Six ways to tell your Scouting story to local media outlets

Photo by Shutterstock/Artur Szczybylo

There’s no better recruiting tool than an excited Cub Scout, Scouts BSA member, Venturer or Sea Scout telling friends about their adventures. But if you’d like to reach a bigger audience, here are six practical tips that your pack, troop, crew or ship can use to get local news coverage with little effort.

Have a good story to tell

A good story is one that is compelling, interesting and intriguing. A bad story is one that’s routine, humdrum or boring. A good story must have a problem or obstacle, interesting characters (your Scouts), a journey (how they went about solving the problem) and a solution (or victory).

For example, you could tell a story about your Cub Scout pack hosting its Pinewood Derby race for bragging rights (the obstacle); showcase the Cubs (the characters) building cars with their families (the journey); and feature the victory celebration as the pack came together and recognized the winners (the solution).

Create good visuals

Strong images and video can make the difference between a story running or not making the cut, but in today’s shrinking media environment, you can’t count on a photographer or videographer coming to every event. That means you have to do it yourself and send them to the local media – with the added benefit of having more control over the images chosen.

Use natural action and candid photos — not posed shots — in good lighting. An up-to-date smartphone will suffice for most work as long as you use the original high-resolution photos. For video, you can strip the sound out and offer it as B-roll; or do your own formal interviews with participants.

Photo by Michael Roytek

Use strong quotes

For newspapers and online outlets, good quotes are essential. A quote should be colorful, short and sound the way people talk in real life. Consider the difference between these quotes:

  • “Everyone had a great time on the survival expedition, especially when it started raining,” said patrol leader Shannon Jones.
  • “The committee of Troop 383 cordially invites all local residents to attend the annual Adventure Day at Parsons Park from 9 to 4 on October 26,” said Committee Chairman Pat Smith.

One is interesting; the other is boring. If you have information to convey – such as the date, time and location of an event – just write that as a regular sentence, and don’t put it in a quote.

Hold an interesting event

One of the great things about Scouting is that the events that are a matter of routine for us are fascinating to the general public:

  • Cub Scout space derbies or rain gutter regattas are fun twists on friendly competitions.
  • Scout skills such as lashing together signaling towers and practicing emergency first aid are lost arts for most of the non-Scouts out there.
  • Venturer backpacking treks on the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails are the stuff of dreams for most Americans.
  • Sea Scout sailing competitions conjure up the thrill of the open sea, which has sparked a thousand novels.

Invite the local media with plenty of advance notice and provide volunteers to escort them around the event and help them connect with Scouts to interview, and they’re guaranteed to have a good story at the end of the day.

Photo by Monica Dunn

Be the first or set a local record

The first patrol in your troop to complete a 50-miler, the first crew in the district to go caving, or the first Scout in the troop to earn Eagle are all worthy news items. So is the largest tree-planting event in your community, or the most dreidels spinning at once (a real record broken at the 2017 National Jamboree).

Celebrate a meaningful anniversary

The media loves major anniversary stories with a look back and an update on progress today. Look for years ending in 5 or 0. Consider the anniversary of your unit’s founding, the start of your local summer camp, the commemoration of your ship’s first Quartermaster, or a major milestone in Scouting history. (This year marks the 110th birthday of Sea Scouting!)

Dan Shortridge has served as district vice-chair and troop committee chair in the Del-Mar-Va Council. He is currently a merit badge counselor and camp alumni association board member and newsletter editor. Dan is also a PR consultant and author of the book “DIY Public Relations: Telling Your Story on a Zero-Dollar Budget” (Quill Driver Books).

Have you had success sharing your Scouting story with media outlets in your area? Tell us how you did it in the comments!