I joined the Rotary fraternity about 8 years ago. I’ve had the honor to serve as Board member through out this time. Seven of those years were as a Public Relations Director. I started it out as an International Service Director, which is the equal of Foreign Affairs Minister.
I stumbled upon the PR role out of my love for IT. It got no relation to public relations, I know. But as an IT enthusiast, I was always looking for new trends. When Facebook and Twitter launched in Kenya around 2008/09, I joined and became a huge fanatic. As a very young person then, I was very active, posting all manners of content.
Public Relations Director – The Experience & Lessons
I first got appointed as a Public Relations Director during the 2013/14 Rotary year. At the time I was still a fresh Rotaractor at the Rotaract Club of Embu. Mind you, am a trained banker and accountant/auditor. I’ve never done a course leave alone an unit on public relations. But I still got the role by virtue of my experience on social media marketing. And my duty was to simply publicize the club on social media – a task I did perfectly.
Over time, as I grew in Rotary I discovered more about the role. In 2015 while serving as an Assistant District Public Relations Officer, I was tasked to come up with a magazine. Our predecessors has successfully come up with Rotaract magazine that was easily shared via WhatsApp. During my tenure I did things differently. I designed an online version using online tools. It flopped. Badly to be precise. However, it was a learning experience. Lesson 1: Never be afraid to try something. And if it fails, learn from the mistakes, go back to the drawing board and re-invent yourself.
In the same year, I discovered graphic design, which was limited to making simple posters for Rotaract clubs. Very few clubs at the time were making posters as it was a very expensive undertaking. Poster-making was the next step that would define the role of a public image officer. Posters I was making then were majorly for an event I was running called Mentor 101. Compared to now, the posters were horrible🤢. But it opened an opportunity to introduce a new thing into Rotaract/Rotary circles.
PR Officer in 2017/18 Rotary Year
The 2017/18 Rotary year was a very busy time for me. I was serving in three public relations directorships. One as District Rotaract Public Image Officer, Public Relations Officer for Rotaract Parklands and Public Relations Officer for the 93rd Rotary DCA in Naivasha. One would ask how one person would serve all those positions at a go? Well, I did. And I enjoyed every single bit of it.
That Rotary year was a learning experiencing, hence a very successful year. At the Rotary DCA, I was introduced to website development and maintenance. Basically my work was to ensure the event website is up to date and working optimally. With zero knowledge on websites, I turned to big brother – Google – and I was able to do a decent job. And got an award to show for it.
District & Club PR
In the same year, I served two other public relations roles. These were the most engaging roles and required the most effort. District Rotaract PR Officer meant overseeing the overall public image for the District and guiding clubs in the District on the same. At the same time, I was PR Director for my then Rotaract Club, Rotaract Nairobi Parklands. Huge plate, right?
In order to undertake these two crucial roles, I setup two set of teams that I’d work with. One team was assisting at the District level, and the other at club level. Each member of the team had a specific role to undertake during that year. The district team had a four member team – Chief Editor of the District Magazine, District Magazine content officer, Media Relations Liaison and Digital Media Officer. The Rotaract Parklands team was comprised of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Club Magazine Content officers. Even though I was the team leader in both teams, I too had a role to play. Using my graphic design skill, I’d design all posters and the two magazines. And each member was accountable for their role. In our monthly briefs, we’d take stock of the past month’s work, our failures and how to improve the following month.
Rotaract Public Relations Achievements
From these two roles, a lot was achieved in that year. Biggest achievement was the District and Club magazines. Even though my predecessor had started the DRR Times, I chose to rename it The Rotaractor to reflect the stories and projects by Rotaractors. The magazine is still being made by the current District team.
Other achievements in that year were growing Rotaract Parklands social media presence by over 80%; increased social media presence for the Rotaract District, among others. Working as a team made it possible for all these to be achieved. And it set precedence for future teams to build on.
From this experience, there are two lessons I derive. 1. If you want to go far, you walk with a team. A lot is achieved by working as a team and this was a huge contributor to the achievements above. 2. Leadership is not about being the boss and issuing orders. It’s about developing and sharing your vision with the team. And taking part in actualizing the vision with them.
The best decision I ever made since joining the Rotary family was to become a Rotarian. Rotary Madaraka inducted me as their member on June 1, 2018. And immediately I was co-opted into the Public Relations committee of the club. At the time the club was redesigning its website and revamping it’s social media platforms, of which my role was to mostly designing club posters.
Having served in the committee for one year, I was appointed the following Rotary year as the Public Image Officer for the club. Before assuming the role, training for all public image directors in the country was done. The training involved insights into Rotary’s branding guidelines, Rotary story telling, social media management etc. My biggest take was the branding guidelines. I had read them before but never quite understood them, despite being a graphic designer. And from the training, I learnt the mistakes I was making with my designs.
Serving as Public Image Officer for my Rotary club has been by far the best experience. I still have five months into my term and hence can’t take stock of what I’ve achieved yet. However, one achievement, or two, I can proudly talk of is developing Rotary stories for my club that have been shared on the club website. This is in turn is helping attract guests every Monday to our meetings. Secondly, a deeper understanding of the branding guidelines has enabled me to develop better looking graphics for the club that easily tell of the Rotary brand.