Happy New Year from Camp Network!
As we look back at 2016 and all the memorable moments it held, we thought we’d also take a moment to look back at some of our favorite camp moments. It can be difficult to know which aspects of your program truly impact campers, so we’ve asked them. As a New Year’s gift to you, here are the stories of six campers and the gifts camp gave them.
Spending a week outdoors—in whatever capacity—is a challenge in and of itself. With the myriad activities campers have to do each day, what stuck with them most?
Barbara (Franklin, TN)
I went to a sleep-away horseback riding camp in the Czech Republic. Although I am fluent in Czech, it was still a very different experience being an American at a foreign camp. I thought I was more familiar with Czech culture than I was; I had no idea what the culture was really like amongst other girls my age, and that led to a few mishaps. Luckily, a very friendly girl came up and informed me that the slang I’d picked up was not at all polite! Even though I had a lot to learn, I loved that at the end of the day, I was spending more time with horses than I could dream of. Despite all the bumps and bruises (and purple toes!) you get at horseback riding camp, I loved it, and I'm thankful I was able to experience a community of young women who fully embraced me into the Czech culture at large.
Noah (Radford, VA)
I’ve gone to wilderness camp every summer for almost twelve years. My mom wanted me to join something exciting back in kindergarten, so I did, and I’ve just kind of stayed since. The Mountain Man program was the best because the whole group was really cool and all the same age. We would hang out at the “trading post” almost every afternoon, eating snacks and playing games. Our favorite night of the summer was the closing campfire. During the ceremony, we got to walk around the camp at night and see a completely different side of it. Kind of creepy, but in a good way.
It’s quirky. It’s fun. It’s chaotic. It’s one of those rare phenomena which perfectly blends delightful geekiness with impressive athleticism. Somehow. For those who have experienced it, band camp is something they will never forget.
Catie (Fairfax, VA, marched baritone + color guard)
My most memorable moment in band camp was getting introduced to color guard. Intimately. I marched baritone my first two years and was the shortest member of the section by far. We had one bit of drill where we had to march 30 meters in 16 counts. At 5’1”, marching well only gets you so far, and I was sprinting. At the end of an hour practicing this section, the color guard joined us. To quote my section leader, “One second, she was the there; the next, gone.” One of the guard members didn’t see me coming and clotheslined me with the flag. I’ll tell you one thing: I never forgot the importance of watching my flag when I joined color guard the next year!
Jennifer (Irvine, CA, marched alto sax, bari sax + drum major)
My freshman year, we had our most difficult and aesthetically appealing show. During band camp, we spent so many amazing hours perfecting our technique and bonding as we put the show together, but we finished really late. Our show wasn’t finished until a week before our last competition, and we had been performing terribly for every show before that one. We only rehearsed the last part of the show for a week, but we rehearsed the hardest we had all season. It paid off when we got the sweepstakes award in all the categories except one!
Discussion and drills. Fouls and friends. Jocks and jokes.
Sports camps are about more than athletic improvement. They also focus on team bonding and fostering a love of the game. With everything going on at these camps, what stuck with players most?
Rachael (Spring Hill, FL)
After my best friend told me about it, I signed up for volleyball camp. I had never played volleyball before, but I played soccer and wanted to try another sport. One of my biggest takeaways was that I served well only when no one was watching. When they were, I caved under pressure. That was a valuable lesson for future endeavors, academic and athletic. I began to work on focusing and relying on instincts at the same time. I’m still working on performing under pressure; it’s one of my personal weaknesses, but I’m getting there. Overall, I loved the comradery of the group, how we did obnoxious group cheers, intense drills, and even more intense core workouts. My cheeks hurt and my abs had grown twice their size by the end of the week!
Delando (Riverdale, GA)
I first took on football because of my size and to get in shape. I’ve done camp with my team since I was 14, first with high school, then with Vandy. It taught me to never give up and to push myself and my teammates through hard times. I remember one time when I was the team captain, but I didn’t speak a lot. We were all starting to separate but when I did speak everyone was shocked and really listened. We came together, won the game, and got closer as a team. By doing camp together, we formed a bond as teammates.
Happy Thanksgiving from Camp Network!
We know you work hard at what you do, and we also know you don’t always get enough appreciation. We want to change that. Here to say “thank you” to the camps that helped shape them are 10 grateful campers.
Michelle (Dallas, TX)
My college application essay was about the impact someone I met through marching band had on me. So... I pretty much got into Vanderbilt because of band camp. Thanks!
Adam (Philadelphia, PA)
At camp, I got the chance to own that I’m just a naturally loud person. Like, all the houses had their own cheers, and the male houses usually did haka while the female ones did parodies of pop songs. One year, we mixed it up by doing a Beyoncé parody which devolved into whale calls.
Neethu (Chicago, IL)
When I was in 3rd grade, I went to a ranch with my Girl Scouts troop. Even though I was away from my parents for the first time, I had a blast learning how to ride horses and sleeping in a cabin. That summer was amazing, and I'm so thankful for all the experiences it gave me.
Leah (Fairfax, VA)
One of my favorite moments was when we were all stuck in the same place and forced to bond together. But it worked, so that was cool.
Talie (Nyanza, Kenya)
Something magical happens at camp. We get taken away from our usual surroundings, classmates, and friends. For a time, we can reinvent ourselves and allow ourselves to be free to be who we are meant to be.
Jess (Baltimore, MD)
Camp taught me how the most unexpected thing can turn into the best part of your day. It also taught me that nothing is as fun as a seventy-person game of dodgeball!
Emily (Granville, NY)
I’m thankful for how dedicated my counselors were—they were always up for making lanyards, staying up late eating s’mores, or playing cards with me and my friends.
Kaitlyn (Newport News, VA)
I went to a bunch of camps every summer growing up, and the thing I am most thankful for was the friends I made! While I'm not close with any of them now, they helped me to grow and I'll never forget them.
Michelle (Birmingham, AL)
Camp gave me a chance to explore somewhere new, meet people from all over the world, a chance to bond over shared passions, and a laid back but thrilling atmosphere!
