Unit Public Relations Planning Kit

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1 Unit Public Relations Planning Kit For more information contact: Randy Kidder Heart of America Council (816) Holmes Road, Kansas City, Missouri

2 Revised December 2007 As a unit Public Relations Chair, your role, in part, is to provide your local media with information that communicates the fun, achievements, and values of Scouting in your unit s program. Your position also includes opportunities to fulfill additional public relations roles. These opportunities can make a crucial impact on the level of success Scouting enjoys in serving the youth of your community. Positive publicity informs, establishes credibility, and positions Scouting in the minds of the general public, members of your chartered organization, and your Scouting families. Across the country, thousands of articles and photos carry a strong, positive message about the impact and vitality of the Boy Scouts of America. While a strong media presence touches all of our target audiences consider also tailoring your approach to speak directly to member families and chartered organization. It is possible to use public relation tools to maintain strong relationships and clear channels of communication with specific groups as well as the general public. Your unit is chartered to local community organization. You can help maintain a strong relationship with its leaders and ensure that they are included, engaged, and informed. Your Scouting program can provide them with a source of pride and accomplishment if you keep them up-to-date and informed. The public relations function can also work to ensure that families of existing and potential members are kept informed and engaged. Timely, informative communications with this group directly impacts their Scouting experience and positions your unit in their minds as well-run and high-quality. Timely communication helps position your unit as a program that is concerned about its members. Regular and relevant communications play a role in the success of any program. Well informed parents are more likely to volunteer and will encourage their children to remain active longer. As I hope you see, public relations plays a vital role in shaping the perceptions and can contribute to your program s success. Let s discuss approaching the target audiences that are little closer to home before tackling how to approach the general public. There are number of opportunities related to public relations and it may fall to more than one person to get it all done.

3 Working with your Chartered Organization The programs of the Boy Scouts of America are available because a local organization such as a church, service club, or other community-minded group has been granted a charter to operate a pack, troop, team, crew or post. In the beginning the connection between the chartered organization and its Scouting unit is generally a strong one. But without careful attention, that relationship may unintentionally drift. This chartered organization/scouting unit connection is an important one, but one that needs attention to live up to its full potential for all parties involve. This provides you, the Public Relations Chair with an opportunity. This is a small but important target audience. Be sure that you keep the leaders in the chartered organization informed and involved. Ask to have articles and calendar items for the Scout unit included in the chartered organization s newsletters, bulletins, and calendars. Invite members of the chartered organization to attend Scouting events as guests of honor. Conduct charter presentation ceremonies annually. Present the chartered organization with regular reports on the status of their unit. Give the chartered organization every reason to take ownership in its Scout unit. Provide enough information so they can take pride in what is accomplished and offered to the community under their sponsorship. Ensuring that this relationship remains strong will potentially pay dividends for all parties involved. Working with Your Member Families We have all been through the experience of being the new kid on the block. For new members, first impressions can be lasting ones. Based on initial experiences, people may form an opinion of a program s quality and leaders level of concern for members that may be difficult to change. Keep in mind each year a substantial number of new families and their children become involved in our programs. Today, families are less likely to have had a history of Scouting involvement than 10 or 20 years ago. Scouting may be one of several activities the children are trying this year. Our goal is to ensure that Scouting is one that they keep. The Public Relations Chair, who keeps this target audience in mind, can go a long way toward recruiting new leaders, and lengthening the tenure of our youth members. Regular communications with member families is important. Consider a monthly or quarterly newsletter, a calendar, contact lists, and/or maintaining an up-to-date unit website. Placing up-to-date, accurate information about unit program, plans, and Scouting s benefits, in the hands of the family speaks volumes about your unit s level of

4 organization and concern for members. When information is not available the best planned and organized program may be perceived in a negative light. Communicate with the families and ensure that your unit establishes the position of being a well-organized, high-quality program that is responsive to the people it is serving. As the Public Relations Chair you can make a difference. Be sure that families, and not just members, are informed and involved. Reaching the General Public The people in your community also want to know about Scouting. For your message to be heard, it must be told often and clearly. People want to read the articles about their neighbor earning his Eagle Scout Award and hear about the Cub Scout pack collecting thousands of cans of food for the hungry. They want to see the photo of Troop 272 setting up a neighborhood watch program as part of achieving the Crime Prevention merit badge. Today, so much information is available through so many avenues, that you must tell your story much more often. We must also tell it in a way that it will be recognized as BSA-related instantly. Competition for everyone s attention and time is increasing. Many community newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations are interested in reporting Scouting news. They are anxious to report good stories. If you have a well-told story, and strong relationship with a local reporter or editor, chances are it will be reported. Consider which media outlets are most likely to be read, listened to, or watched by your target audiences. Consider daily and weekly newspapers, city magazines, local business journals, and don t forget your chartered organization s publications. Check to see what radio and TV stations report on public interest stories in your area. Don t forget to explore the online possibilities. Often the newspapers also run a website and are more than happy to include your content in a variety of ways you my not have ever considered. How about posting photos from your Pinewood Derby or unit camping trip on the newspaper s photo blog section? Consider online community calendars offered by existing media outlets, your local chamber of commerce or possibly a local county recreation department. Find out who is assigned to cover the kind of stories you will be submitting. Learn how they like to have material submitted. Doing your job well helps the reporter assigned to cover your stories do their job well.

