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Communications Kit


Communications Kit

Any good Conclave isn’t put on by a one-man army. Instead, a Council of Chiefs spends months putting together the best experience possible. Each Conclave Vice Chief on the COC is responsible for some portion of the Conclave, but each area of the Conclave touches every other. It is up to the Section Chief to ensure that communication remains open, regular, and worthwhile, in order to provide the best, most cohesive experience possible for event attendees.

Members and advisers of the Council of Chiefs are busy, high-performing Arrowmen, often with several large time commitments in and out of Scouting. Therefore, when communicating with the COC, the overarching principle should be regular, succinct communication. Long, complex emails to entire groups are very often necessary to give major updates or explain unexpected obstacles. However, with that said, shorter, more frequent contact helps to keep everyone informed and engaged without overwhelming amounts of information all at once.

Which platform is best?

In Scouting, as in business, email is king. This is true for several reasons; first, everyone has one. Second, old messages are stored until actively deleted by the user - this means that each COC member can easily access that now-relevant email from two months ago with minimal effort. Emails are easily sent to large groups all at once and give Arrowmen practice in writing formal communications.

Email is decidedly the best communication platform for sending a message to an entire group. However, individual communication requires a much higher degree of awareness of each individual. For example; an adviser may have their email open on a second monitor during their entire workday, but only check their Facebook Messenger notifications once or twice a month. On the other hand, a youth may consistently respond to text messages in 10 minutes or less, but have a problem remembering to check their email or Slack account.

The best way to have regular, valuable, and individual communication is just that: individual. At the start of the Conclave planning process, ask each member of the COC to give their best method of contacting them. Record this in a central location alongside each members’ contact information; that way, when you go to look for someone’s information, you already know which method works best for them. This creates faster responses and happier members of the COC, leading to a better Conclave for everyone.

How often should communication occur?

In-person meetings of the COC are essential to putting on a good Conclave. However, it simply isn’t feasible to have a monthly meeting to go over everyone’s progress and pass along updates. Section Chiefs must instead figure out how often they want to pass along information to the entire group, and in what way.

Like many other issues discussed in this guide, this is best found through trial and error. Here, the section adviser is a valuable resource. They have likely been around the COC for a number of years and have seen different chiefs try their hand at this method or that. At the end of the day, though, the final decision does lie with the chief. Feedback from CVCs and advisers will also help to make this decision; if CVCs feel as though they are making regular, significant progress (and the section chief agrees), communication may consist only of a few check-ins and calls prior to the Conclave. However, if there are issues in making progress or a CVC would prefer it, the section chief has the option to be in much more regular contact with them - perhaps as often as a call once a week. Each CVC and adviser are different, and some will require much more regular, intensive communication than others.

It’s important to remember, though, that even within this variance there must still be consistency. It’s to the benefit of everyone involved for the section chief to contact each member of the planning team, regardless of office, on a consistent schedule. This way, those small questions or problems that never seem to be addressed anywhere else have a time and place to be answered and solved. This contact can be as casual or involved as works; for example, anything from a simple text message to a scheduled call or meeting will work.

A Note on Youth Protection

The Conclave planning team will often be composed of a diverse group of Scouts and Scouters. It’s critical that in all communication youth protection policies are followed. This means that an email from an adult to a youth is copied (or sent directly to) another adult; one-on-one meetings between adults and youth don’t occur in private; and other rules, as required. Work with the section adviser and section staff adviser to ensure that the most current youth protection rules and policies are being followed in all communications pertaining to the section. While many of the practices in section communication are up for debate, and there is no definite best answer, following youth protection is required and non-negotiable in all instances.

Conclave Brand and Identity

Section Brand

A brand helps to publicly define the most important features of an organization. By utilizing one unified voice, the Arrowmen of the section can better understand what the Section is, what it does, and how Conclave can help them to better serve their units, chapters, and lodges.

Visual Design

Aesthetically pleasing designs and promotions draw more attention for the simple reason that they are more pleasant to look at. This doesn’t go to say that all promotions should aim for aesthetic values above all; rather, needed content should be promoted in a way that’s both informative and visually pleasing. These elements also help to create a unified identity for the Section. In this way, promotions can be utilized by different lodges and on different platforms; with one unified visual identity, any Arrowman who has previously seen and been impacted by a section promotion will again recognize the work of the section, and have their thoughts called back to Conclave and their excitement for this year’s event.

Having an organizational voice is critical for an organizational unit such as the section. As an organizational level between the lodge - a smaller, more local level - and the larger region, the section also carries with it a professional voice and tone in public marketing. The audience for section promotions and materials isn’t just limited to Arrowmen; families, parents, and unit leaders will also look at section materials and pass their own judgement about the section based on the materials available to them.

While creating content with a unit leader in mind may seem daunting, it is also an opportunity to recruit more youth to attend the Conclave. If materials are professional, aesthetically pleasing, and communicate all relevant information, a unit leader may be impressed and serve as an advocate for the section and for the Conclave itself. On the other hand, scarce information and confusing graphics will likely discourage a unit leader from promoting the Conclave to the youth in their unit. If information isn’t easily understood and accepted by all, how can it be expected that the information will be passed along?

Creating a Conclave Brand

Each year, the section must face one of its many perennial struggles: deciding on a theme for the year’s Conclave. For more information on assembling this theme, see the theme section above. Once each committee has created a vision of the theme in their work, what’s the next step? For those in charge of promoting the Conclave, a Conclave Brand needs to be developed and distributed as soon as possible.

