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Communicating with Parents and Scouts

Good Communication -- Your Key to Success

There is no magic formula for success in Scouting. But year after year, successful units find that clear and timely communication with leaders, Scouts and parents is crucial.

The best-planned program can run into trouble if you’re not communicating effectively with parents and Scouts in your pack, troop or crew.

Everybody needs to understand what’s happening, when it’s happening and where it’s happening – as well as their roles and responsibilities. Sometimes it’s even helpful to explain why it’s happening – the purpose or objectives of a particular activity.

In short, everybody involved needs to be on the same page. It’s almost impossible to over-communicate. People want to feel like they’re in the loop. They hate to feel like they’re being left out. Good communication can stop problems before they start.

MAKE A COMMUNICATIONS PLAN!

By late summer, all units should have planned and budgeted for the upcoming year of Scouting. That plan needs to be communicated to everyone in the pack, troop, or crew by the end of August.

Getting that information out gives the unit both a need and an opportunity to develop a communications plan that can be used throughout the Scouting year.

You’ll need to determine what tools you’re going to use for primary communication with adult leaders, Scouts and parents. And you’ll need to decide who’s responsible for making that communication happen in a timely fashion. Having a single person responsible for communications is essential. Shared responsibility just doesn’t work. And it should be a person without too many other responsibilities – otherwise communication tends to get lost in the shuffle.

For packs, that person needs to be an adult. But for troops and crews, the responsible person could be – should be, if possible – an older youth. An adult should give advice and support, certainly, but a Scout can take the primary responsibility.

HOW TO GET STARTED

You can break it down into five simple steps:

  • Gather contact info for everyone in the unit.
  • Choose one or two communications tools (methods).
  • Decide who will be responsible for unit communications.
  • Communicate consistently and frequently (depending on your program, this could be weekly, biweekly or monthly.
  • Ask parents and Scouts if they're happy with the quality and timeliness of communications.

SOME RECOMMENDED TOOLS FOR COMMUNICATING

For basic, nuts and bolts communications, e-mail and text messaging are usually the first choice. Almost everybody has access to either or both, and they’re relatively simple to use. Phone calls can augment texts and e-mail as needed, but they’re much more labor intensive.

Once you’ve got a working system for basic communications, there are other possibilities, including specialized apps like Scoutbook, social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, unit websites and newsletters.

For more detailed information on using these tools, choose a tab above.

Practically ubiquitous, most people are familiar with using email but tracking lists and creating enticing messages is another ballgame. It’s still best to master this essential communication though as most members we work with say it’s their preferred method of receiving information.

Services

Definitely stick with a cloud or web based email solution. Think gmail or Outlook.com. These services keep everything (both messages and addresses) stored online instead of on a local computer. That means it’s easy for multiple members of a unit to share or have access, instead of handing a laptop around!

Creating a unit email account, like Pack123@gmail.com is one way to go. If you do, use that one address for all unit communications instead of a personal address. The more tech savvy may prefer to set up the account to forward on to their personal accounts, which is fine too.

What to Use Email For

Use email to reinforce and remind members of almost everything. Upcoming meetings, when dues need to be in, and last second changes.

What once was fad is now the norm. While not as essential as email, texting does offer some unique benefits – it’s practically instant and most people carry their phones with them always. It is more difficult to keep and track a send list though.

Options

You may choose to have one person be the “texter” and keep a list of everyone’s cell phone numbers. Or, you may do a “trickle down” technique (example: Scoutmaster texts Assistant Scoutmasters, who each text specific parents, etc.). Neither method is perfect. There are paid services out there, like websites, that make this easier but it’s up to your unit to decide if it’s best for them. Hint: ScoutBook can send texts!

Scoutbook is a web-based youth advancement tracking tool. It’s also great for unit communications! Owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America, Scoutbook is constantly updated with new features and should be part of any great communications plan. We recommend your unit get a subscription, which keeps costs low and gives everyone access.

What It Can Do

In addition to tracking and recording advancement, Scoutbook helps units, districts, and councils communicate with each other.

  • Plan activities and events, show them on a calendar visible by your entire Pack, Troop, or Crew
  • Send messages to your leaders, Scouts, and parents while still following electronic youth protection.
  • Text or email
  • Upload photos and videos to share
  • Works on almost any computer, tablet, or smartphone

A Central Tool

Because Scoutbook takes advantage of so many mediums, we think it’s practically an essential tool for units. Whether your group prefers email over text, or you need help keeping track of everyone’s contact information, Scoutbook can do it.