5 As you get to know the media outlets and reporters focus on the most likely candidates. Develop a list of media contacts and an effective way to use the information. Keep track of other details as you begin to get to know your contacts better. Be prepared - Develop a planning calendar and a game plan Plan ahead - Pencil in the events for the coming year that are newsworthy. Set goals. How many articles would you like to see published in a quarter or over the next year? Organize your game plan - Backdate the tasks of writing the news release and mailing the release; know media deadlines insert those dates in your calendar. Plan on getting information out two week in advance to ensure enough lead time. Stay in touch Be sure to contact the person in charge of the activity well in advance of, and, just before writing your story. This will help ensure that you are included in the information loop and that your story is as accurate as possible. Conduct a quarterly and annually review of your results. What articles were published? What can you do to improve the quantity and quality of the news coverage? Working with your local newspaper Inform the media of your story through a news release. Submit your story about a scheduled event about one to two weeks in advance if you don t know a firm deadline. Determine what makes your story unique or interesting. Determine who covers stories of your type and work with them. Send only one release per story to each publication. News stories find their way into the paper on their merit; don t demand that an article be published. If they don t send someone to cover your event, follow up by sending your own photos and news release. Send a personal note to the reporter after the story runs. Acknowledge the reporter for doing a good job in covering the topic. Writing the News Release The news release is your primary tool. Notice the types of stories printed, notice which articles are printed on the front page and which on the opinion page. Follow the style and construction of articles that already have appeared in the paper.

6 If you really want to dig in your job, a good resource to consider is the Associated Press Stylebook. It is available for purchase online. Find it by Googling Associated Press Stylebook. The book contains information on the writing and style preferred by the media. Another resource is the Language of Scouting which can be found online at: Here is a guideline to help with your release. General Format Type your news release and limit it to a one-page release. Use 8 ½ x 11- inch paper. Keep the story as accurate, and concise while providing all the important details. Keep it to one page because the second page will probably get lost or discarded. Four or five paragraphs should be sufficient. Include contact information in case the reporter needs more information. At the upper right-hand corner, type your unit contact s name and phone number. Don t submit a story typed in all uppercase or capital letters. Neatness counts. Correct grammar, typos, misspellings, or cross-outs. Check for the correct spelling of all names. End the story with a centered ### General Content The lead (first) paragraph should not be longer than four lines. It should follow the inverted pyramid model by starting with information that is the most important or interesting. Rank the material by importance and interest. Tell who, what, when, where, why and how by answering what journalists call the 5 Ws and H. This may spill over into the second paragraph if necessary. Put the local news angles in the beginning if the story concerns a larger area that is beyond the community's borders or newspaper's circulation area. Include a good quote from Scouts, volunteers, or local distinguished individuals early in the story. At the end add general information about Scouting, to help people understand the importance and relevancy of Scouting. For example: "Scouting has had more than 100 million members since its inception in 1910." Or Pack 3498 chartered to the Methodist church has served more than 5,000 young people since it was started in Include full names and titles of key persons involved. Be accurate.

7 Don't use flowing tributes, flowery descriptions, and glowing adjectives. The news release should be more informative than subjective. Be impartial and objective. Use a person's full name the first time it is mentioned in a story. After that mention, use the person's last name alone. Women's names should be presented as follows: Mary Smith. Husbands' names in reference to married women (e.g. Mrs. John V. Smith) are not used. Alternative Publicity Ideas Send releases to local business newsletters and community bulletin boards. Decorate a float for Scouts to ride on in your local parade. Hang banners during Scouting Anniversary Week or to promote School Night for Scouting. Pass out fliers promoting School Night for Scouting. Set up a booth at the school open house and provide information that visitors can take home with them. Hang posters and fliers in places where boys and young adults will see them. The school may have a bulletin board for these items. Involve a media outlet as your media sponsor for a unit event. The organization may include some publicity in its newspaper or on its radio station. (Cosponsorships require the pre-approval of the council.) Look for an unusual or interesting photo opportunity. Local newspapers and magazines will periodically have a space to fill and can make use of a unique photograph that you supply, including a caption attributing the photo to the BSA.

8 (Sample) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Randy Kidder Boy Scouts of America, Heart of America Council Cell Phone Number: (785) Website URL: Boy Scouts Celebrate 100 years of Scouting In 2007, the World Organization of the Scouting Movement will honor the 100 th anniversary of the Boy Scout movement. On Wednesday, August 1 st, the Heart of America Council, Boy Scouts of America will mark the occasion with a Sunrise Service reminiscent of the day 100 years ago when Scouting s founder, Lord Baden- Powell opened the first Boy Scout camp in England. A brief ceremony will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the council service center located at Holmes Road in Kansas City, Missouri. A reception will follow the ceremony. The public is welcome to attend. The commemoration of Scouting s 100 th anniversary will include flag ceremonies, speeches by the key Scouting officials in the Kansas City area, as well as a visit by the founder himself. Historical impersonator Nick Badgerow will play the role of Lord Baden-Powell and deliver the Message from the Founder followed by the traditional blowing of the kudo horn. The Centennial is being marked around the world by members of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement. This is an opportunity to promote the values, benefits, and achievements of Scouting to the world. Millions of Scouts around the globe will make a real difference in the lives of others through their Centennial activities. The 21 st World Jamboree will be held in England as a part of the celebration. More than 40,000 young people from nearly every country will attend. After its humble beginnings as an experiment for 20 boys in 1907, Scouting quickly spread around the world. By 2007, more than 500,000,000 men and women from nearly every country and culture in the world have promised to live by the Scout Oath and Law. The Boy Scouts of America will celebrate its 100 th anniversary in The Boy Scouts of America has a proud tradition of preparing young people for leadership with character building programs that instill timeless values. These programs include Cub Scouts (1st-5th grade), Boy Scouting (6th-12th grade), Venturing (co-ed, young adults ages 14-21), Learning for Life (grades K-12), and Exploring (co-ed, young adults ages 14-21). - XXX -

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