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Old 12-29-2009, 12:23 AM   #1
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The Blue Beret, serves a purpose

Many years ago before there were dragons and computers, a Club was founded. The Wally Byam Caravan Club was founded by Airstream owners with good hearts and a common goal to enjoy each other's fellowship.

As the WBCCI grew, so did the number of units and rallies. Early on the Airstream publication, the Caravanner, included the various rallies throughout the United States and Canada. The timing of the Caravanner wasn't always punctual. That meant that Club members received rally dates after the fact.

Helen Byam Schwamborn wrote a letter to Art Costello (President of Airstream) to discuss this problem. The result was the Blue Beret. Now the rally dates arrived to the membership on a timely basis. In addition there were pages of news, Airstream tips, and other information.

I recently saw someone call the Blue Beret, not worth the paper it is written on. What does that mean?

Does that mean that the Blue Beret should be a 48 page glossy magazine?

People complain about dues and the expenditures of dues money now, how much would they be willing to pay each month to have an editorial staff, photography department and writers?
The truth is the Blue Beret does exactly what it was meant to do, provide rally information for individual units and the traveling Club members. A traveling Club member may travel and visit several rallies during their vacation.

It may be out dated with the onslaught of computers. But to say it isn't worth the paper it is printed on seems to be a non-directional comment. An appropriate comment, hey I volunteer to be an editor of a glossy magazine or I will design a WBCCI website to replace the Blue Beret. Or a presentable alternative that will serve the purpose of communicating to the entire membership. Also there needs to be an alternative communication to those that do not use computers.

It is so easy to dismiss something with the comment, it's not worth the paper it is printed on.

Remember that when away from home thousands carry the Blue Beret in their Airstream or in their tow vehicle.

Like a bus or train schedule the Blue Beret was intended, first to be a friendly schedule, and secondly to have accompanying informative articles.

Until an effective alternative comes along the Blue Beret serves it purpose starting with the first issue, so many years ago.
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Old 12-29-2009, 02:13 AM   #2
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Hmmmm - interesting topic. I know this has been discussed before. Lets explore this from a professional standpoint rather than emotional statements. The Blue Beret USED to be... But is it still... Lets look.

First question, what does it cost to produce an issue of the Blue Beret...Anybody? I have no idea. Who does the production? Is a Custom Publishing Group of some sort or does the BB editor control all of the layout, printing, etc... Who prints it? Is even it printed in America? Is it printed by a large house or small house? Does the printer fit the size of the job?

Is the mailing service optimized for the lowest cost (WBCCI is a non profit, are we using a non profit rate)? It looks like each member pays $25 per year for mailing of the Blue Beret. At 9 issues per year that amounts to something like $2.77 per issue - that seems a little pricey to me! There is no permit imprint indicia on the back of the Blue Beret so there is no way to know what type of postage is actually being paid.

When it comes to production, has every step been taken to reduce the cost? (remember, the WBCCI is still paying thousands every year to have a web site when it doesn't need to). Is the layout and printing being optimized to get the most bang for the buck?

What marketing steps could and have been taken to ensure that the Blue Beret is the best value for the club? Last I heard, the Blue Beret is a self sufficient publication - the advertising completely pays for production. Would a sharper looking piece bring in more advertisers and also perhaps more members and higher retention?

Are the best typography practices being used to maximize the amount of information per page? Do we need so many coupons for so many events or is there a better way to get people to sign up for events than that? Is it giving the advertiser the full benefit for the money spent? Would there be more interest in advertising in the Blue Beret with a more substantial piece?

As a publication, does the Blue Beret improve the overall impression of the club and pride of membership? Would you show it to your friends and expect them to sign right up on the spot? Or does it contribute to a lesser view of the club. It should be the number one marketing tool for the club - what evidence exists that demonstrate that is the case for the Blue Beret. What perception of the WBCCI overall does the Blue Beret give prospective members?

Of the people who get the BB, what percentage put it in their vehicle and what percentage just let it go by the wayside? Is there feedback on just how people use the Blue Beret? Advertiser response feedback? Do we really know if the publication is working? How many back issues do you have in your trailer right now?