Daniel (Buffalo, NY)
In many ways, camp was an oasis. School without homework. Friendships without worries. There was something about the aura of the place that made you feel okay about waking up at seven in the morning, never quite sure what the day would bring. Most of all, I see summer camp as a breeding ground of nostalgia. One can't help but yearn for those simpler times when summers were for fun instead of career-development and when games like Capture the Flag and Tug-of-War were played by school children instead of nations.
At its core, an interview is research. It’s research into a person and how they could benefit your organization. Research into a new insurance provider would provide similar information. So why is interviewing so much greater an imposition?
For one, it requires interacting with others through an unbalanced power dynamic. When you are interviewing someone, they know you are responsible their future (or lack thereof) at your organization. What could have been a casual, friendly conversation is now tense and awkward. To make the situation more difficult, the information you need isn’t always clearly available. When conducting research prior to the acquisition of any other asset, you can check provider websites, aggregate review sites, message boards, and more, getting up-to-date, fact-checked data. All the information you need has already been collected. In an interview, you’re the one doing the collection.
To make interviewing new employees, from directors to counselors, a more painless and efficient process, make sure you know how to get the right information.
Step One: Figure Out What You’re Looking For
Obviously, you will be looking for different qualifications in those applying for different positions. Determine what qualities you need someone in a certain position to possess. For instance, a counselor might need to be friendly, outgoing, organized, and trustworthy. They probably don’t need to know Python, unless, of course, they’re teaching a programming course for your program. In order to find the perfect candidate, define what “perfect” means for that position.
Step Two: Figure Out How to Get That Information
Once you know what your perfect candidate looks like, you need to determine which applicants fit the mold. While interviews allow the most freedom for gaining new information, other avenues can be quite useful. If your candidate must have strong writing skills, ask for writing samples. You can discuss their verbal acuity all day, but only their writing can actually show you how they write. To determine their character and personality at work, ask for references. Speaking to previous coworkers and supervisors can give you a good idea what working with the candidate might be like. Once you have your background research done, go into the interview with questions prepared. Ask questions that result in answers to what you really need to know: can this candidate do this job. Ask about anything that raised red flags in your earlier research, try to gauge how they would fit your organization’s culture, have them explain why they’re interested in the position. Why they think they’d be a good fit.
Step Three: Organize That Information
You’ve determined what information you need and gathered it. Congratulations. Now you need to do something with it. In order to make a rational decision based on the information you gathered, you need to organize it. Make sure to take notes on relevant information you gain during interviews and prior research, and take the same type of notes for each candidate. If you commented on one candidate’s tone of voice and the other’s experience, it becomes awfully difficult to make a rational comparison.
Step Four: Make a Decision
Once you have all your interview data synthesized and know what qualities your ideal candidate needs, it’s just a matter of comparison. Memories fail, so use notes to make the best decisions. It’s difficult to compare someone you spoke with a day ago to someone from a month ago, especially when both were strangers beforehand. This is why you took notes. Look through the information you gathered and determine who best meets your criteria. Then you call them up and make their day.
“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
If the world were a perfect place, decision making would be easy. There would be a good and a bad option. You’d choose the good option. That’d be it.
Unfortunately, the world is not so perfect. Too often, the choice isn’t between good and bad; it’s between bad and worse.
So how do you choose?
The first thing you need to do in such a situation is understand what the options are. Sometimes you’ll find a shiny new third option, often you won’t, but it’s worth the time spent checking either way. You need to properly understand your situation.
In the 2012 film Argo, which tells the true story of Tony Mendez and the Iran Hostage Crisis, various CIA officials spend weeks trying to make a plan to extract six Americans trapped in Tehran. They consider ideas ranging from escaping under the guise of journalists to biking 300 miles to the Turkish border. Mendez looks at the situation and comes up with another plan: pretend to be a Hollywood film crew. As he puts it,
“There are only bad options. It’s about finding the best one.”
Aileron, in a 2012 article for Forbes, came up with a broad, although obviously not all-inclusive, set of difficult decisions.
There is no formula for making these decisions, for deciding which option is bad and which one is worse. In order to make an effective choice, you need to determine two things: what you would most and least like to lose, and how much risk you’re comfortable with. Your priorities should guide your decision. After taking action, know you did the best you could and deal with the fall-out, good and bad. Remember: no choice is made in a vacuum. It’s how you act over time that matter most, regardless of a few difficult decisions.
What is camp insurance?
If you run a camp, you need protection against accidents that could occur on your property. That’s where camp insurance comes in. The primary form is general liability insurance, although your camp could require other forms depending on the scope of its operations. For instance, if your camp has vehicles, you will need auto insurance.
General liability insurance covers the camp and those who act on its behalf (the director, counselors, etc.) from the risk of liabilities incurred through lawsuits and other claims. Simply put, it’s protection against getting sued.
Why do I need it?
Your general liability policy should provide protection for three types of risk:
How do I choose the best coverage for my camp?
Check for specific requirements in order to get exactly the combination you need. For instance, Nationwide’s General Liability Insurance for Youth Sports Camps and Clinics offers zero deductible for liability claims but only covers camps held on land not owned by the camp. Event Insurance Now offers a relatively inexpensive broad form Commercial General Liability Insurance for camps under 10 days which host no athletic events. Do your research and find the policy which works best for you in terms of coverage and cost.
You’ve heard of business-to-business marketing before.
And you’ve definitely heard of business-to-consumer marketing.
But have you heard of the third form, business-to-parent marketing?
Consumers differ in needs and desires, likes and dislikes, priorities and requirements. The markets to which you must advertise are as varied as the individuals which compose them. To ease the confusion imparted by such incredible market diversity, marketers traditionally begin with a single, simple distinction: will they be focusing on B2B or B2C marketing?
The distinction between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is the first of many which allow marketers to properly segment and target their audiences.
