First Thoughts – April 2015

Nature and nature’s laws lay / hid in night / God said, let Newton be / and all was light.
– Alexander Pope.

PT-PrabhakarDear Partners in Service,

April is important for two reasons — Paul Harris’ birthday (19th), and it’s the Magazine Month. Paul Harris wrote in the first issue of The National Rotarian — “Rotary is entirely without precedent in the history of clubdom. We have had no rules except those created by the imaginative people who have been responsible for our destinies.” As mariners successfully navigated perilous and unknown seas by guidance of stars before the invention of the compass, so did Rotary’s forefathers. They guided their craft in perilous, unknown and trying circumstances. “May we never in time to come, depart from the safe course of rational toleration and humane consideration of the conviction of others.”

Harris’ message will always hold good.

When Secretary Perry wanted to pass on Rotary clubs news, The National Rotarian was born. We now have The Rotarian, the official Rotary magazine, and Rotary News, our regional magazine. Let us devise a strategy and use our magazines to support and strengthen clubs, focus on increasing humanitarian services, and enhance our public image.

PR is important for Rotary. A global survey conducted by our PR consultants Sigel & Gale shows that out of 10, 4 have never heard of Rotary, 4 know us by name only and only 2 have some familiarity.

Considering the great work done by Rotary, particularly our success in PolioPlus programme, this is bad news for us and we have to improve our PR.

PR is your image based on what you do, say and more important, what others say about you. If we improve our brand, it will lead to Membership, which will trigger more Giving, resulting in more projects impacting the community. Result: Improved brand strength .

The core of PR is the art of storytelling, which our magazines do efficiently, building our brand. So we have to tell our story consistently with a humanitarian touch.

An example of our successful PR is Bill Gates saying: “The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in bringing polio to the brink of eradication.” Mrs Rajashree Birla has donated US $9 million to our PolioPlus programme, that’s another example.

Brand tells us who we are, what we do and why it matters. When you ask somebody what is Kingfisher, he will say that it is a beer, but we know Kingfisher is a bird. This is the power of the brand built by the owners of the Kingfisher Beer!

In a lighter vein, I share “A child’s letter to God.”

Once, in an orphanage, the children were going hungry for days. One child decided to take this matter to God. She picked up a postcard, addressed it to God and wrote: “Dear God, All of us in this orphanage have been hungry for days. Can you please help us by sending Rs 10,000 for food?”

The postman saw this card, wondered what to do with it. He saw it was an appeal for help and thought it fit to deliver it to the nearest Rotary club, as it always did service projects. The President took the appeal to the board of directors of his club, who decided to donate Rs 5,000, as they needed money for their other projects too.

The President delivered Rs 5,000 to the orphanage and went home satisfied that he had done a good deed for the day. The children were happy when they received food. The child wrote another letter to thank God. “Dear God, Thank you for sending us the money. We are very happy and grateful for your immediate response! But, next time please do not route the money through the local Rotary club since they take a 50 per cent as commission!”

This may sound like a joke but actually illustrates the need for PR and branding, which our magazines are doing very efficiently. Let us support our service projects by generous donations to improve our PR and branding.

So fellow Rotarians give and give now. If someone asks why, quote Robert Frost :

Never ask of money spent / Where the spender thinks it went / Nobody was ever meant / To remember or invent / What he did with every cent.

Yours in Rotary


P T Prabhakar
Rotary International (2013–15)

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