Patron Communications – Are You On The Right Channel?

Devin Meister

November 10, 2022

It used to be simple for national advertisers. X group read this magazine, Y read this one, and everyone watched “must-see TV.” Now there are literally thousands of options.

The competition for attention with your parks and recreation communications has followed a similar path. It used to be just a printed guide. Then email. Now texting is thrown in the mix.

A high-level look at these marketing communication trends – from big audiences (printed guide) to specific groups (email) to personalized messages (texting) shows them going from one-to-many, to one-to-specific groups, to one-to-one. Like the national stage, each has its place and we don’t see any one of them going away. However, ensuring that you are using the right channel for the right message for each audience is critical. It could even become a point for equal and fair access to programs – if parts of the community aren’t reached they could be left out of valuable programs. Consider some of the pros and cons of each.

To see how these changes are impacting parks and recreation organizations we recently conducted a national survey with Parks and Recreation Business to better understand a range of issues, including how they communicate with their audiences.

The results weren’t that surprising on the surface. Print can be hard to let go of – and many people’s roles are inextricably tied to producing those materials. At the same time, the cost to send an email makes it very attractive to departments. That doesn’t make it right for every communication. For some audiences, texting is far and away the best channel. But when you show up on someone’s personal device you had better bring value to them specifically or you’ll lose that channel option forever.

The key to making your digital channels work is vigilant list management and using the responses and data you receive to listen to your audience. This is what enables departments to scale their personalized messages into effective and relevant communications, something that’s difficult to do with print alone.

“Context is key. We currently see a mix of print, email, and text communications as integral to a district or department’s communications. But we anticipate that texting will play an increased role in the future. Its ability to be very targeted and timely makes it an effective tool for engaging the community,” says Dave Wirtz, Director of Sales, at Vermont Systems. In a nutshell, it comes down to the right message for the right audience at the right time – and now parks and recreation departments have more control than ever before.

Learn more about texting options from Vermont Systems

Want to see how your peers are delivering and thinking about their patron experience? Check out our report full of insights from parks and recreation departments from across the country.