Jason Schaitz shares 15 ways to promote recreation programs locally.
For your camps, leagues or any recreation program, word of mouth is your strongest tool for marketing. To gain traction via word of mouth, you have to prove you are running an excellent program. When you get to the point where your program is filling to capacity well before the registration deadlines and you have long waitlists to get in, you know you have a strong program. If you are not at that point yet, you may need to find creative ways to spread the word to get people in the door without spending a lot of money.
Be active on social media to advertise your program, specifically Facebook. During camp, use it to post pictures and highlights from the program. Engage with parents and potential participants. This is a great way to show those who are not in your program what you are doing. If you have a marketing budget you can also boost posts or run paid ads to a targeted audience.
If you do not have a website, go set one up immediately. If you work for a larger organization, get with your administration to set up a page. Once you get a website for your programs, keep it updated. It is frustrating to finally find your programs online and then see there is no current information posted.
Build relationships with local media outlets and keep them informed regularly. Send press releases to promote your program and registrations, the benefits of your programs, and highlight any accomplishments or benchmarks.
Get your participants emails and use them. Not only will email communication help you promote your program during the offseason, but it will also help you communicate with participants while you are in season. Be active with your email list, keep it updated, and always keep your parents in the loop before, during and after each session.
Newsletters can be a great way to engage with your participants and community on a regular basis both in session and out of session. During the program, use a newsletter to recap the week of activities and as a way to send updates and reminders. Come up with engaging content out of session to promote upcoming registrations and all the great things your programs provide to the community.
There are many programs out there you can use to communicate information via text to your participants. If you can, use it. Texts are great not only for promotion, but also when something time sensitive comes up like a last-minute game cancellation.
There are apps, websites and software out there that can help you manage and organize your programs. You can also use them to connect with parents, engage, market, promote and improve communication.
All programs should have a program flyer. Post it on the website, find places around town with display boards, get permission to distribute in your local schools, etc. Make sure your flyer has all the program information on it such as the “who, what, where, when and why.”
Anywhere you can get permission in your town to put a sign or banner up — it is worth the visibility. If you are not working for a city or county, make sure to check with your local sign rules before you try to put anything up around town.
Partner with other local civic groups in your area to cross promote each other’s programs. Groups such as scouts, schools, churches, etc. have youth programs and are more than happy to distribute your information, especially if you can do so with their activities as well. Create shared community calendars to help reach more potential participants.
Most local newspapers, local news websites, chamber of commerce, HOA’s and other local community civic organizations will have community calendars either online or at their location. Search around for these and get your information on as many of them as you can. They are free so even if only a few people see it there — it’s worth it.
Make sure to recruit advocates in your community such as your most active volunteers and community leaders to be a part of your program. These are your biggest cheerleaders outside your organization, and they can help you build strong word of mouth to bring in lots of participants. If you want to take it a step further, you could place all your advocates on an advisory board to oversee certain aspects of the program while they continue to be your biggest cheerleaders.
Attend any community event that will allow you to set up a table to promote your programs. You can give information face-to-face to a large amount of people in a short span of time to help showcase your programs.
Use your facility to run an event to get people in the door. Whether it is a general community event, fundraising event for your program or just an open house, getting future participants in the door can sometimes be the hardest part so use the opportunity to show off your facility and everything it has to offer. Once you get them in, make sure to swap contact information so you can follow up with them.
There are directory websites that allow you to post information about your programs for free. Take advantage of as many of these as you can find. If you have a marketing budget you can also target websites and run paid advertising.
You can never put enough information out there on your programs. Using these guidelines and more will help you promote recreation programs throughout the community. Get creative, have a plan, and build a network of advocates to generate word of mouth and take your marketing and promotion to the next level.
For more resources on how to promote recreation programs, visit the League Source website.