here.
The approach was centred on ‘owned’ channels, with ‘earned’ considered a bonus at this fledgling stage, and ‘shared’ a by-product … for now. No ‘paid’ activity was undertaken but would be considered downstream. This was not the time to go all-out with creative ideas – the messages were what the audience needed to concentrate on, without distraction.
The focus was on creating content which married issues of importance to the sport with the value added by golf course architects smartly threaded through – the messaging would position the architect as the ‘hero’. The content also needed to be spreadable, i.e. able to be spread/used across multiple platforms, for a greater bang-per-buck.
Tactics (and associated objectives):
- Website – EIGCA did not want a different look/structure so the content needed to be what changed. The site was under-performing and did not reflect a unified authoritative voice (relates to BO1/BO2/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3)
- SEO – None was in place so keyword/phrases were researched (relates to BO2/PRO1/PRO4)
- Content strategy – a schedule of important issues for the sport/profession was created for a regular flow of on-message optimised content (relates to BO1/BO2/BO3/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3/PRO4)
- eCommunications – two newsletters (one issued 10pa referencing media articles, the other 2pa for EIGCA news) were amalgamated into one bi-monthly (relates to BO1/BO2/BO3/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3/PRO4)
- Sales letters – a letter sent to partnership enquiries was not converting (relates to BO1/BO3/BO4/PRO4)
Implementation of tactics
First phase – A web audit identified improvements. Pages were selected for re-write because of low search traffic/views but contained important content, short with important information missing, or a high bounce rate.
Second phase – The web audit informed a priority list of keyword phrases which were incorporated into new/amended/existing pages, plus page titles/descriptions added.
Third phase – a content schedule was drawn up which formed the backbone of activity. EIGCA Council members were assigned topics/issues and responsible for providing technical details which were converted to articles incorporating how members add value to the topic/issue and the role architects have in improving the game.
Fourth phase – a new eNewsletter format defined the content in each issue – articles from the schedule, EIGCA news, member/partner news + media highlights. Clear signposting made the reading journey easy and a snippet of the content with links took the reader to the full content on the EIGCA website. The database was split into categories to enable targeted mailings. Opportunities for member/partner involvement were increased.
Fifth phase – the final piece in the puzzle was the collateral for partnership leads. Previously, a letter was sent when an enquiry was received, with no follow-up made. A new letter, plus a series of subsequent emails, were written encouraging the lead to move down the pipeline to join. The corresponding section on the website was enhanced to reflect the new messaging.
Measurement & evaluation
- All articles from the content strategy posted on the website appear in the top ten most viewed (analytics back to 2012) (relates to BO2/BO3/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3)
- Views of updated pages up average 15%-132%pm (relates to BO2/PRO1)
- Pages viewed across the site up average 22%pm (5,109 – 6,244) (relates to BO2/PRO1)
- Search engine referrals up average 54%pm (relates to BO2/PRO1)
- Views of new Partnership section up 329% (121pm-398pm) (relates to BO1/BO4/PRO1/PRO3)
- 3 eNewsletters issued – reads up 16% on previous format (showing increased number of reads by recipients) (relates to BO1/BO2/BO3/BO4/PRO1/PRO3/PRO4)
- Membership level maintained (relates to BO3)
- Increased member engagement – articles submitted by members up from average 0.5pm in 2014 to 2.25pm in 2016 (relates to BO1/BO2/BO3/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3)
- Structured calendar of content and activity (relates to BO1/BO2/BO4/PRO1/PRO2/PRO3/PRO4)
- Greater understanding by Council of what PR can achieve (evidenced by direct approaches to their PR Consultant for advice and suggestions of what want to do). Executive Officer said: “We needed to be more newsworthy and this is where you have improved things tremendously.”
Now understanding what PR can achieve, the Council has commissioned Stage 2. Members of the PR Committee have been social media trained and the strategy focuses on a wider audience than that previously targeted. Commences June 2016.
Note: This case study was awarded Silver in the Arts, Culture & Sport category plus was a Finalist in the Not-for-Profit category of the CIPR PRide awards