The Clubhouse Bulletin is bringing the future of member communications to life for private clubs around the country.
Clubhouse Bulletin, powered by Clubhouse Solutions, a division of the NBC Sports Group, recently surpassed its 500th video produced for more than 40 clubs nationwide. Since launching in 2018, these two- to four-minute custom videos – hosted by personalities who have gained popularity on GOLF Channel – have helped clubs to better engage and inform members, motivate employees who love being featured, as well as recruit potential new members. More and more clubs are considering the shift toward more modern communications, where video is king.
Josh Rumsey, General Manager at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club in Palo Alto, Calif., said the videos have replaced printed newsletters that used to be mailed out every month. “It’s for clubs wanting to be on the cutting edge of innovation,” he said. “Private clubs are generally 25 years behind the trends. When I saw the first one, I thought ‘That is awesome’. It caught my attention. It has been incredibly well received. It looks like Lauren Thompson (the video host) is part of the club. It adds a level of professionalism. It is far better than what we can produce inhouse. It looks professional and clean. The (communication) team loves working on it. Members love it. It is part of the future of the business.”
How it works
The process of creating a custom-produced Clubhouse Bulletin is quite simple for any club. Although it takes some planning from the management/communication staff members to figure out what stories and news they want to share, much of the work falls on the Clubhouse Solutions team. Once a club submits all the important information and the best photos and videos they can gather to highlight its news, a team of experts takes over. This is a big advantage over the competition, which is often a one-person shop. Thompson, a long-time Golf Channel personality, is a recognizable face. The technical crew behind the scenes has all the tools and talent for premier video editing, lighting and graphics to make every video look like a four-minute TV show.
Linzy Mara, Communications Director at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, N.J., admits putting together the first time script for the new “Fiddler’s Insider” video earlier this year was a “scary thing.”
“Adding something on your plate can be challenging,” she said. “It was at first, hesitation, but once you get into the swing it becomes part of your routine. It lines up with my usual newsletter deadlines anyway. I have fun with it. Each month I have photos and videos that aren’t getting the best use. Now they have a place to shine. It’s fun. I don’t look at it as more work.” Mara spent a lot of time massaging that first script, not realizing she was doing unnecessary work. “As long as you have all the information, let (the Clubhouse Solutions staff members) do their job with the script,” she said.
The tone and direction of these videos depend entirely upon the club. Mara has avoided marketing club events, choosing to focus more on features and story-telling. She uses it to complement an e-newsletter she produces every month. It has highlighted anything interesting and unique from members who make a hole-in-one to a chef’s secret recipe. “We stay away from marketing events. It becomes a drag,” she said. “They want to watch what’s more fun.” With Palo Alto Hills in the middle of an ongoing renovation, the new “Hillside Highlights” videos have focused extensively on course news and the ever-changing pandemic protocols in California. Introducing the course renovations with flyover drone footage has every member excited to enjoy their new toy. “It’s been hard to narrow in on what we want to communicate,” Rumsey said. “We’ve kept it at a high level. No cocktail recipes or anything like that. We have too many important things going on.”
Many operators believe the Clubhouse Bulletin is money well spent. Its reach has gone beyond entertainment value and was particularly relevant when clubs were reopening during the early days of the pandemic and needed to communicate new rules. Zack Wygant, General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of the Fort Wayne Country Club in Indiana, said the cost is similar to what his club used to pay an outside vendor to produce and print newsletters. “We stopped producing quarterly newsletters,” he said. “There was too much information in it. That was obsolete. For the money we spent to print the newsletter, we would much rather have that invested in a monthly video. It was a wash for us. We stopped doing the paper and went all digital. It was definitely an upgrade for sure.” Videos tend to make a bigger splash by increasing engagement, both among the members and the staff. Everybody loves seeing themselves or their friends featured. “The members get excited when they are in it. The staff gets excited. Everyone has their fun with it,” Mara said. “The more we start blasting information out (on video), the more top of mind it is. When the departments get their five seconds of fame, they want more.”
Many clubs broadcast the bulletins across all sorts of platforms: On TVs at the club, within e-mails, on the website and across social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. These are the ways younger members communicate, noted Ryan Peers, a Clubhouse Solutions regional sales manager. “Millennials are starting to become the bulk of a course’s membership,” he said. “Younger generations want their information differently. Clubhouse Bulletin is exciting and new.” The addition of videos has boosted open rates of the monthly newsletter at Fiddler’s Elbow by roughly 7 percent, Mara added. When members share the videos on social media, they become valuable recruiting tools for new members. Fort Wayne Country Club, which has experienced impressive growth during the pandemic, introduces new members in the “ticker” that runs along the bottom of the screen. “Our membership director sends it to all prospective members,” Wygant said. “They (the members) are just proud of having a production like that. Having Lauren Thompson talking about the club, it takes the class up a notch. From that perspective, they are very impressed in how it is put together. It just makes them feel good.”