Ten days ago I wrote Top Ten Tips on Fleet Building in which I promised to post more on the subject of publicity in support of building a fleet of one-design racing dinghies. This is probably the most important part of the whole job of fleet-building. "If you build it, they will come" ain't necessarily true if "they", your target audience of fleet members, have never heard of you.
1. Build a killer website. In this day and age the web is the prime source of information on local sailing opportunities. So if you build a professional-looking website it will get out the word about your fleet but also, very importantly, communicate that you are serious, well-organized and know how to do stuff properly. As a role model look no further than the site of the Cedar Point YC Laser Fleet in Connecticut. First thing that hits you is a picture of around 30 Lasers racing so you know straight away that this is a thriving fleet that might be worth joining. Basic information about the Laser and the CPYC Laser racing program follows immediately and then you can browse through a vast amount of information about the fleet: race reports, results, picture galleries of racing, notice of race, sailing instructions, schedules, links to class associations, boat shop, weather sites, how to contact the fleet captain... In other words everything you could possibly want to know about the fleet. Plus the whole site communicates an image of an active, well-run, thriving fleet.
2. Use the local press and TV. Don't just rely on the internet. Get the news out about your fleet in the local traditional media. Invite journalists to visit your club and take them out sailing. Here for example is a three page spread that one local New Jersey fleet managed to place in their local newspaper simply by inviting a journalist and photographer to visit them for their Wednesday night sailing.
3. Organize a regatta. Your fleet may be small now but one way to publicize it and help it grow is to organize a regatta. This will attract other local sailors of your class to your sailing venue and they will spread the word around the class about your fleet. Of course you are going to blast about publicity about the regatta, before and afterwards, on the web and in traditional media, and this will also help to tell the world about your fleet.
4. Do publicity stunts. Stunts? Sounds a bit negative? Not really. What I mean is that everything you can do to place articles in the media about your club and fleet is worthwhile. (Well, I guess not literally everything. I don't recommend burning down the clubhouse for example.) The local press are aching for unusual stories. The little sock-burning event that we organized last winter wasn't really about destroying old socks or even celebrating the vernal equinox. It was an opportunity to provide the local newspaper with a quirky story about the sailing club and to make local readers aware of our existence.
5. Publish a fleet newsletter - or place articles about your fleet in the club newsletter. Again - don't just depend on the web. Old-fashioned paper newsletters are picked up by all kinds of people. Send copies to your local boat shops, other local yacht clubs, local press outlets. Hand out copies to everyone who expresses a vague interest in your fleet.
6. Publish an email newsletter. Send out a short weekly email about the recent and future happenings in your fleet. Send it to all current fleet members, everyone who has inquired about the fleet, friends you think might be interested in your fleet, people you think ought to be interested in your fleet... Some may see it as spam but it will continue to communicate that the fleet is active, interesting stuff is going on there, and maybe next Sunday I'll mosey on down to the club and check them out.
7. Make up some fliers about the fleet and stick them everywhere you can think of. The Laser fleet that I started last year sails on a reservoir and there is a large boat park that is open to the public, not just sailing club members. So we left fliers about our new Laser fleet under the cover of every Laser in the boat park and attracted some new members that way. Post the fliers on noticeboards that will be seen by prospective sailors. Hand them out to anyone even vaguely interested in the fleet.
OK - I'm sure there are lots of other ways to publicize a fleet. What am I missing?