5 Essential Tips for Marketing Your Summer Camp

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Not all summer camps are created equal. Some are better than others, and your summer camp is probably the best of all.

But marketing for summer camps isn't easy. There are so many camps out there, and even the poorly-run camps have slick websites and ad campaigns.

It can be difficult to break through the clutter, especially if you spend your money on supplies and activities instead of marketing. But getting your camp out there is possible.

Here are the 5 essential tips for marketing your summer camp that will make parents and campers and take notice:

1. Know Your USP.

What is your unique selling proposition? What makes your summer camp stand head and shoulders above others?

If you are a camp with the latest robotics, then lean into that with your marketing. Come up with catchy slogans about how your tech and STEM activities are the best. Attach yourself to current events related to robots in your marketing and social media.

If your summer camp has the best views of mountains in all of America, then make sure to put pictures and vistas at the forefront of your marketing campaign.

2. Get the Best Pictures and Videos.

So how do you market your unique selling proposition? With pictures and videos of course.

It's never been easier to get high-quality pictures and videos. Most smartphones today can take HD pictures and videos. And with the right settings, you can even make sure these images are fit to print.

Since the technology is there, make sure to capture the right moments. Campers having fun. The sites of your camp. Videos of the activities. 

3. Know Your Marketing Strategy Early.

Summer camp is seasonal, so don't wait until May to start your big marketing push.

When you're huddled by the fireplace in winter, that's when you should be thinking about your marketing plan for summer. Identify your target market. Gather your materials (pictures and videos).

And don't wait to bring a team of creative designers and writers on board. Start designing web ads, posts for Facebook, and other campaigns. Then you'll have them ready to fire off when the time comes.

4. Build an Online Presence.

Online is the way of the world. Nobody will hear about your summer camp if you're not online, nowadays.

Make sure to have a functional website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. Try to post frequently as you ramp up your marketing. You can even repurpose articles on your website into Facebook posts and tweets.

Create high-quality content that appeals to your target camper and their parents.

5. Offer a Trial Camp.

Trial camps are just what they sound like. A few days of camp to show off the activities, friendly staff, and vibe of your summer camp. It's a camp appetizer.

While not strictly marketing, trial camps are a pre-camp experience that can help parents and potential campers understand what you're all about. This can help build word-of-mouth and convince any fence-sitters that you're the best around.

If you follow these five steps, you can get the word out and compete with the slickest advertisements in the camping business.

 

Should Your Summer Camp Partner with Schools?

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One new trend in summer camps is the idea of partnering the camp with a school. According to an American Camp Association 2017 report, "49% of camps report some relationship to schools or school curricula."

These relationships can manifest in a number of different ways. You can design your camp structure or activities to complement existing curriculum or what goes on in the school year. Another option is to fully collaborate with a school and craft your plans together.

There are many benefits to a partnership. Here's a quick list.

  • Partnering with a school can save you costs if you do activities at a school, library, or public facility. Cooperation often means splitting the costs of events or supplies.
  • Working with a school encourages parents of the value of your summer camp. Parents love to see their kids continue to grow throughout the camp experience.
  • It's good for kids to stay engaged with learning and school subjects (like science) throughout the year.
  • If you build a trusted partnership, you may be able to partake in co-marketing with the school and build awareness of your summer camp.
  • Working with schools helps kids reach their academic aspirations, even as they have fun. Combining learning and summer camp activities gives kids the tools they need when they return to school in the fall.
  • Collaborations with schools can have positive behavioral outcomes for campers. This can encourage teammates as they do learning projects and more.

It's not all benefits though. You may have to give up a bit of control regarding scheduling or the location of your camp events. And when considering location, keep in mind that you might need to transport campers if doing a collaborative event at a school.

Basically, school systems can be a slow-moving bureaucracy. But if you find a school or administrator that you trust, it might be a boon to your summer camp to partner with a s chool.

 

How Summer Camps Should Think Differently about Food

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Summer camps must no longer be the world of hot dogs and icies. The quality can no longer be a mere step above a school cafeteria.

More and more attention continues to be put on the food we put in our bodies and the food we put into our children's mouths. Obesity is an American epidemic, and some parents are choosing summer camps based on how those camps will feed their kids.

In addition to curbing risks of obesity, summer camps also must keep an eye on proper nutrition. During camp, growing kids and teens are often more active than usual with all the various activities. With an increase of physical activity, the proper balance of nutrition (and rehydration) is essential.

We recommend consulting with a nutritionist to plan the meals for your campers. Make a calendar for lunches and dinners, plotting out which meals will be served at certain times. If you can cross-reference this with your schedule of activities, that's even better.

Also, make sure to consider special diets. Always ask campers about allergies or special needs.

You should have all sorts of options available. Everything from vegan to gluten-free to peanut-free to lactose-free. Your consideration of these sensitivities goes a long way to making parents know that you care.

