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Exploiting the advantages of a changing social environment

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In the previous column we looked at some of the advantages and challenges that a changing social environment presents to nudism. In this piece we will look at some of the ways naturists and nudists might proactively exploit the potential advantages.

Harness the advantages of the Internet

In many respects the naturist and nudist community is doing many good things with the advantages the Internet provides with regard to communicating the cultural narrative of nudism. There are more talented writers creating and publishing timely, accurate and credible information about the culture on websites and blogs than ever before. Their efforts are now starting to be rewarded with better search engine rankings.

Just as the pornography industry took advantage of gains won in the courts by nudists in the realm of print publications to establish the pornography industry and to successfully commercialize nudity and sex, for years they have done something similar in the digital space. Until relatively recently it has been necessary to wade through page after page of pornography links when searching the Internet for nudist and naturist information. This is beginning to change. While more improvement is necessary, this does illustrate one way naturist and nudist web content providers have taken good advantage of the digital platform.

The one disadvantage in the nudist and naturist web presence is that the information tends to primarily reach only those actively involved or interested in nudism. More needs to be done in outreach efforts directed at those not necessarily searching for information related to nudism but who might be willing to read it if it came to their attention and engaged them. This might be accomplished by finding and taking advantage of opportunities to publish content on mainstream media platforms. Some are doing this but not enough.

The national organizations really need to do a better job of leveraging the advantages of the Internet. Just as websites have become critically important to the success of businesses the same is true for organizations like those in the naturist and nudist community. The national organizations cannot afford to neglect their websites. Websites provide a first impression opportunity that has to be utilized to contribute to the growth of the organization.

A professional, well-designed website will convey to those exploring what nudism has to offer as well as to key constituents that the organization is worthy of their getting to know it better. A neglected website that is allowed to take on a dated look and that doesn't offer fast and intuitive navigation works against the organization. Organizations need to continuously monitor things like page rank especially with regard to basic search terms like naturist, naturism, nudist and nudism, as well as engagement metrics. It is also vital that organization website are technically current with things like RSS feeds and XML site maps and that they display well on all the new web browsers coming to market across all platforms.

Finally, a solid and active social media presence is today of nearly the same importance as having a professional, well-designed website. Social media offers an unprecedented opportunity for interactive engagement of those outside the naturist and nudist community.

Engaging those who don't necessarily embrace the philosophy but are interested in nude recreation

Some commercial nude recreation business concerns have made significant positive contributions to nudism by engaging those outside the culture by marketing upscale clothes-free vacationing. Bare Necessities Tour & Travel of Austin, Texas, and The Terra Cotta Inn of Palm Springs, California, are two excellent examples. While both of these businesses are friends of nudism they both have actively and successfully promoted the message that it isn't necessary to be a nudist or naturist to enjoy nude recreation.

Such an approach does likely recruit some new nudists and naturists from among those who have positive clothes-free vacation experiences but even more importantly the strategy neutralizes opposition to nudism by normalizing social nudity. The American Association for Nude Recreation has also been effective with its "Nakations" promotions effort which has helped to present clothes-free vacationing as a normal and viable leisure travel choice.

Here is an area where traditional family-friendly nudist and naturist landed clubs need to do more by marketing themselves to a similar target market, folks who don't necessarily embrace naturism and nudism as a philosophy but who are comfortable with nude recreation. Understandably clubs operated as a business want and deserve to make a profit. Selling annual memberships is the easiest means of having a predicable cash flow. Still perhaps it is time to stop focusing nearly exclusively on marketing annual memberships and taking what the current economic environment offers by giving people more flexibility when it comes to how to visit a club.

Baseball clubs in addition to traditional season ticket plans now offer "mini-season ticket" plans where fans who can't afford a full season ticket can buy a pass to 10 or 20 games. Nudist clubs could do something similar with mini-memberships by giving people the chance to purchase passes good for a set number of visits. Policies, which are common, where a person is only allowed 2-3 visits by paying day fees and then are told they have to purchase an annual membership if they want to continue visiting a club seem counter-productive. Mandatory annual memberships price many right out of the club experience. More innovative pricing strategies should be looked at. More "open house" events should also be planned and executed by nudist and naturist clubs to remove the perception of "secrecy" that often tends to exist within the surrounding communities.

Capitalize on mainstream media coverage of nudism

It is becoming more common to see media covering and presenting nudism in either a favorable light or at least with objectivity. Naturists and nudists should take note of that when it occurs in their local media and take time to let the media outlets know the fair and balanced coverage is appreciated. They should then share links to such coverage with social media followers and encourage them to do the same. That would make it more likely that nudism would get more frequent favorable mention.

On the opposite side of the coin, nudists and naturists need to stop taking it on the chin when it comes to negative media coverage. Recently a Virginia media outlet ran a news story under the headline, "Nudist to Face Grand Jury for Breaking and Entering." The report detailed the account of a Hispanic man arrested and charged for breaking and entering into homes in the middle of the night, dropping his pants and exposing himself to terrified females. The story of course had absolutely nothing to do with nudists or nudism.

The term "nudist" still shocks enough people that it attracts attention and the media banks on that shock value in getting more people to read their content than might otherwise do so. Any incident involving nudity or exposure is then predictably sensationalized by incorporating "nudist" in the headlines or bodies of the stories surrounding such incidents.

Using the Virginia example above, that media outlet given the current superficial politically correct environment wouldn't have even considered publishing a headline like "Illegal Mexican Immigrant to Face Grand Jury for Breaking and Entering" but obviously never gave a second thought to offending nudists with their slanderous and inaccurate headline. That behavior is nothing short of unprofessional and an example of bigotry. Nudists should start taking such media outlets to task. Bigoted mainstream media is largely responsible for making "nudist" a pejorative term and if nudists started complaining about the careless use of "nudist" by the media we might stop seeing it thrown around so freely in stories where it doesn't apply.

Selling the experiences

To close out the discussion regarding making maximum use of the advantages presented by changes in the social environment, it is important to touch on doing more to present nudism in terms of an experience. Nudist and naturist writers, as well as the national organizations tend to focus almost solely on the recreational aspect of the culture when there is so much more to talk about. Yes, being nude in nature is fun and feels great but there is so much more to it.

In German culture, nudism actually developed as a holistic health approach but for a number of reasons that aspect no longer seems to be a part of the narrative. In addition, a hot button issue today especially in feminist circles is the reality that women are sexually objectified. Yet little is being said about how nudism could effectively address that by normalizing the very body parts that are objectified and deemed sexually titillating.

Given the face-paced, stress-inducing lives people are living today, there is greater need than ever for leisure experiences that help people decompress and de-stress. It's difficult to imagine a healthier environment for such experiences than spending time being nude. The community needs to come up with innovative ways to communicate to the uninitiated the diversity of positive experiential opportunities available to those who choose to relax and recreate while nude.

Next time, ways to meet and overcome some of the challenges presented by the changing social environment will be the focus of our discussion.
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