If you argue that it a marketing tool for WBCCI, show me how? If you say that it IS worth the paper it is printed on, show me why. Because, from a professional standpoint - I for one say that it is not. And I for one say that it is not a marketing tool for WBCCI. I believe that it is a piece of the puzzle that pushes people away, and I have evidence of that! Remember, you never get a 2nd chance to make a great first impression. Does the Blue Beret give a good first impression?

Want proof of what I am saying? Go to Sierra Club, Harley Owners Group - show me where the Blue Beret is all that and a bag of potato chips and I will show you in an improvement in membership numbers.

Prove me wrong....
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Old 12-29-2009, 02:28 AM   #3
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I would rather have it emailed to me as an attachment, my unit news letter, Airstream Life, and even my Airstream News all come as an email attachment... So someone says it not worth the paper it wrote on... I think the paper is worth something and would rather it go GREEN for the up coming year! Just think, it will save $REEN and be Green!

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Old 12-29-2009, 04:42 AM   #4
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Many organizations are going to the option of the newsletter/magazine in printed form. Those who want it in this format pay extra for it. Those opting for the .pdf attachment don't.
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Old 12-29-2009, 04:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeWee View Post
The Blue Beret, serves a purpose
Of course it serves a purpose... but the relevant statement is "Does the current purpose best serve the membership?"

The club is loosing nearly $200,000 a year... every expenditure needs to be looked at to see if, for the dollars being spent, does it benefit the club beyond the extent of the cost.

As far as the statement, "it's not worth the paper it is printed on" - that is just a member stating what the value of the magazine is to him or her... very valuable information to the folks putting out the magazine. Much better feedback than someone who says it's OK... just to be nice.

Either way... this is just another issue facing the club in which we find one group of members in nearly 180 degree opposition to the other group. As I have said before, we have two clubs... with a leadership that is only serving one.
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Old 12-29-2009, 05:31 AM   #6
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Dale, when the Caravanner no longer met its intended purpose, your mother effected change. Like many print media, the Blue Beret no longer serves its intended purpose of meeting the information needs of the members in this day and age of forums, email, chat, and twitter, a quarterly newsletter paper publication that goes out in the mail is... (to be charitable) quaint.

I was appalled ten years ago at the very weak web presence of the WBCCI, and that has improved little. I wasn't able to find out anything at all about the club on-line back then, and frankly, there's not much more now. I'm 54, so I'm not some youngster, but I have twenty and thirty something kids who live on facebook, myspace and twitter, and THEY are the generation who will be the future of the club, if the club makes the effort to attract them. As it is today, none of them even know or can find out about the WBCCI because it doesn't exist in any of the media forms that they use.

Unfortunately, this is another area where the club is failing miserably. I am not a twitter user, but Headquarters should be. Just try to find the WBCCI on Facebook. The club should be spending it's advertising dollars on electronic media and mass emailings instead of paper and postage. The should be on the leading edge of all of this technology if they want to attract and keep the generation that can keep the club moving forward.

Roger
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:03 AM   #7
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Blue Beret On Line

Check out the WBCCI Website for the Blue Beret.

http://www.wbcci.org/documents/December%202009.pdf

I love that this is available to members electronically and while traveling.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:07 AM   #8
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Thank you Pam!

I have obviously not checked at the Club website for a while. And reading the Blue Beret, apparently the tech committee has, in fact, gotten a Twitter presence recently. It's nice to see that there is finally some progress being made!

Roger
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:11 AM   #9
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"The truth is the Blue Beret does exactly what it was meant to do, provide rally information for individual units and the traveling Club members. A traveling Club member may travel and visit several rallies during their vacation" quote from PeeWee

Until the first BB appeared online a couple months ago it did NOT serve the traveling club members because if you were away from home for an extended period you did not get the magazine without having it forwarded to you. A real hassle when on the move.

