The endless rewards of a summer spent working at camp could be called indescribable. A camp director’s challenge is finding the best way to tell this story to prospective staff members. While no recruiting tool can replace the personal time you and your staff spend with prospective counselors, an effectively designed media tool can strengthen your overall recruiting plan.
Potential members of your staff must be convinced of the value of the camping industry and the unique opportunities associated with working at your camp. If this sounds a lot like camper recruiting, it is. For campers, you use detailed sights and sounds that not only paint a dynamic picture of your camp’s mission and program, but also develop a sense of connection. Ask yourself, why would staff recruiting be any different?
Young people belong to the technology genera-tion. They are comfortable with video, CD-ROM, and DVD. New media offers so many outlets for experiencing events and places — Web streaming, virtual tours, and audio downloads — that place us right in the story. New media can enhance your summer staff recruiting strategy by providing a target-specific tool that appeals directly to the audience and allows them to step inside your camp community.
“But we already have a promotional video that seems to do the job.”
Promotional videos are fantastic. However, those videos give an overview of your camp, not details about being a staff member. Effective tools are those designed for one specific audience. Staff recruiting media appeal directly to a young person by describing the experience and answering the question, “Why should I choose to work as a camp counselor, and specifically at this camp?”
YMCA Camp Thunderbird in South Carolina produced its first staff recruiting video last year for the 2001 recruiting season. Camp Thunderbird hires around 125 staff members every summer, and about half are new to the camp. Promotional videos and CD-ROMs have long been a part of Camp Thunderbird’s camper recruiting efforts.
According to Dave Purcell, Thun-derbird’s executive director/operations, the camp’s leaders decided they needed to be just as aggressive with recruiting counselors. “Our personnel director, Anna Carroll, does a fantastic job recruiting staff. However, we found that offering a bonus program to our old timers and attending college fairs wasn’t strong enough to compete with promotional efforts for summer internships or jobs within a student’s major,” says Purcell. “We needed something that gave people a strong visual of who we are, a true reflection of the job, and a reflection from staff about the pride and ownership of being a camp counselor.”
Plans were already made to produce a new Thunderbird camper promotional video in 2000, so the staff recruiting video would be a spin off project. Extra shooting days were added to the professional videographer’s visit. Purcell selected around eight Thunderbird counselors for on-camera interviews. The counselors answered questions generated by the Thunderbird directors, ensuring that all the appropriate topics were covered. In addition to the interviews, special attention was given to videotaping these same staff members in the program areas.
The finished Thunderbird recruiting video runs approximately five minutes — shorter than many traditional promotional videos. Counselor interviews are the featured audio track rather than an off-camera narrator. The staff members speak about both the challenges and rewards of working at camp.
“Many of our new staff even commented that the video increased their sense of connection by having a peer speak about the experience,” Purcell continues. “I think an effective staff recruiting video shows diversity — both geographically and collegiately — camper-staff interaction, and key testimonials. I felt like our 2001 first timers who watched the video came in with a better sense of the job and our expectations.”
Thunderbird recruiters showed the video during winter and spring travels, and VHS copies were mailed to veteran counselors. Purcell says he is already making plans for his next staff recruiting video.
All camps are unique, and each director knows what strategy works best for his or her operation. When determining which media tools are right for your camp, consider the following list of musts:
- First, evaluate the recruiting tools you currently use — Web site, brochure, etc. List the strengths and weaknesses of each.
- Determine the purpose of your new recruiting video. Will the video become your dominant recruiting tool? Where does it fit in with existing efforts?
- Imagine what viewers will learn from watching the piece — your mission and program, expectations of a summer staff member, the rewards of being a counselor, and the diversity of your camp community.
- Decide how the video will be used. As part of the prospective staff packet you mail? On a CD-ROM along with your staff application and brochure? Sent to university career planning and placement offices? Streaming on your Web site?
The above suggestions are designed to help you evaluate your needs. If you determine that producing a staff recruiting video makes sense for your camp, select the elements and themes to be included in the project.
- Your camp’s goals as an organization, with its history of building positive relationships in a nurturing environment.
- Role of a summer staff member — cabin life, activities, working outdoors.
- Impacting the life of a child — embracing the unique position of role model.
- Developing life-long skills — decision making, problem solving, delivering praise, resolving conflicts, motivating others.
- The nuts and bolts of your camp — diverse population, camp songs, beauty shots.
- Interviews with directors that address working in the camping industry.
- Interviews with current staff — new counselors and returning counselors who were campers.
- Interviews with campers to illustrate the impact of the camper/counselor relationship.
- An action step/an invitation — see our Web site, come visit camp, check out a college fair at your school, contact one of our staff members.
After establishing the necessary components of your staff recruiting video, you can settle on the video’s length and a plan for having the video shot edited. A shooting script is needed whether the video is produced with a video professional or as an in-house project. The script does not spell out the actual answers your counselors will give during interviews, but it will serve as a checklist to make sure the right elements are captured. A recruiting video that accurately tells the story of working at your camp can be a powerful tool for strengthening the connection between a director and a prospective counselor. The sights and sounds of camp captured on video help you describe the indescribable.
Sallie Ransom is the director of marketing for CAMP TV Media, Inc. She has worked in the camping industry for eleven years, serving as the marketing director for Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer from 1995 to 2000. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Originally published in the 2002 July/August issue of Camping Magazine.