Scoutbook.com

FACEBOOK

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, through both its mobile app and desktop site. Use it to showcase your Unit/District news and events through photos, graphics, video (recorded and live streaming) and also share the Scouting memories that your members are posting. You also can choose to share what we have posted on the Northern Star Council page. Your group’s page should be public, which provides you the opportunities to keep your group informed and also have them share your posts to their Facebook connections.

Audience: Your page followers will be parents/guardians of the scouts in your Unit/District, volunteers, and scouts (if age 13+). But anyone can follow your public page.

Page Administrator: Assign your Unit/District Communications Coordinator, or a parent, to be the manager of the page. (If it’s for a troop, consider having a scout manage the page, with a parent to monitor).

Responsibilities:

Daily: Moderate the page for questions to answer, comments to your posts, and new “visitor posts” to your page.

Weekly: Provide information about your Unit/District and occasional Council/National news. Facebook is visual, so use graphics, photos and video to support your posts.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do create and post a Digital Community Contract for your page (see Boy Scouts of America Digital Community Contract, below) and manage posts (hide or delete posts) according to it
  • Do check the page every day, interact with page visitors and answer questions
  • Do be positive and helpful
  • Do have parents/guardians of scouts in your Unit/District sign a photo release for their scout’s image to be used on your page
  • Don’t overshare, 2-3 posts a week is a typical frequency
  • Don’t use poor grammar, double-check your posts for accuracy
  • Don’t be defensive, demeaning or negative
  • Don’t ignore comments or visitor posts but don’t worry about negative comments/posts from people who aren’t in your Unit/District. You have no obligation to answer those and you can easily remove any that violate your Digital Community Contract
  • Don’t beg for likes and shares
  • Don’t post personal or confidential information about scouts (avoid last names with photos, specific addresses of den meetings, etc…)

Boy Scouts of America Digital Community Contract

National BSA Facebook Page

The views expressed by users/fans on this Facebook page are the sole responsibility of the user(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA is not responsible for the content of user posts or the content of any linked website, or any link contained in a linked website, or any changes or updates to such websites. The posting of a link does not imply endorsement by the BSA of the linked site or its contents. The BSA does not govern and is not responsible for the privacy practices of other sites. The BSA encourages you to read and familiarize yourself with the privacy statements of any website that requests your personal information. This digital Scouting community is governed by the Scout Oath and Scout Law. We will delete any comment that we believe does not reflect the Scout Oath and Scout Law. This includes comments that use inappropriate language or are potentially libelous or injurious to the privacy of an individual or group. Users posting these comments will be banned from commenting on this site. Off-topic comments as well as those promoting unapproved products and services will also be removed. Users posting any comments, photos, videos, links or other items that fall into one or more of the congressionally mandated CyberTipline reporting categories of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (found here: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2447) will be reported to the proper law enforcement agencies.

INSTAGRAM

Instagram, owned by Facebook, is the most popular mobile photo-sharing app. It allows users to share pictures and videos, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Use it to showcase photos and video (recorded and live streaming) of your Unit/District events in real-time or after the fact. In the caption for your photos and videos, you can provide information your members need to know. You also can choose to share the photos and information that we have posted on the Northern Star Council account. Your group’s account should be public, which provides you the opportunities to keep your group informed and highlight your activities to external audiences interested in Scouting.

Audience: Your account followers will be parents/guardians of the scouts in your Unit/District, volunteers, and scouts. But anyone can follow your public account or see your posts when you use hashtags that lead them there.

Account Administrator: Assign your Unit/District Communications Coordinator, or a parent, to be the manager of the account. (If it’s for a troop, consider having a scout manage the account, with a parent to monitor).

