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Park Districts Can No Longer Ignore Social Media

Park Districts Can No Longer Ignore Social Media

by Alexander J. Barton, President, IAPD Corporate Member, Barton Event Management

full article from Illinois Parks & Recreation

Modern park districts are using social media as an effective way with which to communicate with core audiences such as moms, kids, public officials, and residents of all types. It’s fast and it works.

“At the Des Plaines Park District (DPPD), we have come to see that our core customers want to communicate with us mostly through Facebook,” said Gene Haring, marketing and communications manager at DPPD. “For the past 5+ years, we have dedicated resources to engage with our residents and park facility users via Facebook. For some, it’s the primary way they want to use to communicate and get quick, accurate answers.”

“We can no longer expect people to visit a website to dig out information about programs, events and activities.” Haring adds. “They generally don’t want to call a front desk either.”

There is a wide variety of social media platforms these days, but only a few make good sense for park districts to consider. Facebook and YouTube are musts.

In addition to Facebook, park districts such as Rockford also use YouTube as an effective way to reach users of their facilities. Using video makes good sense in most social media, but certainly YouTube should be part of your social media outreach. For a good example visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/RockfordParkDistrict

The Niles (IL) Park District promotes the whole district in a nice video posted at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHhdRz7jqyQ

“If you aren’t using video more to attract attention to your facilities, programs and events, you are missing out. Not only is it beneficial to create a YouTube Channel showcasing videos of your facilities, past events, and teasers for upcoming events, it is also beneficial to create short 15-20 second videos that stand out on Facebook and other social media feeds. With easy-to-use video producing software programs, there is no excuse not to be creating more videos,” said Sue Kirchner, president, Brand Strong Marketing, Inc. “These days most people want to learn and gather information by watching a video. So you have to offer them to be effective.”

Do you want your park district to come up in online searches? Kirchner notes that YouTube is second only to Google as a search engine. She says there are plenty of software programs available to assist in the do-it-yourself approach to videos. She warns that cheap looking videos are no longer acceptable so be careful about keeping quality in your production.

I suggest checking out these software applications for your use:
Ripl – https://www.ripl.com/
Lumen 5 – https://lumen5.com/
Animoto – https://animoto.com/

You may also find it helpful to check out the step-by-step process in Orbit Media Studios’ How to Make Social Media Videos in 9 Steps at https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/howto- make-social-media-videos/.

Andy Crestodina is co-founder and chief marketing officer for Orbit Media Studios, Inc. Many consider Andy one of the real gurus of social media. He advises, if there is someone specific that you’d like to connect with – a prominent member of the community, a government official, a commissioner at a neighboring park district – social media is almost certainly the first step in the conversation. Even if you call and leave a message, they’re going to look you up before calling back. So why not start the conversation on social media?

Crestodina likes to say this isn’t really social media marketing. It’s social media networking, and it’s very effective. Engage with almost anyone on a social platform and you’ll get their attention. Start by liking and commenting, then connect, and send a short, friendly message. You’re on your way to a collaborative relationship and possibly a friendship. This type of friendly conversational exchange works wonders with park users.

The Des Plaines Park District has found that many of its 3,000 followers on Facebook will also engage with each other and help answer questions. “These followers also help create awareness among themselves and boost attendance at events and participation in programs,” Haring said. “For example, a mom may say that she is taking her kids to an activity. Others see this and decide to join in. It’s great!” Not all social media platforms make sense for all park districts. Some park districts don’t engage with residents via Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn for a variety of reasons. Mostly it has to do with the ease of having a conversation. However, Facebook has a good messaging template and just about any post by the district or a resident can get “Likes” and comments which lead to others joining in. One of the primary objections most managers have to getting started on social media is the time commitment. Time is money because someone has to develop the posts, monitor activity, plan for launches of new programs or events, and generally stay engaged. In the case of DPPD, they have hired a part-time social media coordinator who spends about 15 hours a week on this most valuable pursuit.

