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Speaking broadly but locally, I'm kind of shocked at how little the local community knows about scouting.

Got back from a National Night Out event tonight where our Pack had a booth set up. We got so many questions from kids and parents about programs for older kids, middle and high school age. We have 3 troops in town. And yet seemingly no one knows about them.

None of the troops have any social media presence, 2 don't even have a website. The 3rd has a website with pretty much nothing on it.

In doing some searching around online, I'm finding that very few troops in my area have much of any online presence. Offline, they aren't very visible either. No troops attended today's community event. None hold any kind of open house or sign-up night events. And so finding info about the local Scouts BSA offerings is pretty limited. No wonder people don't even know we have troops in town.

Not to mention that people don't know what they do. Folks around here, including some already in Cub Scouts, have no idea that Scouts BSA troops in our area do things like Philmont, Northern Tier, and Sea Base. They think we just go camping once in a while and sell poinsettias around the holidays. I'm convinced that some parents IN the troop don't even know exactly what the troop does sometimes, because parents are discouraged from hanging around so they drop off their kid and leave, and since there is zero online presence to even share photos of recent activities, everything is happening in a bubble. The community knows very little about local scouting, or that local scouts go off on amazing adventures around the country.

I think this is terrible. Scouting should be visible, online and offline, throughout the community. We aren't very good at marketing ourselves, and this is made more glaringly obvious when Cub Scout Packs have to carry the load and tell people that the town Troops even exist. I don't think troops should be relying solely on Packs to feed new scouts into them, and yet that seems to be exactly how troops here view this.

I guess this is partially a rant but I also hope this can be constructive discussion and idea-sharing conversation. What does local scouting marketing and community awareness look like in your area? Does your troop share info with the community or do any outreach? Is recruiting in scouting beyond Cub Scouts a waste of time for troops to invest much effort into?

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There was a post in a BSA subreddit recently where some girls in a troop shared photos of them having fun on recent outings, including goofy faces and sticking out tongues. The photos were criticized

Great insight.  Reflect on the scout law and the values we want to teach.  We don't want to teach our scouts to look down on others.  Why would we want our marketing to lift scouting up by looking dow

We've had that discussion as well.  A constructive discussion needs both good ideas and also the hard realities. The latter is brutal. My council doesn’t have the faintest idea how to market what

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Yep.  I agree  with everything you note.   

All Scouting is Local, after all, but that does not mean thatthe local Council and Nashunal shouldn't be putting stuff out on TV, , Facebook, etc.  

If nameless couples can get traction telling stupid jokes, why can't various Scout folks do various videos. Even recycling oldies but goodies :  

 

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7 hours ago, FireStone said:

I guess this is partially a rant but I also hope this can be constructive discussion and idea-sharing conversation. What does local scouting marketing and community awareness look like in your area? Does your troop share info with the community or do any outreach? Is recruiting in scouting beyond Cub Scouts a waste of time for troops to invest much effort into?

Local scouting marketing is almost nonexistent.  Nothing reaches parents from National or our Local Council.  Few Troops/Packs advertise outside yard signs during recruiting. 

When I was Committee Chair of my pack, I spent a lot of time on Facebook and a bit on Twitter.  I promoted my Facebook join scouts night and advertised in our town's rec guide.  However, most of that had minimal impact.  Outside having social media presence posting pictures, I wouldn't waste much time there.  The best recruiting, we had was when we had a popular mom in a grade hand out flyers to all the other moms in that grade.  She recruited 30+ Lions that year.  My other good recruiting year is when I emailed nearly all parents in the school and let them know about scouts.  However, I was scolded by the PTO as I wasn't supposed to use the email list for that purpose.  

I still have an idea of an annual youth organization expo day.  Basically, we rent out our local gym and let all local youth organizations attend.  Girl scouts, boy scouts, soccer, baseball, tutors, music groups, etc.  Parents/youth attend to see what is available.  I've talked with parents and there is a lot of interest.  As a parent, I can tell you it is overwhelming.  There are so many clubs, organizations, etc. for kids to join, it is tough to keep track.  

Finally, I do agree that Troops can recruit as well.  We have talked about it a lot; however, all of our volunteers are burnt out given existing roles.  While it would be great to see more youth in our Troop, we barely get enough volunteer support to get camp sites reserved, collect health forms, support fundraising, etc.  

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I maintain a FB page for our Girl Troop.  I post pictures and a description AFTER our events and share to the local community FB pages as well as the District and Council FB pages.  I usually make a post on major holidays.  Just this week I posted the new recruiting flyer I made up.

