Why Harvard shouldn’t push its all-male final clubs to go co-ed

For the members of Harvard’s super-elite “final clubs,” perhaps nothing produces a more immediate shiver of Not Our Kind of Thing than comparison to fraternities of the Greek system, with their herds of suburban business majors and their abundance of chapters popping up at every benighted State U and third-rate Catholic college. In a sense, fraternities are the very opposite of what a final club represents, which is, first and foremost, a sui generis association with the single greatest university in the history of the world.

Yet most of Harvard’s all-male final clubs began as Greek letter societies, adopting their unique characteristics only after the university banned fraternities in the 1850s. These clubs emerged as a response to the aspects of higher education that young men found feminizing: the enforced chastity, study, prayer and self-discipline. And they’ve been fulfilling their mission to vex college administrators and delight male students ever since.

Just as frat row presents a constant, low-grade headache — and an occasional five-alarm migraine — to presidents of lesser universities, so have the final clubs been a source of increasing irritation to the Harvard administration. A recent, radioactive report by the university’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault revealed a familiar constellation of problems: The clubs dominate the social scene and are locations of binge drinking; their members throw parties with sexually offensive themes and compete with one another for sexual conquests. Most gravely, they were identified as sites of sexual assault.

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Has Wingtip CEO Found the Balance between Member Value and Member Experience?

Half-store, half-social club, located in San Francisco’s Financial District, has Founder and CEO of Wingtip ClubAmi Arad found the balance of member value and experience?

At PSFK’s Future of Retail 2016 SF event, Arad spoke to how his Club cultivates their community and delivers delight to their customers.

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Social Media Tips for Private Clubs

When it comes to private members clubs, it’s safe to say that prospective members seek a club experience just as exciting and engaging as the amenities you’re offering. For this reason, my team and I have always been drawn to unique clubs for their ornate charm and intimate member experience.

As early adopters of social media and a targeted leisure and club following, We've been able to witness what it takes to rock social media for a one-of-a-kind, club. Not only is it important to stay on top of trends in the industry – it’s equally as important to listen to your members and guests on these channels.

Below are a few tips for curating and managing a killer social media strategy for your private club:

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Oh, That Transatlantic Accent!

The Transatlantic accent, also called a Mid-Atlantic accent,  is a way of speaking English that is halfway between American and British. It makes you sound like you have a good education but no one can tell quite where you are from. You hear it in old Hollywood films from the 1930s and 1940s. It is the accent of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, William F Buckley and (at least in some films) God.

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Go Inside Private Clubs Around the World

Founded in 1963 by Mark Birley and named for his then wife, Annabel’s has been one of the world’s most exclusive private nightclubs ever since. Its posh Mayfair bar and restaurant was originally designed by Birley and decorator Nina Campbell, and later updated by Birley’s daughter, India Jane. Frank Sinatra was one of the first to join, and the club has hosted royalty (actual and Hollywood) ever since, drawing the likes of Prince William, Lady Gaga, and Mick Jagger. annabels.co.uk

Founded in 1963 by Mark Birley and named for his then wife, Annabel’s has been one of the world’s most exclusive private nightclubs ever since. Its posh Mayfair bar and restaurant was originally designed by Birley and decorator Nina Campbell, and later updated by Birley’s daughter, India Jane. Frank Sinatra was one of the first to join, and the club has hosted royalty (actual and Hollywood) ever since, drawing the likes of Prince William, Lady Gaga, and Mick Jagger. annabels.co.uk

Dark and secretive, Silencio is everything you would expect from a members-only club created by David Lynch. The director teamed with designer Raphael Navot, French firm Enia Architectes, and lighting designer Thierry Dreyfus on the Paris space, which includes a stage and dance floor, a screening room, a forestlike smoking area, a gilded bar and lounge, and more. Members enjoy exclusive access and performances before midnight, and the club is open to nonmembers—who can make it past the choosy bouncers—after the stroke of 12. silencio-club.com

Owner Alan Linn opened Norwood as a hub for New York City’s creative talents. The Chelsea building, which dates from 1845, has been a private residence, the Shelter for Respectable Girls, and a funeral home. Linn worked with Simon Costin—who creates the backdrops for the Alexander McQueen runway shows—and Robert Greene to develop the interiors, which feature 13 fireplaces, blue-chip art, and custom furniture. Amenities including a restaurant, walled garden, top-floor terrace, and three bars draw hip visitors; actresses Allison Williams, Amanda Seyfried, and Emily Blunt have been spotted there. norwoodclub.com