So how do you get started or choose which social media to pursue? I advise our clients that when considering which social media channels to use you must research your intended target audience. For example, SnapChat targets those under 20 years old. Pinterest is good when looking to reach women, especially moms. Note: Pinterest is the #3 most used search engine. Pinterest is good to use when promoting cooking classes, child care options or preschool programs. On Pinterest, you can create a category “Fun Things to Do with Kids” and promote park district birthday parties, swim lessons, martial arts classes, etc.

Another facet of social media is a hashtag. The use of hashtags (#yourparkdistrict) has been around for a while. Hashtags are good to use to help people find your district information but use caution because they can be overused and become ineffective. The use of hashtags is still valid but limit the use to five or less per posting. I advise clients that the best practice is to use 2-3 branded hashtags such as #ABCparkdistrict and then one or two related to the event or program such as #fallfestival.

Are you already using social media but want more user engagement? Here’s a tip for improved user engagement: try asking district residents to submit photos of themselves using your park district facilities. They submit the photos to a website page or via social media using a standard hashtag. Then, select the best each week or month as “Highlighted Post of the Week/Month”. The highlighted winner can be provided with a prize such as a free daily swim pass or gift certificate. The Des Plaines Park District runs an online quiz using five questions. A winner is selected via a drawing from all those who submitted correct answers to the quiz. The prizes can be tickets to an event or gift certificates from local merchants or restaurants.

Tip: A park district’s social media can be co-branded with a local business such as a bank or restaurant. For example, have a business sponsor the “Post of the Week” contest or other online activity.

As I mentioned, using LinkedIn isn’t for every park district. It does have an enormous audience in the millions, but is generally considered to be more business focused. Crestodina does say that park management should take a few minutes every day to grow your LinkedIn network, and you’ll eventually have access to a much wider network. Of course, you don’t need to accept every random invitation you get. I recommend connecting with anyone in your industry and anyone in your geographic area. Why not? When you do have something to say, you’ll be able to say it to a larger audience. LinkedIn postings do get plenty of attention!

So, what are the pitfalls of a park district using Facebook or Twitter?

Problem #1: Government agencies such as park districts tend to delegate social media to an intern… Intern posts something inaccurate… Constituents get confused or even angry… News media picks up the mistake… Government agency/park district is embarrassed.

No filter. This is less common than it used to be, but it still happens. The fix is training, documentation and technology. There are low cost tools that will let the social media manager write informational posts far in advance, letting the marketing manager review them before they are posted (i.e. Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.)

Problem #2: Government agency/park district is afraid to make a mistake on social media… so they post nothing and don’t engage with their audience.

This is the opposite problem: too much filter. The agency is stifled by fear and misses the chance to tell their story, share the best of what they do, answer questions and engage with the audience. The fix is to remember that social media is a bit like a party line phone. Say hello, chat with people, and let them know what’s going on in a friendly, considerate way. It’s just another way to communicate.

So what is the bottom line in all this? I suggest that if your park district isn’t already actively engaged in social media to make plans soon to do so. It makes good sense to take advantage of social media, enjoy the benefits for your district, and have some fun!

About the Author: Alexander J. Barton is president of Barton Event Management which also consults with park districts, other governmental units, companies and non-profits about marketing, publicity, social media and all types of events, large and small. He can be reached at 847.720.4495 or abarton@bartonchicago.com to address any reader questions.

 

Sharpen Your Pickleball Skills At Upcoming Clinic In Rosemont

Photo caption: Mark Renneson from Third Shot Sports, left, is pictured at a clinic with Dick Barton, COO, Barton Marketing Group.

The Barton Event Management team announces it is bringing one of America’s favorite pickleball coaches to Rosemont Jan. 12-13. All sessions will be held at Rosemont Health & Fitness Center.

