MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Now to a sweet tradition in this country for more than 80 years.
Unidentified Man #1: The cookies are here.
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Man #2: Madame.
Unidentified Woman: Oh, the cookies are here.
BLOCK: Girl Scout cookies, of course. Those ad campaigns have evolved over the years, and now in 2010, even bigger changes are transforming the $700-million-a-year business.
This season, Girl Scouts are making their sales pitches online. A troop in the San Francisco suburb of Antioch let reporter Rachel Dornhelm tag along at a recent meeting.
RACHEL DORNHELM: Talk about enabling cookies online. Four girls are clustered around a laptop in troop leader Monique Lazzarini's kitchen. They're learning how to market their cookies with Evites, on Facebook and with text messages.
Ms. MONIQUE LAZZARINI (Girl Scout Troop Leader): Are we good? Are we missing anything? I think it looks good. Read it one more time.
Unidentified Child: I'm a Girl Scout in Troop 30313, and I was wondering if I could fax you an order form to purchase Girl Scout cookies.
Ms. LAZZARINI: Perfect.
DORNHELM: Lazzarini's troop is taking advantage of the fact that for the first year, Girl Scouts is embracing online cookie marketing. Eleven-year-old Emily Costanza says she's enjoying the crash course in social media.
Ms. EMILY COSTANZA (Girl Scout): I feel that everyone should be using this resource. It's very helpful and very - it's a very well experience for younger children because they will know when they're older how to use it and just -it's a way to have fun with technology.
Ms. LAUREL RICHIE (Chief Marketing Officer, Girl Scouts of the USA): I love the fact that we're, you know, moving from door-to-door to online because it says that we sort of are really in touch with girls today.
DORNHELM: That's Girl Scouts of the USA Chief Marketing Officer Laurel Richie. She says whether the girls are going in person or marketing online, the important thing is they're coming up with a plan and executing it.
It was a different story last year, though, when a young Girl Scout in North Carolina posted a simple video on YouTube to pitch her cookies.
(Soundbite of YouTube Video)
Ms. WILD A. FREEBORN: Hi, I'm Wild A. Freeborn, and I need you to buy some cookies...
DORNHELM: The Girl Scouts called the video a violation of its rules, and the scuffle over the eight-year-old's viral effort became a national story. Richie says safety was the sticking point.
Ms. RICHIE: And we just took a moment to breathe and make sure we could find a way to meet their desire to market online with our desire to make sure that they do it in a way that is safe.
DORNHELM: Richie says they worked with Microsoft and developed a safety program for their members. She says the new Girl Scout pledge about how to be careful online is just as important as teaching girls the technologies themselves. Ten-year-old Scout Natalie Gutierrez ticks off some of the points.
Ms. NATALIE GUTIERREZ (Girl Scout): Don't show your picture. Don't tell your last name. Don't tell where you live. They might come and find you, which is really bad. Don't tell them your phone number. If they say, like, it's safe, I'm okay, I'm a doctor or something, they might be lying.
DORNHELM: The kids are doing their work online supervised by parents, parents that are getting busier by the day and welcome technological help. That's according to Marina Park. She's CEO for the Girl Scouts of Northern California. Lately, she says, it's been hard to find parents with the time to volunteer with the group, let alone do cookie sales.
Ms. MARINA PARK (Chief Executive Officer, Girl Scouts of Northern California): And if the parents are working, you really don't want walking your kid, you know, after dark when you've gotten home, and there's homework to be done and dinner to be made and all of the things that need to happen, and weekends, people are busy, and the neighbors that you're going to try and place their orders aren't home. So I think it just simplifies the whole thing.
DORNHELM: Still, even the troops like Lazzarini's who've embraced the technology can still do some door-to-door.
Ms. ELIZABETH (Girl Scout): Hi, my name is Elizabeth(ph), and I was wondering if you'd like to buy some Girl Scout cookies.
DORNHELM: For NPR News, I'm Rachel Dornhelm.