Flagpole Briefing: Communications

Units First communications, getting tied in and informed

Jerry L. Carter
Northern Star Council Communications Chair

Greetings form the Council Communications Committee! This is the first in a series of blog posts from Northern Star volunteers and staff on topics relevant to Scouting in our community.

Our committee was born from the council’s Units First Initiative, which seems like years ago, but was only the beginning of 2020.  The initiative reorganized and redistricted, flattening our organization to put more resources toward where Scouting really happens - in our packs, troops, crews, ships and posts.

Many support functions were refocused from the district level to council committees. Districts were restructured to offer unit support through commissioners, and the district committee moved to focusing on membership recruitment, retention, and transition.

Our Council Communications Committee was created as part of these changes to provide crucial information directly to units, district and council volunteers, as well as Scouting families. Our goal has been to bridge the gaps.

Our fledgling Committee was immediately thrown into action when the state and much of the country shutdown due to the pandemic. It was fly or fall time. Our first efforts were at creating resources to keep Scouting going through the Scouting@Home web page, events and materials. We leveraged our new video conferencing and webinar software to offer council meetings.

We also created Facebook social media groups for Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA to encourage peer communication and leverage another avenue for information dissemination.

And, while we were scrambling to make in-person meetings and events virtual, we have instituted several avenues to accomplish the Units First tasks. We have created the three new monthy e-newsletter email – the Northern Starlights, that are unit leader specifically targeted based on program.

The open average open rates have been high – on average about 40% for Cubs, 43% for Scouts BSA/Venturing and 56% for Dist./Council Volunteers.  In the marketing world, open rates of 5 to 10 percent are considered to be really good.

We have worked closely with staff on the monthly communication kick-offs to provide support in providing content for the Navigator, eNavigator, Starlights, website and our new interactive video format—BrandLive, which has been used to host the monthly Scout Talks, which replace district roundtables. The committee created subscribe-able program specific calendars for members to join and sync with their own calendars.

We have updated our website and expanded the, “Connect,” page—www.northernstar.org/connect—to include the recent eNavigators, custom calendars, text messaging, role specific emails, and monthly Scout chats. Our plans are to expand this page to also include an archive of past stories for easy access.

Currently in the works, we are polishing our texting capabilities and developing a best practices policy. You can now text Scout to Scout (72688) and be added into our text database. If your number exists in our records it will combined with your role in Scouting to allow for micro targeted texted information. If you’re not linked, we will ask for more information to get you into the correct groups. The Texting System integration has been slow due to COVID-19, getting the proper licensing from the FCC and building our database from the pre-Y2K member database tracking system used by the National BSA.

You can help enhance our communications by providing content – success stories, topics of interest, committee and community highlights and opportunities and more via our “Submissions Sites”.  These were recently added to the “Connect,” “Stuff-to-Do” and the “District Operations” website pages, allowing anyone to submit story or event information to our committee. Information will be added to calendars or used as stories in our publications and should be used by our other committees to submit information they need in the council publications.

Next up is a “Communications Preferences” page so volunteers and families can pick which electronic communications they wish to receive beyond the defaults for their registered positions.  

The schedule and audiences for these new leader communications for planning purposes is:

  • Northern Starlight Cub Scouting – Friday of the first week of the month
  • Northern Starlight Scouts BSA/Venturing – Friday of the 2nd week of the month
  • Northern Starlight District/Council Volunteers – Friday of the 3rd week of the month

In addition, eNavigator is sent on the first of each month to all Scouting households, with sections personalized for member/leader registrations. Our committee is adding more feature and human stories to make it even more readable and useful.

COVID has given us new opportunities, has slowed our progress in some areas and forced us to develop others faster. We need to continue developing our texting, our video capabilities, and we would like to have liaisons from each committee that could help supply content to us monthly. COVID has been hard on recruitment of volunteers, but we have efforts in the works to bolster our very productive team.

So that leaves us with this column/blog. It’s my committee’s plan to use this space to share ideas, answer questions, and help navigate our Scouting world as it pertains to our council. We hope to share new posts in a timely manner although without a specific schedule. Stay tuned…

Northern Star Connect Page


Editors Note: Jerry Carter is a former reporter and news photographer, having worked for over 15 years at several newspapers in Minnesota, including the Duluth News-Tribune, and the St. Cloud Times. Where he covered higher education and county government. He’s also a desktop publisher, web designer, and currently works in St. Cloud as an Information Technology Systems Administrator, managing and designing network, data, telephony, security and camera systems for Royal Tire’s 21 locations throughout the state. He’s currently the Cubmaster of Monticello Pack 3272, Assistant Scoutmaster for Buffalo Troop 5358, and has been an adult leader since 1991. He’s served on Wood Badge Staff five times, been the Council Membership Chair, served as Crow River District chair, scoutmaster, roundtable chair, and as a den leader in the Annandale area.  

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