Mark Renneson from Third Shot Sports will offer two days of clinics, drill sessions and private lessons. Renneson is recognized as a leader in the pickleball world and travels across North America to deliver pickleball clinics to players of all levels.

Clinics for 3.0-3.5 and for 4.0+ level players will be offered, plus there are times available for small group (up to 4 players) lessons. Visit this page for full information and to register: www.thirdshotsports.com/chicago-2/il.

The sessions are:

Defense Wins Championships
One of the things that separates levels of players is their ability to get out of trouble. Being a good defender means that you can get yourself out of a jam whether at the net, back at the baseline or somewhere in between. In this intermediate session players will develop the strategies and techniques needed to become a more consistent player by playing great defense. Saturday, Jan 12, 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (3.0/3.5) $55

Advanced Training
If you’re an advanced player and you want a great workout, join us for this fun and fast-paced drill session. Less instructional than our clinics, this session is all about hitting a ton of balls in the most important situations: serve & return; third shots; dinking; volleys and smashes. This will be a fun — and tiring — drill session. Saturday, Jan 12, 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. (4.0+) $55

Super Third Shots
What you do with the third shot has a major impact on how the point will unfold. This intermediate clinic is devoted to understanding the strategies and techniques needed to be great at playing this critical moment of a point. Join us for Super Third Shots if you are serious about advancing your game. Sunday, Jan 13, 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (3.0/3.5) $55

Sharpen Your Pickleball Skills At Upcoming Clinic In Rosemont

Meet Dick Barton!

Dick Barton

Dick Barton

By Jennifer Mackowiak, Nonprofit |

In the mid-1990s, Dick Barton started Barton Marketing Group. His son and partner, Alexander, joined the company in 1998 and is the current President. This fall the duo decided to refocus their efforts on providing total event management. With a new website (www.bartonchicago.com), Barton Event Management (BEM) was launched and positions itself as a full-service resource for event management, marketing and onsite logistics execution.

“Our advance planning model creates all the specifications from the event schedule, room sets, catering, banquets, audio/visual design and security. We have relationships with national entertainment acts and award-winning speakers as well as some of the best local talent in the Chicago area. When you work with us, you don’t have to be concerned with quality or safety since we have a proven track record of attention to details with a flair of creativity,” said Barton.

Dick Barton has been a member of the Park Ridge Chamber for over 20 years. He has been active in the communications committee which used to put together a printed newsletter, the First Friday Cruisin’ Park Ridge Car Show Committee, and, of course, on the Board of Directors including being President in 2006. He has been awarded a Community Star and the President’s Award for service. Barton enjoys attending Park Ridge Chamber events, in particular, the Monthly Networking Luncheons where he met one of his best clients.

Interested in working with Dick Barton? Contact him at dbarton@bartonchicago.com or (847) 720-4495.

(as published in the Park Ridge Patch)

Top Pro Dave Weinbach Spreads Love of Pickleball

Dave Weinbach Professional Pickleball Player

By Dick Barton USAPA Member

As a top professional in pickleball, Dave Weinbach, also known as The Badger, spreads the love for the game far and wide. At age 49, Weinbach competes in about 18 tournaments a year often against pros half his age and wins a lot! He also travels extensively to give clinics. I have taken two of his clinics and loved the experience.

His achievements on the court are many. He has 85 gold medals including those from six USAPA national championships and eight US Opens. How does he do it? Weinbach says by being very fit, eating healthy and practicing relentlessly his game of patience and consistency. As a real people person, Weinbach loves meeting and socializing with players all across the country during what he calls his “Spread the Love Tour”.

In his clinics, he preaches “Respect the Net”. He advises to worry less about the height that the ball goes over the net as long as two things happen. One, hit an unattackable shot and secondly put pressure on the opponent. “Make fewer unforced errors than your opponent and you’ll generally win,” he says. “No matter what keep the ball in play. Don’t get greedy and force shots.”

