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Key Findings: Marketing and Communications in Parks and Recreation Report

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Key findings from a survey conducted by the NRPA research team on effective marketing and communications.

With heightened isolation, mental health and childcare concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, effective marketing and communication efforts have never been more necessary for the community recreation industry.

To learn more about how park and recreation leaders are navigating this challenge and communicating with members of their communities, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Research team conducted a 24-question survey on the topic of marketing and communications at park and recreation agencies nationwide. The survey asked leaders about their goals, partners, and resources they implement and received more than 400 responses from agencies of all sizes throughout the United States.

The following are key findings from the report created by NRPA:

  • Local schools are park and recreation agencies’ most common partners to promote amenities and programs.
  • Social media is a vital communications channel for virtually every park and recreation agency.
  • 76% of parks and recreation agencies print a program catalog or guide promoting their offerings.
  • 34% of park and recreation agencies market their offerings in at least one additional language besides English.
  • Three in four park and recreation agencies actively market their offerings to people living outside their jurisdiction.

While local schools are the most common partners for promoting amenities and programs, two-thirds of park and recreation agencies also work with libraries and local businesses to distribute marketing messages. Other frequently cited marketing and communications partners from the report include:

  • 48% of respondents cited nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
  • 21% cited local health departments.
  • 18% cited faith-based organizations.
  • 16% cited public works departments.

When it comes to marketing methods, digital aspects such as social media are vital, but traditional efforts are also still being utilized. The report found social media, agency websites and email messages are the top three channels. For social media, virtually all agencies utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. 97% of respondents rely on their websites to spread the word about amenities and programs. And 89% rely on email messages and newsletters.

Traditional printed communications mentioned in the report include the following:

  • 89% cited posters/flyers in agency facilities.
  • 75% cited a printed program guide/catalog.
  • 42% cited a printed newsletter.
  • 31% cited direct mail campaigns.

Latitia McCree, the senior vice president of communications and marketing at the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, added word of mouth to the mix as the Y’s most effective marketing strategy. “Everyone loves to share stories about how the YMCA improves lives of all ages,” said McCree. “And secondly, I would say the Y experience markets itself. Once people come to our facility and have a Y experience, that seals the relationship.”

Read the full NRPA Park and Recreation Marketing and Communications Report that includes more information on goals of marketing activities, partners, methods, budgets and resources, and challenges.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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