B2B marketing relies on a small and targeted market with whom marketers foster close relationships. Because purchase decisions must be justified and rational, marketing centers around building product awareness and educating potential users on the business value of their product. It’s all about the ROI.
B2C marketing relies on a large market with whom marketers try to form an emotional bond. Due to shorter product cycles, this focuses on creating an immediate emotional response which produces an immediate purchase decision (e.g. “this brand understands me;” “I’ll look so powerful driving this;” “what great value”). It’s about being desirable.
The B2B/B2C distinction provides valuable marketing insight for traditional companies to develop efficient marketing plans. Unfortunately, not every business falls neatly into one of these two categories.
Camps, for instance, fall into another category for marketers: business-to-parent (B2P).
B2P marketing relies on an appeal to both parents, who make the final purchase decision, and their children, for whom the purchase is made. While products and services marketed towards minors follow traditional B2C rules (emotional appeals, large audience, etc.), the product cycle is extended due to the differing interests of the two decision making parties. Typically, parents want safety and long-term value, children want fun, novelty, and to fit in. Marketing in this category is all about convincing both sides.
As a camp, you must effectively market to both children, your potential campers, and their parents, your potential buyers. To do this, provide value for both. Make your camp fun, but make it safe. Make it cool, but still have rules. Make it exciting, but teach campers something.
Do both, and you’ll have mastered the trick to B2P marketing.
A few social media stats to get your minds going… Americans spend 16% of their internet hours on Facebook. Pinterest and Instagram have 20 and 150 million active monthly users respectively. 56% of Americans use social media. 47% say Facebook ads have the greatest impact on their purchase decisions.
Obviously social media matters. Using it correctly can create impressive value, but choosing the correct platforms to target your potential customers can be a huge challenge. To make things easier, we here at Camp Network have created Social Media 101, highlighting the marketing value of four of today’s largest social media networks.
With 1.5 billion monthly active users, Facebook is a social media behemoth. Considering that 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook as soon as they get up, the platform has become an integral part of Millennials’ lives. These potential camp counselors and young parents are most likely to engage with your camp online once you’ve gotten them engaged. Gen Xers are also avid internet users, and nearly 65% use Facebook. While they are less likely than their younger counterparts to post their own content, they will engage with brands they already like, commenting on or sharing provided posts.
Although teenagers spend more time online, especially on mobile devices, than any other generation, Facebook is not their primary platform. As of 2013, more teens use Twitter than Facebook.
Twitter has only 120 million monthly active users but an added 500 million who just don’t log in! To many it serves as a news source—it’s basically that little news ticker on the bottom of the tv transferred online with a lot more celebrity gossip. Since 74% of users fall between the ages of 15 and 25, with many users never disclosing their age, this medium is a great way to reach young adults when they are actively seeking information.
Pinterest is the kind of website people choose to get lost in. The website’s 100 million active users, 85% of whom are female, go to Pinterest to see memes, get DIY tips, and access content marketing in graphic form.
To explain how you can use Pinterest to promote your business, I’ll use a graphic found on Pinterest:
Another social media network used by a younger demographic is Instagram. Owned by Facebook, this platform attracts 300 million users daily. These users, 90% of whom are under 35, split evenly between male and female. If you want to reach this demographic with a visual message, go on Instagram. As on most social media platforms, you can target ads to specific types of users. These ads comprise of a visual, a link to your company’s Instagram profile, and a “Learn More” tab which can link to your website. With photo, video, and carousel ads available, Instagram is finally for more than #selfies and #foodphotography
“The real preparation for races is done in the off-season. I put in the hard work during the summer and fall, and I'm always working on technique so that when the actual races come around I'm ready to go.”
Like athletes, camp directors still have a lot to do in the off-season. Once the kids go home, the supplies have been tucked into storage, and the counselors have said their goodbyes, the real work begins. The camp season might be busy, but the off-season is when the important work of preparation gets done.
Here are three valuable things you can do during the off-season to help make 2017 your best summer yet:
Use your off-season to revamp your image. First, take stock of your online presence. Do customers interact with you on social media? Do they read your blog articles? Do they click your Google ads? Once you’ve evaluated your current position, decide how to move forward. Potential improvements include improving your SEO, updating your website design, or revitalizing your email newsletter. Next, take the opportunity to engage with the community where you’re located. By chatting with local customers and other members of the community, you become a part of it. Never underestimate the value of a face-to-face conversation; one conversation can result in multiple sales if it builds a real relationship. As with digital marketing, take stock of your situation. Take advantage of the opportunities you have locally to build your business, whether that means improving local presence through print ads, partnerships, sponsorships, etc.
Use your off-season to plan ahead. What non-exigent tasks can you complete before the next camp season begins. By getting done in advance anything that does not need to be done during camp, you save yourself from unnecessary stress during the busiest time of your year. Tasks to be done in advance include activity planning, hiring, and the creation of any policy changes. You can also schedule content in advance on social media and blogs, if you use one for content marketing. This saves you time and effort later; just make sure you don’t post anything that will be obviously outdated by the time it’s posted.
Use your off-season to reflect on last camp season. What worked well? What didn’t? Even the traditions your camp has held for years should be reflected upon. If campers seem bored with them, tweak them! This is your opportunity to change, as much or as little as you think appropriate, anything about your camp: hiring practices, marketing metrics, the logo, activity schedules, policies, price, location, etc. Reflect on the previous season to make rational decisions about to (and not to) change for the next one. By using camper, parent, and employee feedback as well as your own observations, you can make well-informed decisions on how to keep improving your camp year after year.
There’s nothing quite as liberating as the first time you’re left alone.
Growing up, my siblings participated in an absurd number of sports, which meant they’d be out most of the day. As my parents drove them around, there would be times I, as the oldest, would have the house to myself for a few precious hours each week. I loved these moments, where I could do anything I wanted (within reason) and not have someone watching over my shoulder. In the same way, this sense of limitless freedom is a large part of why many enjoy camp so much.
