Why I Joined Cigar Rights of America
I Joined Cigar Rights of America (CRA) to get access to their special cigars.
While this may seem like a selfish thing to do it really is not. What every upstart nonprofit needs is money and CRA is no different. They are going to need money to pay for lobbying, marketing, websites, PR, administration, and a whole boatload of other things that one would not normally think of.
So, even though my main reason for joining is to gain access to those cool new cigars that money is going to pay CRA’s bills. And, quite frankly, that is their strategy here.
Not everyone has the time nor the inclination to be a Cigar Ambassador nor will many take the time to evangelize for cigar smokers’ rights. My “Assault on Cigars” section is, I feel, my way of evangelizing but, to be honest, I should probably do more. For example, I could be emailing my anti-smoking congresswoman or my anti-smoking senators but that is not likely to have much impact on them because I am not exactly part of their base. Not by a long shot.
Like many of my cigar blogging peers (A Cigar Smokers Journal, Smoke Signals, Nice Tight Ash and many others) I have waffled back and forth on the validity of such an organization. Cigar smoking is a past time that is enjoyed by too few to make a difference on a national level. Or is it?
This is what I think CRA is doing:
- Build up membership
- Gain legitimacy through increased membership numbers
- With more legitimacy comes more involvement
- Attack local smoking bans and increased taxes (locally, statewide and nationally) with this new base of followers
With a limited set of goals, like the ones I just outlined, I think that they have a legitimate shot at making a difference. It’s going to take a while still before CRA and its members get enough clout to advance the rights of cigar smokers but they at least now are getting some traction.
Now that I have joined, for the purely selfish reason of getting access to some new cigars, I am actually thinking about stepping up my involvement in the fight against smoke-Nazis. Here I am, a professed lover of the leaf, and I am not going to help out any way I can? I don’t think I would be able to live with myself if I just sat back and watched the destruction of cigars.
Even though I am now nominally bullish on CRA I do think that they can do some things better.
- Now that CRA is racking up members left and right it is time to start communicating with us through weekly newsletters. Events are fun and the website is awesome but the vast majority of people won’t make that extra effort to get involved. Make it so that they can get involved as easily as possible. Petitions and form letters to congress (both sourced and marketed through the Internet) are two easy steps CRA can take that will get people involved without requiring reluctant members to expend too much energy. Membership is important (money and numbers) but it is useless unless CRA can properly wield that power.
- Partner with groups outside of the cigar industry. There is an anti-tax and anti-regulation groundswell fomenting in America right now (actually, Americans are usually anti-tax and anti-regulation except for those rare occurrences when the financial system and the housing market collapses. But I digress). Seize upon this opportunity to partner up with these kinds of groups because two dozen groups fighting regulations is better than one. Some obvious partners would be business, anti-tax, libertarian and/or conservative groups. By becoming a part of a coalition the message will get watered down but it will nevertheless be more forceful because the more voters against legislation there are the more reticent politicians will be to say “Yea” to a bill that tramples upon our rights. One word of warning, be wary of the large tobacco companies like Phillip Morris (Altria). They actually lobby for many of the regulations and taxes directed at tobacco companies because these regulations and taxes build up a barrier against smaller tobacco concerns (like cigars).
- Get a better blog because the one you have now is horrendous. If you want, I can set you up with a snazzy new blog in a couple of hours that has some decent SEO qualities to it. More likely, you will need to hire a professional who can build you a fully optimized blog, which I can also hook you up with since my day job is as a business consultant in this area (shameless self-promotion). But you guys are going to have to do the work, which means blogging more than once a month (as of this writing CRA’s last post was August 6). This is a digital world that we live in and if your blog isn’t up to snuff then you might as well not exist.
- Take some time to follow your Tweeps on Twitter, it doesn’t take much effort. Twitter is one of those awesome little things that everyone uses now so there really isn’t an excuse for not posting updates daily. Most of your tweets can even be automated. 235 followers on Twitter is pathetic, you can do so much better. Maybe you could get your Executives and Board Members to tweet (and blog). Every other industry has executives doing this, it’s time the cigar industry has the same kind of representation on the Internet.
- Promote the heck out of your accomplishments (this idea was stolen from Brian Hewitt’s post on CRA’s Facebook wall). If you aren’t going to shout from the mountaintops about what you are doing and what you have done then others will eventually lose interest. Be shameless in your self promotion. Highlight CRA’s weekly events (of which there are many) in your kick-ass new blog. Tweet about every accomplishment you have made no matter how trivial. Do interviews with cigar bloggers, newspapers, magazines and news shows whenever possible. Heck, have your Board Members do some interviews as well. Putting yourself out there will promote our cause and will increase membership.
- Get politicians on board. There are a ton of politicians out there who smoke cigars. You probably can’t walk ten feet in Miami before you run into one. Governor Schwarzenegger put up a tent so he could smoke cigars while holding court with his vast array of functionaries. The cliche about having friends in high places is true; having more politicians supporting CRA can only be a good thing.
CRA is off to a good start and movements like these take a lot of time before they reach alarge enough magnitude to really affect change. I signed up for the cool cigars but I bet I will be getting more involved as time rolls on. If you have not yet signed up you should go over to CRA’s website and take a gander at those special cigars. Join now to get access to those smokes while it is still legal to buy them in the United States.