Creating a Loop of High Engagement in Parks and Recreation

Posted on 3/12/18 9:00 AM by Matt Fish

Even though the majority of residents consider the services offered by their local Parks and Recreation agency to be a valuable community asset, many are mired in a downward spiral of engagement. We previously outlined specific issues that have led to diminishing participation numbers in the Parks and Rec space; however, recognizing the problem is only half the battle – eventually, you must start coming up with solutions.

Discover how to create a loop of high engagement in Parks and Rec:

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Below, you'll find an outline of the biggest steps that agencies and influencers must take to alleviate the ailments that plague the industry. The stakes are high: roughly half of Canadians (55%) and Americans (48%) are unaware that online booking services are offered by Parks and Rec organizations online. If changes aren’t made soon, the space will suffer irreparable damage. That said, the improvements will not only serve your organization well in the future but also ease the strain on your bottom line. Let's get started!


Optimize Your Website

We’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: if your website isn’t enticing to look at or optimized for today's share-ready internet landscape, then residents are less likely to discover your classes, activities or services and engage with them. The unavoidable truth is that digital platforms drive not only conversation but commerce as well. Citizens who cannot register and pay for an activity or service online, using their laptop, tablet or smartphone, won’t go over to the competition – they just won’t go anywhere. 

When it comes to your Parks and Rec agency’s website, make sure you're excelling at the basics. Information, as well as page and navigation menu titles, should be clear and concise, existing in an uncluttered overall layout. Residents should be able to quickly find what they need and register for their desired service online, payments included. Also, be aware of responsive web templates and whether your site translates well to mobile or not. You need to be reaching citizens on their smartphones or tablets so that they can access the information they need at any time, ensuring higher user engagement long-term.

For the full breakdown of how you can make your website more user-friendly, check out our full blog post on this topic.


Communicate Using Content Creation and Social Media

Once your website has been optimized, it’s time to make sure you’re delivering the information to citizens in a timely and compelling manner. Your content – the way you’re transmitting any service or activity details – should not only get your residents up to speed but also provide an involving experience that will lead to return visits to your online storefront. Refining the material that users see on your web pages is so important to increasing interaction and sustaining that interest over time.

Is the copy seen in each section of your site up to date? Could anything be said in a clearer, more concise way? Is there any information that residents need to know that hasn’t been published yet or is hidden in a less-than-obvious location? These are all questions that you should be asking about your existing content. You can then audit what you already have at your disposal based on the responses and determine how much additional content creation needs to be done.

To that end, blogging is a great way to keep in touch with residents and update them on what’s happening in their municipality, specifically with regards to your Parks and Rec agency. However, in order to organically build up a local audience, your blog must be publishing content on a consistent basis; once a week is nice, twice a week is even better.

Once you’ve got some blog posts and other content up on your organization’s website, share them using social media. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all options, but consistency is the key here as well. Content must be shared frequently; otherwise, you’ll decrease the likelihood of anyone seeing those updates. Remember: if the tree falls in the forest but no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Don’t Let Your Business and Financial Practices Go Unchecked

When we talked about the downward spiral of engagement in the Parks and Rec space, the lack of knowledge about the deeper business and financial ramifications of decision-making was a big sticking point. With funding decreasing over each of the previous few years, agencies can no longer afford to be reckless when it comes the overall costs of new initiatives and the maintenance of old ones. Knowing how much of a given activity or service is being subsidized by the government or tax dollars is basic information that will give you a better grasp of the ins and outs of your organization.

Parks and Recreation spending trends

Parks and Rec spending, as shown visually above, underscores the fact that the amount of money coming to your organization may have dipped over time. Therefore, minimizing your expenses is critical you’re looking to lift your balance sheet into the black. Is there a class you offer that only has a couple of regular attendees? Is another one of your municipal services costing you more to keep afloat that it’s bringing in? Sometimes the politicking behind certain scenarios can be tricky but saving money long-term cam benefit everyone, even if the decisions are hard to make.


Embrace and Get Excited About Change

All the solutions mentioned above hinge on one very important factor: whether your agency is going to embrace change or not. Even if it's avoided or ignored, change is inevitable. What comes next is (i.e. - progress) is a voluntary and, in this situation, necessary reaction that will determine whether your organization stays one step ahead of the technological curve or not. Welcome change with open arms and use progress as a tool to strengthen the way your organization does business.

There's always some risk involved with rejecting the status quo: no certainty, no road map to rely on. However, what’s the alternative? The monetary returns in the current Parks and Rec landscape cannot sustain the industry if it continues to chug along doing the same old, same old. Changing your agency for the better, by taking the necessary steps to attract citizens with your online presence, is the only way you can improve their experience and close the loop of high engagement that will yield multiple benefits over the long haul.


Remember: the more people that you're able to engage with Parks and Rec classes and services, the more money you can potentially bring in as a result. That leads to increased spending by on new leisure projects and following through on maintenance needs for existing installations. This kind of beautification means the land will be more in demand, thus raising the value of homes in the community. This in turn brings more people into your audience base as citizens.

Then? The cycle continues to repeat itself, building this closed loop of prosperity for your municipality.

For more information on how Amilia's array of robust online tools can help your Parks and Rec agency create this loop of high engagement, download our brochure now!

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