October 1, 2015, Department, by National Recreation and Park Association

Let us know what you think about what you read each month in Parks & Recreation magazine!In the May 2015 issue [of Parks & Recreation magazine] there was a call to action from [NRPA CEO] Barbara Tulipane in the Perspectives column about what a well-rounded 21st century professional in our field needs to be successful. She highlighted the need to have full-range marketing skills, including social media, mobile marketing and more. Those departments that are lucky enough to have a dedicated marketing professional on staff are already armed with these tools through the knowledge of their employee. However, for most departments, marketing lies on the shoulders of programmers to market their programs to the public. They aren’t trained professionals, they are just trying to do and learn enough to make sure that they can stay up-to-date. They have enough on their plate with programs and to ask them to learn robust marketing methods and best practices can seem overwhelming.

In this very digitally driven time we are living in, it is important as professionals that we understand the new marketing landscape that has unfolded in front of us as technology continues to advance. The benefit is that we no longer have to make surveys, print them out and hope we get some feedback. If we open the backdoor on many of our websites, social media platforms and digital newsletters there is this beautiful, in-depth, rich data that tells us who is going to our sites, what else they looked at while they were there, how many people visited, what are the best times of day to post materials, etc. The best part is that digital marketing can be achieved for little to no expense, yet will have a huge return of the time invested. That works great for the shoestring marketing budget on which most of us are operating.

As NRPA recognizes the critical need for these skills, I would like to call upon them to help those who are assigned to the task of marketing their programs/department and provide the education and tools needed to make us all successful. This digital landscape is not something that can be learned overnight and is constantly evolving; therefore, it is beneficial to consider starting a marketing school, similar to Directors School, Revenue Management School or Supervisors School, where NRPA can bring in the experts to train park and rec professionals on the many areas of digital marketing. I truly believe the interest is there and will be well received. 

I would like to also ask that there be some consideration for a marketing and events certification similar to a CPRP, AFO, etc. With the many event planners and marketing professionals entering into or being developed within the parks and recreation industry, this is a great way to invest in their talents, enhance their contributions to the industry and make them feel like valued players in the field. This dedication and investment to these professionals will likely foster loyalty and longevity among these employees, which is exactly what we will need in this ever-changing marketing world.

I think there is so much opportunity to capitalize on now that the industry has recognized how critical marketing, both traditional and digital, is not only to a 21st century professional, but our industry as a whole. By teaching and providing opportunities for professionals to learn these tools, it will take our industry to heights we never knew were possible.

Email from Tiffany Capehart, Supervisor of Marketing at the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities, regarding NRPA CEO Barbara Tulipane’s May 2015 Perspectives column, “What the Park and Recreation Professional of the Future Needs to Know”