Rotary/Media Partnership: The Role Of Rotary

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Being a paper presented by the General Manager, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, Mr. Celestine Ogolo, at a Rotary Club Media Day Seminar held on Monday, April 19, 2010, entitled: Rotary/Media Partnership: The Role of Rotary. Excerpts:

Before I begin an exploration of how a symbiotic relationship between the Rotary and the media can benefit and advance the good of society, it would be right and proper to first give a holistic definition of Rotary, and its purpose on the advancement of the human spirit. It would also be wise to bring to the fore, the very critical characteristics of one of the largest social organizations in the world, Rotary, and the millions of Rotarians across the globe.

I would further highlight the core objects of Rotary, the basic 4-Way Tests of integrity and commitment to uplift human dignity, which mingle to form the values that shape the course of Rotary. I shall also explain the very channels or avenues for delivering quality services to society, the focus on humanitarianism, why zero-tolerance to abuse of privileges has helped the work of Rotary, and how the media’s advocacy and information management roles are critical to the achievement of the core goals of Rotary in society.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I like to begin by rehearsing the 1976 definition put together by the Public Relations Committee, which stresses that, “Rotary is an organization of business and professional persons united worldwide, who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world”. These 31 words actually give meaning and credence to the coming together of people of different spiritual, intellectual and professional backgrounds, creeds, races, cultural leanings, political affiliations, and other more intrinsic values that control humanity.

Since the formation of Rotary, and the convening of the first meeting of like minds in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America (USA), on February 23, 1905, the characteristics of Rotary Club and those who populate it have remained the same everywhere: the features of service, internationality, fellowship, classification of each vocation, development of goodwill and world understanding, the emphasis of high ethical standards, concern for other people, and many more descriptive qualities, which show care and compassion, respect for others, honesty and integrity, as well as patriotism, industry, and hard work.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Rotary is a serious organization of people with a purpose and sense of mission. Consequently, there is a set of guiding principles, or better still, objectives, which every Rotarian must strive to accomplish. From my simple understanding, the core objective of Rotary is “to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise”. To achieve this, Rotarians must see the development of acquaintance as the opportunity for service, emphasise the promotion of high ethical standards in business and professions, believe in the immutability of service in one’s personal, business and community life, and the irrevocable merit in the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace, as the underlining elixirs of hope for humanity.

For some, it may be whimsically untrue to say that the “ideal     of service” is the cardinal foundation upon which the internationally  accepted 4-Way Test was conceptualised in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert Taylor, as a management strategy to rescue the then ailing Chicago-based  Club Aluminum Company, from imminent bankruptcy at the time. But, indeed, this is true. In fact, the “ideal of service” was the cornerstone which guided, rejuvenated and increased sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and by so doing, triggered the survival of the company.

The adoption and application of the philosophy of this 4-Way Test by Rotary in 1943 has translated to the actual acceptance that in whatever Rotarians think, say and do, they must be guided by the TRUTH at all times, and must be FAIR, and naturally seen to be so by others. Besides, Rotarians must ensure that they whatever they think, say, or do, help in building GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS across the community, and by extension, the world, and that their results are BENEFICIAL to all concerned. 

Now, there are four known avenues of service deployed by Rotarians in their effort to touch or impact humanity. These avenues, which are offshoots of the often talked about “ideal of service”, revolve around humanity’s four spheres of influence, or if you like, webs of association, or activity catchment areas: club service, vocational service, community service, and international service.

Having listed these areas of focus of every Rotarian, it may be necessary to elaborate more on these core elements of service as they would play a role in giving meaning to the advocacy and information input of the media in helping the publics appreciate and internalize Rotary’s service to humanity. First, let me take the issue of club service as a kick off point. Club service is an embodiment of all activities necessary for Rotarians to perform to make their individual clubs function efficiently and effectively in order to deliver the anticipated success story.

On the other hand, vocational service exemplifies the opportunity each Rotarian has to represent the dignity, integrity and utility of one’s vocation to the other members of the club. But most importantly, community service epitomizes those activities, which Rotarians undertake to improve the quality of life in their communities, such as assistance to the youths, aged, less privileged, among others, who look up to Rotary as a source of hope for a better life. However, international service highlights those progammes and activities which Rotarians undertake to promote and advance international understanding, goodwill and peace. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I seriously delve into the core of this presentation today, let me first dissect the major responsibilities of a Rotarian in the service to humanity. Put together in the 1950s, the first obligation of a Rotarian is to look beyond national patriotism, and consider himself as sharing responsibility for the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace, and to resist any tendency to act in terms of national or racial superiority.

Indeed, the good and worthy Rotarian must also seek and develop common grounds for agreement with peoples of other lands; he must defend the rule of law in order to preserve the liberty of the individual so that he may enjoy freedom of thought, speech, and assembly, freedom from persecution, aggression, want and fear; and must support action directed towards improving standards of living for all peoples, realizing that poverty anywhere endangers prosperity everywhere. In fact, every Rotarian must also uphold the principles of justice for mankind.

Above all, it is the responsibility of every Rotarian to strive always to promote peace between nations and be ready to make personal sacrifices for that deal, as well as urge and practice a spirit of understanding of every other man’s beliefs as a step towards international goodwill, recognizing that there are certain basic moral and spiritual standards which will ensure a richer and fuller life for all.          

Why Publicise Rotary Activities?

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s face the fact; Rotary, and indeed, all Rotarians can not succeed in their endeavours without publicity. It follows, by implication, therefore, the Rotary and the media must establish and sustain a symbiotic relationship in order to further the goals of Rotary, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of millions of those who need help, support and assistance to keep hope of a better life alive.

This obviously is not a new thinking. Even at the hearts of those forebears, who engineered the course of Rotary, was the reasoning that good public relations image was essential to achieving great results. The fact that a public relations committee had been at the epicenter of the management of not just the activities but also image of Rotary, tells a great deal of story why publicity matters so much to the world’s longest and oldest organized social and humanitarian club. There is no doubt that to organize Rotary, give it meaning, core values and principles, management structure and a genuine sense of purpose and direction, can be achieved only as a result of the professional input of public relations experts.

Perhaps, it would be instructive to recall a historical skepticism, which had ruled the minds of some Rotarians in the past, and still runs through the thinking of a few conservative members of the international organization today. It was, indeed, an old myth perpetuated by some that Rotary should not seek publicity, but rather let its good works speak for the body.

This 1923 policy, which indicated, in part, that “publicity should not be the primary goal of a Rotary club in selecting an activity” of community service, was randomly interpreted to mean that Rotary clubs should avoid publicity and public relations efforts. But it is also important to note that that same policy statement further emphasized that “as a means of extending Rotary’s influence, proper publicity should be given to a worthwhile project well carried out”. One is wont to ask:

How does Rotary “avoid” publicity and public relations efforts, and still deploy proper publicity in order to launder “a worthwhile project well carried out” “as a means of extending Rotary’s influence”? Is this not a contradiction? Or do we say, a paradox?

It was to clear this doubt that a more modern public relations philosophy was adopted in the mid-1970s, which affirms the argument of many liberals and moderates, “good publicity, favourable public relations and a positive image are desirable and essential goals for Rotary”, if it is to foster understanding, appreciation and support for its objects and progammes, and to also broaden Rotary’s service to humanity.

To be continued

 

Celestine Ogolo