The key to reaching a diverse community.
How do you define community? Is it physical — based on proximity and common characteristics? Or, is it a feeling — based on a sense of fellowship and common interest in having a great place to live?
As the United States continues to grow and change demographically, communities can no longer be defined based on physical similarities. The Pew Research Center projects that by 2045, the United States will become a majority-minority nation. At that time, according to the Brookings Institution, the country will be composed of 49.7 percent whites, 24.6 percent Latinos, 13.1 blacks, 7.9 percent Asians and 3.8 percent multiracial Americans.
Ethnicity is not the only factor that makes communities diverse. Community members come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, genders, professions, religions, family sizes, varying interests and abilities. So, how do you communicate with and appeal to an increasingly diverse customer base?
Start by developing marketing strategies that are just as diverse as your community. To do this, you need to develop a multicultural marketing strategy to better understand your audience, execute a mix of tailored communication methods and implement appealing, diverse offerings.
The Importance of Understanding Your Audience
Taking the time to analyze and understand your audience is the most important step in developing any marketing strategy. You’ve probably heard the term “market research,” but may not have associated it with parks and recreation. However, if you aren’t doing any form of market research, then you are probably just making assumptions about your customers’ interests, goals and motivations. If you don’t truly understand who you are communicating with, you are more likely to miss the mark when trying to appeal to them or attract them to your programs or events.
One strategy for better understanding your customer base is to collect basic demographic information when people sign up for your programs and events. Once you have collected enough data, you can analyze it to understand which programs seem to be most appealing to certain types of people. For example, you may find that you have more women participating in pickleball classes, but more men participating in pickleball tournaments. This does not necessarily mean that you should only promote the classes to women and the tournaments to men. It does mean that you have an opportunity to segment these audiences and tailor the communications for men vs. women to appeal to them in different ways. If you try this strategy and then notice an increase in women participating in the tournaments, then you know this type of marketing strategy works for your community.
NRPA has a resource that can assist you with better understanding your customers — the Facility Market Reports (FMR). These custom reports will give you insight about the residents served by your specific parks and facilities. All you have to do is enter the facility address and the report will provide data on resident demographics and forecasts, health characteristics, exercise habits, recreation spending, social-media usage and more. Request a Facility Market Report.
Segment and Tailor Your Communications
Once you have established who your audience is, begin tailoring your communications to segmented groups that have similar interests, values and preferred methods of communication. Diverse audiences rarely respond to the same messages in the same way. This is why it is essential to adapt your communications to your market, instead of attempting to adapt the market to your communications.
It requires more than developing a poster for an event and simply swapping out the images on the poster with those of individuals from various ethnic groups to try to appeal to a wider audience. The entire poster should be tailored to your diverse target audiences. For instance, if you are promoting a Fourth of July festival, you could create a few different versions of a poster: one version that lists activities that appeal to older adults and another using language that resonates with millennials and includes a QR code that takes them to a webpage for more information.
In addition to tailoring the message for your audience, you also need to tailor your communication channels to the audiences you are trying to reach. Part of the basic demographic information you collect should include the opportunity for participants to specify the best way to communicate with them, so you can start to better understand what channels work best: email, text message, website, social media or even physical mail. With this data, you can start more regularly promoting your campaigns to them through those channels.
Language is a key factor in developing a multicultural marketing strategy that is welcoming to all. If a large portion of your community speaks Spanish, you should not only try to communicate with them through emails and fliers in their native language, but also with signage at your facilities and even on your website. Having staff fluent in other languages can also be advantageous. A language barrier can not only impede your communications from being understood, but can also create the perception that only English speakers are welcome at your events and facilities. A welcoming brand will help boost your marketing efforts and lead to increased participation from your community.
In most cases, your marketing can only be as good as the product or service you are trying to promote. If your city or department does not make an effort to offer programs that appeal to different age groups, cultures, genders or abilities, your multicultural marketing strategies will not yield great results. If the goal is to bring more of your community together and offer inclusive park and recreation opportunities, your programming, events, brand and marketing need to be as diverse as the community you serve.
Matt Brubaker is NRPA’s Director of Marketing.