What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Marketing Summer Camp

Little Monsters - one thing camp people have in common with Lady Gaga. No, I'm not referring to our campers, I mean that we have affectionate nicknames for the important people in our life.

Lady Gaga is a top-selling music artist because she is amazing at building and looking after her community (whom she calls her Little Monsters).   Camp Leaders can learn a lot (and will in this session) from how Lady Gaga's treats her True Fans.

What you will learn in this presentation
1. an understanding of the commitment Gaga makes to her True Fans and how easy it is to do with your camp families
2. a focussed plan to build an intensive two-way relationship with the campers and staff who LIVE to return to your camp.
3. specific actions you can take to build word of mouth referrals from your "Little Monsters"

This interactive presentation (strong visuals and videos) will show camps how to Lady Gaga has become an international sensation and how these lessons can work for camps.   
Your take home strategy: Focus on Your One Percenters, Lead with Values, Build Community, Make Them Feel Like Rock Stars and more.
We will break down each of these strategies and show how other camps are using them currently to fill their bunks.

Essential Tools: Canva.com for FAAAAST creation of posters, social media photos, etc.

Getting Things Done as a Camp Director is Easier with this Essential Tool

I haven't written about Canva.com on the blog yet.  I can't believe it!   I've shared this tip with tons of directors this summer.

Canva is a simple editing tool for creating great, beautiful posters, Facebook headers, Instagram pictures with text over them, Pinterest images.   Almost any thing you can think of! It's FAST.

Canva for Camp Pros

To start using Canva (once you've got your account set up) you pick the kind of design you need (see picture above). It will then show you a ton of designs that you can use as starting off points.   

Usually I pick the one that most suits what I'm looking for and then I put my own spin on it.  Those designs are really well done so you may choose one that will fit perfectly from the start. 

You can use the background image that has been provided or upload your own.  Some of those backgrounds are free but many are stock photos/designs that you can purchase when you finalize your poster. 

I usually upload my own images from the folder if great camp pictures that the CampHackers all share.  That means that the majority of my designs are free.

Check out some of the designs that we've made on Canva that have been featured on the CampHacker Instagram account.

Thriving as a Camp Professional in the Fall - Getting Things Done Right

The Off-Season isn’t getting any longer...

 Summer Camp Pro from Cairn Family of Camps

Summer Camp Pro from Cairn Family of Camps

Camp people handle the end of the summer in lots of ways. Some leave town for vacation the day after camp ends. Others cozy up in their homes and turn on Netflix and catch up on sleep for days on end. Some camps turn around and start with rental groups or schools right away. Still other camp pros manage to plug away for a luxurious nine to five schedule while their peers have disappeared for the week.

I tend to fall into the category of needing a week to clean, reorganize, and shut the door on the summer. Camp is like school in that it is cyclical in its work flow. There is a definitive beginning and end to a summer. As soon as the last staff member departs the parking lot on closing day, I often feel exhausted at the fact that it is now time to start assembling my team for the next year.

I tell my staff that marketing for next summer begins the day campers arrive this summer. Though I have been looking towards next summer a whole bunch before the current one comes to a close, there are some absolute musts that all camp professionals should do prior to charging forward with the next year.

Absolute Musts Before Starting to Think About Next Season

1. Stop working. Seriously. Stop. A few days away from work, away from the facility, and away from your email are critical to processing. A director’s job is to be able to take a step back and it is hard to do that when you are still in the throes. I find that I need a few days before all the lost and found emails and requests for recommendations quit streaming in. About a week after camp ends is when I take my time to have a camp-free weekend. I try to connect with one of my many friends working other cool jobs--whitewater rafting? A zipline tour? A massage? Reward yourself for a job well done and do something that will truly take your mind off camp.

2. Rest. Though we have trained ourselves to function on very little sleep, camp directors are far more pleasant and happy when we have had a full night’s rest. Every year, I get caught off-guard by how exhausted I am during the month of August. The sleep deficit will catch up with you--so expect it. If you insist on working, bust out the hammock and allow yourself to take a rest hour every day for at least a week.

3. Get your work space off-season ready. I am a nester. That means that by the end of the summer, my office tends to resemble that of a horrifying episode of Hoarders. File all that paperwork. Throw away materials you don’t need. And if you are feeling it, have a cathartic bonfire with all those staff manuals and training schedules that were left behind.

4. Tidy up loose ends. Call the parent that gave you a negative evaluation. Answer the emails that are still in your “Starred” folder. It’s hard to have closure when there are little nagging things bringing you down. Often these will be the points that need to be improved upon going forward.

5. Write down your thoughts on rehiring staff. Your feelings tend to be much stronger at the end of the summer than they will be when they finally submit their applications in March. You don’t have to necessarily make hiring decisions, but write down what it is that staff need to work on before they would be considered for a position. Then you can discuss these in interviews or have them available when turning somebody down.

