Anne G. Stryhn, CCM, Assistant General Manager of The Country Club of Virginia, and Ben Lorenzen, Creative Director & Director of Aquatics & Fitness of Champions Run in Omaha, Neb., were joined by Ryan Doerr and Laura Leszczynski of Strategic Club Solutions to outline ways to keep members engaged even with limited access during the coronavirus outbreak. While clubs must maintain “physical distancing,” there are still many creative ways to continue social interaction and provide much-needed activity and support for members, presenters emphasized.
The National Club Association on March 24 hosted a webinar titled, “How to Bring the Club to Your Members.” Henry Wallmeyer, NCA President and CEO, pointed out that clubs can still be social with their members, even in this time of social distancing … saying “physical distancing” is more accurate.
Anne G. Stryhn, CCM, Assistant General Manager of The Country Club of Virginia (CCV) in Richmond, Va., provided an update on the club, which is currently closed except for curbside to-go dining services. “Closed” comes with an asterisk, Stryhn said, as members are able to play golf, tennis, paddle and use the adult lap pool if they are part of the Polar Bear program.
Current usage numbers are impressive at CCV, with 250-350 curbside-to-go covers daily, full tee sheets, 50-100 members playing tennis each day and the limited-capacity pickleball courts seeing a lot of action.
Because CCV is not currently active on social media, Stryhn said her team is communicating mostly via e-mail. They’ll send members messages about the menu—which had golf balls and tennis balls added because the pro shops were closed—as well as inspirational thoughts and lessons by the staff.
Other initiatives CCV is undertaking during the shutdown include new member and elderly member outreach. Many of the new members haven’t had much of an opportunity to enjoy the club to its fullest, so the staff is taking extra steps to keep them active and show them they’re appreciated.
CCV is taking a strategic approach of doing what it can, safely and within governmental restrictions and CDC guidelines. Their communications approach fits into four “buckets”:
-Messages from leadership – Club President and GM;
-Operational – What’s opened and what’s closed;
-Regular Cycle E-mails – changing content as appropriate or not sending when other e-mails may be more important; and
-Virtual Value – Daily Dining Blast and a “CCV With You” e-book.
Club + Resort Business reported on CCV implementing a special Communications Plan designed to provide “virtual value” to members while the club is closed in the March 20 Coronavirus Club Update.
Ben Lorenzen, Creative Director & Director of Aquatics & Fitness of Champions Run in Omaha, Neb. followed Stryhn. Unlike CCV, Champions Run is very active on social media and regularly communicating on staples such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to the relatively new TikTok to engage with some of its younger members.
Lorenzen urged clubs to let their members know they’re still there and are open and active. “Use the power of video to communicate your message,” he said.
From social media and live-stream services (Facebook Live and Instagram Live) to Zoom, engage in any way possible, Lorenzen recommended, while treading lightly on being too open about the availability of golf and tennis, as some governments are completely shutting down those activities.
Champions Run has set up a daily schedule of Facebook Live sessions that it shares with its members. On March 23, for example, the club hosted a virtual dance class. Putting lessons followed on March 24. Other activities include art, yoga, kickboxing and family time (building children’s self-esteem and strengthening family bonds). Facebook Live is a free and easy form of communication, Lorenzen stressed.
Easter is a popular holiday in the club community, but will likely be quiet this year. With thousands of Easter Eggs purchased and sitting unused at the club, Champions Run purchased the domain EggOurYard.com and will visit a member’s house (with the Easter Bunny) to hide eggs in the yard.
“Where do you want to be as a club when this thing is over?” Lorenzen asked. Champions Run is choosing to be proactive, not reactive, he said.
Ryan Doerr, President of Strategic Club Solutions, and Laura Leszczynski, the company’s VP of Marketing, discussed how the country was facing a crisis before COVID-19 happened.
Touching upon a presentation by Dr. Niraj (Raj) Nijhawan, CEO and Founder of the Life Ecology Organization, Leszczynski pointed to a trending rise in alcoholism, suicide and anxiety and a decrease in life expectancy. She pointed to Nijhawan’s idea of the human “tribal needs” of being, belonging, believing and benevolence.
Now is the perfect time to remind people that they need their social connections made at the club and how their club can—and does—make their lives better.
Doerr and Leszczynski spoke on five things a club can do, even at this time of social distancing: Keep them active, fed, entertained, positive and productive.
Activities can include virtual dance classes, technology classes, video courses on golf etiquette and rules, paddle/pickleball basics, and food and wine tutorials. Online golf lessons, fitness challenges and kids’ activities are easy and free to set up.
With many clubhouses forced to shut down due to the virus, many clubs have already beefed up their takeout options for food and beverage. From offering fully prepared meals, take-and-bake options or freezer-ready meals that can be thawed and re-heated when ready to enjoy, there are ample opportunities.
Entertainment comes in many forms and magic is always popular in the club scene. Since he can’t go to the members, magician Deny Corby—who usually charges $3,000 for an appearance—is offering his show via Zoom for only $250 and credit. Other entertaining ideas included cooking or mixology shows, virtual Bingo or encouraging kids to complete an in-house project that will be combined once the COVID-19 scare has gone.
Positivity, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Doing something nice for someone often elicits reciprocity. Sending a word of gratitude or a handwritten birthday or anniversary card can go a long way toward showing a member how important they are to the club.
This is an excellent time for a club to be productive … planning for the re-opening. Completing projects that have been difficult to complete due to day-to-day responsibilities at the club is an option, as is brushing up on staff training programs.