From the Editor
Assistant Communication Director Jeff Sanders introduces the BJCP Bulletin, talks about the goals and principles behind the publication, and responds to your feedback.
Jeff Sanders, Assistant Communication Director
> The BJCP has been reviewing is in the process of implementing a new communications strategy to address the desire from its membership for greater communication on a more frequent basis
> The BJCP now has social media presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+
> The BJCP Bulletin will be released once a quarter to provide updates on the program, in-depth content on web site material, votes and discussions from the board, and more
> The BJCP Bulletin is distributed using a new email service funded by the BJCP, which will be available to board members to communicate with the membership on multiple efforts


By way of introduction, I’m Jeff Sanders, a Certified-level judge from Baltimore, MD, and the BJCP’s new Assistant Communication Director.

What you see before you is the first edition of the BJCP Bulletin. Nearly twenty years ago, the BJCP had a newsletter, the BJCP Reporter, sent out to its members via snail mail. Since then, the program has grown immensely, times have changed, and so have the means by which we all communicate.

I volunteered for this role with the desire of improving communications from the BJCP to its membership. I’ve judged myriad competitions since 2008, as well as run my own. I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about how the BJCP is run, as well as overwhelmingly negative. I decided to get involved at the 2013 National Homebrewers Conference in Philadelphia. At the BJCP’s annual members meeting (my first), during a Q&A session with the board, I noticed an underlying theme: communication.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”

At the meeting, questions surrounding the restructuring of the exam program, who is eligible to grade and the process for becoming a grader, when to expect updates to styles, and why it takes so long to get exam results were all briefly explained. Following the responses were frequent comments by many program members speaking and in the audience about how “it’s all on the web site.” I had the feeling that there was more to it.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve been given access “behind the curtain.” Allow me explain what I mean. There is a perception, by some members within our program, that the BJCP Board is a cloak-and-dagger “Council of Grandmasters,” that decisions are made without the input of the membership, and that the program is run by a select few unwilling to change because of the vast power they wield in their self-created titles and roles. I’m quite serious and fairly shocked.

After becoming an Officer, being granted access to various Board resources, and becoming an observer to how the BJCP is run, I’ve found those ideas to be untrue, and that the “curtain of access” is simply one of communication.

One Size Does Not Fit All

In early Fall 2013, after my appointment was finalized, I sent out a survey to ¼ of the BJCP’s membership surrounding a proposed newsletter. The survey was geared towards learning more about the content members would find valuable, but also the format and frequency that would provide the most value. There were some thought-provoking and varied comments, but by and large, it was clear that members want more communication on any wide variety of topics.

While some members would love communications as often as daily, others wouldn’t see any value in communication any more often than every six months. Some members seek out information on the web site, while others would prefer it be pushed to them. Some find lengthy whitepapers (such as the revisions to the exam program) too cumbersome and simply want the bullet points, while others revel in the details.

Communication Director Mike Dixon, President Gordon Strong, and I began an effort to develop a communications strategy based upon the survey input, as well as your input to your representatives.

The nature of communications has evolved. From snail-mailed paper newsletters, to online groups, to email, to web sites, to RSS-feeds, to social media, each of these mediums has provided a means to convey information. Maintaining and staying abreast of all of these mediums is too much work for simply one person (big kudos to Communication Director Mike Dixon for being able to do so, and maintain his sanity, for this long).

A Change in Direction

As many of you are aware, in 2007, former BJCP President and Treasurer William R. Slack was indicted on fraud charges after he absconded with funds from the BJCP’s treasury. These events were a major setback for the BJCP financially, but didn’t affect the morale of its volunteers. Changes were implemented to ensure such activities would be prevented in the future. While major financial setbacks may cause similar for-profit organizations to disband, the BJCP is used to its efforts being driven by the generosity of its members volunteering.

Since that time, the BJCP has focused on rebuilding itself financially and many other program improvements, but has been limited to improvements in its communications channels. As part of the newly refined Communications Strategy, changes are being made to more effectively communicate with the membership, and adapt and embrace changes in technology. The Board has also decided that with a better financial position, the BJCP can now afford to expend funds on resources, such as email services and web site content updates, among others.

While some of these changes (such as the web site), may be implemented by an outside company, the BJCP directly depends upon volunteer involvement. Currently there are three individuals (Mike Dixon, Jim Wilson, and I) providing support of all communications on a volunteer basis, while also maintaining our own personal lives and finding time to judge and grade.

