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Press and Publicity
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We are so full up in ourselves with Scouting that we forget to tell people what we are doing but then we grumble that Scouting never gets a mention in the press! Consider the following:

  • When did you last see a Scout uniform of any Section being worn in the street?
  • As you drive around the country have you ever seen a Scout Camp even in the height of the camping season?
  • Travel 30 miles to a town or village in which you know there is a Scout Troop - do you see its headquarters or can you make contact?
  • Do you know where your county office is? Is it situated nicely out of the way?
  • The last Scout Meeting you went to at District, County or HQ, or the last overseas visit, or the last Scout Shop you went into - were people wearing uniform?
  • When did you last read something good about Scouting in the National Press.
We in Scouting have adopted a culture of hiding ourselves away. Little wonder that we have difficulty selling our product when we cover up what we do.

The rest of this page is aimed at encouraging you to get the Uganda story through and into the press.

There are several areas in which publicity can be achieved for free but in each area the press have to be "spoon fed" the story. Unfortunately the downside of publicity is that as well as printing the good they will also print the bad so it is our job in Public Relations to ensure that the best possible light is put on the bad and that we appear willing to accept mistakes and learn how to improve. International activities are no different in this respect to bread and butter Scouting.

Local Press

The local weekly papers and the free news sheets including church magazines etc. will print good news stories about our Scouts and their activities. A Press release should give an eye catching headline, the story, contact information. For free news sheets and magazines you will have to write the full story for them.

So what makes an interesting story. Well it is not saying that "John Smith, a local Scout achieved his Pathfinder Award this week." As a reporter you will send that story to the waste bin and even if it was pubilished consider what someone who does not know Scouting might think. Is he being publicised because he got it at 13 when most boys get a similar award in Cubs. Was he a failure or a success. Is this a map reading award or just an award for walking on paths.

Imagine how much better and informative it is to say "13 year old John Smith, a Scout from Market Somewhere and a 2nd year pupil at the Major Secondary School, achieved the highest award for his age group this week when he completed a weekend activity camp in the Peak District." John Smith said "It was tough going this weekend with quite disgusting weather, but we came through". John was one of 3 Scouts from across the County who completed a 15 mile weekend hike across the White Peaks. His Scout Leader, Mike Bloggs or Wood Crescent, Uptown added "John is the first boy in Somewhere Scouts in three years to get this award and has worked really hard on over 50 skills to achieve this. We are all very proud of him."

Produce a press release based on this sort of approach and you can expect column inches and demands for photographs. Better still send them a photograph of this photogenic Scout in uniform with heavy Rucksac on the back in the pooring rain.

Contact details are important. There is no point in just putting a postal address. You will never be contacted. You must have a land phone and prefereably a mobile phone. These days an email address is useful. However, reports still prefer voice contact.

But what has this to do with our International Relations with Uganda?

Every time your Scouts are doing something out of the norm, the press will print a story providing you dress up the event or evening as an interesting item. So, if your Beaver Scouts are tasting Uganda food, invite the press photographer along to take a photo or, in the case of the free press, take your own. If you have a Scout going to Uganda, tell the press in a press release, expand the information by taking information off the web site. The more exciting the information is, the more likely it is to be published. In a series of Press Releases, take the story through from the leader who came to give your troop a presentation about Uganda, the fund raising, the whole group working for it, the preparation camps, the departure, out there in Uganda, the return home, the presenation to parents and the winning of the Local Council Good Citizen Award!

Don't forget the radio and TV

We blame this part of the media for neglecting us but in reality we neither feed them the right stories nor the people to appear on the media. The same sort of Press Release that you send to the papers will attract the TV and Radio but you do have to be accessible and you need someone who can appear on the media to be interviewed and please please please make sure that on TV that person is in uniform. One group who had had no publicity for several years found it had a Scout going to Uganda this summer. This 15 year old boy gained for the Group a total of 153 column inches of publicity over a 6 months period plus 2 TV appearances and 3 on radio.

Whilst in Uganda tell the press.

Often we go to Uganda or on any International Visit and get home - then after a couple of months we wounder why the press are not interested. Why nothing appeared about the visit despite the letter we wrote to the editor.

