Quick Content for Busy Rotarians: A brief exercise in blogging with the Edinburgh Rotary Breakfast Club

Most people I’ve come across have heard of Rotary: “oh, yes, the rich white man’s social club”; “Republican philanthropy.”  Personally, all I knew was that Rotary clubs had arranged foreign exchanges for my friends, and that wearing a Rotary badge saved my uncle’s bacon: the suit hire shop stayed open for him before an awards ceremony (he thus avoided certain death at the hands of my aunt).  Uncle had also mentioned some crazy, end-up-in-the-pool-with-your-clothes-on type “socials,” so when Rob said he was giving a talk about websites to the Edinburgh Rotary Breakfast Club, I thought, “killer!”

I donned my mo and top hat...

(kidding! That’s actually a photo from my hen party :P), and piled into the bus at some savage hour of the morning.  This breakfast had better be good.

While there weren’t any swimming pool shenanigans, the group certainly weren’t the old, fuddy-duddy council of he-captains of industry they are made out to be.  I found them open and friendly with a lady-member in the front seat this term and some very interesting, charitable and progressive projects in the pipeline.  This is the stuff they want to communicate in their website.  

Unfortunately, their current web presence looks more like this:

and this:

and this:

Because, well, Rotarians are a busy lot.  The Edinburgh Breakfast Club meets at the harrowing hour of 7:15 AM on a Tuesday morning and they’re on their way to work by 8:30.  I didn’t ask who gets to the gym before that.  

Rob’s 10-minute talk sparked comments about how difficult it is to tell your story, so I proposed a follow-up workshop to get the Edinburgh Breakfast club actually creating content for their site/social media quickly and consistently.

Here’s how it went

I must say here that, for this group, I was inspired by Emily Dodd and Tom Allan’s blogging workshops in North Edinburgh (helpfully explained in Emily’s recent post) and have adapted a few ideas. 

I took each of the concepts the breakfast clubbers had brain stormed at the previous session (community, variety, mixed clubs, international, 2.1 million members, professionals, big breakfast and bacon rolls along with a score of acronyms for awards, charities and organisations Rotarians work with) and wrote them all up on post-it notes before the session- I only had a half hour to get these busy people blogging!

Step 1: Group the post-its into two or three themes

I quickly discovered that there was any number of ways the concepts could have been arranged. I would have done it myself in the interests of time, but it really is important for participants to learn how to narrow down themes themselves. Luckily, one chap stepped in and quickly suggested a satisfactory grouping:

  • Breakfast Club

  • Edinburgh Rotary Clubs

  • Rotary International

It is often difficult to decide how much of the rest of your workshop you reveal as you progress, but I think that a bit more insight into where this was headed might have made the theme selection more straightforward.  Live and learn.

Step 2: Break into groups and find something (or someone) in the room that you could use to illustrate your theme.  If you can’t find anything, draw something.  Then, take a picture of it on a smart phone.

The Rotarians paired up two-by-two,

tech savvies helped the tech timorous, 

and we all had a splendid time taking photos of bacon rolls and swing sets.

It’s funny how people interpret things differently.  I had a few groups taking multiple pictures, one per card when I had one picture per theme in my head.  Maybe I'll emphasise that more next time, but then maybe I’ll let them do what they want.  It seemed to work here and the idea is, of course, that when you feel comfortable blogging, you learn to do it faster and more efficiently.  

Step 3: SHOW and TELL! Use the picture to tell everyone (particularly Rob and I as outsiders) about these concepts. Have a member of the group write down what the speaker is saying.

The presentations were spot on and everyone went about the activity in different ways. One group talked about the paragraphs they would write (what each would be about and their sequence). Another had a script already written. The third simply added more information to the post-it notes and came up with an effective presentation that way. 

Step 4: Congratulations, bloggers! Once you tidy up what the note-taker has written down (just as if you were writing an email), you have your post.

This is the best part! It’s the moment when everyone realises that it really is that simple.  They already have the skills and, most importantly, the time to tell people what they are about.

Step 5: Upload your content.

Uploading content is simple once you know how to do it: either get people to log in themselves or have them send an email with their content to someone appointed to handle such things. Time was running short, so I let the Rotarians figure out what was best for them.

Next steps

Once I started the ball rolling by suggesting they write their blogs up as if they were emails and put them online, the bacon roll-fuelled Breakfasters went nuts on their own: by gavel’s knock, they had worked out a schedule for posting, logins and admins were arranged and the self-proclaimed ‘Twit’ in their midst had volunteered to set up an Edinburgh Rotary Breakfast Club Twitter feed by morning’s end.


It’s all very well to get excited about these things, but the smart Rotarian realises that if you don’t streamline a posting habit into your workflow, the project quickly goes to seed.  I suggested that the person whose job it is to thank speakers is also in charge of taking a picture, writing a few words (which they have to say anyway) and uploading a post. 

And the crowd went wild.