-|- Sierra Nevada Unit

Promoting the SNU

August 2014

It is time to revisit ways to promote the SNU and ensure that all Airstream owners in Northern Nevada are aware of the unit and it's activities. This is another topic that was discussed at the 2014 rally at Obsidian. In order to make the most of any new promotion efforts, it is again important to review what the SNU has done in the past.

An issue that has influenced every aspect of the SNU since 2002, including promotion, is attitude and behavior. This is in part due to problems within the SNU prior to 2002 that almost destroyed the Unit. It is also in part due to experiences of various SNU members in other WBCCI groups. Being inclusive, friendly, welcoming, and supportive of others are not just words for the SNU, they are fundamental in how we do things. The importance of these behaviors is borne out by the frequent comments from new and potential members who come to rallies or other SNU activities. They join because they feel “at home”. They feel part of the group from the first time they meet us. As one member said recently to a new member, even if you can't make every rally, when you come, it's like being back with family.

One key document that outlines the background of the SNU was written in 2005 describing what the SNU did to turn things around.

Since 2002, the SNU has made an ongoing effort to promote the Unit. At that time it was decided that rallies, the newsletter, and public service announcements in local newspapers would be the primary focus of Unit resources.

The SNU is one of the few Units to publish public service announcements in local news outlets. It is the only unit that has been doing that monthly since 2002. These public service announcements have proven to be the best source of active, long tenured members. For a few early examples of PSA's check this link.

In 2004 the SNU was featured in an article in the Reno Gazette Journal, complete with pictures. The SNU has also been featured in the Tahoe Tribune and in the Carson City Appeal. Photos from the SNU have appeared in several issues of the Blue Beret. Several articles written by various SNU members have been published in the Blue Beret. In 2010 the SNU was featured on the cover of the Blue Beret.

At the SNU rally at Ft Churchill in 2002 there was a discussion about promoting the SNU. This excerpt highlights ideas about features of WBCCI (and the SNU) to emphasize. These features are still a part of the SNU today.

* There is always someone who has had the same problem you may have and who knows what to do about it. They are glad to help.

* Lifetime friendships throughout your city, your county, your state and in the country or to other countries.

* Publications, e-mail, web information

The SNU newsletter has always been a promotional tool for the SNU. For several years, it was mailed to all potential members. Now that it is online, anyone who is interested in the SNU can subscribe to the announcement list whether or not they are an SNU member. Currently about a third of the subscribers are not SNU members. The newsletter has also been used as a handout at events and activities. Many members print copies and hand them out to fellow Airstreamers they meet.

Another promotion and communication tool was also made available to the SNU around 2002. The SNU presence on the internet is made possible by the donation of time and resources of two SNU members. It has been used as a showcase for ideas and concepts that not only benefit the SNU but provide ideas for other groups. The SNU website was one of the first to offer online payment for dues and rallies. It was one of the first to provide online, interactive surveys to gain member input. Intentional use of open source software and basic web documents rather than proprietary expensive software packages minimize costs and make transfer of documents and materials easy for anyone with basic skills. To date, any costs associated with the website have been donated. The SNU website acts as a repository and archive for all things related to the SNU. There is a special private section for use of the board. The website provides the most complete source of information about a WBCCI unit available anywhere. The availability of accurate, up to date, and complete information has been a key factor in making the website the second most effective tool in promoting the SNU and recruiting new members.

Facebook is the newest promotion and communication tool. This was set up by an SNU member and it has proven to be a great way for SNU members to stay in touch and also for people who are not SNU members to learn more about the Unit.

Other efforts to promote the SNU include:

* A promotional flyer that is used as a handout. At one time, it was included in each new Airstream at the local dealership. This flyer is available on the SNU website. Anyone can print copies and distribute as they see fit. They can adapt it or even create their own version.

* Thanks to a dedicated SNU member, the Unit continues to publish monthly PSA's in local news outlets. These PSA's continue to draw people to the SNU. Often they are seen by a friend or relative of the Airstream owner who then shares it with them.

* When there was a local Airstream dealer, the SNU not only provided them with promotional materials which were placed in new Airstreams, the Unit also participated in two dealership open houses. The SNU set up a display table, handed out materials and talked Airstream with people attending the open house. The SNU was directly responsible for at least one Airstream sale.

* The SNU sent letters and information about the Unit to all local RV dealers. This was in part to encourage them to advertise in the SNU newsletter and also to provide information and build awareness of the SNU as the local Airstream owners group.

* SNU members actively seek out Airstreamers where ever they happen to run across them whether on travels, close to home or at other events and activities. They leave flyers or cards when nobody is around, hand out newsletters, and best of all, they talk with people about Airstreams and the SNU. These personal contacts have also proven effective in recruiting members to the SNU.

*The SNU has participated in several community service activities, At some of them we were able to distribute materials about the SNU. All of them gave SNU members a chance to talk with other people about Airstreams and the SNU. Some samples of the SNU community service include: Working with Friends of Inyo to clean up Obsidian Dome campsites.  The SNU participated in the Lyon County Fly-In, cooking pancakes, assembling goody bags, and assisting with other tasks. We also set up an SNU display table featuring the SNU diorama which was created by SNU members in celebration of the SNU's 30th Anniversary. An SNU member had his Airstream used as a stage prop by the Trailer Park Troubadours in a concert in Reno.

The SNU has also tried various incentive techniques over the years. It has been determined that these are not effective. If they did attract a new member or encouraged someone to attend a rally or lunch, it was almost always a one time or short term participation. The SNU has discovered that incentive efforts tend to bring people to the unit for the wrong reasons or with unrealistic expectations. WBCCI has also tried various incentive techniques over the years, none have had a significant impact on membership recruitment never mind retention of members.

The best indicator of interest and participation in the SNU is someone willing to participate in or at least visit an SNU rally. This where our attitude and the flexible style of SNU rallies pays off. We always welcome visitors with or without their Airstream. Visiting or attending rallies has almost always led to the person joining the Unit and becoming an active participant.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about Airstreams and Airstream groups, some sad to say are well founded. The SNU on numerous occasions, has heard comments from visitors that they thought Airstreamers were snooty and not friendly to outsiders. Even SNU members have experienced this. As an example, a member who lived right across the street from where a WBCCI Caravan group was parked for the night. She wanted to go say hi and take something for happy hour. She was told since she wasn't part of the group and hadn't paid the caravan fees that she couldn't visit. Then there are the incidents at a Region 12 rally which were mentioned by an SNU member at Obsidian.

We can (and should) always be seeking ways promote the SNU. If people who respond to whatever method attracted their attention and encouraged them to come, find an unwelcoming atmosphere and feel like outsiders, they are not going to join, never mind participate and contribute to the Unit. So when the SNU considers utilizing Unit resources for promotion, it is critical to ensure that when people respond, there is a group they want to become part of. That they feel they are at home, that they are with friends.

For background information on the SNU and it's promotional efforts, check these links

It's the Airstreams that bring us together but it's the people who keep us together” - Jerry Thornburg describing the SNU

Responses and Comments

When we were considering the purchase of an Airstream in 2005, we saw an announcement for the rally at Lahonton in the Appeal.  We thought that we would get some good and honest Airstream information from Airstream owners so we arranged for a visit.  After meeting the SNU members for the first time we came away talking about what a nice group of people they were.  Then we saw our names in the newsletter as having visited the rally.  That was a nice touch. Joining the SNU was our destiny after that.  So we can appreciate why people who initially attend an SNU rally often return.

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