MADELEINE BRAND, host:
OK, from reinventing recording to reinventing the Girl Scouts. The Scouts are trying to re-brand themselves to be more in-sync with the times. Shannon Mullin reports.
SHANNON MULLIN: The Girl Scouts have been stereotyped for decades by three words. Cookies, camping, and crafts, and that notion is still going strong.
Ms. CAROLINE FUNKHAUSER (Girl Scout): My name is Caroline Funkhauser. I'm 16 years old. I've never been a Girl Scout, never had much interest in it. I always thought it was a girly thing, and I'm not much of a girly girl.
MULLIN: The Girl Scouts know they face more competition than ever for young girls' attention, but they say today's Scouts do a lot more than past generations, things like white water rafting, running web sites and survival camping.
Ms. KAELA GISHERMAN (Girl Scout): For example, this February I slept out in 13-degree weather, and I think that's really cool. There's nothing girly about that.
MULLIN: Seventeen-year-old Kaela Gisherman was among 60 middle and high school-aged girls at a recent Girl Scout workshop near Boston, where they used pretend budgets to practice money management.
(Soundbite of Girl Scout workshop)
Unidentified Woman #1: On day one we have to add the 30 dollars.
Unidentified Woman #2: This is lifelike basically, absolutely. Welcome to the real world, girls!
MULLIN: The girls also learn how to cook on a hotplate, change a fuse, and unclog a toilet. Some of the skills that program director Wendy Garf-Lipp says they'll need when they leave home for college.
Ms. WENDY GARF-LIPP (Program Director, Girl Scouts): We try and present a variety of different programs that will give the girls the strength of character to move on when they leave Girl Scouts and live independently. I don't think we've done the best job possible in getting the word out there what Girl Scouts really is.
MULLIN: Only about 10 percent of American girls are involved with Girl Scouts, a number that has held steady for decades. But the Scouts plan to start targeting the other 90 percent with their most aggressive PR strategy to date. CEO Kathy Cloninger just hired the organization's first ever marketing director to revitalize their brand.
Ms. KATHY CLONINGER (CEO, Girl Scouts): We are looking for partnerships where we put Girl Scouting into the middle of girl culture and we use spokespeople and marketing campaigns, the Internet, and Facebook, and however, you know, wherever girls hang out. That's where we are trying to get them with new messages about what Girl Scouting really is.
MULLIN: The Girl Scouts also charge their in-house research institute to study how girls feel about the organization's core mission to train future women leaders. Research director Judy Schoenberg.
Ms. JUDY SCHOENBERG (Director of Research & Outreach, Girl Scout Research Institute): What we heard from thousands of girls is that they are really turned off by the commanding control, top down type of leadership that they see so much around them. They really aspire to a type of leadership that is about making a difference in the world and social change.
MULLIN: The Scouts want to give girls more say in how they learn to be leaders. So, this spring, in addition to the traditional programs led by troop leaders, CEO Kathy Cloninger says they'll be new programs called leadership journeys that will be planned and directed by the Girl Scouts themselves.
Ms. CLONINGER: So, they are following their own girl interests, so we're working to help adults step back a bit, and to encourage girls to step up.
MULLIN: The Girl Scouts plan to roll out new TV, magazine, and web content this fall, and they're focusing on attracting more black, Hispanic and Asian girls. The Scouts say they'll be watching closely to see who takes notice. For NPR News, I'm Shannon Mullin.
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