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14 minutes ago, FireStone said:

We need Mike Rowe in some nationwide BSA ads. 😁

Perhaps before we even begin talking about a marketing issue, I think we need to determine if we have a product issue.

While I don't agree with everything Mike says here, I think he makes many valid points.  

Off The Wall: Death of the Boy Scouts? – Mike Rowe

I don't want to hijack this thread, but if the product is stale and lacks relevance, no amount of marketing will make a big impact.

When I transferred my CC role to the new volunteer, I met several hours discussing various aspects of the Pack.  His feedback to me ... scouting means a lot more to you than anyone else in this Pack.  Most parents and youth see it as a nice activity, but family, sports and school rank much higher than scouts.  So, if it is really this much work, most parents would be fine seeing the Pack die before putting in the effort you did. 

So, how does scouts move up that ranking and be equivalent to at least sports?  Marketing could help ... but I think relooking at the program and the role scouting can play in the 21st century is probably a better start.  From G2SS to  merit badge requirements, ranks, uniforms, etc.  what does a 21st century scouting organization look like?  What can be expected of volunteers?  Then, where to get volunteers as I'm not sure the current model works well.

Mike Rowe brings up a lot of good points and perhaps that is a good starting point.  

 

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53 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

When I was Committee Chair of my pack, I spent a lot of time on Facebook and a bit on Twitter.  I promoted my Facebook join scouts night and advertised in our town's rec guide.  However, most of that had minimal impact.  Outside having social media presence posting pictures, I wouldn't waste much time there.  The best recruiting, we had was when we had a popular mom in a grade hand out flyers to all the other moms in that grade.  She recruited 30+ Lions that year.  My other good recruiting year is when I emailed nearly all parents in the school and let them know about scouts.  However, I was scolded by the PTO as I wasn't supposed to use the email list for that purpose. 

Pre-covid we had increasing resistance to getting printed flyers into schools. Principals and the Superintendent frequently rejected requests to distribute flyers, even though it was our #1 marketing tool for a long time. Post-covid, it's even worse, because during covid the schools moved completely away from any sheets of paper changing hands, and school communications went 100% digital.

So we are sort of forced now to lean on social media more than ever. What I'm trying to figure out is what form of social media reaches families the best. Which platform(s), what formats, photos, videos, etc.

That and what community events can we attend, how can we be more visible in town. And that especially is where I think troops are not exactly pulling their weight. When there is a venue to show off what scouting is about, it shouldn't be all Cub Scouts showing off Pinewood Derby cars and family camping. I'd like to see troops there showing off pictures of their recent Sea Base trip or a backpack full of gear.

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Without naming names, a close friend worked in the local AT&T marketing department. He loved scouting and offered to give the council as $20,000 free newspaper advertising. I learned this from overhearing another friend in the same church who was in charge of the Council marketing complain that my other friends offer was an ego trip for him, so he turned it down. The irony was both wanted some credit and the field director wasn’t willing. Small minds lead small ideas.

Another year our council decided to streamline the Scouting For Food drive by having the scouts stick the SFF bags in mailboxes with a note that a scout would pick up the bags the next Saturday. The idea was units can cover more territory in less time. I was on the district committee and I told them during our meeting that the change was terrible for scouting exposure to the community. SFF was the one activity that just about everyone in the community got to personally meet, shake hands, and talk to a scout. The cut little Cub Scouts were an especially big hit. I also said that donations would likely drop 50% (just a guess but I needed leverage), and the Council’s change required two volunteer weekends instead of one. District decided to try the council’s change and from the council’s perspective, donations dropped almost 80%. Small minds lead to small ideas.

Scouting is ripe for marketing but nobody takes it seriously, especially the pros. As a scout, my neighbors met me at least twice a year when I approached them for fundraising and Selling Scouting fair tickets. I know times have changed but there isn’t even a thought about. I once proposed our district talk to local car dealer or shopping center to do the District Pinewood Derby. How many people would stop to watch. Boy Scouts are cool, but people love to watch cut little Cub Scouts.

I once suggested we do a Camparee at the local park and have all the troops back pack in from the CO. Can you imagine Boy Scouts backpacking all over town.

Scouting is an outdoor organization. It should be easy to get exposure.

We have small minds.

Thanks SSScout, I love that rescue video and was looking for it.

Barry

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2 minutes ago, FireStone said:

We need Mike Rowe in some nationwide BSA ads. 😁

We've had that discussion as well. 