A Conclave Brand isn’t as extensive as the Section Brand discussed above. Rather, imagine promotions highlighting the theme and specific activities of the event in the weeks and months leading up to the Conclave. Any promotion that couldn’t be copy-pasted from one year into the next is part of the Conclave Brand. This brand matters because it addresses that all-important question: what’s new this year? How will Conclave this year be a different experience from the one I attended this time last year? A Conclave Brand serves as the face of these changes by communicating, visually and in written materials, that this Conclave is distinct and worthwhile. 

How to Create a Conclave Brand

The greatest assets of any section are its members. When creating a Conclave Brand, remember that: look for members with interest and willingness to learn. Find those with needed skills and background, such as knowledge of graphic design and promotion, but also remember that anyone can be trained. Pull together those who are passionate about the Conclave and what it has to offer and give them guidance in promoting the specific benefits and ideas of the Conclave. 

For a few fantastic examples, look at the brands of the following lodges and sections: Section W-3N, Section SR-7A, Tsisqan Lodge, and others.

Resources:

Order of the Arrow Branding

Provides information and resources on OA National Branding standards.

Guide to Conclave Promotions

Introduction

A Section can spend an entire year working hard to put on the perfect Conclave for Arrowmen, bringing together years of experience and trial-and-error into an experience that’s truly unforgettable. However, if no one is told when and where the event is, all of that effort will have been for nothing. While this is a rather extreme example, it remains true that Sections need to effectively market and promote their Conclave in order to excite Arrowmen to attend and bring their friends.

Paper Mail: Is it Worth It?

In formal event planning, a paper invitation is an absolute must. Careful attention goes into the color, format, styling, and RSVP requirements of the invitation, portraying exactly the kind of event and formality expected. While a Conclave is (at least typically) far removed from such expectations, it still remains a valid question of whether or not sections should send out a paper invitation or reminder about the Conclave.

There is no definitive yes-or-no answer to this question. In some Sections, a paper mailer may be particularly effective in exciting Arrowmen; a newly inducted member may light up upon receiving a promo postcard in the mail, promptly hanging it on the refrigerator as a reminder to register the moment they’re able. On the other hand, a mailer may be fruitless if sheer distance and cost keep Arrowmen who would otherwise attend away from the site on the weekend of Conclave. In this case, a mailer would serve relatively little purpose here because the issue is simple geography, not a lack of information or anticipation. 

In-Person Promotions and Promotional Materials

No section could exist without the support of its lodges, and lodges receive key support from the sections they form part of. Unsurprisingly, this relationship extends to promotions as well. Sections across the country have found success in providing lodges with ready-made promotional materials, asking only that the lodges repost or share them on their own social media platforms. Many other sections print a banner or provide flyers to lodges. Note: these sections don’t send an image file or PDF, each ready to print. Instead, they do the printing themselves and give lodges the actual, physical promotional material. This material then ends up with the Lodge Adviser or Chief, and it’s shocking how often this material will appear as a reminder of Conclave at local lodge events. 

Lodges and sections share wonderful, mutually beneficial relationships: it’s in the best interest of any Section Chief to use this relationship for the benefit of their Conclave.  

Marketing Conclave Content

Conclave is a great time! Hang out with friends, watch awesome shows, and eat great food! Register today!
Conclave is a great time! Spend time with your fellow Arrowmen, watch the National Chief sing karaoke live on stage, and compete with your friends in the newly re-designed Lodge Games!

In all event marketing, specificity is key. Everything in the first pitch could be accomplished at either a national Jamboree or at a Conclave; in the second, though, participants have a much more precise idea of what they can expect at Conclave this year.

Among all sections and all Arrowmen, a common complaint emerges: Conclave is the same every year. Traditions stagnate and excitement turns to drudgery as old ideas are brought up as new, and the key, small changes from year to year go unnoticed by the larger audience. Perhaps the easiest way to remedy this comes in the marketing of the event itself. Those planning and marketing Conclave know better than anyone what will be happening, and (most likely) how the weekend has changed. In order to excite Arrowmen, remember to keep promotions specific and unique. Why will this Conclave be one you don’t want to miss? What can participants look forward to when they wake up on Saturday morning? Remember to promote these elements, and promotions can’t go wrong.

For ideas as to how specifically to do this, reflect on examples found both in and out of Scouting. How does the local high school market school events to the student body? How do community organizers get uninterested community members to spend their Saturday traveling to and enjoying their event? 

What Promotions Work?

Section SR-7A hosts the largest Conclave in the country, routinely hosting over 1,500 Arrowmen at one Conclave. The Section Chief and Officers of SR-7A have regularly filmed a music video that promotes this Conclave while parodying a popular song. See: 2019, 2017, 2015.

This promotion is time- and labor-intensive, involving coordinating many individual schedules, booking the facility, editing, scriptwriting, and onsite filming, among other elements. However, it’s also a promotion that’s likely to be widely shared and remembered, and the investment of time and energy may be worth it.

Determining which promotions work and which don’t will vary from Section to Section. Some sections, such as Section W-1S, have found that the time and effort they put into social media promotions year-round yields results that merit their investment. Other sections may find that in-person promotions at events are more effective and choose to spend their time developing resources to facilitate these promotions. The best tool to recognize what does and doesn’t work in your Section is through feedback - consider polling Conclave attendees and figure out which promotions reached them, or polling Arrowmen online in the months prior to establish which communication medium they check most often.