Not Just for Paper Anymore

By | July 1st, 2008

You don’t need to look very hard to see the considerable influence that technology has had on the golf industry of late. It’s been fifteen years since professionals hit wooden drivers, and the ball just keeps going farther and farther—well, for some people, anyway. But it’s not just on the course that state-of-the-art equipment is having a major effect.

The management and membership offices at a typical property have become significantly more efficient and effective in how they communicate with members and guests, thanks to ever-improving desktop publishing (DTP) software and equipment.

"Two or three years ago, we wouldn’t have had the capability to produce printed materials, and newsletters specifically, in-house," says David Hein, General Manager at The Golf Club at Newcastle in Bellevue, Wash. "We may have been able to do a few small flyers, but that’s about it. But with today’s programs, you need very little training, if any, to produce something that looks really good."


Absolutely (Pre)fabulous

Hein’s staff doesn’t yet produce a newsletter for Newcastle’s members, but it does prepare a 4- to 6-page communiqué that goes out to the club’s 500 summer employees and 250 off-season employees. "We design and produce it entirely ourselves, using Microsoft Publisher," he says. "We even print it on a color printer right here in the office."

Publisher 2007, like most modern page-layout software such as InDesign, QuarkXpress, Illustrator and Pagemaker, can now help properties create, personalize, and share a wide range of publications and marketing materials to better reflect their brands and images and enhance their communications, both outwardly to members, guest and prospects, and also for internal purposes. Compiling mailing lists for these communications pieces has also become more straightforward using other software or outside vendor support, as has delivering personalized e-mail marketing materials and being able to provide publications online.

Regardless of the medium (print or online), club newsletters need to take full advantage of available desktop publishing tools, to provide more timely output and updated looks.

Jackie Larkin, Membership Director at the Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club in Virginia Beach, Va., now produces Cavalier’s ‘Club Talk’ newsletter every other month, using the latest version of Adobe Pagemaker.

"You can create something from scratch, or use one of the hundreds of templates available," she says. "I use a template for our Web site that we edit using [an outside vendor’s] platform, but create the newsletter from scratch. It’s so easy I was able to use the software with virtually no formal training, and there are so many templates and creative options, we don’t worry about our newsletter, or our Web site, looking too generic."

Reflecting a new trend being seen as many club membership departments staff up with a "new breed" of younger, more tech-savvy and communications-oriented personnel, Cavalier has a new Director of Member Relations, Carly Estock, who graduated from James Madison University last year with a degree in Communications, specializing in online publications and public relations. Estock saw a rapid turnover in DTP programs while in college and to optimize output, she feels, a club also needs to be prepared to update its software regularly, to stay up with the latest trends and capabilities.

"Quark Express and Illustrator were the most popular just a few years ago, but they seem a little outdated now," she says. "Pagemaker does everything we need it to."

Thanks to DTP advances at Cornerstone Club in Montrose, Colo., reports Community Relations Director Betty Lundgren, "We not only do a lot of our own copywriting, but also a lot of the art direction.

"We pre-design documents with Microsoft Publisher, InDesign and Photoshop, because we usually know what we want to create," Lundgren says. "Then our team of independent designers polishes it up."


Out of Print?

Does the rapid advance in user-friendly DTP technology, and the ease with which these tools can now be used to enhance Web-based communications, signal the end is near for the traditional newsletter approach to member and guest communications? Not necessarily. Even a "new breed" staff member like Cavalier Golf & Yacht Club’s Carly Estock firmly believes that printed materials are still very important and have their place.

"[This is true] especially for our older members, who don’t check their e-mail or go online as often as the younger members," Estock notes. "We feel we would be neglecting a large and very important section of the membership if we relied entirely on our Web site."

At the Cornerstone Club, Betty Lundgren notes that eliminating printed materials altogether would limit the effectiveness with which the club could brand itself and promote its distinctive "Pioneer Hospitality" themes.

boring in print will be just as boring online—DTP can help in all cases
by improving presentation and providing more personal connections.

At the Golf Club at Newcastle, however, David Hein reports that nearly 100% of all communication between his staff and the club’s golfers is now being done online. "Printing is becoming far less important to our membership these days," says Hein. "The vast majority of our members are computer-savvy and have indicated that they prefer to receive their news about the club via e-mail. So we are going in that direction primarily as a service to them—but, of course, we are also cutting costs and reducing paper usage."

Kara Allinson, Membership Director at the Gainesville (Fla.) Country Club, sees the same trend. "Printed materials probably aren’t of paramount importance now," she says. "We could function without them, but there are still times when the members appreciate good printed resources."

Momentum for reduced dependence on printed materials is also being fueled by how many clubs are learning to reformat traditional flyers so they can be transmitted as regular and fresh "e-newsletters" that include links to their Website pages. An executive with one Website support provider says he’s seen situations where his company’s "HotPage" capability has saved clubs as much as $30,000 a year in paper and printing expenses—and at the same time greatly improved the delivery time and impact of messages about upcoming club events and activities, which in turn increases member "notice rates" and most importantly, participation.


Substance over Style

Regardless of the medium that is used, though, a poorly presented message will still fall flat, because what’s boring in print will be no less so in the virtual realm.

Here, too, DTP technology is giving clubs some welcomed assistance. In addition to helping properties prepare their communications pieces in a more timely and less costly manner, DTP can also make it easier to bring them to life, by more easily integrating photos and graphics to inject personality and avoid generic or predictable looks.

One of the biggest benefits of DTP, in fact, has proved to be how it’s helped with staff recognition and gained respect for their abilities and contributions, as better-quality photos and messages with more immediacy and impact—not only from the general managers, but also key department heads—are being integrated into communications pieces.

so many templates and creative options now available through modern DTP
packages, clubs can avoid having their newsletters or Web sites look
too generic or predictable.

So now, the head pro’s golf tips can not only be written up more easily, but also demonstrated more effectively, using digital-camera photos. Recipes from the executive chef can include tempting shots of the dishes. And clubs that are part of residential communities can include content and photos to highlight new and coming construction.

Coordinating such a full range of contributions can be challenging, especially when department heads are at their busiest—no matter how advanced your DTP software might be, after all, there still isn’t any program that’s been invented to get chefs or golf pros to write their copy. Some clubs have found that setting up and using a good Intranet system, to facilitate communication among co-workers and speed the spread of information around the property, can help. But in the end, successful desktop publishing also hinges on someone having, and using, the hammer that’s needed to make it clear that DTP sometimes means "Drop everything and Type—Pronto!"

"Having good software that’s easy to use is one thing—but ultimately you have to rely on people providing their columns on time," says Gainesville CC’s Allinson. "That’s really a matter of making sure someone’s in charge, to get on them and run a tight ship. Even around the holidays, when it’s hard to get all the content together in a timely fashion, we manage to hit our deadlines."

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