Little wonder nothing appeared as there is just no point waiting until you get home. All they can do is a "Just Back from" story when really the press would have preferred to do a "Today" story. Press publish what happened yesterday, today and what will happen tommorrow. Imagine the story in the 1st November edition of the Weekly Whatever "Local Scout back from Uganda" is the headline but the story reveals he returned in August. No paper is going to publish that. That story should have been given to the press on his return and no point in waiting for those fabulous photos to come back from the processing lab. Get them into the one hour print shop if you think there is anything worth publishing. Remember when taking photos to take a note of names, ages etc. and to ensure that those you are photographing at least look like Scouts. What are they wearing? Note some papers will give a film to you to take some photos for them. Often they will choose a most unlikely photograph from your point of view but they are in the business of selling news papers. On one international visit the leader came home armed with loads of photos of what the Scouts had been doing and there were plenty of photos of well known monuments and buildings in the capital city. Did they print any of those - NO - instead they chose a photograph of the Leader having his hair cut in the middle of the camp with lots of Scouts crowded home. Today GSM phones can get the story and the email home before your family gets the post card and don't forget if the story is a good one they will want to talk to you in Uganda to give first hand quotations.

Embargo your story but be careful

The local and weekly papers and the radio and TV will accept an embargo but do be sensible when asking them to respect one. Have a good reason why it should not go into the press until a certain date. Remember that most evening papers have an inside page deadline of early morning - about 10am. Most weekly papers around 3-4 days before publication. Radio and TV can be as short as one hour, though half a day for a location video. A useful embargo is to send the story out one week in advance (for a story that will wait that long) and to put an embargo on it to ensure it can make the weekly paper and the daily paper on the same day or within a day or two. That way the weekly gets a fair crack of the story. Remember to include quotations "Mike Ex said "anything at all" even though he is not going to say it till Friday.

Large Events such an an International Visit incoming or outgoing.

This is really what we are about in the Network. You will see that one Scout gained a great deal of local publlicity. Another Group increased its membership from 6 to 30+ in one year leading up to an incoming visit and that was achieved by constantly telling people throught the Press what Scouts were doing. Gradually the local boys and girls wanted to be part of it.

For such large events ensure that you have a Public Relations Team dedicated to getting the story to the press. This should be their first job, not an add on to something else. They will quickly find that keeping the press informed is a full time job. Whilst in Uganda or on camp in the UK it can be quite difficult to get the story home. You will need a computer and access to a telephone line to send faxes or have someone in the UK who can translate an email into a story. GSM Moble phones do work in Uganda and are an essential tool in getting the story out but their area of coverage in the country is patchy but improving. Publicity must be a commitment by everyone and not just a few. You will need them to root out the stories for you. That human interest story about Johnny getting 4 Grade A at A Level and getting his place at University. At the time he found out he was helping an old man in Uganda to rebuild his house after a thunder storm had brought down the roof. How much more interesting that is than the long columns of results. Some papers will accept digital pictures so an emailed good picture could easily be in the press.

If you are publishing on a web site ensure that if you have a News Area that it is updated regularly with interesting stories. This should be aimed mainly at parents, families and interested people. Do not expect the press to spend time reading the site. If you fail to update regularly parents will worry that there is no news and that that could mean bad news. For example in the UK Press there was news of a major accident involving a petrol tanker on the route that two units would take to get to their Community Activities. The Web Site was quick to say that none of the UK Scouts were involved or affected thought it added that one Unit had seen the incident after it happened and prayers had been said that evening.

ScoutBase UK achieved over 5000 visitors to its World Jamboree pages in just one day and all they had were photographs. For a much smaller interest group we achieved over 50 visitors in one day.

All of this raises the profile of Scouting in your community and nationally and that is the aim of publicity.

Bad News

From time to time bad news happens. It could be a leader not arriving at a place where he was expected and the alarm is raised with the posibility that he is lost, had an accident or been robbed. Or it could be much worse. Remember the rock fall on a camp site which killed a number of Scouts? What ever the bad news is, the press are likely to be interested and this is likely to include the national press. In the case of some of the national press embargoes, privacy and accurate reporting appear as rare as snow in July in the UK. Do not speak to them off the record. Few will respect that if the story is big enough to attract the nationals. In the case of bad news ask the Public Relations Officer at Scout HQ in the UK to assist. Often a short statement with unavailability for comment is all that is needed. Remember if you are dealing with serious accidents or death you will be emotionally connected to this and YOU will need support from the professional PR staff.

The Emergency Contact should also be advised of the circumstances and your Contingent Leader will know how to contact that person.

Contact the Uganda Network Copyright © The UK Uganda Network - 2002
Last modified 7 October 2003



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