John A. Hovanesian, MD
Council Commissioner Blog
“Want Great Unit Publicity? Create A Committee Position”
The secret of organizing any unit’s volunteer efforts is spreading the work among many helpers. One important function that is often overlooked in units large and small is the role of publicizing the group’s good work. The most successful packs and troops have learned the value of having a designated committee member who focuses his or her entire effort on attending every event with camera, pencil, and paper in hand, and to capture and to create a news story of the event.
What you do is almost always newsworthy. Many of us think that some events are not worthy of space in the newspaper, but local media outlets are interested in even small community events. A nature hike is worth a news story, especially if you learn something unexpected. “Prickly Pear Cactus High in Vitamin C, Scouts Learn,” is a worthy and very printable title.
Some rules for a news piece that is most likely to get printed:
- Start in the first sentence or two with the essentials of who, what, when, why, where, and how.
- Keep paragraphs short. A few sentences is generally enough for each paragraph. The world need not know every detail about the background on the event.
- Include lots of names. Get permission from parents first, but most will gladly allow their child’s name and photo to appear in the paper. Mention key volunteers. This is a great way to make them feel appreciated.
- Include photos of Scouts in action poses, not just posed group shots. Close-ups of faces doing classic Scouting activities, like knot tying, first aid skills, and doing pioneering projects (and always in uniform!) will get great placement in the paper.
- Edit the content carefully so it is as print-ready as possible. It makes the newspaper editor’s job much easier.
- Keep it short. Five hundred words would be long for a news piece on Scouting. Two hundred to three hundred words could cover most stories and is more likely to be squeezed in to the ever thinner print issues of newspapers.
- Keep the supply of content regular. Editors who begin to recognize your work as newsworthy and well-written will happily accept future submissions, ensuring prominent placement in their publications.
- Make it fun. Include cute or funny quotes from kids, silly pictures, and anything that would make a reader smile. Let’s face it, humor sells newspapers, so it’s appealing to editors.
Lastly, be sure to send any great news stories to Kathy Nguyen at the Orange County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. We might publish your story in Scout Week, or on a new public-facing electronic newsletter that will highlight the great scouting program in OrangeCounty.