Re: Scoutings Image (2/2) (long)
Mike Walton ("Settummanque)
Thu, 16 Nov 1995 00:47:26 -0600
(this is the second part of the posting I sent Terry Howerton privately
concerning the BSA's PR efforts...)
So what can we do about this from the National level on downward? Here's my
suggestions...are you listening Resource Support Group, BSA?
Nationally, we should FIRE the PR firm that has been mishandling our account
for the past fifteen years, promote field professionals with public
relations backgrounds or experience -- along with volunteers from our
Councils that have had successful limited PR campaigns -- and re-create the
Public Relations Service of the BSA. Keep the Internal Communications
folk...they have done a SUPER job in telling all of us about our programs
and the changes that have come around...but their job was just that: to tell
US, not the outside public, about our programs. We need a voice that KNOWS
the program intimately, KNOWS the reasons why we need to "tell the Scouting
story" and those that can TELL the story effectively and personally. We
need voices that are just as confortable with Rikki Lake and Geraldo as well
as Bernard Shaw and Tom Brokaw. Or their handlers. We need voices that
will state the BSA's side on the issues, and if that's their jobs, defend it
as it if their jobs depended upon it.
Because their jobs do depend upon it. The BSA, to them is NOT "another client".
Its OUR program we're talking about.
Public Relations should be integrated again into EVERY professional training
course, and not held out until NEI III or during a "All Hands Meeting" to do.
Every Council should also have one professional with the additional job (or
primary role, in our top 25 Councils) of being the "professional staff
member for Public and Community Relations" and this professionals' Critical
Achievements goal sheet should include those PR tasks geared to get Scouting
(not neccessarily the local Council, but that S-word) back out into the public.
The BSA should utilize volunteers like myself to go back to local Councils
to share the Scouting story with as many potential audiences as they can
They should use the power of the mass media to create "infomercials" whereby
Scouts, Scouters and yes, even the Chief Scout Executive, can tell the
Scouting story in an elongated, specially tailored, format for urban, rural,
suburnban and special populations.
That "toll-free number" used by our Supply Division should be expanded to be
used to allow any person to find the closest BSA Council to where they live.
It's a shame that you have to have to find "the Scouting person" in a
community to tell you where the nearest Troop or Pack meets. Your local
Council is REQUIRED to have the location of where each and every unit in
their Council meets. It's a part of the chartering process. Since we're
not creating yet another new database, the same one that is used to verify
membership can be used to locate units by state, Council or community.
After I had talked with my local Council here upon moving, it took me THREE
WEEKS to find out that a Troop meets three blocks from my home! Three blocks.
My Council didn't know...they knew that "we have Scouting units there, but
I'll have to get you in touch with the DE for that area". I waited a week
for the "DE to get in touch with me" or my answering machine. The Chamber
of Commerce had no idea. Neither did the schools, whom were polite enough
to tell me "We have them, I just don't know who you would call for them". A
business that sold Scouting mechadise did give me the name of a
Scouter...but he is no longer active and couldn't tell me who was or how I
can find out except to call the Council office.
I found out by asking...a Scout.
The suspension or removal of many of the BSA's "risk management policies"
should be advocated and done. When we "sell" the idea of self-reliance and
self-movitation, yet it takes three pieces of paper, two adults and local
approval for even a Patrol campout or hike, you can see how kids don't "want
to be bothered" with the BSA anymore.
Especially after one kids' terrifying experience of not participating, but
just planning for and seeking the approvals of everyone except the Almighty
to just pitch tents and sleep in Ralph's backyard over the weekend. YES, by
all means neccessary, let's ALL protect our children from the rouges out
there that "call themselves Scouters" and from other adults that want to use
our children as sex toys; but let's NOT stiful (?) our youth from
experiencing "real adventure" just because they chose to do it by themselves
without some adult "advising them" along the way. Most parents today
understand that "kids get hurt". That's why we have insurance and safety
guidance for our children. Kids today understand the need to inform and
update adults on where they are going. They know this. We know this. Let's
give our Scouts credit for becoming Scouts and allow them to participate in
overnight events and dayhikes without the redtape of "risk management".
At the same time, let's take a REAL look -- at the local Council level -- at
why we have so many "new policies and procedures". While the financial
stability of our local Councils should be a important concern to all of us
in Scouting, we wouldn't have a Council without the kids, which make up the
dens, patrols, crews and squads, which make up our units, and which in turn,
provide us with the means to go out and ask for monies to maintain and
extend our programs. Each local Council should have the authority to
implement all, parts of or none of the "risk management" policies presently
in place by action of the National Executive Board. In this way, each
Council, based upon its OWN risk anaysis and NOT that just of the National
Staff, can tailor their own successful youth experiences in their own
Local Councils should use whatever local means they have to insure that at
least once a week, the word "Scouting" or "Boy Scouting" be positively heard
through their print, broadcast and electronic medium. Yes, I did say
electronic. Although according to a recent _Time_ survey that stated that
only close to a fifth of all American household own a personal computer...we
are NOT using this
new medium to our major advantage! It's not the families we are really
after, remember..its the kids, who use a personal computer at school for
research at least 6 times a school week. By each local Council using the
power of the World Wide Web to create a special "home page" for their
members --and those visiting (like potential new Scouts, Scouters and most
importantly, new chartered partners), the story of the "local angle to
Scouting" can be made and each person allowed to "go where it leads them..."
