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Step by step to your new camp brochure.

You know you need a new camp brochure; you've had your current one for at least of couple of years too long. But if you're like most camp directors, you'd rather have your teeth drilled without Novocain than start on it. Here are some steps to make the process as painless as possible to get a brochure you'll be proud of for years.

STEP 1: Begin planning early. Say you need your brochures in October to begin your marketing season. Start to plan this October to have your brochures ready for the next marketing season. You can still create a brochure with as little as six months lead time, beginning, say, in April, but late spring is hectic, and it's easier if you start earlier.

STEP 2: Look over your competition. Send away for brochures from camps that complete with you and from camps whose brochures or recruitment success you admire. Study each one:

* What's your first impression? Is the design appealing? Does it look welcoming? Does the cover make you want to read further?

* How does the paper feel? Limp and insubstantial? A feel of quality?

* Does it seem well organized? Or do flyers and application forms fall out upon opening?

* Is the copy interesting? Do the headlines draw you in?

* Are the photographs of professional quality? Do they give you a sense of the camp?

* Keep asking yourself: What elements from these brochures would I like to see in mine?

STEP 3: Decide on your message. To what age group do you want your brochure to appeal? What impressions do you want kids and parents (who may not even read your brochure carefully) to come away with?

Some hints:

* Convey a sense of welcome.

* Communicate: "You are one of us!" Sub-hint: Don't use bunk photos that convey neither welcome nor inclusion unless the prospective camper happens to know several of the kids in the photo. Rather, such photos are off-putting; they inherently communicate exclusion, and prompt such thoughts as "I don't know any of them. They may not like me."

* Communicate fun and safety, the two most important elements of camp.

* Decide on two or three elements of your camp, say, tennis, or riding or tripping, and highlight them. This special emphasis will help accomplish something very difficult for most camp marketers: distinguishing themselves from competitors.

STEP 4: Line up professional help. I still groan when I see my first camp brochure. I was so sure that I could do it myself and save money. What a honker! The photographs were murky, the colors ugly, and the copy hard to read. I even had it printed locally by a company that had done other, simpler printing work for me. Never again! The company wanted to do its best, but its presses were just not up to the job.

* Talk with professional designers (they're in the Yellow Pages under "Graphic Designers" or Layout and Production Service"). Ask to see their portfolios and samples of person's sense of design communicate with my client and prospects? Is it too hard-edged or flashy? Is it too trendy? Or, is it too corporate? How will parents and kids respond?"

* Begin looking for a professional photographer. Camp directors resist this more than anything else, and yet bad photography is the downfall of most brochures. Most directors are absolutely sure that:

A. They'll have plenty of time to do the photography themselves, or

B. The photography instructor they've just hired should be on staff at the National Geographic.

The correct answer, of course, is:

C. None of the above. Name the last time during camp that you had time to find that old Nikon 35mm that was somewhere in the closet. And name the last time that you were absolutely thrilled with the camp shots taken by your photography instructor. Maybe one, maybe two, but never enough for a whole brochure, I'll bet.

Hint: Look for photographers who photograph people well in unposed shots. The best photographers are those who practice their art inconspicuously. The campers forget they are there, they relax, and you wind up with photographs that capture the very being of your campers, and thus, of your camp. Sub-hint: Local wedding photographers usually don't work.

Don't be cheap and rob your new brochure of the very element it most needs to be successful -- good photography. A good photographer should charge between $800 and $1,000 per day. It's worth it. Great photos will last you for years -- and you can use them in blow-ups for you camp fair booths, in ads, in albums, in slide shows. You can incorporate them into videos.

STEP 5: Begin working on copy. If the brochure process is like a trip to the dentist, writing copy is for most camp directors like root canal work. Some suggestions for making it easier:

* Tape yourself. Directors are at their best talking about their camps, not writing about them. As you are talking with parents of prospective campers on the phone or at someone's home, set up a small tape recorder. The spoken medium differs significantly from the written word, but many words and phrases from a tape can often be very useful when you're writing brochure copy. And besides, brochure copy should sound like you.

* Save room for talking about what I call "the sale before the sale." Most camp brochures assume that their only competitors are other camps. No longer true! Take some time and talk about why camp (instead of family vacations, soccer leagues, swim teams, country clubs). Only then can you really talk about why my camp.

* Save those warm thank-you letters from kids and parents! Excerpts will be wonderful at conveying others' endorsement. of you. More about this later.

* Jot down those same sorts of comments when parents call you or see you in person. Ask if you may quote them. Very often these spoken compliments seem less "canned" than ones in letters. Keep them!

* Keep a pad by your phone and, when parents call in with questions, write down their questions. Make sure that your next brochure's copy contains the answers to these questions. Directors swear that parents don't read brochures, but this tip will save you lots of phone time.

* Keep it light. Avoid the stuffy and self-important and hard to read. Brochures should reflect what you're talking about --camp! And the last thing that camp should be is dry, stuffy and self-important. Humor is tough, but a great letter from a camper, or a revealing incident, a quick, funny, illuminating story can separate your brochure from the scads of others parents look at.

