An agency’s marketing capabilities can make or break its success, as Brand+Aid conference manager and Arlington, Texas, assistant director of parks and recreation Gary Packan knows. A Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) and a member of NRPA since 1994, Packan works to come up with new ways to train agencies in marketing as well as encouraging them to put more focus on this area. We talked to Packan about how he got started in the industry and what his experience in the field has been like as a marketing professional.
Parks & Recreation Magazine: How did your interest in a career in parks and recreation first develop?
Gary Packan: I grew up playing sports and enjoyed the outdoors. It was a perfect fit for my interests and hobbies. I have never really viewed my job as work and I enjoy coming every day.
P&R: How did some of your early professional experiences shape your career in marketing and Brand+Aid?
Packan: My first job out of college was to operate a municipal marina. The goal was to turn it into a facility that would be self-supported. After a short period of time, the facility was generating positive net revenue. That evolved in the development of a park and recreation department with the same philosophy. Each position I have had during my career has been focused on generating revenue to offset operations. This has allowed me to be creative and develop programs and services that have a focus on revenue enhancement and/or development. As the business environment has changed around us, marketing has become more important. Brand+Aid has allowed our team to learn as well as educate other departments about marketing and social media.
P&R: Why do you think it’s so important to strategically market park and recreation agencies, and how can the Brand+Aid conference help professionals improve their agencies’ community services?
Packan: The concept of Brand+Aid was created to educate our leadership staff about marketing. Our team felt it was important to provide training so our managers can help market their business units. Our profession doesn’t put enough resources toward marketing. With the evolution in municipal government, marketing can help drive business, and we need to put more effort in this aspect of development. Brand+Aid provides marketing education with a strong focus on parks and recreation. The conference suggests strategies and initiatives that can be implemented in any department regardless of size and resources. It also provides a targeted platform for professionals to network about marketing and social media.
P&R: How has your CPRP certification helped you in your career?
Packan: Maintaining my CPRP provided me assurance that I was receiving regular training and continued professional development. Attending conferences and training opportunities helped me grow as a professional and learn new aspects of the industry.
P&R: What’s the biggest benefit of your membership with NRPA?
Packan: It’s a total package of benefits! There’s the magazine, online forums, networking and conferences — a great learning tool for employee development.
P&R: What’s your most embarrassing moment in your 20 years as a park and recreation professional?
Packan: Shortly after starting with the City of Arlington, I had a meeting with the director. I had a Sharpie in my hand and didn’t see the cap was off. Before I knew it I had drawn all over the side of my face. The director looked at me and said, “What the heck are you doing?” Realizing what I did, I ran to the restroom to clean my face. It’s been an ongoing joke ever since.
Marissa Bracamonte is the Editorial Intern of Parks & Recreation Magazine.