6. Visit another camp. It doesn’t have to be a formal visit. Whatever the occasion, take the time to visit another facility, whether they are running program or not, because there is much to be learned by simply seeing what others do and how their facility is set up. Have coffee with the director or bring them some fresh produce (because after a summer of camp food, I want nothing more than delicious fresh fruits and veggies) and talk about one another’s areas of excellence and areas for improvement.

7. Debrief. Get your entire year-round team together and talk about how the summer went. So many programs skip this step and jump in to doing things the way they have always done them. The ability to gain perspectives across the levels of administration and across your programs will lead to insights that will be valuable to making camp great. Many accreditation programs require some sort of annual review of incident reports or policies so this is an easy way to ensure that occurs.

 Ruby Compton, CampHacker & Camp Code podcaster

Ruby Compton, CampHacker & Camp Code podcaster

Onward with next summer and happy off-season to you all.

~ Ruby

[note from Travis: Thanks to CampHacker Ruby Compton, program director at Green River Preserve in North Carolina, and all-star co-host of the Camp Code podcast, for writing this article.  We look forward to many more wise thoughts from Ruby!

You can subscribe to Camp Code, our podcast full of amazing ideas for summer camp staff training for free.  Click to Subscribe in iTunes.]

What that parent is thinking could change your summer camp [HINT: finding out is easy]

5 Ways Mid-Week Survey's Can Help Your Day Camp

Marketing Camp Makes Veekay Happy

Do you look to your camp families for feedback through surveys? As consumers, we receive survey requests all the time - on our receipts, in email, on a postcard etc. As a day-camp, we've used customer feedback surveys in the past to insure that our camp families were completely satisfied with a their child's experience after a week at camp. Sending surveys at the end of the week offered us some very valuable feedback on staff, location, and other suggestions on how we could improve the program. This year at The Handwork Studio, we implemented a mid-week survey and we saw instantaneous, real-time feedback on our camp programs. Below I've listed 5 ways the mid-week parent feedback survey to parents can help improve your day camp program.

1. Create better experiences

While we work hard to make sure that every single child and their parents had the most amazing week at camp, sometimes this is isn't the case. Sending a survey late on Tuesday helped us identify areas where a camper might not have been having the best possible experience and we could come in and make their time with us better. Sometimes it could be as simple as identifying a certain skill that the child was excited about learning. Whatever the circumstance may be, sending the survey before the camper leaves camp for the week is a sure fire way to turn around a situation and create better experiences for your campers and their parents. Even in the event that the parent and camper are happy, by taking any input they have and letting them know they've been heard, we are creating a memorable customer service experience for the the parents.

2. Understand how your parents perceive your camp

With multiple locations, our Camp Director can't be everywhere at the same time. The surveys we sent out helped us gather important feedback on how our parents were interacting with the staff. We were able to identify what the parent's expectations of staff were, where we needed to make adjustment, and generally overall how well of a job our counselors were doing to deliver amazing experiences to our parents and campers. In addition to this, the surveys also helps us collect some amazing testimonials about our camp programs that we can use in for the next summer.

3. Develop deeper relationships with your camp families

As we get responses back from each of our surveys, we are reaching out to each family that submitted feedback to thank them for their input and acknowledge that we've heard them. With the responses where parents are not completely happy our team collaborates to resolve the issue at hand as quickly and effectively as possible. Surveys have helped us take a more personal approach with our families. We are reaching out to them more and developing long lasting relationships. Parents are grateful for the responses we give them and we've heard from them that they are more likely to recommend us to a colleague or friend based on our quick and timely responses. Camp is a very personal business, and mid-week surveys provide our team another touch point with parents. As we gather the responses and respond to the families we are also able to identify the sites that are doing amazing work and acknowledge those teams during the week. Our site directors and counselors love hearing the feedback as much as we do! Giving all types of feedback to counsellors  in real time can be invigorating after many weeks of camp and can give the Camp Director insight into problem counsellors.

4. Gather valuable suggestions on how to be better

At The Handwork Studio, we are always striving to be better, do better and create amazing experiences in camp. Our surveys have helped us better understand what is important to parents and their children. It also awards us the opportunity to respond to ideas that parents have suggested. Parents want to be heard. Their investment in our program is an investment in their child, and we want to provide them a place to share their thoughts. Our mid-week surveys are the most ideal avenue for this feedback. At the end of the camp season, we'll take all of the feedback and put it into one document to see where we can continue to improve our program.

5. Identify areas to adapt your staff training for the next year.

Staff training is at the core of how we launch our camp programs each year. While we might think we've covered everything, there might be a few areas where we can spend more time. The feedback from parents helps us better understand how we can tweak our staff training for next year or continue to supply training resources throughout the the summer. The surveys also give us real-life documented examples of parent feedback that we can incorporate into future camp training.

Sending customer feedback surveys early in the week has been a game-changer for our camp. We are much more connected to our parents and are able to resolve any issues in an effective and timely manner. We are collecting real-time feedback while simultaneously ensuring that both the camper and their parents are completely satisfied with their time at our camp!