Several years ago there was a survey in the BB requiring a response within a time frame. While we heard some talk of it we could not respond as we were on the road. Early this year there were some articles we wanted to see . Same problem, no access.
Hopefully the first step has been taken for an online option. At some point we will be able to remove the hitching posts and only have it online.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:30 AM   #10
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Nice, but too nice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pam View Post
Check out the WBCCI Website for the Blue Beret.

http://www.wbcci.org/documents/December%202009.pdf

I love that this is available to members electronically and while traveling.
Yeah, and unless they moved it, it's available to anyone... I don't need to pay for it, you all are so I can get it FREE!!! Thanks. I've told them once, I'll say it again, that if the BB is one of the things my $55 (soon to be $75 oh yea!), then it should be on the members only side -

and I was the one who made the comment that it's not worth the paper it's printed on... and you all have made great comments. I've heard it's like $86,000 a year to print it and mail it out.. for what - so I know how to sign up for SkyMed? There are at least 2 other places I use to find out where Rallies are located.. Let's face it, the BB exists to propagandize the International and hear the message from the leader of the spending and how good of a deal it is to attend his business meetings and pay $600 to do so to hear how he'll be spending close to $200k more than he has....

Oh, Pee Wee has me going.... but this is my opinion and it's public... many other feel the same way Pee Wee - just no one says it for.. well - here some are...

When it arrives, this is what I do - look at the cover (one of the pictures), look at the inside rear cover (the only other place for pictures), then look at the "In Memoriam" section - the look at the Region 2 message - which is usually the same as our Newsletter message... then page through the rest... 5 minutes.. done! Purpose - you can think so... do you even get the magazine Pee Wee? It's not a very good publication for what I pay... I belong to Good Sam and their publication takes some time to read, is color, and gives me alot more worth for alot less spent per year.

But, the BB will stay status quo cause it must be good enough - well, not for me. Should I volunteer to be editor.. no - we're paying for that service quite heftily I observe....

Just more cents added to the pile... unfortunately Pee Wee, I know, not what you wanted to hear.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:46 AM   #11
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On Line

I feel the Blue Beret on-line is a step in the right direction. I would imagine this is a bit of a test to see if the on-line magazine works and will get support. The BB should be accessible to members only at some point, or could be totally changed to have a "magazine" style webpage open to the general public (done well could be a marketing and member recruitment tool), along with a private members only newsletter format that would be in addition to the "glossy" magazine format.

If you like the Blue Beret on-line format, you should let the club know. Positive reinforcement of forward progress could help keep the momentum going.
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:02 AM   #12
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Online is nice for brief articles. But, it gives me a headache to read much more than a paragraph on a computer screen.
I have my newspaper delivered, even though it's "free" online. I really prefer to be able to read, set it down, move to another room, etc.
Many publications lose their appeal when not in print form.

Tom W
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:33 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pam View Post
I feel the Blue Beret on-line is a step in the right direction. I would imagine this is a bit of a test to see if the on-line magazine works and will get support.
While putting the BB online as a .pdf file is perhaps a step in the right direction, and having a twitter account is as forward as I've ever seen the group look, rather than re-working the entire business model as they should, they're trying to automate a paper system. An integrated web presence would include an interactive website, blogging in a variety of areas with tweets on updates automatically sent out to twitter, facebook, myspace, and where-ever else they think they'll find an audience, forums, the ability to do business with them online... help for managing units... in fact just about anything you can think of that would be informative, helpful, or useful to the organization should all be managed from a single source location... that integrated website.

There needs to be both a public and member side... and you need to be able to join and renew and transact most of the club's business on-line. In today's web, none of this is particularly difficult or expensive, but one must understand the target audience to frame what must be done. As of now, there are some members who are trying to reframe the leadership's view, but the leadership still doesn't understand it's value... and therein lies the most basic problem. Things are happening because a few members are being a PITA and nagging at the powers that be; it's not happening because of forward-looking leadership.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the Blue Beret or the information it contains. How that information is made available, and how the rest of the business of the club is conducted and that information disseminated is. Further, the problem is exacerbated when that leadership fights tooth and nail against the change that would, in fact, ensure the survival of the club.

So... it's nice to see the club finally growing into the technology of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, we're a decade into the twenty-first. Only time will tell if it's too little too late.

Roger
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:42 AM   #14
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Wow - what a response to a well intentioned post - change will be slow in any large organization, as I've said many times in the past, get involved, do something - its not only the WBCCI thats a mess - so is the good ol USA, and frankly so are we.

As I see it the WBCCI is just a refection of who we have all become. We don't seem to want to do what is right anymore....

Ok off soapbox and back to regular programming

Ken J.
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