We hope it leads them to the front door of a unit.
Councils should invest some money into insuring that every phone book within
their territory has their telephone number. Let's look at this from a
practical standpoint: Most parents, let along citizens, have NO CLUE as to
which "Council" they reside in or where the lines break between one Council
and the next. To them, all they know is what they see (or in this case,
don't see): Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts (don't even get me started about
Exploring! *broad smile*)
As a nonprofit organization, the Council can arrange to have it's number(s)
placed in every phone book along with the names and numbers of all other
nonprofits for a small fee. Let's do it. We need to have the ability of
any person interested in our program to call our professional staff and ask
them how they can be involved or how they can help!!
Local Councils also have another important way that they can "get Scouting
back out in the open": their own Scouts and Explorers! Back in the 70s, I
participated with several members of my Council's professional staff, in
speeches to various civic and church groups. The professional was onhand to
answer the more technical questions of "who can charter and who cannot" and
"why things are the way they are". But it was MY story of how much fun
Scouting is, MY impressions on why Scouting needs the financial support it
needs, and MY comments on how great summer camp is and how great it is to be
able to get information from our Council office with a single call that
convinced them, not the words of a bureaucrat. We need to continue to use
our senior Scouts and Explorers, those that have enjoyed the "game of
Scouting" and not those that "look great in a uniform", to tell the story of
our local Council's implementation of Scouting to whomever we can get to
Units can do a lot to help the positive image, and it starts with the unit
leader and his or her advisor. Our youth leaders NEED TO BE OUT FRONT AND
IN CHARGE. Of all of the things I've discussed here, the fact that our
youth leaders are in a lot of places, lifesized "Muppets" of our adult
advisors, is the most destructive reason why we haven't grown. I am sure
that some of you remember the first time you heard that a group of Scouts
went "camping down at" or "did so-and-so" at some place. You wanted to be
there, and some of us joined for that exact reason. But it wasn't "Mr.
Jones" or "Mr. Walton took us"...it was "John", "Pat", or "Joan showed
us"....our peers, not some adult. Our youth leaders need to be "Large and
In Charge" and they need to be promoted as THE PERSON IN CHARGE whenever we
talk to anyone about supporting our unit or conducting a project using Scout
Both youth and adult leadership should take a more active charge in "showing
our colors"...wearing our uniform the right way, the smart way, and the way
in which it will promote our unit, ourselves and the BSA as a whole. We
should give our Scouts more chances in which to wear their uniforms. This
doesn't mean making a media event from each and every Troop or Pack meeting.
This means that those that have a uniform, should wear one. Those that
don't should be given the chance to earn one or to get one. The patches and
insignia, Commissioners, should be in the right place and in the right
combinations. The unit should
once a year, take a group photo and display that photo in the lobby of the
school where most of the members go to as well as in the lobby of the
chartering partner organization. The unit should also arrange for more
"nontraditional unit meetings or activities" each month. For instance, in
my Troops overseas, the second Tuesday night of each month was "bowling and
videogame meeting night", IN UNIFORM. After a short opening AT THE BOWLING
ALLEY, some business matters, and the collection of dues, the rest of the
meeting was spent playing videogames and bowling against the adults, the
other Scouts in their Patrol and Troop, and against VISITORS and friends of
the Troop members. The Scout saw this too, as a part of "the game of
Scouting", the visitors got to see a part of Scouting in an environment not
so wrapped up with ceremony and pomp, and we adults get to do what we're
supposed to do: watch them grow, keep them from tearing up the place or
injuring themselves or others, and talk with each other while drinking
coffee or having a softdrink and a sandwich!
In typical Mike Walton fashion, I've went too far with what I see is a
critical problem with our program. I've been doing my part, by spending what
little time and money I have to visit with and talk with as many Scouts and
Scouters I can to explain to them that "all is not lost" in our present
program and that they hold the key in Keeping the Promises Alive to our
youth. Those of us that go to community groups, churches, schools and to
our fellow Scouters cannot do it alone: we need MORE of us volunteers to go
out and tell this story to everyone.
Our professional staff don't need to do this; we need them to "carry our
weight" as substitute "players" when we cannot "play Scouting" due to our
"real jobs" and family obligations.
WE NEED TO DO THIS OURSELVES AS VOLUNTEERS...and we need to disspell the
"S-word" as something spoken only in whispers, only around our "own kind"
and only around those that somehow may have a clue as to what we are all about.
Let's NOT wait around for "national" or our local Council to do these things...
we'll be waiting a long time for it to become "policy". We need to start
today, not next month or with the start of the new program year, if we are
to have any impact on our communities or cities.
The word "Scouting" has a proud lineage to it, a nice ring to it, and a great
explaination associated with it. Let's not keep it to ourselves...let's go
out and share what it is that we do for our youth, share the excitement and the
love of our nation and community through this program, and let's all make
Scouting something that once again can be something talked about openly with
pride and with a high head and strong voice.
I'm "doing my best" to uphold my end of this "great Obligation". Are you?
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (Settummanque, the blackeagle) (
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