From the moment a camper is dropped off at registration, the atmosphere changes. They are immersed in a new schedule, with new people, in a new environment. Figuring out this foreign world is exciting, and lets campers make their own decisions on what to explore first. It’s empowering to start with a clean slate and build a unique experience from the ground up. At the end of the session, when it’s time to say goodbye to friends and counselors, it’s especially apparent how far they have come from that distant first day.
Going back in future years only compounds this effect. Campers can build on their foundation, looking forward to seeing old bunkmates and counselors, while still preserving an element of the unknown. If they attend long enough, they’ll see themselves become a guide of sorts, helping younger attendees find their own sense of independence. They serve as a role model for the kind of person camp can produce, and what it can produce in others.
To keep this growth genuine, it’s important as a director to support, not dictate, this delicate process. Counselors should be taught to ease the transition from a school-based, structured schedule to a more casual camp routine. Certain events and classes are of course required, but they should be structured in such a way that the campers want to attend, and voluntarily arrive on time. When they are encouraged to act as opposed to being forced, there’s more motivation for them to embrace the individual, and make the most of their time away from home.
1. Your camp bag has no extra space. Everything is necessary and planned for. Especially with snacks.
2. You arrive early at the dining hall to beat the rush on Taco Tuesday.
3. You know just how late you can stay up past lights-out.
4. You show up to camp in your bathing suit to go right to the swim test.
6. You have at least one group picture from each year of camp.
7. You’ve accidentally stepped in poison ivy.
8. You know who you want on your side for Camp Olympics.
9. You’ve been mistaken for a counselor at least once.
11. You’ve seen every camp skit at least twice.
12. You’ve acted in every camp skit at least once.
13. You know no one actually sleeps after lunch.
14. You’ve gone hiking and gotten totally soaked in a thunderstorm.
15. You avoid the leaky canoe.
17. You make the perfect s’more every time.
18. Getting to camp feels more natural than going home.
19. The group chat explodes in May, wondering who’s coming back.
20. You’re always coming back.
“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”
Luckily, the “right kind of advertising” doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If your business spends wisely, it can achieve great success with only a modest marketing budget.
Tip #1: expensive advertisements do not always lead to more sales
The temptation will always exist to purchase high-profile ad space: a full-page magazine ad, a sleek television commercial, a glitzy radio ad campaign. Problem is, these expenditures will drain your budget without necessarily turning a good ROI. The “rule of seven” states that your audience needs to hear your marketing message seven times in order to be influenced towards a buying decision. When you overspend on these high-profile advertisements, you lose the ability to reach potential customers enough to really influence them.
Tip #2: get to know your target market
In order for any of your plan to work, you need to identify the right target customer. As a camp director, you are probably targeting parents and their kids. But, within that, are you targeting all moms or a specific type? Over-achieving moms who want to prepare their kids for Princeton? Mothers of multiples who want their kids out of the house a few hours a day over the summer? Get specific. Once you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, you can identify the most effective and efficient avenues for reaching them. More bang; less buck.
Tip #3: think local
Unless you are a multi-national conglomerate (in which case you no longer need advice on budget marketing), you probably have a local audience. Perhaps you reach a national audience as well, but your local one is most important. These are the people with whom you can shake hands, ingratiate yourself, and become meaningful. Get out into the community to become a part of it. Sponsor a 5K. Print flyers or bookmarks to leave at the library and local coffee shops. Ask a local school for space in their newsletter. It’s easy to reach effective frequency (rule of seven) when you’re everywhere.
Tip #4: bring your strategy online
While local advertising can be inexpensive and effective, a great combination in budget marketing, it does not make your business visible to your entire target market. As always, begin with your target market. Where do they go online? How do they like to be communicated with? What are they looking for? Use the answers to these questions to drive your digital marketing strategy. If your target market includes Snapchat fanatics, get on Snapchat! If your target market includes Gen X professionals, don’t. Instead, look into content marketing. By hosting content valuable to these individuals on your blog, you create value and increase brand recognition. The internet includes exhaustive opportunities for marketing; make sure you choose the right one to reach your target market.
Summer camp is an experience unlike any other. It has its own set of rules and its own social groups, wrapped in a unique environment. However, because it is so distanced from the “real” world, it often gets caught up in rumors and assumptions that are far from true. Below are four such myths, and how to address them before registration comes around once again.
Summer camp is not for everyone. Put simply: It doesn’t matter whether a camper is a good swimmer. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like hiking or archery. With the sheer volume of camps out there today, there is quite literally a camp for everyone. Whether it’s following a passion for a sport they love, or delving into a scientific interest, there is sure to be a match out there.
Summer camp is expensive. Not every camp is a three month long stay in expensive cabins or dorms. There are also plenty of memorable, wallet-friendly options. Day camp especially is a great way to appeal to parents on a budget. Fresh options come out every year and range from robotics to animal care to theater and drama. The time is ripe to find and claim a new, exciting niche!
Camp is better with a friend. Many campers actively try to attend with someone they know, but this is not always possible. In those cases, remind them a solo trip can still be amazing! One of the best parts about camp is meeting new people, and the anticipation of seeing them again next summer. They will never be lacking in people to talk to, and might meet a new best friend in the process.
No news is bad news. At camp for an extended period for time, parents might expect their campers (especially younger ones) to be in touch frequently. Though updates do have their place, in excess, they can be a burden on everyone involved. Far from hating camp, the child is likely just busy with the plethora of activities and events available to them. Encourage parents to let them cut loose! It’s time their camper will never forget.
The other day I was reading about an impressive Kickstarter which created a robot that 3D-prints edible pizza. Though I have zero experience in the field, it was interesting enough to make me want to know more. How does it work? How long did it take? Most importantly, when could I buy one?
Unfortunately, the product won’t be hitting the open market until 2017, and with my busy schedule, my weekends leave little time for side research into robotics. It occurred to me though, there’s probably a camp for it. Curious (and maybe a little bit jealous), I dug around and realized there’s a camp for nearly every interest, readily offering campers what so many adults strive for today – opportunity.
