From a drawing by Baden-Powell

The Image of Scouting

The surveys we have been talking about have also given us lots of information about our youth market. We found out which radio stations Scouts listen to (hard rock and classic rock lead the way). We learned that what most influenced them to buy a product was a friend who had the product and, after that, television. (By the way, they watch television an average of two hours a day and listen to radio the same amount of time.) The average income for the boys interviewed is $31.78 a week. These young men are knowledgeable consumers and are selective in the products they buy.

How does this relate to Boy Scouting? When asked what they thought about Scouting, many of the responses were not very positive. They used terms such as "nerdy," "geeky," and "goody-goody." They viewed our program as more Cub Scouting. In fact, in one seventh-grade classroom, the students described a program with race cars and crafts as the Boy Scout program. Scouting was viewed as not being "cool." Scouting has obviously gotten a bad rap, and as one Scout said, "They [non-Scouts] believe the rumors."

What can we do to attract more young men into our Boy Scout troops. Some of the Scouts surveyed put it very well: We either "change their attitude" or "change our reputation." To do this will take some imagination on your part as Scoutmaster. As was stated earlier, these young men are knowledgeable consumers. They are looking for the best products to spend their money on, and for where they can get the most satisfaction for the time they spend. If you offer "the best show in town," a top-notch program with outdoor adventures that gives young men an opportunity to control their own program, then you have a greater chance of attracting this market. Satisfaction with Scouting is also a key ingredient in attracting other Scouts. Remember that what most influences these young people to buy a product is a friend who has the product. When young men join your troop and don’t have a successful experience, they are likely to tell others and discourage them from trying our program, no matter how attractive we make it

Satisfaction with Scouting brings up another interesting issue. In discussions with Scouts, we found that few were willing to reveal openly that they were Scouts. They might tell their closest friends, who usually are in Scouts anyway, but few let it be known at school. To demonstrate this one Scout said, "Wearing the uniform to school would ruin your reputation." Others talked about being ridiculed. Scouts are not willing to promote the program to potential Scouts. We have lost our greatest source of influence. How do we get it back?

Somehow, we need to help our current "consumers" feel good about being Scouts. This is an excellent problem to pose to your patrol leaders council, or to the whole troop. Use the problem-solving model in the Scoutmaster Handbook. Use empathy to understand why the Scouts fee the way they do. Why won’t they let their classmates know they are in Scouting? Discover the roadblocks to be overcome. Then use invention to explore ways to overcome these roadblocks. Then use selection to determine the best ways to help Scouts overcome their reluctance to discus. our program with other young people

There are no easy answers. The important thing is that your Scouts understand that one way they can change the reputation of Scouting is to tell others about the positive experiences they are having. Remember what our survey said: "The thing that most influenced a friend to buy [use] a product [Scouting] was a friend who had [was] the product [a Scout]."

Improving the product image with current Scouts is definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not the only answer. The Boy Scouts of America is 83 years old this year. We have a reputation with the genera] public. To quote another Scoutmaster, "It is the image often seen in a Norman Rockwell print." We are "Mom and apple pie." We are "goody goody." We still believe in God and remain a values-based program. This its who we are. It is a message that every parent in America needs to hear

What we need is a public relations campaign aimed at parents to remind them who we are. Is this the responsibility of the National Council exclusively? No. The National Council has initiated a number of positive public relations efforts. In the past year, it has released two new public service announcements, titled "Scouting Because…." These PSAs are aimed a both the youth and adult markets. There have also been major articles in Redbook and Sports Afield magazines. Additionally, the National Council has provided your council with a marketing resource kit that contains many how-to’s for promoting the Scouting program.

But what have you done in your community or neighborhood to remind parents of the benefits of the Scouting program? When is the last time your troop was featured in the local news? At whom was the message of the article targeted? (Adults, not children, read newspapers and watch television news.) Was the activity featured an exciting one? Did it communicate to parents why their son should be in Scouting? Did it depict the educational or service aspects of Scouting? Is your troop presenting positive image? Are your Scouts in full, proper uniform? When outdoors are your Scouts courteous and respectful of others? Do you leave no trace on campouts? Do you provide your Scouts opportunities for service?

Perhaps you should consider asking a member of the troop committee to coordinate a public relations program for the troop. Parents need to hear about our values-based program, but what about young people?

Currently, more than 70 percent of new Boy Scouts are coming from Webelos Scout dens. As the leader of your troop, you need to do every thing you can to maintain and enhance this relationship with Cub Scout packs and Webelos Scout dens in your community. Make sure every den has a den chief, a quality Scout who understands younger children and whom they will want to emulate. This den chief is helping you to sell your troop and to keep these Cub Scouts looking forward to their next adventure. Provide opportunities for the Webelos Scout den to do things with the troop. Make sure they see your most exciting activities. Be careful to give them only a taste; make them wait until they join for the full experience. One idea is to make the graduation ceremony a positive event the younger Cub Scouts will remember for a long time.

More than 95 percent of the Scoutmasters we interviewed were getting all their new Scouts from Webelos Scout dens. We know that the second year Webelos Scout program only serves 20 percent of the available youth population. What are we doing to involve the other 80 percent? Nothing! Why? As we talked to Scoutmasters throughout the country, we found that most of them were quite comfortable with their troop size When asked why, each had an answer, ranging from "not enough young people in the neighborhood," to "not enough room in the meeting hall."

One thing they do agree on is that Scouting is a good program and should be available to more young people than the 18 percent it currently serve’ nationwide. There are two primary solutions to this dilemma: adding more new boons and upsizing current troops.


Adapted from Delivering the Promise, No. 18-251, Boy Scouts of America, 1993

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Last Modified: 10:18 PM on December 14, 1996