Meeting the Needs of Press Club Members During a Pandemic

Like many organizations, the board of the Press Club of Southwest Florida has struggled with how best to stay connected with, and provide value to, its members during the pandemic.

We have had a virtual lunch program and hosted a virtual media mixer.

To better understand our members and their interests, a short survey was distributed to 206 members and potential members on August 9. By August 15, 61 responses had been received, for a 29.6 percent response rate.

• Respondents skewed older (50% 70+ years old) and retired (32.8%).
• The majority (54%) prefer to wait to meet in person and continue virtual (Zoom or other) programs and media mixers. Another 40% are willing to meet if everyone is required to wear a mask, except when eating and drinking.
• Lunch time is preferred for Zoom programs (50%).
• Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the preferred meeting days.
• Hottest topics are “The Future of Media in our Country” (26.3%), “Social Media Impact on Reporting and Journalists” (15.8%), “Federal Elections and Their Impact on our Community” (12.3%), “Poynter Institute on Media Topics” (10.5%), and “National Speakers on Media Topics” (10.5%).
• For media mixers in a Zoom format, there was a balance between recommending an open forum (45.5%) and featuring media superstars (41.8%).
• Regarding involvement in the press club, 35.6% said they are involved (so, this question is not applicable to me). Approximately 10% said they were too busy, the event times were inconvenient, or the program topics were not of interest.

Board members who weighed in on the results shared their wisdom and perspectives about the survey results.
• “I think patience and perspective are in order here, especially during the pandemic …  as a club we have achieved a great deal in recent years, and we shouldn’t let the pace of those achievements get us down. A well-established 25-year-old club doesn’t reincarnate itself overnight.”
• “This (press club) was a more “social” organization in the past and is now growing into a more relevant working press club. That does take time. And it’s true that the older, retired members may have a different perspective from the younger, working press members. We’re still here, and that’s one positive!”
• “The board keeps meeting, we keep planning, we have meetings virtually and thank those who attend and just wait for members — who clearly have other concerns right now including the protection of their families — to come around. A viable treatment or vaccine will change the equation, in my mind at least, almost immediately.”

Until we can safely meet again, we will be planning additional programs and media mixers (based on survey results). If you have suggestions or questions, please let me know.

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