Marketing Unit as a Method of Scouting

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In the last several articles, we have considered seven-touch marketing and social media as methods of marketing your unit and recruiting new scouts. This is leading up to the February Roundtable with Unit Commissioner Andrew Linden discussing social media marketing.

Marketing can be done on paper, on the internet, or in person. Let’s focus on the power of in-person marketing.

The best salesman for scouting to a young boy is his best friend, who is already a scout. Baden Powell set up scouting as an opportunity for boys to naturally gravitate into their preferred social group — a group of 5-7 boys with similar interests. In his book Scoutmastership (1920) he explains that scouting uses this natural tendency to teach character.

As the Boy Scouts of America built its system, it developed a list of methods that scouters are encouraged to use to develop character in boys and girls. One of those methods is “Adult Association,” which is described as “Boys learn from the example set by their adult leaders. An association with adults of high character is encouraged at this stage of a young man’s development.”

Imagine your son has wonderful camping experience and wants to tell everyone about it. You hear him telling his friend within earshot of the friend’s mother. Maybe he is describing rappelling.

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REMINDER: District Committee Meeting

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Our February District Committee Meeting will be Thursday 7:00 pm at Second Presbyterian Church, 7100 N Meridian St, 4th Floor, Indianapolis, IN 46260.

We hope to see you there!

Marketing your Pack or Troop

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One of the biggest mistakes that many units make is that they rely on new members to simply appear.

Recruitment is not a magic act. New scouts will not just appear. They join. They need to believe in the unit they are joining. They need to feel an emotional bond with the pack or troop.

Recruitment is a conscious and planned effort to have new scouts . . . and their parents . . . feel an emotional bond with the pack or troop.

Experts in marketing often recite the refrain of requiring “Seven Touches.” (It is so fundamental that whole marketing companies are named for the concept.) The concept is that a person will not build trust with any person, group, or organization without having had seven opportunities to learn about it.

What do those seven opportunities look like?

These seven opportunities vary widely in character. They can include a mailed flyer, a scout in uniform waving from across the street, a casual story about weekend activities with a friend or business associate, a simple conversation about scheduling conflicts, an email, a Facebook or social media posting, public webpages, placing information on http://www.BeAScout.org, paid advertisements, a follow-up phone call, a thank you note to a visitor, face-to-face networking, a table at a community event, etc.

Unfortunately most scouting units do none of these. They don’t use social media. They don’t update their profile on http://www.BeAScout.org. They don’t encourage members and adults to tell stories about their scouting adventures to friends and family.

This failure to tell the scouting story is a phenomenon that has grown progressively worse over the decades.

I grew up in scouting in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Following the publication of the 1972 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, there was an attempt for scouts in uniform to hide their participation in scouting from the outside world. The post-1960’s mindset disliked soldiers and police in uniform. The theory was that scouts in uniform were not viewed favorably by association with adults in uniform. The BSA did not emphasize uniforms or broad publicity. They relied on the Norman Rockwell paintings and good feelings from parents as veteran scouts.

As a result we have nearly two generations of scouters and scouts who don’t like to tell their story in public.

What was the past experience of publicity about scouting?

Star Column on scouting
Column header in Indianapolis Star, pg. 11 (May 10, 1918)

From about 1912 to 1933, both the Indianapolis Star (daily morning paper) and Indianapolis News (daily evening paper) ran a weekly column on scouting. Essentially it was the weekly newsletter of the Indianapolis Council. The result of this column was that the entire Indianapolis readership was exposed to scouting.

In other sections of the paper, reports of scout troop activities and fundraisers would be listed. Often troops or district like our own North Star District would advertise upcoming fundraisers like “yard parties.” The most surprising part of these scout reports is the inter-troop competitions, like basketball games, would be reported in a manner similar to modern high school basketball box scores.

Now imagine a young boy and his parents. With the regular newspaper placements and publicly prominent events involving scouts, do you imagine that the troops needed to work very hard to explaining what scouts do?

I would imagine that the excitement came naturally. The young boy and his parents already had enough information to ask informed questions. Young mothers in 1931 had brothers or male cousins who had been scouts, so they had experienced a scout’s home life.

Post-1972 scouting suffers from a lack of information among its target audience. Many young mothers and fathers have no relatives who were scouts. They have pre-conceived ideas about what is scouting.

The problem is compounded because of scouting’s history of being perceived as a middle-class activity. People who grew up with lower incomes or in foreign countries may know even less about BSA activities.

Foreign-born parents may presume BSA units are more like units at home. For families from India, one of mother tells me, scouting is associated with wealthier families and learning military organizational skills. Some Latin American countries have similar expectations.

A pack or troop hoping to recruit a new scout first has to unravel many myths before new stories have accurate meaning for these young mothers and fathers.

Yet instead of unraveling these myths or inaccurate mental images, many scouts and their parents are afraid to tell friends and families that they are in scouts. “Being a boy scout” is often treated as an insult.

Consequently, our packs and troops need to find a way to persuade uninformed families how scouting would serve their scouts and parents well.