At camp, there is a unique freedom to explore choice topics in a supportive, knowledgeable environment. It can be something the camper has a passion for or simply something that caught their attention. Outside of these bubbles, it’s rare to see such diversity without going to considerable lengths to find it. Dance, architecture, music, the list goes on, with day camps and summer intensives to satisfy any level of ability.
Of course, with all this excitement in one place, a significant burden falls on the instructors and counselors to channel that energy. It should be encouraged to grow in a welcoming, judgment-free setting. No should be afraid to make mistakes, and trial and error should be encouraged as a productive, useful strategy. Especially in a place where many campers are trying something for the first time, enthusiasm is necessary on the part of the instructor to keep them engaged and wanting to learn more.
With the plethora of camp options now available, the challenge is not to appeal to everyone, as that is clearly impossible. Rather, directors should be aware of their camps strengths, and use them appropriately to appeal to a sense of discovery and adventure in its campers. I may not have the time to tinker with robots, but they do, and this freedom should be cherished and nurtured in the engineers, thinkers, and pioneers of tomorrow.
It seems everyone is online these days.
Millennials spend 21.3 hours a week on internet-enabled devices (PCs, tablets, and smartphones). Millions more seniors get online each year. Americans spend 11 hours a day, on average, with electronic devices. Almost 70% of people get their news online. Over 50% bank that way.
The same platform which allows your sister to share pictures of her cat with the world also allows you to connect with your customers 24/7.
This begs the question: if we spend so much time online, are print ads still relevant?
Although your potential customers are online much of the time, print can be a more effective manner of reaching them. This is not to say, however, that digital advertising is not effective. It is. But studies show that people focus differently when looking at a screen instead of paper, making these media forms work very distinctly. Digital advertising is good when you want to create immediate purchase decisions or have information easily accessible. Print advertising is good when you want people to focus.
On digital devices, multiple items command your attention. To use the Forbes homepage as an example, there are seven: two menus, a search bar, a set of social buttons, a banner ad, a list of articles, and a photograph. That’s a tame example. With so many elements simultaneously seeking your attention, it's nigh impossible to focus all your attention on one.
Although getting your print ads in front of the right people may be more difficult, these advertisements are more effective once there. According to the Center for Media Research, a full-page print ad has 83% the value of a 30-second television commercial. In contrast, the typical internet banner ad has only 16% the value of that same commercial.
Another reason to use print advertising? It has the highest ROI of all major media. It is an effective and relatively inexpensive way to reach consumers.
Now that you know print media is effective, what will your course of action be?
The first step is to determine your audience. If you run an independent soccer camp, for instance, you’re probably targeting players, parents, and coaches.
Next, determine the best way to reach this audience. Be convenient for them to access. If your audience frequents a certain location, leave materials there. If they have previously opted to give you their mailing information, send them a postcard. Make it easy for them.
Finally, create your content. There are three primary rules for print ad content: be simple, be commanding, and be interesting. If your material is too busy, your potential customers will throw it out. If it doesn’t contain a call-to-action or a means to gather more information, they’ll forget about it. If it’s boring, they won’t care.
In our digital age, people’s attention is constantly divided. Use print advertising, along with digital media, to create a diverse presence through which to reach your customers.
It’s sweet. It can be relatively plain or ridiculously quirky. There are options for everyone, regardless of their tastes. Parents love to say “yes” when kids beg for it. You can mix and match for limitless combinations!
What is it? Ice cream.
With tens of thousands of camps to choose from, there are options for everyone. While you can never go wrong with ice cream (or camp), everyone has their favorites. To make the decision easier, we’ve put together a little flavor guide.
Ah…a classic. How can you not like vanilla? It’s reliable and refreshing on hot summer days. While people have been making vanilla ice cream forever, there are still ways to be different. Will you go for vanilla bean? Double-churned? French vanilla? Soft serve? Like traditional outdoor camps, there are a myriad of twists on this classic. Get creative!
Yes, it has a vanilla base. No, that’s not why you get it. Moose Tracks is all about the extras: those fun little details that, when added to a traditional base, make a big impact! Ice cream makers take the traditional recipe and refocus it like directors of academic and athletic camps do.
Have you ever heard of this flavor? Probably not. Try it, and your taste buds will be greeted with a sweet and refreshing ice cream that tastes a surprising amount like Froot Loops. It’s worth the search for a quirky flavor. In the camp world, the search is even more worth it. There are hundreds of quirky options from Firefighter Camp and Doctor Who Camp, to Circus Camp and Hollywood Stunt Camp, or Spy Camp and Space Camp!
Wine Ice Cream
And some flavors are just for adults. Wine ice cream takes a childhood favorite and adds a delicious mature twist! Camp for adults is a rising trend with multiple options available depending on your schedule, location, and preferences. Camp No Counselors adds open bars to the classic camp experience. Camp Bonfire builds custom camp retreats to get you and your friends or coworkers away from the city. Camp Grounded offers throwback camp activities like tie dye and canoeing alongside creative options such as laughter yoga and spoon carving. As an adult, sometimes you need to splurge for your summertime treat.
Go to camp enough times and nearly every camper will pick a favorite counselor. Someone they look forward to seeing every time they show up, and has watched them grow from a confused newbie to a confident veteran. As a director, you can’t be playing favorites, but you can work to build an environment in which everyone feels like they stand out. There are several ways to go about this, but they almost all start with…
Getting to Know Each Other. During orientation or counselor-in-training weeks, you likely interact with your staff several times a day. Using this time to practice names and establish yourself will pay serious dividends later that summer. Maintaining authority is important, but taking the time to go a little deeper shows the counselors you care about them as individuals and not just as employees.
A Consistent Chain of Command. Nothing is more irritating than starting a task, suddenly being switched to another, than being berated for not sticking with the first. Issues like this occur when people in charge do not communicate with each other, which is quickly solved with a chain of command. Making it exceptionally clear who should be contacted when keeps events running smoothly while keeping some degree of independence.
