Newsletters Spread the Word

By David Price

An eye-catching publication from your Scout unit is easy to produce on a home computer using desktop publishing software.

Have parents in your unit ever commented that they never received notice of an event? Are you frustrated with finding discarded handouts at meetings, leaving you with the feeling that there must be a better way to get the word out?

Troop 28 in Dunstable, Mass., solved these communications issues with a monthly family newsletter. The troop committee decided to invest $10 in postage each month to ensure delivery to each family. Using the U.S. Postal Service would also prevent any "Johnny-never-brought-the-newsletter-home" excuses. (A local Scout store later agreed to pay the postage in exchange for a half-page advertisement.)

The Scoutmaster volunteered to head up the effort for the first year for two reasons: He owned a home computer with laser printer and he knew best what he wanted to communicate about the troop's activities. Two years later, a Tenderfoot Scout produced the newsletter with a little help from his mother on their home computer.

What to include

Most important, your newsletter should contain news about:

  • coming events and reports of events that have occurred.
  • new people joining the unit.
  • boys who have advanced in rank, earned new badges, and been given new positions of Leadership responsibility.
  • service projects and involvement with the community.

Other forms to include are the next month's activity calendar, phone numbers of the adult and junior leaders, short activity reports written by the boys, council news, and national BSA news found in Scouting magazine.

Production techniques

You can create high-quality pages easily using word processing and desktop publishing software with type fonts and graphics that hook the reader's attention. Today's moderately priced inkjet and laser printers produce sharp results.

Place electronic clip art illustrations onto your page and resize them to fit your layout. Your council service center may be able to loan you floppy disks containing Scouting artwork which you can copy and use in your newsletter.

Do it with style

The content of your newsletter is more important than how it looks. Keep articles short and factual. Avoid using "I" and use plenty of "we." Identify new topics with headlines.

Remember to use your software's spell checker. Learn the correct use of Scouting terminology — for example, did you know the word Scout always has a capital S? An excellent reference [unfortunately now out of print] is the 64-page book, The Language of Scouting, published by the Boy Scouts of America (order No. 3000).

A two- or three-column format is generally easier to read than lines of type across the full page. Using too many different type fonts and sizes can be confusing to the eye. Every article in the Troop 28 newsletter uses 10 point Times for the paragraph text with 14 point Helvetica for headlines. Create an identity for your newsletter by using the same nameplate (logotype) in each issue at the top of the first page.

A public relations tool

As your newsletter develops you will want to expand your mailing list to include:

  • principals of local schools
  • community officials, the police department, the library
  • local newspapers
  • unit leaders in neighboring communities
  • your chartered organization
  • the local council office, district executive, unit commissioner
  • friends and supporters of your unit
  • prospective members.

Use extra copies for recruiting. The troop historian should save copies of back issues in his archives —a scrapbook of newsletters is a valuable record of the unit's activities through the years.

David Price is a public relations manager, a former Scoutmaster, and an Eagle Scout.

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January-February 1998 Table of Contents

Copyright © 1998 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.