The place to see and be seen for actors, studio execs, and other boldface names in Los Angeles, Soho House West Hollywood occupies the top two floors of a 14-story building on Sunset Boulevard. The Soho House design team gave their traditional British club aesthetic a relaxed California twist, using a muted palette, unpolished chevron floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows. AD100 designer Waldo Fernandez also contributed to the project. Olive trees hung with wicker lanterns create an illuminated canopy over diners in the rooftop restaurant, which offers views of the surrounding city. sohohousewh.com

The opulent and eclectic Kee Club has been a popular Hong Kong destination since it opened in 2001—for both its sumptuous design and its dim sum lunches (Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan). Located in the Central district, the space includes salons richly appointed in red, green, gold, and blue, a 1950s-inspired library, a moody bar, and a dining room with walls layered with fine art and artifacts. The club frequently hosts art exhibitions, runway presentations, and trunk shows. keeclub.com

Ken Fulk brings his exuberant eye to the design of San Francisco’s the Battery. The private club was opened last year by Michael and Xochi Birch, founders of the social network Bebo, which sold to AOL in 2008 for $850 million. The five-level, 58,000-square-foot club features several bars, 717b restaurant, a spa and gym, 14 hotel rooms, and a luxurious penthouse suite complete with Viking appliances and a terrace with views of the Bay Bridge. For a taste of life at the Battery, nonmembers are welcome to book hotel rooms and enjoy the club during their stay. thebatterysf.com

If you’re looking for New York City’s power players, check Core: Club, a favorite of executives and moguls like producer Harvey Weinstein, C. Wonder founder J. Christopher Burch, and agent Ari Emanuel. The location includes amenities such as a gym, spa, Paul Labrecque hair salon, bar, restaurant, and extensive cultural programing. The stylish surroundings, designed by Span Architecture, are accented by an impressive art collection, with works by Andy Warhol, Kenny Scharf, Jonathan Yeo, Sean Landers, and Yi Chen. thecoreclub.com

House of St. Barnabas in London’s Soho neighborhood is not your average members club. For starters, it operates as a nonprofit, with membership fees going to the in-house Employment Academy, which provides job training to the homeless. Plus, the membership is anything but stuffy: Founders include fashion photographer Rankin, musician Jarvis Cocker, and actor Brian Cox. The house itself is a historic Georgian building with spectacular architectural details that are highlighted by Grainne Weber’s vibrant interiors. hosb.org.uk

Located on the 51st floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, the Roppongi Hills Club boasts panoramic views of Tokyo. The sleek, urban space was designed by Sir Terence Conran’s firm Conran & Partners and includes seven restaurants and two bars, plus spaces for private dining, meetings, and events. roppongihillsclub.com

Residence is set in a restored Georgian townhouse on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. The club offers elegant meeting rooms, a piano bar, a nightclub, casual outdoor dining, and an award-winning restaurant with food sourced from chef Graham Neville’s own garden. Member events range from golf outings and barbecues to Hub41@Residence, a speaker series featuring industry leaders. residence.ie

Buenos Aires’s chic Palermo neighborhood is home to the Clubhouse, a social club with enviable cultural offerings. Designer Jon Padgett and cofounder Parker Stanberry converted a four-story house to include three guest suites (available to nonmembers), a lounge, a terrace with an outdoor fireplace, and two bars. The pièce de résistance is the pool garden, which is shaded by high, ivy-covered walls. Members can take advantage of art exhibitions, private dinners, and film screenings. clubhouseba.com

Florida: Not Exactly Fifty Shades of Gray

If you think Florida is the land of more than fifty shades of gray, think again!

A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times reports St. Petersburg as the #1 draw for millennials in Florida with Tampa nipping at its heels as the #3 most attractive market for ages 20-34. It appears that millennials (your basic under 40 crowd) are invading Florida.

Since 2010, St. Petersburg's millennial population has increased 6 percent. Tampa, due partly to the University of South Florida, boasted a 7 percent increase in millennials; that demographic now accounts for 24 percent of its residents.

