NAUI Board of Directors Election
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622 East 20th Street, 4C
New York, NY 10009
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An avid and passionate scuba diver, Michael is also a proven business leader and owner with extensive experience in digital marketing and interactive media. He has worked in key strategic, product development, and technical roles at media and advertising companies including ESPN, Conde Nast, Time Inc., Chiat/Day, DraftFCB, Grey, and others.
He currently serves on the board of directors of one of the most noted and effective marine charities, The Sea Turtle Conservancy, founded in 1959.
In 2006, Michael established Oceanblue Divers, a scuba diving club based in New York City that offers social events, group travel and training. One of the largest dive clubs in the U.S., Oceanblue includes over 1,500 members, with 7,000-plus Facebook fans. The club has hosted hundreds of events including benefits, happy hours featuring noted dive-world speakers, and approximately forty trips to dive destinations worldwide. Oceanblue is a NAUI Pro Dive Training Center.
In March 2013, Michael became the owner of Rex Dive Center in Norwalk, CT, a store with a twenty-year history of serving divers in the greater New York metropolitan area. Michael will be crossing the staff of more than twenty instructors and divemasters over to NAUI in the coming months.
Michael earned his NAUI Scuba Diver certification in Turks and Caicos in 2002, and has been actively diving ever since. He has taught diving since earning his NAUI instructor certification in 2008, and most recently achieved his Instructor Trainer designation in 2012.
NAUI is a great dive association with a rich history of leadership in the industry. But over the last fifteen years, while achieving financial stability, NAUI has been resting on its laurels. While other associations have embraced the latest marketing tools, NAUI has been relying on its reputation for high standards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of prospective divers don’t understand how standards differ between associations. What they do know is that our competitor is “The way the world learns to dive,” and is found literally everywhere.
As a dive business owner, I travel extensively across the world, throughout the Caribbean and Asia/Pacifica; what I’ve found is a complete lack of NAUI presence everywhere I go. In the last year alone, I’ve been to Curacao, Cozumel, Turks and Caicos, Bonaire, The Bahamas, Indonesia and Thailand. I’ve found no NAUI presence in any of these destinations. This has to change.
NAUI is at a crossroads and needs new direction. It must invest in the latest marketing tools, including web, social media, search engine marketing and others, to raise the profile of NAUI and advance the brand. As a director on the NAUI board, I will work with the other board members to create a plan of action that will be presented to NSG to help restore and expand NAUI’s global presence.
I believe that my experience in technology, digital marketing, and a proven track record of success will be a great asset to the NAUI board in this endeavor.
Answers To The
BOD Election Questions
1. While NAUI has many assets, including high standards and the best training materials, the last fifteen years has seen NAUI losing presence worldwide. High standards are important, but they are not a strategy for growth. NAUI is currently almost invisible on the Internet compared to its competitors. Investment in marketing, especially digital marketing, is crucial to success in business today. The next ten years represent an event horizon for NAUI; it must step up to the plate to maintain relevancy.
Any such plan must include a strategy for raising NAUI’s brand profile and increasing acquisition of divers. This will require aggressive marketing through the most effective channels, including web, email, social media, and search engines, based on comprehensive market research. It’s critical to understand the market in order to sell to it.
As a member of the NAUI board of directors, I will work with the other board members to fashion a strategic plan with goals that will be presented to NSG. The plan will include using the latest tools to expand NAUI’s brand presence, create more divers, instructors, and outlets at destinations worldwide for new divers to complete their open water training.
Growth only happens if you have a strategic plan, one that uses the latest and most effective means to get the word out. You can have the best products in the world, but it’s impossible to expand your customer base if no one knows about them.
2. To attract more instructors to NAUI, being a NAUI instructor has to be attractive. Unfortunately, it’s not attractive enough. Current taglines and slogans are old and tired. “Dive Safety Through Education,” while admirable as core principle, is not an attractive slogan for anyone but mothers considering getting their ten-year-olds certified. “Just Dive” represents a complete lack of imagination and doesn’t differentiate when our closest competitor’s slogan is “Go Dive.”
Being a NAUI instructor has to become a meaningful goal divers want to achieve. The body of dive knowledge is fairly static, so the best way a dive association can distinguish itself is through razor-sharp, innovative marketing, high standards, and increased presence. In order to achieve increased presence, you need sharp marketing. It’s circular.
Our competition has been marketing for years and successfully attracting instructors in droves. Despite having little substance and creating lots of plastic for divers to carry around, they’ve managed to expand their numbers by marketing effectively. While they’re decent at it, they could be much better, but there really is no competition of any consequence; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for them. They don’t need to be any better.
To attract more instructors, we must plan for growth, market aggressively and keep standards high. No one aims toward goals that take little effort to achieve. People are literally killing themselves to be surfers because it’s challenging, not because it’s easy. High standards, marketing and a strategic plan for growth are key.
3. The dive industry has been progressively lowering standards for quite some time in order to attract and keep new divers. What’s clear is that it hasn’t worked. DEMA estimates the attrition rate in diving at 50% every seven years, which I consider an extremely conservative estimate; 80% is probably a lot more accurate. The dive industry blames this on everything except its inability or unwillingness (or both) to market the sport. Other industries have evolved in this area, while diving—NAUI included—is flat-footed. Diving is just as exciting and “cool” now as it was 40 years ago, but people don’t know it because the industry doesn’t tell them.
Lowering standards is a mistake, in my opinion. People engage in activities that challenge them; ones that are easy are boring. People choose challenging and competitive activities to bring out the best in themselves; this goes for skiing, surfing, and rock climbing, as some examples, and diving, too. How about triathlons or Iron Man competitions? Would they attract anyone at all if they were easy?
The easier you project diving to be, the less appealing it becomes. It commoditizes the sport, which turns it into a “bucket list” activity people try because they’re told they can do it easily. In truth, it’s not easy, and when they get in the water having been poorly trained, they often have a bad time and never dive again.
Market aggressively, keep standards high, train thoroughly—and people are more likely to commit to the sport. ^Top