The Exam Directorate has grown multi-fold over the past few years to address the high demand for graders. The CEP program has also grown to address increasing demand for quality education and resources. The Communication Directorate, however, has seen little or no growth while the demand for better and more frequent communication has risen.

We need volunteers. I can’t express that enough: we need volunteers.

If you are willing to volunteer, even on a very limited basis, we welcome your help. If you wish to contribute content to this newsletter, or help to moderate social media channels, we welcome your help. If you wish to be involved in creating templates, use your graphic arts skills, or have some other ideas for improving BJCP communications, we welcome your help.

A New Communications Strategy: What to Expect

The BJCP web site will continue to be the primary resource for BJCP members due to the vast amount of content it provides. The IT Directorate is working with a web site committee on changes to the underlying structure, moving the site from PHP-based simple HTML to a Wiki, forums, integration of other communication channels, and other capabilities. The underlying platform will likely shift as well from PHP to another framework that is simpler to update. The migration effort of content will also include the implementation of an information architecture, making the content more streamlined and easier to find. Expect these updates to be in place during calendar year 2014, continuing the full migration through early 2015. The BJCP web site will continue to be maintained by the IT Directorate, but its content will be regularly updated and maintain by a full or part-time resource (yet to be identified), for which the board will vote to allocate funds.

The BJCP Forums continue to be a popular forum for discussions between program members. While the forums provides similar discussion group capabilities as sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, its audience is limited to Program Members and those who have achieved at least the rank of Recognized. This is an important distinction between other sites as its participants can be guaranteed to have a working knowledge of the BJCP, judging, tasting, and the requirements to minimally achieve the Recognized rank. The contents of the BJCP Forums are also not public, and therefore members may often be more open and honest about their concerns, and also expect more frank replies. The frequency of content on the BJCP Forums depends upon the frequency of updates by its participants.

Within the realm of social media, the BJCP has recently expanded its presence to sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. As of this publication, the Communication Directorate would like to announce both a Google+ BJCP group and a Twitter feed (we are now moving into 2007 ;-) ). Social media continues to evolve, and with it comes challenges such as real-time moderation of content, and being able to address posts while also not speaking directly for the board. We will make every effort to address concerns and oversee posts in real-time, while also balancing the need for internal discussion amongst board members and to follow BJCP procedures for voting and representation.

Coming Full Circle: The BJCP Bulletin and Email Service

The BJCP Board voted to approve funding of a bulk emailing service for usage by the Communication Directorate (primarily) and the board. The BJCP Bulletin is the first in what will be several communications coming from the BJCP. We will be utilizing this service for elections, to inform members of the availability of education events and empty exam seats in their area, recruitment drives for graders, and so forth. The service, provided by GetResponse, provides the BJCP the ability to target messages based upon any number of factors: geography, rank, time with the BJCP, membership status, and so forth. Regional Representatives may also use the service to solicit feedback from their regions, and provide them updates.

The BJCP Bulletin will be sent out once per quarter (approximately every 90 days), and aligned with updates to the BJCP’s master database. The content in this edition of The BJCP Bulletin was selected based upon timeliness, relevance, and feedback from the survey. We would like to expand the size of the newsletter to include a broader range of topics and updates, but need volunteers to create/gather that content. Our membership has identified pages of topics they would like included; we simply need the volunteers to make it happen.

In Closing: Vote, Volunteer, and Voice

Remember, this year BJCP elections will take place for several regions. We have some of the lowest voter turnouts of any organization our size (4600+ members). Be sure you vote for the candidate that best represents how you want the program to be run. If none of them meet that criteria, consider running yourself.

Remember, the BJCP is a volunteer-run organization. If you want to help improve things, please step up, and volunteer your time. Have an idea for an application that would improve judging? Write it. Content and education you think would improve the quality of judging? Share it.

Getting involved starts with contacting your representative. Your representative is your voice to the whole of the BJCP. Gordon Strong, Al Boyce, and Joe Formanek are three Representatives who also serve as become Officers as per the terms of the BJCP by-laws. They are responsible for implementing the changes your representative votes to approve. When you do contact your representative, expect a dialogue. Why is this idea important to you? How would you see it changing? What resources could you or the BJCP bring to make these changes? There are funds and some resources available to implement changes, now. But just like any effort, there needs to a clear picture of how the effort will be accomplished.

Lastly, please, please, please keep your email address current, and nudge your fellow judges who don’t to update theirs.


I look forward to hearing from you and your feedback on this effort.


Jeff Sanders, Assistant Communication Director



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