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dkurtenbach

Changing BSA's Image

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Controversies, scandal, significant membership loss, irrelevance . . . Scouting, that is, the Boy Scouts of America, has been taking a lot of hits, with no relief in sight.  With the loss of the LDS Church and talk of bankruptcy, BSA certainly looks like it is on the ropes.  BSA's character-based pitches ring hollow given the sex abuse scandal and reversal of its moral stand.  Its uniforms seem . . . quaint (sashes? really?) as do some of its other program elements (merit badges, Tenderfoot rank, knot tying).  And its marketing is uninspired (Scout Me In, Prepared for Life).  How can we retake the initiative?  Reshape the image of Scouts and Scouting as dynamic, contemporary, and/or absolutely necessary for America's future?  And since changes to the program itself (1) are unnecessary, and (2) make us look desperate, how do we change our image without any more changes to the program?  What can we say or do that is short, simple, clear, and powerful, and works at every level from a Scout leader talking to a parent at a school night to a national marketing campaign.  How do we tell people that whether they know it or not, they need Scouting.  Again:  Dynamic, contemporary, and/or absolutely necessary for America's future.

Just some initial thoughts:

  1. Scouts save lives.
  2. Scouts are saving the planet.
  3. The more Scouts we have, the more America we can fix.
  4. Scouts step up when others step back.
  5. Scouts are America's guardian angels.
  6. Scouts will do what needs to be done.
  7. Keep a Scout close by for emergencies.
  8. If you need to light a fire, you know who to call.
  9. Everyone wants them, but America needs them.
  10. Scouts can do what most people can't.
  11. Scouts keep going when other people give up.
  12. The Scouts of today are the heroes of tomorrow.
  13. When the lights go out, you'll wish you had a Scout.
  14. A Scout will get you there.
  15. You'll sleep better at night knowing that Scouts are out there.
  16. When you have a Scout, the fire never goes out.
  17. Sometimes it just takes a Scout.
  18. Scouts do more - because they can.
  19. [Girls] [boys] who are Scouts today are the ____________s we need tomorrow.
  20. Don't worry - [his] [her] roommate is a Scout.

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2 hours ago, ianwilkins said:

Sorry, but It's going to take more than a new slogan, however good that new slogan might be.

That’s right.  We need two things:

- An attitude of absolute confidence, enthusiasm, and conviction universally shared among our members and families. But that’s not going to be based on our organization, which is pretty shaky right now.  Instead, our swagger will be based on the abilities and achievements of the young people who come out of our programs and the unit Scouters who produce them.

- A clear, simple, understandable, focused message:  Scouts change the world.

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Yes. But a marketing program and strategy is necessary to deliver the message. In the early days, books and comics abounded. Written by scouters, but allowed by BSA. Scouting was part of kids entertainment. In these times, kids use youtube, and other social media. To attract them, there needs to be content. Not "how to tie a bowline" content, but the fun and adventures which have the outdoor skills embedded. Also, not to focus entirely on the "super high adventure", but on more everyday scouting activities. A regular campout, not philmont. At least the proportions should be an accurate reflection.

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While almost all recruiting is at the local unit level (and the unit has to be able to close the deal), we have to soften up the target audience so they will have a favorable view of Scouts, will see Scout skills and abilities as relevant and practical, and will be able to imagine their child changing the world because of what he or she learned as a Scout.  That is where marketing program and strategy come in, it seems to me.

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45 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

@DuctTape made another important point:  youth need to be able to imagine themselves as heroes because of what they will learn in Scouts.

I always liked the "Don't judge the hero by the size of his cape" picture as a marketing tool.

Maybe do another marketing campaign similar the one they did a few years ago, with the cape and dirty scout etc. I thought it to be really clever and pardon the term "cute". 

 

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As I recall, back in the 70's BSA was hard on the ropes due to an unpopular war, declining numbers, a negative image and program changes that the rank and file were unprepared for. But, overtime National was able to save it's self.  The waters may be rough, but the ship is still afloat.  I've a feeling it's still too early for the eulogy, and that the storm can be endured...

Edited by le Voyageur
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6 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

Bottom up and scout-driven. All Scouting is local.

Provide an adventurous, scout-run scouting program in our units and our enthused scouts will spread the word.  

My $0.02,

I fully agree with the exception that we should stop talking about "scout-run".  "Scout-run" should be for the adult training and part of the internal philosophy of training.  But for the "scouts", I just don't think they really care at all about "scout run" or "adult run".  They want adventures and to hang with their friends.  Beyond that, "scout-run" is an argument 98% involving only over-passionate adults.  I fully agree with the ideas of "scout run".  I just think the results of our obsession with it is part of the reason we have an image issue.  

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4 hours ago, DuctTape said:

Yes. But a marketing program and strategy is necessary to deliver the message. In the early days, books and comics abounded. Written by scouters, but allowed by BSA. Scouting was part of kids entertainment. In these times, kids use youtube, and other social media. To attract them, there needs to be content. Not "how to tie a bowline" content, but the fun and adventures which have the outdoor skills embedded. Also, not to focus entirely on the "super high adventure", but on more everyday scouting activities. A regular campout, not philmont. At least the proportions should be an accurate reflection.

Agreed.

The BSA is far from sinking.  There's still over a million kids in Scouting and there are thousands of awesome packs & troops out there.

Yet, if we want to talk about this in the context of righting the ship and growing again, the BSA needs to make some behavioral changes before any marketing campaign will help.

  
First - The BSA needs to be out there talking about doing stuff.  Either the national leaders or some sort of spokesperson need to be out there constantly highlighting program.  The image of the BSA needs to be one of active people out there doing stuff, not of Scouts in a church basement holding a ceremony.

Second - The BSA needs to align it's professional organization around program operations.  The organization is too centered on growth and fundraising.  We all know that strong unit programs drive membership.  So - the single best thing that BSA can do is to focus on supporting units in building strong unit programs.  

Third - The BSA needs to have a concerted effort to put volunteers in charge.  I love our professionals and appreciate what they do.  But the BSA at it's core is a volunteer driven organization.  Professionals have an invaluable role, but it's not to run the program.  No volunteer should ever be going to a professional to ask if they can do something.  Similarly, the BSA needs to stop looking to Scout Executives as the chief Scout in a council.  My recommendation: make either the council president or council commissioner responsible for all program & financial decisions in a council.  In fact, I'd change one of their titles to Chief Scout.

I make this point because the issue in the BSA isn't a slogan or slick marketing campaign.  For the BSA to grow, it will take lots of people - national marketing, local marketing, local volunteers running great programs spreading the word about Scouting.  Right now we're all not aligned on the problem.  Unit volunteers do one thing, local professionals another, national staff another.  It's all very confused.  

Edited by ParkMan
expanded the thought

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Oh, I don't know.   I visited my home Troop ( dates back to when I was a paleo Scout) and now Commish, last night and met a new parent. The Scouts were all busy, and I asked him which was his? He pointed out the lad, and in our conversation said the boy had just upped and asked to become a Scout.  Had he been in Cub Scouts?  No. Had the dad been a Scout?  Only up to First Class, his family had moved around a lot.  How did the boy (sixth grade) come to want to join the Troop?  Dad said he thought it was because of a friend, but he wasn't sure.  

The allure of Scouting is out there, whatever it is.   

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After taking a hard and professional look at everything going on and all the problems we are facing.

 

I think we're going to need more popcorn. 

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