Responsibilities:

Daily: Moderate the account for questions to answer and comments to your posts

Weekly: Post photos that allow you to provide information about your Unit/District and occasional Council/National news. Also, look to see what your followers and members are posting on their accounts and ask them if you can repost their photos (or, at camp, have people text their photos to your Account Administrator to post on the Unit/District’s account)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do check the account every day, interact with account visitors and answer questions
  • Do be positive and helpful
  • Do have parents/guardians of scouts in your Unit/District sign a photo release for their scout’s image to be used on your account
  • Connect your account to your Facebook page
  • Do create and post a Digital Community Contract for your account (see Boy Scouts of America Digital Community Contract, above) and manage comments (delete) according to it
  • Don’t overshare, 2-3 photos a week is a typical frequency (but it’s okay to share 10 photos or so during a camp weekend)
  • Don’t use poor grammar, double-check your photo captions for accuracy
  • Don’t be defensive, demeaning or negative
  • Don’t ignore comments but don’t worry about negative comments from people who aren’t in your group. You have no obligation to answer those and you can easily remove any that violate your Digital Community Contract
  • Don’t beg for likes or comments
  • Don’t post personal or confidential information about scouts (avoid last names with photos, specific addresses of den meetings, etc…)

TWITTER

Twitter is a social networking microblogging service that allows users to broadcast short posts called tweets. Use it to showcase your Unit/District news and events through text, photos, graphics, video (recorded and live streaming) and also share (by retweeting) the Scouting memories that your members are posting. You also can choose to retweet what we have posted on the Northern Star Council account. Your group’s account should be public, which provides you the opportunities to keep your group informed and also have them retweet your posts to their Twitter followers, and highlight your activities to external audiences interested in Scouting.

Audience: Your account followers will be parents/guardians of the scouts in your Unit/District, volunteers, and scouts. But anyone can follow your public account or see your posts when you use hashtags that lead them there.

Account Administrator: Assign your Unit/District Communications Coordinator, or a parent, to be the manager of the account. (If it’s for a troop, consider having a scout manage the account, with a parent to monitor).

Responsibilities:

Daily: Moderate the account for questions to answer and comments to your tweets

Weekly:Post photos that allow you to provide information about your Unit/District and occasional Council/National news. Also, look to see what your followers and members are posting on their accounts and retweet their photos (or, at camp, have people text their photos to your Account Administrator to tweet on the Unit/District’s account)

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do check the account every day, interact with people who ask you questions or comment to your tweets
  • Do be positive and helpful
  • Do have parents/guardians of scouts in your Unit/District sign a photo release for their scout’s image to be used on your account
  • Don’t overshare, 3-5 tweets a week is a typical frequency (but it’s okay to tweet 10 photos or so during a camp weekend)
  • Don’t use poor grammar, double-check your tweets for accuracy
  • Don’t be defensive, demeaning or negative
  • Don’t ignore tweets directed to you as questions or comments, but don’t worry about negative comments from people who aren’t in your group. You have no obligation to answer those.
  • Don’t beg for likes or retweets
  • Don’t post personal or confidential information about scouts (avoid last names with photos, specific addresses of den meetings, etc…)

Everyone and everything has a website, right? Does it make sense for your Pack, Troop, or Crew to have one too? The answer is: maybe.

If you’re already using social media, have a good email system, and take advantage of Scoutbook, you might just find a dedicated website is redundant. Let’s take a closer look.

Website Benefits

  • Often completely customizable
  • One-stop shop where you can put everything, then link to outside sites
  • Good for putting unique materials

Website Disadvantages

  • Initial setup is time-consuming
  • Requires someone(s) dedicated to maintaining
  • Often requires some level of html knowledge or at least a tech savvy individual
  • Potential cost for hosting and domain
  • What To Choose

    If your unit decides a website is necessary, there are lots of choices. From building a website completely from scratch and self-hosting to using a third-party service with ready-to-use templates. We can’t test them all but have heard good things about.

    • MyPack/MyTroop: A third party service with templated unit websites
    • WordPress.org: A free content management system with both self and free hosting options

    A weekly, monthly, or quarterly newsletter used to be THE essential way to communicate with your unit. In the 21st Century, with instant communications practically a given, it’s fallen out of vogue. Should your pack, troop, or crew spend the time creating one?

    Many younger parents, leaders, and even Scouts expect information as soon as it’s available. We recommend not using a newsletter as the only way to communicate essential information, such as meeting/event dates. Whether paper or electronic, families can easily lose their copy, leaving them scrambling. Essential information should always be communicated in multiple, easy to access, methods.

    What Is A Newsletter Good For?

    It can be a great way to show off your Scouts off! Did a Scout just earn Eagle? Put it in the newsletter. Have a great service project? Toss it in the newsletter. Many of these things are great on social media, too.

    Contact Us

    District Executive
     Your Local Scouting Representative
         763-231-7201


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