Keep it short. One reason parents may not read your brochure is that the copy is too long. Less is more.

STEP 6: Decide on the quantity you'll need. Find out how many brochures you send out in a year; decide if you want to try any new marketing ideas that will use brochures and, if so, how many will be needed; and then decide how many years you'd like to use your new brochure.

* If you want camp brochure to be four-color, and if your program remains relatively constant from year to year, consider a three-to five-year print run. Much of the cost of color brochures is in the initial color separation and press set-up charges. After the first thousand are printed, most additional thousands can be printed for what basically amounts to the cost of paper, and that's relatively cheap. This means:

a) you have to be really happy with the quality of the brochure;

b) you have to have a dry, dark place to store them. Make certain that they are shrink-wrapped or are boxed well. You don't want yellowed, rumpled brochures in year four.

Once you've decided on the production details and approved the rough design, review deadlines and get an estimated ship date for your brochures.

STEP 7: Look over the final photo choices with your designer. Remember that your input is as valuable as his. Only you can judge whether your equestrians are in the right seat, whether your waterfront staff are observing safety regulations, or whether your tennis or archery instructors are using correct form.

Rely on your designer, however, for final photo choices. Only a designer can make the best decisions about which images are strongest, best composed, and best complement page design and copy.

STEP 8: Make sure you include:

* A photograph and a paragraph about you, the director. It's helpful these days to includ family in the photograph. This is a good place, too, to talk about your own background and your philosophy about camp.

* If you have a stable, a section about them. It's a great way for parents to get a sense of the people who will be dealing with their children over the summer. Longevity on staff, staff background, and pre-camp staff training are useful topics here.

* A sample daily schedule. Parents like to know how time at camp will be organized. Hour by hour is more effective -- and more readable -- than a paragraph.

* A brief but substantive paragraph on risk management and how issues of safety are handled in camp. This information is reassuring to parents.

* Quotes from letters from parents that speak to parents' concerns and comfort them. These may be much more effective than quotes saying how wonderful camp was for their child. Some examples of kinds of quotes parents often need to hear:

A. Reassurance about separation from the child for the length of the camp session. Let another parent talk about what both parents and children learn from being away from each other for awhile.

B. Cost issues. Sometimes a parent's first reaction to camp tuition is, "I can't afford it!" It's helpful to talk about tuition in relative terms. On a per-day basis camp is often quite inexpensive compared to other kinds of options, including child care, family vacations, and such.

C. Our kids are like your kids. Said another way, your child will find other children here at camp with which he or she will make friends. Parents often worry about this, and yet it's one of the greatest gifts that camp can offer: renewed self-confidence in one's ability to have a friend and be a friend.

A rule of thumb: Separate facts from claims. The chief thing a camp brochure should communicate is trust. It is a sense of trust that allows parents to entrust their children to you for the summer. Straight text in the brochure should contain the facts about your program, facilities, and staff. Use quotes or photographs to communicate any claims you are making for your camp: its beauty, the friendliness of the staff, responses of kids and parents to your camp. Such clear separation of these two elements will make your brochure communicate trustworthiness.

Don't include:

* Pictures of camp food in the dining hall. I've almost never seen anything approaching appetizing. Use a sample menu instead.

* Photographs of the infirmary or camp nurse. I can't remember the last time I saw a camp nurse in a starched white uniform when I visit camps. Why is it that so many camp brochures have photos of them? Scary. Mention the infirmary, the availability of physicians, and the proximity of hospital care in a paragraph space for good stuff: program, friends, staff, and sports facilities.

* Information that will need to be updated annually. Include all that on a separate sheet (preferably printed on the same paper stock and in the same typeface as your brochure).

STEP 9: Have a "focus group" critique the brochure mock-up. Here's another lesson I learned the hard way. On one registration form I designed, I confused parents about how to designate age and grade of child. The result: a lot of kids were placed in inappropriate groups the first day of camp.

Ask a couple of parents unfamiliar with your camp to read the mock-up of your brochure and fill out the registraton form. Watch them do it. You'll learn a lot about which pages catch their attention (and which pages don't), what may generate questions, what's unclear, and, of course, whether the registration form is confusing!

STEP 10: Have the designer do a press check. Many a good brochure has been spoiled by inattentive or incompetent printers. It's best to have your brochure printed by a professional printer whom your designer trusts. You should still request that the designer be at the printer when the first few pages come off the press. Slight alterations can be made on press a this stage to correct problems that can be costly later.

STEP 11: Plan your brochure mailings and follow-up mailings. Before your brochure comes back from the printer, write your cover letter and prepare any follow-up material you may need to keep in contact with a prospective camper and his parents after you've mailed your brochure. Print the labels or address the envelopes. Have everything ready so that as soon as the brochures arrive, you'll be ready to gather your staff and get the brochures in the mail.

Your camp brochure can be one of your most useful and most reliable marketing tools. By following these steps you can be sure your camp is presented well in a brochure of which you'll be proud for years to come.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Cole, Bill
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Help! Our camp enrollment is down.
Next Article:Putting the "pro" in your program.

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