URJ Camp George Improves Communications
By Stacey Jaffe, Steering Committee Member and Communications Committee Chair
Beginning in 2009, Camp George has participated annually in the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) sponsored Camper Satisfaction Insights survey. We had always been very pleased with our results and were surprised to find overall lower marks in our 2011 survey.
As we searched the data for insight into the reasons for this unexpected change, we realized that we were suffering from what I've dubbed the "lack of information effect." When parents asked their children about their summer experiences, children replied: "Camp was great, Mom, I already told you that!"
Since our campers did not expand on their answer, our parents expected to receive the details from camp itself. While no one likes to discover they have a problem, finding the "lack of information effect" was a relief-because this was a problem we could fix!
Around the time we were digesting our survey data and discussing next steps, Jeff Rose, our Camp Director, and I attended the 2011 JCamp 180 Annual Conference. During the conference, I had the pleasure of attending the social media track where I discovered how easy it would be to use existing platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging) to our advantage. The excitement and discussions surrounding what I was learning spurred Jeff to make communications a priority.
Three key pieces then quickly followed:
- Jeff quickly hired a part-time Communications director to take us from the school year (beginning in January) through the end of the summer season.
- The Steering Committee created a Communications Committee (which I chair).
- We created a communications strategic plan with the help of Kevin Martone, JCamp 180's Technology Program Manager.Kevin taught us how to think about and utilize different media and how to understand the analytics provided by each type of media.
Since we are a data driven camp and because the communications committee was created to respond to an issue that came to light because of a survey, the goal of our strategic plan was simply to improve our 2012 FJC Camper Satisfaction Insight's survey results.
When a Plan Comes Together
The crux of our plan was to communicate eight values that camp exemplifies to our community.These eight values are:
- Programming is fun
- Programming encourages skill building
- Feature leadership of camp
- Show staff in child care role
- Highlight atmosphere where child is proud to be Jewish
- Campers build friendships
- Show wide array of facilities (from cabins to each activity area)
- Health/safety of children
Additionally, we wanted our plan to encourage our families to begin to interact with us in a variety of social media platforms: our blog, Facebook and Twitter.
During the school year, we created content five days a week.
On Mondays, we created a Facebook poll where campers and staff could vote on their favorite things, such as favorite song during song session.
On Wednesdays, we posted an alumni photo on Facebook and asked Alumni to caption the photo.
On Fridays, we posted a Shabbat message on Facebook. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we published a blog discussing one or more of our values (and of course, we posted the link to our blog on Facebook).
We also planned a monthly game for Twitter. Our goal? Get our community used to the idea that they can find different types of information on all our different platforms.
Throughout the school year, we were very pleased to find that we carried a 6% engagement rate on Facebook (meaning that at any given moment 6% of our audience was interacting with our content).
As we entered the summer season, we altered our communications strategic plan to push out more content and keep our families better informed.The values, however, remained the same. We created a Communications Brit that we sent to all our families promising that we would provide:
- 3 blogs per week, plus a Shabbat blog from our Director
- 3 videos per week
- A minimum of 75 photos posted each day to Bunk1
- A link to each blog and video was posted on our Facebook feed, allowing us to easily update Facebook each day.
Additionally, we tweeted cabin updates throughout the day (campers travel to activities in cabin groups). Every two days, we tweeted at least one update about what each cabin was doing and often included a photo. For example, we tweeted, "K2 and K4 are both making 'stained glass' with tissue paper at A&C!"
The Fruits of Our Labor
It was thrilling to watch our data soar throughout the summer. From January through the end of August, we climbed from 810 to 1,017 Facebook followers (20% increase). And from January through the end of August, we climbed from 304 to 555 Twitter followers (45% increase).
Throughout the summer, we maintained an 8-12% engagement of Facebook followers. In the Facebook world, it is considered wonderful to have a 3% engagement- a number that we quadrupled.
Each blog was read by an average of 137 people (total traffic), which is incredible when one considers that there were about 280 campers at camp at any given time. Each video received an average of 156 views (all time total plays). To say our numbers awed us would be an understatement.
At this time, we still have not received the 2012 results of the Camper Satisfaction Insights survey. We are eagerly waiting to see if our theory was correct: if we provide the information parents are looking for, we will indeed see our scores rise. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to follow our blog, Facebook or Twitter feeds!