Do you use summer camp surveys for your day camp? Share your experience with sending camp surveys in the comments below!

---------

[from Travis:   This article comes to us from Megan DiFeo, curriculum & marketing director at The Handwork Studio.  Thanks, Megan!

About The Handwork Studio

The Handwork Studio LLC is a kids' needle arts and fashion studio. Our purpose is to pass down the tradition of teaching practical arts such as knitting, crocheting, hand and machine sewing, embroidery, quilting, fashion and crafts in a fun and relaxed environment. Our staff is comprised of professional artists, instructors and skilled teachers, dedicated to making each student feel special. Headquartered just outside of Philadelphia in Narberth, PA, we operate summer camps in 30 locations in seven states, bringing our brand of needle arts fun to over 3,000 campers every year. Learn more at thehandworkstudio.com.]


A "Hint" about Camp Surveys from Joanna Warren Smith

Summer Camp Client Input Motivates Good Decision Making

 True summer camp review at Pearce Williams Christian Centre

True summer camp review at Pearce Williams Christian Centre

Just this spring, a well-respected camp assured me that it wasn't necessary to do camper and parent surveys 'because it only makes people focus on the bad parts of camp'.

Needless to say, that is not the current thinking of businesses that plan to thrive in a very competitive environment. Certainly retention rates reflect satisfaction levels, but they are not the immediate feedback that can improve your program session after session.

Plan for age-appropriate on-site camper surveys and let parents know that at the end of their child's last session, you will be requesting that they complete a short survey to help you in your 'ongoing quest for excellence' or 'efforts to make the camp experience even better.'

You can also give parents an incentive to complete the survey by a specific date with an entry into a drawing for a free session of camp, a camp store gift certificate or a myriad of other options. Larger incentives usually increase the number of responses.

TAKE ACTION NOW! 

  • Treat the Camper Survey with Respect.  Set aside a time for the business to be done usually around lunch on the day BEFORE kids are going home.  Have a BRIEF introduction by a respected staff member in a conducive environment for writing.  Tell kids how important their input is and ask questions for which you really want the answers.   Two critical questions ... 'Do you want to come back to camp next year?' and 'What would make camp even better?'. Collect surveys by groups, review immediately and take action.
  • Evaluate the Parent Experience.  Certainly, parents can tell you if they have seen growth in their child's swimming ability, responsibility or social skills; however, they should not be asked to interpret their camper's experience because they will skew the input. Critical questions for parents include ... 'Did the camp experience benefit your child?', 'Do you want your child to return to camp next year?', 'Will you refer us to other parents?' and 'Were we responsive to you during the summer?'.  Allow for only YES or NO answers. 

Scrutinize the survey results, prioritize issues that will improve your program and then market those changes to parents.  They will appreciate the fact that you listened and more important, the action you've taken.

Joanna

Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email campconsulting@verizon.net

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: http://camp-consulting.com/)

Winner! Our #TwitPitch2014 Contest Has a Winner

Congratulations Camp Wightman!

CampHacker #twitpitch Contest 2014

This spring we announced a contest for the best #TwitPitch. We were looking for camps who could give parents enough information in 120 characters that they would take the next step: reach out for more info, click to see the website, request a brochure, etc.

The winning pitch was: We're not all bugs and dirt. Camp Wightman: where faith, friends, and fun collide. Building disciples since 1956.

Judging the Contest

I found a panel of experts (parents with kids that are the right age for summer camp) and asked them to rank the anonymized submissions.  These rankings were tabulated and Camp Wightman (in Connecticut) came out on top.

The judges came from lots of interesting professions (PR professional, insurance broker, banker, camp director who didn't submit for the contest) and life experiences.

What's this?

I must say #1 and #2 were very close! 

So close that we're going to offer a $750 CampHacker Playbook to the second place pitch: Your kid needs to be a kid. With role models, outdoors, growth, friends, and memories. Camp can help. This entry came from Camp Kitaki in Nebraska.

The next 3 pitches in ranking's were

  • S'mores, canoeing, swimming, and archery anyone?  Come on down to Camp Kateri, where memories are made one week at a time! 
  • Want the best for your child? So do we. Ask how Camp Takodah can set your child on a course for happiness and success.
  • Every boy is entitled to an experience that is magic. Camp Nebagamon.

It's interesting to me (a lesson that we'll be applying to CampHacker clients this winter!) that all of the top picks were about "kids being kids".  The middle picks seem to be ones that had a play on words and the ones that were ranked lowest seem to talk about a future state of the campers - what they will grow up to become.

This ranking is hardly statistically significant but it's fun to look for patterns. 

We had a lot of great entries - thank you to all the camps that submitted!   We look forward to seeing what you can come up with for #twitpitch2015

What do you think of the way things ranked?  Leave us your opinion in the comments!