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If you’ve been a part of Girl Scouts for even a day, you’ve likely heard the age-old myth: all we do is sell cookies and do crafts. But Girl Scouts do incredible things for their communities: they study local ecosystems to help protect them, build raised beds and rain barrels to help feed their neighbors, raise money for people in need, and invent incredible devices and systems that transform the world around them.
You and I know that Girl Scouts is more about STEM and service, or camping and community than cookies and crafts (although we do that too), but how do we refute this myth in our communities? It’s simple: by sharing what you and your girls are doing all year with local media.
Creating awareness about the outstanding work your Girl Scouts do is vital to the growth of your service unit. Once you establish a service unit publicity person or communications coordinator, she can be your liaison with the local media and help get your events covered, get your girls’ accomplishments published and so much more.
I served as our service unit publicity chair for five years. Although the role was established long before I became a troop leader, my extensive background in corporate public relations helped me tailor the role to how it would most benefit our girls. I maintained contact with our local reporters to feed them story ideas, submitted press releases to the local publications about recruiting events and Girl Scout events that were open to the public, and kept in touch with our local Girl Scout leaders so I knew what was going on with their troops.
But you don’t need to have a public relations background to get your troops covered in the local media! Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Look for a great story angle
Stories that feature people are much more captivating for readers: they pique their interest, pluck at their heartstrings, and inspire them to try something new, or step up in their communities. It’s great to have the local media come out and cover your cookie pick-up day, but if you have an Ambassador Girl Scout who is in her final year selling cookies there to talk about how excited she is about meeting her goals that year, that gives you a story angle for the reporter and puts one of your Girl Scouts out there in a focused and positive light.
Other enticing topics are Bronze, Silver and Gold awards, Take Action projects or service projects, or inventions, victories, or ideas your troop has been able to implement recently. It’s important for the community to know about the amount of time the girls put in to these projects that make a lasting impact on the community.
Get to know your local publications
Do you have a newspaper in town? What about a local magazine? Is there a free publication that is distributed to homes or businesses? Is there a local radio station? How can you take advantage of spreading the word via your social media channels?
All of these mediums operate differently and have unique approaches to how they work with the community. Learn about your audience for each channel, and think about what they would be most interested in as you choose an angle for your story. Look up your local newspaper, radio or magazine online to find the name of the editor or reporter to get in touch with. At our local radio station, I made contact with the Promotions Director who made arrangements for our girls to appear on air. Reporters at all newspapers have so much on their plates nowadays so catering to their schedule and helping them out (even if that means writing a story yourself) will increase the chances of getting the girls some publicity.
Meet the local reporter and/or editor
Reach out to local media contacts and suggest having a conversation over lunch or coffee. (Make sure you don’t offer to pay for their sandwich or latte though, as that can be a conflict of interest!) This sets up a casual setting where you can learn about their deadlines and interests, and they can learn about Girl Scouts to figure out how the two of you can partner. Journalists by nature are a curious group, so they love meeting new people and finding out how community organizations operate. You might even learn that your local reporter was a Girl Scout, a troop leader, or had Girl Scout daughters at one point!
Leverage the Girl Scout brand
Writing a press release is easier than you think! Girl Scouts of Northern California has a template press release that you can customize to fit your needs. Submitting a press release with the GSNorCal logo on it looks much more official, making a reporter more likely to take a closer look at your story. Be as concise as possible when writing your press release, and include just the facts that the community needs to know. You can even ask the reporter what details he or she wants to know and has space for.
Your pitch doesn’t even have to be that formal; if you have a great story that highlights one of your local Girl Scouts, simply write an email or call your local reporter to let them know about the great work she did. If they don’t get back to you right away, be persistent and follow up!
Let the girls do the talking
Every year before the fall product and cookie seasons, our service unit asks for 2–3 girls to make an appearance on our local radio station to promote the upcoming sale (and give girls early experience with both press conferences and public speaking—an excellent entrepreneurial skill). I reach out to the radio station promotions director about a month before Fall Product or Cookie Go Day and arrange a time with her for the girls to appear on air. She connects with her DJ and they get back to me. They go on during high commute time which is usually before school and very convenient for our older girls.
We select girls who are articulate, experienced, outgoing, and energetic but we let them do the work. Parents are not allowed in the studio during the interview. If they don’t include everything, or go a little off script, that’s OK. We give the girls talking points a couple of days beforehand to be familiar with the content, but whatever they say, they’ll still have succeeded at advertising the sale. What’s important is that they take the lead in being a spokesperson for our girl-led organization.
As the service unit publicity chair, it’s important that you pay attention to what your troops/girls are doing. Most stories can create awareness about Girl Scouts in your community. Make sure to attend your service unit meetings and keep in touch with leaders so you know about the great work they are doing with their girls.
It’s also important to maintain relationships with your local reporters. Keep in contact with them via email, ask them if they are looking to localize a national story (examples like girls joining Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts coming out with a new cookie, etc.). If your girls are participating in Coastal Cleanup or another local initiative where there are lots of youth groups, let the reporter know your troop will be out there and he or she will find you and maybe even take some photos.
The more you share girls’ incredible accomplishments with the community, the more opportunities you have to grow your troop and strengthen Girl Scouts in your community, so don’t miss out on this chance to put your troops out there!
What to do next:
- Did you try these steps out and get your girls in the news? Let us know how it went by sharing your story—you or your girls could be featured on our blog, social media, website, or other publications!
- Visit the GSNorCal News Room to see what local Girl Scouts are doing for their communities.
- Have more media questions? Reach out to GSNorCal’s Marketing & Communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angela Borchert—Angela just completed her seventh year as a Girl Scout leader in Vacaville/Travis Air Force Base service unit. She leads Juniors and Cadettes and loves the wide range of activities and interests that both groups have and the challenges they provide her along the way. Girl Scouts have helped her embrace glue guns and dirt while taking her on her first kayaking adventure. She’s been camping more times in the past five years than she has in her entire life thanks to Girl Scouts!