Weinbach is “all in” in other parts of pickleball. He has his own branded paddle, a Tempest made by Paddletek since 2017. Plus, he has a line of apparel and many instructional videos on You Tube and the Pickleball Channel.

As a lifelong tennis player who started at age 4 and later a top-rated table tennis athlete, Weinbach finds pickleball to be the perfect fit for his skills. He was first exposed to the game in 2007 when his parents moved to Surprise, Arizona. He was playing tennis one morning and heard “all this noise” from nearby courts. Upon investigation, he saw pickleball being played by maybe 100 people. Once he played, he was hooked for life.

The guy who put a paddle in his hand that day became his first coach. Pat Kane is a tall man with long arms. Kane made Weinbach practice his drop shots until he could get 80% or more in the kitchen. “Pat was tough to beat especially with those long arms,” he said. Weinbach is still one of the best in the pro game at third shot drops. He calls good dinks and drops the “great equalizers”. He adds, master those shots and you can play with anyone.

When not at his day job as a Certified Financial Planner running an investment management company in Madison, Wisconsin, he enjoys golf, tennis and being an official at local high school basketball games. His wife, Dina, and their three sons Jake, 19, Ryan, 17, and Sam, 13 all play pickleball. In a 2018 Rockford (IL), tournament all the Weinbach men won gold medals and Dina took a bronze. It’s no surprise that the family has its own court!

In his clinics, he teaches patience, consistency and discipline. These all relate to his approach to good shot selection based on a risk-versus-reward ratio. “It’s my passion to teach the game the right way,” he says. “About 90% of recreational players I see don’t play the right way because they never learned the proper fundamentals.”

So, he advises players at any level who want to get better to learn to love the soft game by being patient, being consistent, and staying disciplined. And, of course, practice as much as possible even if just 20 minutes before a match.

What’s in the future for Pickleball? Weinbach sees great growth worldwide and predicts there will be 10 million players by the end of 2019. With 10 million in the game, more TV coverage, bigger prize money, and major sponsors will follow. He also sees pickleball in the Olympics in the next 15 years. In the meantime, Weinbach will be on the road spreading the love.

About the author: Dick Barton is a USAPA member, Pickleball magazine author, and active participant in the Park Ridge (IL) Pickleball Club. He helped organize the inaugural Des Plaines Illinois Pickleball Tournament earlier this year and worked with several top professionals in putting together clinics in the Chicago area.

Clean water requires clear thinking

Everyone loves the wide green expanse of suburban lawns and the carefully manicured fairways and greens of golf courses. Or do they? While those of us who grew up in suburbia have become accustomed to these staples of the environment, the environment is not always so happy with the runoff that these vistas produce—especially when it comes to water quality and pending algae blooms.

For example, Lake Erie, which has always seemed to be ground zero when it comes to monitoring water quality, was well known for severe algae blooms and dead zones in the 1960s. The smallest Great Lake saw significant improvement in water quality after the 1972 federal Clean Water Act and the 1978 bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement which led to impressive reductions in phosphorus. However, now problems are on the rise once again. In 2011, the most severe algae bloom on record was recorded and in the fall of 2013 another toxic algae bloom caused the shut-off of a public water supply in Ohio. And more problems are predicted for this coming summer.

While the agricultural use of phosphate‐containing fertilizers which has increased as the acreage of farmlands has expanded over time has come under increasing fire for the situation, golf courses and residential runoff also contribute to the problem. Related to agriculture, the companies that are responsible for those fertilizers are beginning to promote sustainability initiatives. And farmers, who are making a difference to improve America’s water resources as they provide America’s food supply, have adopted nutrient use management practices which minimize nutrient runoff from their operations.

The next step is finding solutions for golf course and residential runoff. If they are designed with the environment and water quality in mind, a golf course or a backyard has the potential to be an active biological filter that generates clean water.