Big Goals/Small Goals. In the average camp week, there are countless small jobs that need your attention. Together, they make up the machinery that keeps everything running smoothly. Acknowledging when these jobs are done well recognizes the people responsible and places them into the larger framework. With everyone on the same page, they can all reach for the same goal: a memorable camp experience.
Letting Go. It can be tempting to check up on your counselors regularly with advice and recommendations. While being present is good, and playing an active role is better, micro-managing is not. There comes a time after training when it is ultimately up to the staff to prove themselves. They’ll likely perform better with their earned freedom, and you can always be there to help and encourage when needed.
The average person spends approximately 9 hours a day at work. For summer camp counselors, that number is substantially higher. With so much time spent at work each day, it can be difficult to remain motivated and excited. In order to keep your staff happy and more productive, you must have a strong organizational culture.
So what is “organizational culture?” Yes, it is one of those phrases people love to throw around when bragging about their office’s hip happy hour, but it’s so much more than that. Simply put, it’s an organization’s personality. This “personality” enables employees to make decisions consistent with the company’s priorities, goals, and mission without needing policies expressly defined. Culture forms in response to written and unwritten rules, as well as habits, values, assumptions, systems, and management styles, all of which have developed over the company’s lifetime.
When a strong culture exists, employees can react to situations appropriately, without wasting time consulting supervisors or rulebooks, because they are appropriately aligned with organizational values. This saves time. That saves money. And all of it makes your organization run more smoothly. When your counselors embody your camp’s values and create a strong community among themselves, campers feel more comfortable and welcome in their environment.
Conversely, when weak culture exists, campers are at a loss. Their primary point of contact with the organization—counselors—must act as a cohesive unit for campers to know what to expect or how to become completely comfortable. With weak culture, camp leadership controls counselors through rules and bureaucracy because no one is properly aligned with organizational values. In return, counselors seek to exert control over campers in the same manner. Instead of a fun and vibrant camp culture, it’s a mess of rules and unclear expectations.
In order to create the best camp environment possible, strong culture is a necessity.
When discussing the growth and development of organizational culture, Mike Lehr of Omega Z Advisors uses these four goals:
Establishing organizational culture is not about following a recipe to create something new. Whether you realize it or not, your organization already has a culture. Identifying what it is and where it stems from (the supervisor’s management style or from communal engagement) can help you better identify and relate with your current culture. At this point, decide whether your next move is to reinforce or change your culture.
If your current culture is appropriate for your organization, congratulations! You’re off to a great start, but you’re not done. Without reinforcement, even the best cultures can become corrupted. There are too many forces, internal (new employees, policy changes, communication errors, etc.) and external (competition, economic shifts, etc.), effecting your organization for its values to remain unchanged. Time invested supporting your organization’s culture will be well spent.
Before you begin changing your organizational culture, know one thing: it takes time. Culture cannot shift overnight. It forms because of everything an organization stands for and has stood for. History takes time to change. Make change apparent, comfortable, and then follow up. Accept feedback but be firm. Be reliable; consistency sells change, proving it legitimate.
When organizations merge, tensions arise. No matter how compatible their cultures may seem, change is uncomfortable especially when combined with the hostility or fear a merger often creates. The combination of two separate cultures will take time but, if handled correctly, will smooth over in time, creating a new culture for a new organization.
Organizational culture drives organizational success. It motivates employees and enables them to complete their jobs in a more passionate and efficient manner. Now that you know about culture, examine your organization’s and make a plan. Will yours thrive?
“Ben is bringing brownies, Chris is bringing cupcakes, Malcolm’s bringing marshmallows…”
Notice a trend? It’s the Picnic Game, and if you've played it, you know it’s one of many name games counselors use to get campers familiar with each other early in the summer. Everyone goes around in a circle and says a food with their name, then repeats everything everyone else said before them. Though it may sound a little boring, it helps establish one of the main reasons many campers enjoy their experience so much: community.
Only at summer camp can you meet people from all over the country, bond in a matter of hours, and leave as best friends. Doing everything together, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, creates a special kind of relationship. It’s a surprising layer of depth that forms between a group that spends 24 hours a day in each other’s company. You move past the superficial small talk and soon know everyone else intimately, their motivations and dreams, what life is like back home, who they care about most…the list goes on.
Part of this stems from being around so many people in the same age range. The same effect can be observed on college campuses, where friendships form fast and run deep, simply because there’s a pre-established foundation. Similar majors stick together just like the group of campers taking woodcarving might play with each other outside of arts and crafts. Everyone is there for the same reason, and the shared experience makes a great starting point for conversation and relatability.
Understanding someone else in this way is rare, and the fact it occurs so quickly, yet is still genuine, is a testament to the power and influence of camp. However, this is only possible in a fostering, supportive environment. Summer camp should be a haven, and the staff behind it should be aware of the atmosphere they are trying to create. When done properly, the result is a place people are free to be open, be themselves, and appreciate others in ways seldom explored anywhere else.
Counselors are your program’s primary point of contact with campers. They make every fantastic, memorable, behind-the-scenes element of your camp run. Knowing how they work and think is important, but, as a director, can be difficult. To help, we’ve asked a few counselors to tell us a little about their camp experiences.
Why did you become a counselor?
Adam: I had gone to this camp before, and it was a really positive experience when I went. I was looking for something to do over the summer and thought ‘people do camp counseling… what camps do I know?’ I had a couple years IT experience before that and found a fun way to use it.
Jessica: I enjoyed it as a camper, so I went to back to help out as a leader when I aged out.
What was your favorite camp memory?
Jessica: One year, my birthday fell during VBS where I was a leader. So they sent me to get my mom, who was helping out, in order to get me out of the room. When I came back, they surprised me with a cake.
Andrew: The last campfire before everyone goes home, we do this ceremony where we shoot flaming arrows into the lake. You have to be really careful because you balance the supplies in the boat and paddle out a bit to do it. So I’m in charge of steering and my partner has the bow, but he stands up a bit too soon and loses his balance. I help him back in sopping wet, and we have to finish this very serious ceremony the whole time trying not to die of laughter. I still tease him for it.
