Why is it that superior technology doesn’t always win out?  Why do some enterprises fare better than others?  Why do some charities become better funded and better known than others?   Is there a common trait?  Yes, I think there is.
Do you remember when video tapes were first introduced?  Sony was the first to bring the technology to market and they called it “Beta” video.    VHS video came shortly after.   Beta was certainly the better technology at the time.  Why did VHS win with an inferior product? Now, of course, both are obsolete.
Another example was the Apple operating system vs. Windows.  Again Apple was the superior product but almost went bankrupt trying to compete against the Windows operating system in other PCs.  Why did the Apple operating system not become the dominant system? 
A Canadian corporate example would be BlackBerry.  Its cell phones with e-mail & texting provided the greatest degree of security and still do today.   Then why is it almost bankrupt?
All these companies did not realize that the market size for the technology they developed was much larger than one company could handle and missed the absolute requirement to share the technology with others by restricting its use for competitive advantage.  Each alternative took the inferior technology, made it “open” and not only let everyone else improve on it but also, in the process, make it the most acceptable and accessible at reduced cost.  Beta was gone long before VHS; Apple made a comeback with its block buster innovative “i” product line, of itunes, ipod, iphone and ipad and the revolutionary “apps”.  Blackberry may still have the US president using its phone because of the security it provides, but not many others are following his example, because the apps and operating systems of Apple’s proprietary iOS and Google’s open source Android smartphones became more desirable than security, even among business users.
Now consider Rotary.  It was started February 23, 1905 by Paul Harris, a man with a vision.  What was it he started? Was it supposed to be a charity or a local service group?  Neither of these seems to tell the whole story.  For me Rotary is about a group of people getting together and combining their individual expertise and knowledge, without financial reward, to remedy a human need or condition anywhere in the world.  The sole reliance and faith in mankind to duplicate this simple idea and share it with others around the world was the vision. 
It is the sharing I am concerned about here.   We appear to be passed by because few people seem to know what we do.   For example the January edition of Maclean’s had an article on the eradication of Polio by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Rotary wasn’t mentioned even though the value of Rotary‘s contribution in money and manpower exceeds that of the Gates Foundation.    The article didn’t even mention our Federal Government from time to time contributed our tax dollars to match the contributions of Canadian Rotarian’s donations towards Polio eradication.
Are we like BlackBerry who didn’t believe that a mountain of “apps” could replace security on a cell phone, or like Apple who failed to see the advantages of Microsoft’s open source Windows 1.0 in 1982 even though they had popularized the icon based operating system in the first place?
Traditionally, Rotarians have practiced humility and not promoted their good works.   Unfortunately, the more society has come “under the influence” of advertising and marketing the more Rotary’s struggles to attract new members has increased. Rotary has only recently come to the realization we haven’t kept pace with the communications revolution that has engulfed us.
Throughout this year I have been asking each club to ensure a member is responsible for Communications and/or Public Relations. Not only do we have to improve our messaging out to the community but among and between ourselves.
Over the past two years Rotary International has created two marketing opportunities to improve communication among Rotarians.


Rotary Showcase

The first is web feature “Showcase” where clubs and Districts can ‘showcase’ their favorite projects.  
See https://map.rotary.org/en/project/pages/project_showcase.aspx   .   How many projects do you see for District 5550 from our 48 clubs? What a wonderful site to celebrate what our clubs are doing.  What a great way to refer new members or club Rotarians for ideas on worthwhile projects. This site also provides an opportunity for an enthusiastic member to create and display a video or slide presentation on your own club projects.


Rotary YouTube Video Channel

Then there is Rotary’s own video channel at YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/RotaryInternational  .
This site is an excellent source of inspiring presentations for club meetings if you do not have a speaker.  It’s free, it’s good, and it tells the Rotary story.
So let’s get inspired and use the sharing opportunities offered by these two web sites. They should be among the “favourite” web sites for every Rotarian, along with the District web site of course. It’s a perfect opportunity for your Public Relations and Communications chairs to work together.  Set your club into motion and start sharing your projects with the world and help guarantee Rotary’s future success.
Yours in Rotary,
Ed Thompson, District Governor 5550