Curious as to how these statistics have had an effect on private clubs, Private Club Marketing checked in with a few clubs in the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area. Here are our findings:

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Top Management Changes Announced at Ocean Reef Club, Congressional CC

After 15 years as General Manager/COO of Congressional CC, Michael Leemhuis has moved to Ocean Reef Club to succeed Paul Astbury, who has retired. Congressional has named Jeffrey Kreafle as its new GM/COO; he will move from his current position at Bellerive CC to start at the Bethesda, Md., club April 1.

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High-end clubs ‘afraid’ of digital and social

High-end clubs are “afraid” of digital and social marketing because opening up information about their club to a much wider audience flies in the face of the exclusive nature of private clubs, according to Zack Bates, CEO at Private Club Marketing.

Marketing is still a “nascent” discipline in the affluent private club industry, which explains why many clubs are “afraid” of the “massive beast” of digital marketing.

“I believe many clubs and their boards are afraid of adopting new media too quickly. That’s because it means accessibility of information that you previously reserved for a select few people. It was very valuable for club to have those inside stories but now it is now available for everyone that wants to look at it.

“Social media means the democratisation of information. Do you really want to do that if you’re at the top of the private club ranks? That’s a question that fundamentally a lot of clubs may not have answered for themselves.”

The luxury market, beyond private country clubs, for products such as high end watches, the issue of adopting digital and social media is even more challenging, and warns marketers in these categories against using digital marketing for the sake of it.

“I wouldn’t immediately say ‘go digital, go social’. I’d be very careful to think through why you’re doing it and what purpose it serves before you go and do it,” he says.

Are Millennials the Silver Lining?

If there is a bright side to the enduring economic recession that, for now, seems to be receding, it is the degree to which club owners and operators have learned the importance of paying attention to the evolving preferences of Members and guests. The pressures of the recession reinforced that no demographic can be ignored, and that old, misconceptions must be cast aside in the harsh light of new realities.

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Internal Club Branding

We spend weeks, sometimes months, developing our “marketing strategies.” Examining and monitoring our members and incoming prospects. Who are the new members we’ve brought in over the last 12 months and where are they coming from? How are they enjoying the club? What is their usage? Are they bringing in the guests that could potentially become new members themselves? These internal reports are invaluable to the growth of our prospect list and retention of our membership.

However, there is an area that is almost always forgotten in the planning phase of our new year strategy or the restructuring of the previous year’s concept: training staff to understand and reflect our message and brand.

The truth is, branding starts from the inside out. Do your employees believe in your product and the services that you offer? Are they standing 100% behind you in the mission of your brand? Are they living your brand? It is important that your employees are informed and involved in the new initiatives and strategies that take place within your club.

I recently attended a presentation for sales and marketing professionals where the participants were asked to raise their hands if they thought their business would not be around in the next 15 years. Nearly half the room raised their hands! Fifty percent of those business’ brand managers didn’t believe their own message. Now you can imagine that this can only trickle down through the staff culture. If your staff is unable or unwilling to support your marketing efforts, it can have detrimental results. How do you begin an internal branding campaign within your company?

  • Step 1: Synchronize Your Brand Personality, Values and Corporate Culture
    Your marketing team should be working closely with your Human Resources team to ensure that the common values of your company internally and externally are in sync. At your upcoming staff meetings, play quiz games about the history of your club, upcoming events and who the new members are.
  • Step 2: Get Your Employees Behind Your Brand
    Align your criteria for recruiting and rewarding employees with the criteria of the brand value. Look for the right skills and aptitudes that will represent your brand promise effectively. Sometimes the best incentives are recognition. When I was a member relations director at ClubCorp we had a recognition program called “STAR Card.” The Members were encouraged to recognize the staff with these cards when they went above and beyond. Rewards were given to those employees based on a point system for each card they received.
  • Step 3: Reinforce and Repeatedly Explain Brand Values and Behaviors
    Use your internal communication to reinforce and explain the values and behaviors that reflect your brand promise. Your employee newsletter should be similar to your member newsletter, recognize those who are excelling, new hires, new members, promote upcoming events and then quiz random employees about the content in their newsletters. Continuously do this until it becomes second nature.

If you thought the process of involving your staff was not important, take into account that your employees meet, greet, and assist your members in many different ways. They are the face of your brand. Engage your staff right from the start and encourage individual input. Use your staff as a focus group – after all who knows your clientele better than they do? By doing this, you will not only get support from your staff but you will be given insight and ideas that you otherwise may not have considered.