Adam: There was a dance. We went to the mall beforehand, and the goal was for the kids to find something ridiculous to dress the other counselors in. Half of us went, the other half got dressed up. So my boys found gold lamay leggings. I will never forget the look on Jimmy’s face when he opened up that bag…
What were your favorite and least favorite duties?
Jessica: My favorite part was working so closely with the kids. My least favorite was dealing with the kids who didn’t want to be there at first.
Andrew: My favorite job was inflating the Blob for “Fair Day” and watching the tiny kids all laugh and fly off. Least favorite was cleaning the showers after the campers left. Spiders literally everywhere
Some people say being a counselor is just being paid to go to camp. Do you agree or disagree. Why?
Andrew: I agree. Being a counselor, you still get to hang out with all your friends the week they show up. But you also get to know your other counselors. I mean, you eat together, sleep together, work together; they’re like a second family. Honestly the money is like the icing on the cake.
Adam: I think in some ways yes, others no. You are at a camp and there to facilitate activities that you participate in too. But that phrase ignores a lot of the responsibilities you have as a counselor. You hopefully don’t ever have the I-just-have-to-get-through-the-day mentality as a camper. You should hopefully have fun facilitating activities, but it’s not the same thing and it’s not the priority. You have the responsibility to, for instance, maintain order and keep things smooth and safe, which aren’t things the campers need to think about.
What was your favorite part about being a counselor?
Adam: The difference between 13 and 18 doesn’t seem that big, but when you interact with these kids and see what they’re going through or focusing on, it is. It’s great to be able to reach back through time and recognize the things in the campers from your own experience and provide the guidance you wish someone had given you.
Andrew: My favorite part was definitely getting to do all the behind-the-scenes stuff that you don’t think about as a camper. Putting skits together was the best part; everyone’s just laughing and having a good time.
Jessica: Watching the kids learn about Jesus while having a great time playing sports and making friends.
As director, the responsibility to provide a positive camp experience falls on you. Here are a few tips to create a better experience for all involved.
Be a Leader. Definitions for “leadership” vary. To David Casullo, it is the “collective action of everyone you influence.” To Jonas Falk, it is
“inspir[ing] workers to achieve greatness each and every day.” To Forbes, being a leader entails practicing delegation, communication, enthusiasm, and accountability.
Figure out what being a leader means to you, and lead your organization to greatness.
Know Your Decision Making Style. According to social entrepreneur Jeff Shinabarger, there are seven decision making styles, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing which style you most adhere to allows you to take proper advantage of your strengths while mitigating your weaknesses.
This quiz can help you get started.
Devote Time to Improvement. Don’t lose yourself in the minutia of everyday life. In any work environment, especially a camp, there is always something pressing to command your attention. Avoid the temptation. Every day, devote at least half an hour to something important and intentionally not immediate. Here are a few examples:
· Review parents/camper/staff feedback
· Research industry trends
· Check active blogs for posts with valuable advice (The American Camp Association and Camp Network blogs are both valuable resources)
· Adjust the interview and hiring process for next year
· Read part of a book or article on child development, psychology, leadership styles, or other relevant topics
Embrace One-on-One Communication. Camps are inherently interactive. Campers chat face-to-face, not through text. They learn new skills from experience, not a book or YouTube tutorial. In this environment, it is important to lead your staff by example, taking the time to know their names, roles, and at least part of their backstory. This interest will lead to a more cohesive camp culture and better relationships through every level of the camp. And an added bonus? The summer will become much more fun.
When you don’t take care of yourself, it becomes difficult to take care of others. The middle of the summer, the middle of camp season, can easily turn into a chaotic stress fest for those involved in creating the whole summer camp experience. Whether you run a camp or a small group, make sure to take a breath and take care of yourself this summer. You’ll thank yourself… and so will your campers.
Make Breaks Count. According to Psychology Today, self-care means “choosing behaviors that balance the effects of emotional and physical stressors.” When you have a break during the day, even if it’s only half an hour, make it count. Use your break time to take care of yourself in whatever way best balances against the stressors you have been experiencing. Too much running around? Meditate or quietly read a book. Not enough energy? Enjoy a healthy snack and a cat nap.
Get Enough Sleep. One of the most important elements of a healthy lifestyle is sleep. It can be so tempting to spend all your nights catching up on work, stressing about the little things, or even, on a more positive note, hanging out with other staff. While all of these things are worth doing, they should not be done to the detriment of your health. If you notice your eyes getting droopy or your coffee cravings increasing, make sure you focus on what’s important: sleep. You--and everyone else around you--will thank you.
Make Relaxation a Priority. Everyone has that “one thing” that helps calm them. Mine’s cross-stitch. Others enjoy cooking, yoga, organizing their planners, or a plethora of other tasks. When you have a moment to yourself, quiet that little voice in your head which says you should do something more “practical.” Your health is practical. Doing your “one thing” will help you calm and focus yourself, putting you in a better mindset to face the rest of your day!
Sneak Your Favorite Things Into Your Schedule. I’m not talking about a chocolate bar stashed in your fanny pack here. I’m talking about your favorite things: watching the sunrise, running through sprinklers, making daisy chains… There is something magical about being able to not only do your favorite things, but being able to do them with others. Camp gives you that opportunity. Do a little digging and figure out how activities get planned at your camp. Can you volunteer to organize and lead an activity? You'll get to teach others something you love, someone else doesn’t have to lead it, and campers get the chance to experience one of your favorite things! It’s a win-win-win.
One of the hardest parts of growing up is being unable to go to camp anymore. While you're still able to go yourself or to send your kids, do it!
If you're not, then maybe it's time to take our summertime challenge.
Alexa and Ben, two Camp Network employees, are doing it right along with you!
Day 1: Nature
Today's challenge is to complete a nature scavenger hunt without ever entering the woods!
Alexa and Ben took to the farmer's market to complete the challenge.
