Parks and Recreation Departments Become Social

Finding a staff dedicated to marketing parks and recreation departments is as common as finding a miniature horse with a college degree. Parks and Recreation features the quirky and passionate Leslie Knope. Parks and recreation professionals carry the passion of Leslie Knope while serving local communities on a daily basis. Digital marketing is here to stay, and local governments are learning to embrace social media.

Small budgets and limited resources are common setbacks to implementing social media strategies in local government. Parks and recreation departments enjoy ample inspiration for social media content through beautiful parks and opportunities for residents of all ages. Small teams can be developed, trained, and equipped to create a social media presence.

Develop a Team

Parks and recreation departments without marketing teams rely on various staff members to fulfill the need of social media content production. Identify staff with a knowledge of local government policies and develop a social media strategy. Propose the strategy to the rest of the department and establish rapport with the rest of the team. Bring all divisions of the department into the strategy and help each staff member understand the significance of social media. After trust has been earned from the rest of the department, obtain approval from city management to launch a social media presence. Select one individual to be the head of the team and attempt to keep the team as small as possible.

Establish Policies

Working in a municipality necessitates a solid understanding of local government practices. Users must view social media as a public record and comprehend the weight of posting content on behalf of a city. Consequently, training employees on best practices in handling both positive and negative feedback or posting content is essential. The humorous tactics that work for Wendy’s on Twitter will not work for a local government page. Users should also be trained in handling sensitive issues unique to local government. For example, if a tragic event occurs in the city (even if the tragedy isn’t related to parks and recreation), all scheduled posts may need to be stopped temporarily in an effort to show solidarity or sensitivity.

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Don’t Sound like the Government

Parks and recreation is a part of local government but social media pages don’t need to read like a boring brochure. Balance thorough and necessary information with lighthearted posts. Furthermore, let followers know a passionate department is on the other side of the screen. Public meetings, construction updates, and important announcements steer a bulk of digital content. However, social media provides the opportunity to interact with residents instead of just speaking at them.

Get on the ‘Gram

Any social media strategy must include Instagram. Instagram’s algorithm continues to evolve while the site continues to play a key role in marketing. Instagram provides a chance to show off park features via images, but the platform provides departments a chance to provide residents daily highlights through Instagram stories. For example, show the process of setting up a festival with updates on stories from beginning to end. Create exclusive content followers can’t access anywhere else.

Blog

Blogging increases brand awareness. Between parks, recreation facilities, and special events, parks and recreation departments have plenty of topics to talk about. When a crisis occurs, blogging provides space to respond appropriately without the limitations of other social media platforms. Highlight volunteers picking up trash in parks or share about a new program offering at a recreation center. Furthermore, recruit city staff to answer questions submitted by residents. Finally, share about unique features and describe how things work in the city. Explain the process of creating a new park, beginning with public input meetings and ending with a grand opening.

Facebook Events

Use Facebook Events to promote programs and special events. Annual festivals and popular classes don’t need much advertising, but smaller programs benefit from Facebook Events. Parks and recreation departments produce a variety events, but larger events frequently overshadow smaller programs and events. Facebook Event pages provide concise information to the public and allow “friends” to tag each other if interested in a given event. As a result, visibility increases as more interaction takes place.

Maintain Accessibility

Don’t post one time a week and believe your department’s job is done on social media. Equally important to frequent posting is a quick response time. Residents expect quick responses from local government when requests are made through e-mails, phone calls, and now social media. Beyond simply acknowledging public feedback, provide information on how the department intends to respond. Most importantly, communicate to residents the department is actively listening and responding. Accessibility is significant in local government.

Fear Not

Experiment with posting at different times through the day and see when residents respond most frequently. Each parks and recreation professional has a wealth of knowledge – share that knowledge. Stay on top of trends in digital marketing and embrace your team’s creativity. Finally, remember that city management trusts your team; take ownership and invite city residents along for the ride.

The National Recreation and Park Association website is a great resource for departments venturing into social media for the first time. For further reading, visit:

NRPA’s Social Media Policy Recommendations

Sample Content Calendar:

https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/health-wellness/ParksandHealth/social-media-calendar/

 

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