Having seven repeated opportunities to change scouting’s image allows a prospective scout to be persuaded in small doses over a longer period of time. A smiling scout in uniform at the McDonald’s may be contact no. 1. A Facebook picture of another scout in uniform laughing from the end of rappelling rope may be contact no. 2. A sign posted in the yard inviting the neighborhood to a sign-up night may be contact no. 3. A YouTube video of an Eagle Scout Court of Honor may be contact no. 4. A mention of scouting at a Scout Sunday service may be contact no. 5. A sign-up table at the school may be contact no. 6. A visit to the pack or troop meeting may be contact no. 7.

The Cubmaster or Scoutmaster may feel like a master salesman in persuading the new scout to join on the scout’s first visit. Yet, the sale on scouting was not made at the meeting.

The sale was made in seven separate pieces.

In the modern era, scouting rarely serves as the neighborhood little league, except in Varsity Teams (scouts aged 14-18 and focusing on sports). Consequently, scouting now competes with little league.

The seven-touch marketing method helps to allow scouting to move to the front of the prospective scouts’ and his parents’ minds amid the clutter of other extracurricular activities.

The successful scouting unit will consciously make these communications and opportunities to touch prospective scouts quietly. The unit will create and maintain a social media presence on Facebook (come see Unit Commissioner Andrew Linden at the February Roundtable lead a discussion on social media; details below). The unit will encourage families to post pictures of scouting adventures on social media and link to the unit’s social media page. The unit will encourage scouts to tell their scouting stories at dinners or holidays to the family, including younger brothers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, etc. The unit will encourage parents to visit weekend activities and to share their experiences with their co-workers.

Then when sign-up night comes around or a young boy is curious about scouting, the decision to join is simpler and faster. The scout is more likely to be retained.

To be able to make these conscious plans takes organization and some knowledge of the internet. Roundtables will be teaching some of the skills that you need to build a successful seven touch marketing plan.

Come to the February Roundtable at Luke’s Lodge, the outbuilding on the northeast corner of the campus of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 W. 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260. Unit Commissioner Andrew Linden will lead a discussion of effective use of social media as part of this seven-touch marketing.

In late April 2016, Council will announce its Fall 2016 marketing strategy. Be Prepared to integrate your unit’s social media efforts into Council strategy.

Scout Sunday: Feb 7, 2016

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This Sunday is Scout Sunday. Hopefully your unit has made some plans to participate. If not, it is not too late. Simply  

 having your boys agreed to attend one service together in uniform, regardless of denomination is a major contribution. A small contingent in uniform is usually The desirable enough target that any minister would want to recognize the group from the pulpit.

Another alternative is to work hand in hand with the pastor to become an integral part of the service. It may be a simple matter of greeting attendees. It may be helping the ushers. In any case, the idea is to be a participant in the service.Similar ideas can be done for Scout Shabbat for members of synagogues.

To learn more, see the link to Bryan on Scouting.

Social Media for your Unit

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By Andrew Linden, Unit Commissioner

Are you tired of continuously explaining to parents, relatives, neighbors, and strangers, the kinds of things your child does–and you, as a volunteer, do–in the scouts? Maybe you don’t mind giving the same spiel over and over again, but, are you any good at it? That is, are you truly able to convey the breadth of the BSA program in just a two-minute sales pitch?

Well, one great way to alleviate any of these potential issues is to create and maintain a unit page on a social media outlet and let the published material do the talking for you. If your unit doesn’t have a presence on social media, Facebook is a good place to start. Nowadays, the terms, ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, and ‘Instagram’, are such common words in daily conversation, chances are, you probably know very few people who do not have a personal account on social media. As social beings, we gravitate towards social cyberspace to see what our social circles are up to, and what interesting things companies and organizations post. My point is, social media is the perfect forum to market your unit and paint the picture that verbal speech cannot express.

There are many other advantages for units to have a social media account other than for marketing purposes. Such reasons may be: a secondary method of dispersing information (besides email and phone calls/texts), and keeping in touch with alumni, for example. A social media platform such as Facebook is a great way to publish reminders on important dates, and upcoming events and/or trips. Throughout time, as individuals age out of the scouting program, a social media unit account can be a good way for those individuals to stay connected with the unit. Conversely, it may also be a great way for the unit to stay connected to their former scouts, and later highlight those who have gone on to do productive things in their lives–showing younger generations of parents that getting their child involved in scouting can have a positive impact on their child’s life.

The take-away here is: your unit has a story to tell. So tell it! Take advantage of what social media has to offer, and use it to your unit’s advantage!

This is a preview of what Andrew will share with us at the next Roundtable on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm (Andrew will talk closer to 7 pm after general session and news) at St Luke’s UMC’s outbuilding Luke’s Lodge, first floor, 100 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260.

Winner of the Coveted Willie Award

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The winner of the North Star District Willie Award for Best Campsite is Troop 69!

   

Senior Patrol Leader is Reese P. 

 

Winners of the Inaugural Polaris Award for Patrol Competition 

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To recognize and memorialize the best patrol in competitions, the District is inaugurating a new award:the Polaris Award. The new plaque will travel with each new patrol listed and photographed.

The winner of the inaugural Polaris Award is Troop 56’s Elemental Patrol.

   
Members of Elemental are Sam R., Luke E., Will S., and Matthew H.

The phantom is the newest ASM and patrol advisor Cullen B. 

Scenes from Winter Camporee 2016

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New Scout Handbook is Released

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The new scout handbook (2016 ed.) has finally been released. Take a look at it here.