Day 2: Athletics
One of the best parts of camp is the chance to be active in a novel and fun way. Today's challenge is to do just that.
Alexa and Ben took to the park for something new: outdoor yoga.
Their conclusion? Yoga in the park is the lunch break of champions.
Day 3: Art
Just like camp provides avenues for its campers to try new athletic pursuits, it also widens their artistic horizons.
For the final day of the Camp Network Summertime Challenge, we are going all out. Today's challenge is to learn a new campfire song AND create a piece of art. Don't stress if it's not perfect; the point is to try something new!
Alexa and Ben took their favorite camp songs and taught them to each other. Alexa learned the "Baby Shark Song" and taught Ben "Three Flying Buzzards" which apparently isn't a real song. "Three Chartreuse Buzzards" however is. The world is a strange place.
To complete the challenge, each drew an image according to their own artistic interest and capabilities.
Camp Network Summertime Challenge
Two of our employees brought camp to the city this week. Will you?
*disclaimer: As Greg Dzurik says, if someone cracked Google’s code, they’d be a millionaire. The algorithm constantly changes, but here are a few tips and tricks to set you on the right track.
Create Valuable Content. Search engines are businesses which seek to provide users the most relevant websites for their search criteria. The reason they create complex algorithms and SEO exists is to do this. No other advice on this page matters if your content is not valuable. Depending on your audience, “value” could mean being entertaining, practical, approachable, cool, or something else.
Choose a Keyword and Use It Often. Figure out that valuable “one thing” your website is about, determine what word or phrase best describes that, and use it often. Use it in your website title, domain name, description, headers, page titles, body text, etc. Make your purpose clear to search engines. SEOmark.co.uk does this well. In their header alone, they use the keyword “SEO” 7 times.
Have Others Link To You. This is arguably the most important aspect of SEO. Search engines love websites other websites love. The easiest way to have others link to your website is to create content worthy of sharing and establish a platform through which to share it (e.g. social linking buttons). Alternatively, you can reach out to other websites. For instance, a school may post a link for a local camp if asked. Some websites may link to your page upon request and others may allow you to guest author a post to the same end.
Link To Relevant Websites. You can do this by including hyperlinks inside articles, having a resource page, or in whichever manner works best for your needs. The important thing is to only include links people will click. An unclicked link just provides a proverbial vote for another website’s SEO. An oft clicked link helps search engines consider you an authority in your field.
Never Consider Your Website Finished. Active websites get better search results. This is the reason blogs with dynamic content and large directories (like Wikipedia or Monster) appear so high on search engines. They have relevant new content constantly being added.
That being said:
Do Not Change Your Domain Name. Although active websites do well, older urls are considered more authoritative and thus have better results.
Erratic Elements. Avoid different for the sake of different. When users visit your website, they have expectations. They expect the menu to be on the top or the left of the page. They expect to be able to click back to the homepage from anywhere on the site. They expect businesses to include a “contact us” section. If you’re going to break from online tradition, make sure you have a reason and that you are keeping your website user friendly.
No Platform Research. Don’t jump and use the first website design platform you see. Maybe it’s the best; most likely it isn’t. If you take the time to research which provider best suits your needs, you will be in a much better position when you’re ready to fully customize your website.
Too Much Text. While text is important—it’s what communicates valuable information—it’s visual dead space. Be sure to include images to break up the monotony. Choose images for their relevance and storytelling ability, not just space-taking ability. If you do use stock images, be careful which you choose. Some will tell your story perfectly; others will make your website a cliché. Don’t be a cliché.
Fluff Pages. Make sure all of your webpages offer something valuable. Don’t include fluffy filler pages. They will distract users and detract from your website’s professional image. When every page includes something valuable and interesting to your users, they will enjoy using your site, thus improving customer satisfaction, web traffic, and brand image.
Difficult to Read Text. Make your text easy to read so your users can focus on your message, not your formatting. Keep all text at an appropriate size and style for its role. Difficult to read colors, WordArt, overly animated titles, and small text are all examples of problematic text.
With 91% of consumers checking their inboxes at least once a day, email is one of the most effective media for reaching customers—potential and current—in a relevant and inexpensive manner. Fortunately, many companies do not know how to effectively use the medium, giving those who do a significant advantage.
Here are a few strategies to improve your email marketing and get a leg up on the competition:
Differentiate yourself. Over 830 billion marketing messages are sent through email each year—make yours stand out. No one wants to read a big block of generic text. Instead, use graphics and tone to make yourself not just another marketer.
Use Templates. Not only will using an email template save you time and effort when crafting emails, it creates a specific brand image. Craft a layout that is highly readable and communicates the tone and values of your brand, then use this layout for all consumer-facing email blasts. The consistent formatting means customers can focus on the message not design irregularities.
Link to Relevant Social Media. Rarely will customers post about your business on social media without prompting. By including social-sharing buttons in your email, you facilitate word-of-mouth marketing and brand engagement. Make sure to include links to relevant social media platforms. Different audiences engage with different media. Platforms to consider include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr, and G+.
Optimize Your Emails For Mobile. 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices, but only 11% of emails are optimized for mobile viewing. Differentiate yourself by becoming the easily-accessible and consumer-friendly competitor. Not only will your customers appreciate the friction-free communication, but studies show that mobile-optimization leads to higher conversion rates.
Analyze Email Metrics. If you do not track views, bounces, click-throughs and other metrics, you are missing out on a simple and valuable opportunity to improve your ROI. Use the information you gain to adjust your strategy. Do emails with videos get more views? Add more videos! Do colorful links get more click-throughs? Bring out the color swatches! Since audiences vary in their needs, this allows you to target your emails to exactly what your audience has shown they want. They (and your profits) will thank you. (If you’re unfamiliar with how to track these statistics, this article can help.)
Camp Network provides online registration, website design, and marketing for camps, clinics, tournaments, and more. We work with some of the biggest universities and organizations in the country because we offer a quick, simple, and an extremely affordable solution. We automate the whole registration process so you and your staff can focus on running the event.