Increased physical activity may mean you serve more carbohydrates, but always make sure to balance that with other food groups. Yogurts, fruits, and vegetables are healthy snack options. Campers can be rewarded with ice cream and pizza, but those shouldn't be on the menu every night.

Having self-serve bars for meals is a great way to serve a variety of different campers with their own needs. Salad bars and sandwich bars with fruit on the side and proteins available are good options.

Diet is a very personal issue, so make sure to ask ahead of time from parents what their childrens' needs are. Then consult with your nutritionist and meal planner to make sure your campers are taken care of. Your camp will be rewarded for your effort through word of mouth, and maybe word of stomach.

3 Essential Tips to Prevent Bullying at Your Summer Camp

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Bullying is an important topic for the well-being of children and teens. Even the first-lady has started an anti-bullying campaign.

But bullying isn't only confined to the schoolyard. This is a problem for camps as well. Ensuring that your camp is free of bullying is essential for children's safety.

Bullying causes both psychological and physical harm, and no parent wants to send their child to a camp that allows bullying. Camp should be a time of fun and positive social development.

Here 3 essential tips that you should take to prevent bullying at your summer camp:

1. Prep Beforehand.

Don't wait until the kids show up for their first day before you address the problem of potential bullying. You should prep beforehand.

Make sure your staff and counselors are aware of bullying and the harm that it causes. Help the adults in the room how to identify potential bullying situations and which campers are at risk of bullying or becoming bullies.

Help counselors understand when bullying might be occurring and how to recognize it. Hold workshops. Make pamphlets.

2. Have Bullying Protocols.

Don't leave it up to counselors to figure out how to handle bullying in the moment. Set clear rules about what should be done with the bully and the bully's victim.

Once a bullying situation has been recognized, make sure there are step-by-step instructions for what your summer camp counselors should do.

If a counselor thinks a bullying situation may be occurring, but they aren't certain, how should they react?  How does a counselor approach children to ask them what's going on?

Counselors and staff must be the ones to intervene. Have protocols because the children won't solve the conflict themselves.

3. Encourage good behavior with children.

At the outset of your camp, make it perfectly clear that bullying will not be tolerated. Stress that camp is for fun and learning, and then clearly state what the potential punishment can be for bullying, including expulsion.

Create an environment where children who witness bullying feel comfortable reporting it to a counselor. It's common for children to know when bullying is happening, even if it goes unnoticed by your staff.

Also, try not to remove the bully victim from the rest of camp for too long. This can further the ostracism or isolation that person feels.

Camp is supposed to be a fun time, and it can be. But if you let bullies ruin your summer camp, you might not be running one for long.

Common Camp Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

As another successful camp season comes to a close, take some time to reflect on the effectiveness of your marketing plan. What worked? What didn't work? How will you adjust and adapt next season? Evaluating your efforts and making changes for the upcoming year is the best way to stay competitive and continually increase enrollments.

While considering a new marketing plan, be sure to avoid these common camp marketing mistakes!

  • Not Listing Contact Info on Your Web Site
    Your web site should create openings, not put up walls. Offering an email form as the only way to reach your camp will turn parents off. List your full address, phone, and email address so potential customers can reach you with questions and concerns year-round.

  • Using Social Media to Broadcast
    Social media should be social. Facebook & Twitter are not soapboxes, but tools for interacting and engaging with customers. Actively seek new prospects by posting on the Facebook wall of parenting magazines and local newspapers, or start a Twitter conversation with parents in your area. Update your social media feeds regularly with quality content and invite interaction with former campers to keep the memories alive.

  • Being a Faceless Entity
    Get personal when promoting your camp and invite customers to get to know your camp directors & key staff by name. Present your camp like the shop around the corner, not a big warehouse store, and customers will feel more of a connection.

  • Giving Up Too Soon
    Your marketing should be long-range, not focused on instant gratification. If one aspect of your plan doesn't meet your expectations, don't toss it out. Make adjustments and try again. Studies have shown customers need to see an advertising message several times before they act. A comprehensive and consistent plan creates consistent results.

  • Not Advertising Online
    Yes, camp is a local business, but even locals are going online to search for camps. In fact, everyone is online - on their computers, on their Smartphones - so go where your customers are! Online advertising is cost-effective, targeted, and can be customized to meet your goals. One of the best ways to reach customers online is to advertise in camp directories like MySummerCamps and KidsCamps, where millions of parents search for camps each month.

Why Camp Marketing Isn't Seasonal

Summer is here and the campers are on their way! You're busy making last-minute preparations, training staff members, and getting ready for a summer filled with memories. You can put your marketing plans aside until the fall, right?