A constructive discussion needs both good ideas and also the hard realities. The latter is brutal. My council doesn’t have the faintest idea how to market what they have and they at least had a full time marketing person. National is worse off. That leaves everything local. First, the target audience. It's true they don't know much about scouts. They also don't know much about their neighbors or community. So much advertising is being pushed to them the default is to turn it all off. At the same time units are desperate for volunteers, adding more jobs won't be an easy sell.

This is what I did and it worked. We had a website. It was nothing exotic. It had enough search terms built in that the search engines found it if someone was looking for a troop in my town. That is a static, one time job, that someone else did before me. It had some dynamic info about events and calendars that the scouts used. More importantly it showed that the troop was active. Calendar modules make that easy. However, the most important part, when it came to attracting scouts, was a bunch of pictures showing scouts having fun. Not classroom settings, not meetings, not even flag ceremonies - but fun in the outdoors. Scouts on rocks, in kayaks, around a fire, stupid grins, dutch oven cakes, hiking up a mountain, repelling down a mountain. Everything that people imagine when they hear the term scouting.

For parents that were looking they would find us. After that we pushed being friendly to visitors and having a fun program with the right challenges. The program has to be there. The additional part is the photos.

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55 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

Perhaps before we even begin talking about a marketing issue, I think we need to determine if we have a product issue.

While I don't agree with everything Mike says here, I think he makes many valid points.  

Off The Wall: Death of the Boy Scouts? – Mike Rowe

I don't want to hijack this thread, but if the product is stale and lacks relevance, no amount of marketing will make a big impact...

The product is solid, I think. From the conversations I have with new families, what we offer is exactly what they are looking for. Just yesterday alone I answered questions about how often does the Pack go camping, hiking, how do we foster independence among the scouts, teach them to be more self-reliant, become better problem-solvers, etc. That's what parents are looking for, what some of them specifically asked me about yesterday, and our product is exactly those things that they are looking for.

I might argue that the appearance of the product has grown somewhat stale. It looks a little stuffy sometimes, the uniforming, parade marches, ceremonies, it has some military flair that I think appeals to some families but less so than the spirit of adventure and fun that we try to sell. The stuff that works, the stuff families sign up for, we do that stuff very well.

I think we just to a pretty bad job of getting people to know that we do those things, and that unless they actually seek us out and directly ask about those things, they would otherwise have no idea what local scouting really is.

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43 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

Perhaps before we even begin talking about a marketing issue, I think we need to determine if we have a product issue. ...   Most parents and youth see it as a nice activity, but family, sports and school rank much higher than scouts. ... Mike Rowe brings up a lot of good points and perhaps that is a good starting point.  

Hmmm ... I read the Mike Rowe article.   Yep.  Fully agree.   ...  Standing up to aversity instead of providing a safe space.  ... Speaking as a parent (not a leader), I would have supported my son's troop having a boxing ring to resolve arguments.  It's a very important memory from my son's boot camp experience.  He was able to call out someone who did him wrong and they addressed it then and there.  ...  I would not have the skill to run it, but I could see that being valuable.  My goal for my son's scouting experience was to get them out of their comfort zone and do new, harder things.  I often describe it as experiencing canoe camping or bad weather or other outdoor challenges.  Well, there is also the need for standing up for yourself and facing adversity.  And yes also adversity in the face of another person.  

Marketing?  I agree.  Parents are aware of scouting.  Marketing could always improve and scouting misses standing in front of 2nd grade class rooms and show pinewood derby cars to recruit scouts.  But the real issue is the product.  Even scouters are confused on it's value.  Baseball, football, etc have clean statements of why they exist.  I'm not sure scouters always know why scouting exists.  

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4 minutes ago, FireStone said:

The product is solid, I think. From the conversations I have with new families, what we offer is exactly what they are looking for. Just yesterday alone I answered questions about how often does the Pack go camping, hiking, how do we foster independence among the scouts, teach them to be more self-reliant, become better problem-solvers, etc. That's what parents are looking for, what some of them specifically asked me about yesterday, and our product is exactly those things that they are looking for.

I might argue that the appearance of the product has grown somewhat stale. It looks a little stuffy sometimes, the uniforming, parade marches, ceremonies, it has some military flair that I think appeals to some families but less so than the spirit of adventure and fun that we try to sell. The stuff that works, the stuff families sign up for, we do that stuff very well.

I think we just to a pretty bad job of getting people to know that we do those things, and that unless they actually seek us out and directly ask about those things, they would otherwise have no idea what local scouting really is.

Agree.  Parents are looking for the outdoors, adversity, etc.   Not many parents crave the standing at attention uniforming anymore.  

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