Scouts Get the Spotlight
A Great Story to Tell
A strong recruiting program and a committee of media professionals are raising community awareness of Scouting in Rochester, New York.
With the help of a committee of media professionals recruited by council Vice President Carl Langsenkamp, back row, third from left, Scouts in the Otetiana Council are seeing themselves and their good deeds in the headlines more often.
"You can't just assume that kids are going to call you up and sign up for Scouting," notes Jay Quinn, president of the Otetiana Council in Rochester, New York. "You can't assume that a 6- or 7-year-old automatically knows about Scouting. You have to go after them. You have to take the initiative."
Quinn and fellow members of the Otetiana Council are taking that initiative with a strong recruiting program devoted to spreading the word about Scouting throughout the community. Recent marketing efforts geared toward youth membership have shown especially good returns. The council had a 26 percent increase in the number of youth members in the council; nationally, the council is in the 95th percentile for percentage of youth served; and today the council serves 30 percent of the youth in its area.
"If you line up a hundred kids in our area who are eligible for the program," explains Scout Executive Thomas Fitzgibbon, "30 of those kids are in Scouting today."
Much of the council's impressive recruitment has been achieved through available youth analysis, a technique which divides an area into smaller niches and determines the potential membership in each neighborhood.
Scout Executive Thomas Fitzgibbon is a strong supporter of the BSA strategic plan's marketing aspect.
"With available youth analysis, we determine the total available youth in a defined area and compare that to the number of Scouts we have active in the area," says Fitzgibbon. "Then we divide the number of kids active into the total available youth and get a percentage served."
Areas with a low percentage served can then be targeted by district committee members and district executives organizing new Scouting units.
"It's a terrific tool for district executives as they put together their annual action plan," notes Fitzgibbon. "It focuses right in on the communities that need to be priorities. District executives know within a several-block area exactly what the percentage of available youth is in a community, and this allows them to deploy their time more effectively. I think that is one of the reasons every one of our professional staff members has been in the Chief Scout Executive's Winner's Circle."
The council also reaches potential members through direct mail campaigns, newspaper advertisements, television spots, and a unique collaborative effort with the local Girl Scouts. "We synchronize and coordinate our School Night for Scouting so that it is literally a School Night for Scouting, for both boys and girls," says Quinn. Recruiting materials produced in cooperation with the Girl Scouts benefit the membership drives of both organizations.
Enthusiastic Scouts are often the program's best spokespeople. Media coverage of Otetiana Council Scouts has contributed to a 26 percent increase in the council's youth membership.
But the Otetiana Council is not just concerned with increasing membership. It is also letting potential volunteers and supporters in the community know about Scouting.
Getting the Scouting story to as many community members as possible is the goal of a recently formed council committee of 13 local media professionals recruited with the help of council Vice President Carl Langsenkamp. Each month, the volunteers on the committee meet with Langsenkamp to get an update on council events and suggest directions the council should take to drive awareness of the council within the community.
"We've gotten together a good mix of people who have strong backgrounds in advertising, media, and public relations, as well as marketing," says Langsenkamp. The committee members include public relations professionals from ad agencies, marketing people from local corporations, and reporters from the local newspaper and television stations.
"In this day and age, with the media trying to become more focused on their readers and viewers, you'll find they are more likely to allow some of their reporters or editors to sit on the boards of nonprofit groups, whereas previously this might have been considered a conflict of interest," Langsenkamp notes.
"We've been doing a phenomenal job of getting our key messages - such as Urban Scouting and Special Scouting - into big color articles in the local press," says Jay Quinn, council president. Andrew Osborn, a Special Scout with Down's syndrome who recently earned the Eagle Scout Award, was featured in one such article. Here he proudly stands between his mother, Pat, and his Scoutmaster, David Galunk.
In the months since the committee became active, the council has received a notable increase in media coverage.
"We've had at least four color feature stories in the last few months, all kid related," says Quinn. "We've been doing a phenomenal job of getting our key messages - such as Urban Scouting and Special Scouting - into big color articles in the local press."
One recent article featured the council's first Special Scout, a young man with Down's syndrome, receiving his Eagle Scout Award. "What a story," says Quinn. "What a great picture. The article included a discussion of what Scouting meant to him and what his accomplishments were. It got our message about Special Scouting out in a tremendous manner."
Continuing to spread its messages throughout the community is a top priority for the Otetiana Council. Building awareness will help determine the success of the council's upcoming capital endowment campaign. It will help fill the council's world-class Cub Scout camp at a record pace, and it will help build excitement about the new Boy Scout camp in the Adirondacks, scheduled to open in the year 2000.
"We've got great messages and a great story to tell," says Quinn. "We just have to keep sending out the positive messages. Everything good that Scouting can do, everything relevant about the Scouting program - that's what the community needs to know."