Think again. Marketing your camp is a year-round effort and summer is the best time to kick off your campaign for next season. Keeping positive memories alive in campers' minds throughout the year is essential to generating repeat business. It can also help you attract new campers in the future.

So stay focused on your marketing efforts during camp this summer. Here are some tips for using the summer season to prepare for next year.

  • Prepare to shoot a new camp video. Parents love seeing video when searching for camps, so plan your video shoot before campers arrive to ensure you have everything you need when it comes time to edit. Check out our previous blog post for steps to shooting a video that showcases your camp effectively.

  • Gather materials for your site redesign. You may have plans to redesign your Web site in the winter, but now is the time to capture the creative assets you'll need. Think about the areas you'll want to highlight and take the photographs you'll need on each page.

  • Create and launch a new social media plan. Challenge yourself to keep up with a weekly schedule of Tweets and Facebook posts throughout the year. Accumulating photos and anecdotes now that you can post later will help you stay on track.

  • Collect feedback from campers. Gather testimonials from campers before they go home, when the thoughts and ideas are still fresh. You can use quotes in your future marketing materials and help refocus your advertising efforts for next season. Also, gather stories you can use in your email newsletters or blog posts throughout the year.

  • Consider an early early bird special. Offer a deep discount to campers who register for next season on the spot. You may be surprised by how many parents take you up on the offer!

Advertising on MySummerCamps and KidsCamps is one of the best ways to market your camp all year-round. Thousands of parents come to our camp directories throughout the year to research and plan for next summer. If you're not listed on our sites, you're missing out on tons of potential campers! Signup for a new listing or upgrade your current listing now and be ready for next summer. Contact us at 1-877-777-7738 or [email protected] to start building your advertising strategy today!

Sun Safety

Being outdoors is a great way for campers and camp counselors to exercise and enjoy all that nature has to offer.  However, being in the sun can lead to painful sunburns that can cause permanent damage to the skin and body, including melanoma.  To avoid your campers and camp staff from getting sunburned, advise them of all the precautions that need to be taken to prevent excruciating, uncomfortable sunburns:

  • Put sunscreen on at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure
  • Be liberal with the amount of sunscreen you put on
  • Sunscreen should have a minimum of SPF 30 or 45
  • Wear hats and UV protected sunglasses
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours 

For more detailed information on sun safety, read this article from The American Cancer Society.

Tips to Keep Campers Hydrated

According to the American Heart Association, staying hydrated is critical to your heart health and body function. As a camp director, you know that a long day of activities can easily lead to dehydration and a sick camper- which nobody wants!

Here are some tips to keep your campers hydrated:
1. Make sure they bring a reusable water bottle to camp. Reusable water bottles are a great item for any camper; they are easy to refill and are eco-friendly. Campers will be able to keep it with them for the whole duration of camp, and will be more likely to finish the water since they cant throw it away.
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2. Have scheduled water breaks. It can be easy to forget to drink water when you're having a blast at camp. Scheduled water breaks can ensure that campers, and staff, are staying hydrated.
3. Make sure water is easily accessible. Be sure that if kids are thirsty or need to refill their water bottles that there are multiple places to re-hydrate. When you're away from a camp site, make a plan and be aware of where the nearest place is to get water- you might even want to bring your own cooler to be safe.
4. Keep coconut water on hand. In case a camper forgets to drink enough water, make sure to keep coconut water on hand. Coconut water is full of important electrolytes and nutrients that keep the body hydrated.
How much water should campers drink?
According to the American Heart Association, the amount of water a camper will need depends on weather and activity level. A general rule is that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces, however, when the weather is hot or your activity level is high it is advisable that you drink more.
So drink up, stay safe, and enjoy camp!
See the American Heart Association's "Staying Hydrated, Staying Healthy" for more advice.

Preparing Camp Staff for the Summer

Training your camp staff is one of the most important things you do as a camp director. Start preparing for your training sessions now by establishing your goals and sharing them with your staff members.

Before staff training begins, sit down with your leadership team and determine your goals for camp and, specifically, for training. This can be done by writing ideas on Post-it Notes and narrowing them down together to a handful of goals that cover all that's important to your camp.

Click to read more from Camp Hacker about camp staff training

10 Things Every Camp Should Do On Their Blog

Blogs (like this one) are a great tool for connecting with potential campers year-round. They make it easy to share up-to-date information on enrollment deadlines, but can also be used to inspire positive camp memories and keep interest going from summer through to next season.

But not all blogs are created equally. Before you launch your blog and start posting, consider your audience and what you'll be giving them each week.

Do you want your blog to be mostly pictures and anecdotes to invite potential campers to join you next season? Or will you be writing blog posts about the history of your camp and your team's progress throughout the year?

There are many factors to consider. Check out this article from our friends at Camp Hacker for more on creating a camp blog.

Click to read 10 Things Every Camp Should Do On Their Blog