The need to engage camp families is greater than ever in today’s digital age. As a camp director, frequent and thoughtful communication leads to happier campers, satisfied parents, and less stressed staff.
Dan Weir, a recognized expert in summer camp planning, visited 25 camps in the summer of 2023. He came away with clear insights on how to effectively engage families before, during, and after camp.
Parents Expect Constant Communication
Parent expectations have rapidly evolved regarding camp communication. Multiple studies have shown that smartphone pings trigger the brain’s dopamine like a drug. Parents rely on frequent updates and become anxious without them.
Camps can no longer take a hands-off or sporadic communication approach. Strategies from even 2015 are now inadequate. Parents expect near real-time updates.
Frequent communication is demanded regardless of demographics or price point. Camps that fail to deliver risk dissatisfied families and losing campers.
Create a Content Calendar
A key foundation is to develop an overarching content calendar and plan, according to Dan. Camps must determine key stories, moments, activities, and messages to convey over the summer.
This involves setting communication goals and priorities. What impression do you want families to have of camp? How can content reinforce your brand? These questions shape created stories.
With high-level goals set, map out posting schedules across channels like social media, email, and text alerts. Consistent routines are vital so parents come to rely on cadences. Planning ahead makes frequent engagement manageable versus overwhelming.
Focus on High-Quality Camp Photos
Photos powerfully convey the camp experience visually to parents. Yet camps must be strategic in capturing and sharing images.
Dan suggests abundantly shooting in high resolution. Carefully curate the best shots after. Mix fun candids, activities, and camper close-ups. Facial recognition to tag kids is essential, a key feature of Campanion. Simple organization helps parents easily find their child.
While camps may limit tech for unplugged experiences, parents still want photo updates. The right balance reassures parents while kids focus on real connections.
Send Concise, Consistent Camp Updates
Brief daily text and app updates are useful for essential logistics and announcements. However, Dan offers guidelines to prevent annoyance:
- Keep the updates concise
- Maintain consistent update cadences
- Use a positive tone and avoid long blocks of text
- Only send immediately important details like the next day’s theme
- Never send late-night updates
Updates should help parents prepare their child with needed details. Missing key info frustrates parents. Provide essentials so parents feel involved, not surprised.
Meet Families on Social Media
While tactical updates are important, camps can’t overlook social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok reach distinct audiences.
Parents skew toward Facebook while campers like Instagram and TikTok. Camps must have a presence on all major channels. By meeting families where they already are online, camps integrate into life.
Each platform needs unique content scheduling and formats. But maintain a consistent voice across the channels. Planning social media content on an overall calendar makes it manageable rather than ad-hoc.
Give it Time
It’s important to remember that the transition back to school is a process, and it may take some time for kids to fully adjust. Remind parents to be patient and understanding and to work with their kids to look back on their summer camp experience as a time of growth and fun.
Get Creative with “Camp News”
In addition to public social media, camps should develop private communication channels for families like:
- Camp blogs
- Email newsletters
- Personalized memory books/emails
- Activity/progress update emails
These allow intimate, detailed sharing. Don’t fear “oversharing” stories, moments, photos, and updates. Today’s parents crave camp specifics. Meeting this need earns lifelong loyalty.
Make it Easy to Give Feedback
In an era of instant online reviews, camps must make giving feedback easy. Dan advises having visible contact links, phone numbers, and feedback options. Respond to concerns promptly.
Also proactively survey parents to identify improvements. Making families feel heard allows addressing issues before small frustrations escalate.
Seriously Consider All Feedback
What matters as much as gathering feedback is how camps respond. Have a protocol to respectfully resolve concerns whenever feasible.
Also, showcase positive feedback like reviews and testimonials. This highlights what the camp does well and communicates value to parents.
Regularly soliciting varied feedback keeps camps connected to parent sentiment for continual improvement.
Strategically Plan Communications in Advance
Dan urges camps to develop a comprehensive communication strategy before camp, not reactively scramble once parents ask questions.
Thoughtful planning requires foresight. Key steps include:
- Creating a cross-channel content calendar
- Mapping posting schedules
- Integrating camp news features
- Making two-way feedback channels
Proper platforms and rhythms allow focusing on content rather than logistics. Consistent routines also breed parent familiarity and trust.
While demanding, robust communication has dividends in happy families, excited campers, and growing enrollment. It conveys an inclusive, connected camp community that gives parents peace of mind. In turn, parents become partners in delivering amazing camp experiences.