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Posts tagged ‘ROM’

a bad judgement call, I think

October 26, 2012


I’m a member of the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum).  Have been for years.  I’ve lost track of time, I guess.  Turns out my membership is due for renewal next month.

A day or so ago there was something in my mail from them.  A ‘renewal’ package.  Not surprising.  They want to make sure I do renew.  It’s the right thing for them to be doing.  The fact that they are trying to get me to commit a month early is interesting.  Times are very tough for all not-for-profits these days, so I applaud them for being so proactive.

That’s the good news.

Here’s where I believe the flaw in their thinking is:  What they’ve sent out is an elaborate, full colour, direct mail package.  It’s got flaps cut on the diagonal.  It’s printed on glossy, heavy, stock.  It’s personalized in several places.  It’s closed with a seal, which had to be done by hand.  The reply envelope is postage-paid.

All no-no’s in the not-for-profit world.

First of all, strictly from the perspective of appearances, this gives the wrong impression.  Even if they got a deal, even if it was done for free, it looks too expensive.  When you’re asking people to donate money to your cause (especially in these troubled times), whether you represent a disease, a school, a charitable foundation or a member of the arts community, you have to be very careful how you present yourself.  Looking like you’ve got all the money in the world won’t help your cause.  Nor is it appropriate.

  • It should have been a simple letter, mailed in an envelope.
  • Wherever possible they should use email instead of regular mail.  Much less expensive, quicker, simpler, etc.
  • The reply envelope should never be postage-paid.  Usually there is an outline of where a stamp should go, with a message that says something like “When you use a stamp, it allows us to put your donation to better use”.
  • Hand assembly costs a lot of money.  The seal may look cool, but its use resulted in unnecessary costs.
  • If the costs of producing the mailer were donated, I still wouldn’t have done it, because a potential donor would have every right to think the donation would have been of much better use if it had gone to the Museum, instead of producing the mailer.
  • At worst, though, if the costs were donated, and if the folks at the ROM did decide to accept the offer, then it was imperative to have a line of copy thanking the donor.  At least that way those of us on the receiving end, would know the Museum hadn’t been foolishly extravagant.

But here’s what makes what they’ve done even worse.  A day or two before I got the mailer there was an article in the Globe & Mail about the ROM; and how they are thinking of charging caterers who work in the ROM, a very substantial fee.  This fee would put these caterers on a list of ROM-approved suppliers.  If they don’t agree to pay the fee (double digit thousands), they wouldn’t make the list.

And in case you’re wondering, the fee does not guarantee they’ll get work out of it, in the end.  It would merely put them on a list, for consideration by those individuals who would be thinking of holding an event at the ROM.

The reason stated is because the ROM needs money.  So on the one hand they’re thinking of extracting money out of their caterers, while on the other hand they’re spending money on glossy mailings.  I have to be honest.  It didn’t make me want to renew my membership.

Personally, I think both moves should have been more carefully thought through.  When I read the article it left a bad taste in my mouth.  In some ways it’s like extortion.  Pony up or find yourself off the list.  If I was a caterer, I’d certainly have to think twice.  It’s a lot of money to pay out, with no guarantee of any work coming from it.  Risky in these times.

And as a consumer, it just pissed me off.  It will impact the choice of caterers I have.  And I can’t believe that those costs won’t ultimately be passed along to me.  The cost of catering will, no doubt, go up.

And you already know how I feel about the luxurious mailing piece.

Having said all this, I know just how difficult things are for charities these days.  They are all scrambling.  Government funding has all but dried up.  Consumers have been suffering financially for a long time now; and there’s no let-up in sight.  Donations go under the ‘discretionary spending’ column in our own budgets.  Which, for most of us, is getting smaller every day.

So out of the box thinking, on the part of the ROM, and everyone else in the sector, is definitely required.  They just need to be more strategic about it.  Maybe think twice next time.


twitter to the rescue (and a smart CEO)

February 23, 2012


Can’t tell you how many conferences and seminars I’ve attended in the last couple of years where I’ve listened to marketers going on and on about how consumers are using social media to complain; and how important they think it is for their companies to have a social media presence — as if that would solve the problem.  As if a page on Facebook, a video on YouTube or tweeting about your latest commercial or product will make your customers and prospects ‘like’ you.  As if that would make up for a bad experience.

I know this is heresy, but I’ve got to tell you, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on the effectiveness of social media.  At least in terms of building brands, creating customer loyalty and attracting new customers.  And from my own experience, I’ve yet to see it used properly when it comes to resolving customer complaints and frustrations.

Until this past Tuesday.

But first, the back story.  I like reggae and, in particular, Bob Marley’s music.  A friend read an article about 2 weeks ago that, as part of Black History Month, the ROM was showing a documentary about Rastas that featured Bob Marley’s granddaughter — and there was also going to be a concert with another of Bob Marley’s relatives — a brother, I think.  There are other events as well, but those are the 2 that really appealed to us.  The article she read said that details could be found on the ROM website.  Because I’m a member I volunteered to get the information.

Suffice to say it wasn’t the best experience:  A lack of information on the website, several 5+ minute waits (over several days) to be connected to a human on the phone and volunteers and staff in the museum who were, although extremely polite, uninformed and, therefore, unable to help.  So eventually, last Tuesday, I started googling, looking for a Board Member I might know or the Director.  Amazingly I not only found the Director’s name, I also found out how to reach her on Twitter.

Limited to 140 characters I had to be pretty succinct.  To the point.  And compelling.  So essentially I said I was having a bad experience and my membership was in jeopardy.  Did I expect anything to come of this?  I wondered.  I hoped.  But judging from the experiences of others (not with the ROM) I wouldn’t have bet on it.

Well get ready to be impressed.

  • It took mere minutes for her to tweet me back!  Equally succinctly she asked me to explain, promising she would do her best to resolve my issues.
  • I tweeted back that it was difficult to do that in 140 characters — but I did thank her for her quick response.
  • She immediately sent me a message with her email address, again saying she wanted to help if she could (brilliant because until she knew what my problems were promising to do something that she might not be able to do would only have exacerbated the problem).
  • I sent her an email that outlined everything that had happened.
  • Within 30 minutes I heard back from her.  She thanked me for giving them the feedback.  She thanked me for giving them a chance to put things right.  She told me she was going into several meetings but had forwarded my email to 2 of her senior colleagues — the Head of Membership and Sales and the VP of Visitor Relations.  She copied them on the email she sent me so I had their names and email addresses.  She told me I’d hear from them.  And then she promised to check in with them personally, to make sure they’d received my email and had followed up with me.

To be totally honest by this point I was so impressed, any frustrations I might have had disappeared.  She had completely diffused the situation.  Here is someone who is not on Twitter because everyone else is.  She ‘uses’ it.  She obviously monitors the tweets she gets on a very regular basis (and no, I am not suggesting she gets lots of complaints).  And she acts.  Quickly and decisively.  She also listens.  And learns.  And communicates with people who are communicating with her.  Brilliant.

If you’re wondering, I did hear back from the Head of Membership and Sales — not long after I got the email from the Director and CEO of the ROM giving me her name.  We had a good conversation.  I sent an email letting the Director and CEO know that I had been contacted — and within minutes she acknowledged my email, thanked me again, gave me some information on other events relating to Black History Month they are hosting and said she hoped they could continue to count on my being a member.

You bet they can!

If anybody reading this blog knows the head of a company or the head of Marketing for a company please feel free to send them the link.  There is a great lesson here.