The first place to start with a golf course is where it is to be located. It’s easier to site the course in a place where environmental concerns can be minimized. Instead of looking at the vacant site only with the idea of how it would best suit the golfer, look at the site with an eye to protecting the environment.

Rain gardens for residential property offer an attractive way to soak up rain water. Creating an appealing area for birds and butterflies, they can improve local water quality by giving rainwater time to slowly percolate into the ground where impurities can settle out. They also can reduce local flooding. Most people don’t realize that because of the solid surfaces in a residential area such as streets, roofs, driveways, and sidewalks, the typical city block generates five times more runoff than undeveloped land. And this water that has picked up heat from pavement and other contaminants along the way ends up degrading our water supply.

The Barton Marketing Group which specializes in life sciences and agriculture can help get your message about ensuring the quality of our water supply to the audiences who need to hear it.

Digging sticks, hoes, mattocks, tractors, and… smartphones? The Evolution of Agrimarketing.

Digging Sticks farm equipment

Ever since the rise of farming around 9,000 B.C. fundamentally changed the way people have lived, new technologies have helped further the progress of agriculture. For example, the use of digging sticks, hoes and mattocks among people who were learning to till the land transformed farming. The story of agrimarketing and the technologies have furthered that field has a similar narrative. We have moved well beyond the days when one farmer told another about a new idea that worked. Today, a wide variety of tools are at our disposal as we tell the story of the important role that agriculture plays in every aspect of our civilization.

Since 1905 when the University of Pennsylvania offered a course in “The Marketing of Products,” the growth of agrimarketing has paralleled the general field. Print, radio, and television have all played a role along with targeted marketing, relationship marketing and guerilla marketing. We have learned that we must play the advocate with the general public because such a small percentage of the general public really understands where food comes from and how it is produced. And since anti-agriculture groups are so passionate about concepts such as non-GMO-labeling, water usage and animal rights, if the general public is to understand the depth and breadth of those topics and others like them, it is the people who work in the field—no pun intended—who must provide them. And we must learn to provide them in a channel that will best reach each audience we seek to reach.

New devices are joining the toolbox to make that job more effective every day. I was not surprised to learn recently that 69 percent of farmers now use a Smartphone with that figure expected to rise to 87 percent by 2016. Twitter provides an avenue for short messages limited to 140 characters which appear on followers’ home pages and link to websites. Facebook provides a venue for videos, photos and longer descriptions—including testimonials. Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, Foursquare, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pintrest all have their place in a total agrimarketing program that increases the impact of crowdsourcing to provide immediate results on messaging.

Whether you are comfortable with all these new methods for executing a total marketing plan or if they sound like a foreign language to you, when I think about marketing today I am reminded of a song my sister used to sing when she was in Girl Scouts. “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.” As we embrace the new media, we must not forget the old.

At the Barton Marketing Group, we specialize in life sciences and agriculture so we can help you craft a message with a holistic approach. We will help you reach the audiences you need by using the best new tools available and continue to use the channels that have proven the test of time.

Point of Origin

"Point of Origin"

Water conservation is critical to life on earth. But as important as the conservation of water is, it is equally—if not more important—that the water we conserve is safe. The specter of climate change and an ever increasing population that needs water not only for the hydration of crops and livestock, but for thirsty people as well, makes this the 21st Century’s major challenge.

Regulation and sustainability are key when it comes to water. Pollution can come from many sources and some of them many not be immediately obvious. Of course we all remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—also known as the BP oil spill or the BP oil disaster—that began on April 20, 2010, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. As you can imagine with an event of such notoriety, regulators were able to identify the point of origin and levy the appropriate fines and penalties.

But as dramatic as that spill and the subsequent cleanup efforts were, it is important to remember that pollution can come from many sources that don’t make the headlines. For instance, some such as fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides are harder to diagnose. They come from places such as farm land, golf courses and suburban lawns. It is important to remember that they helped to increase our food supply and enhance our environments. But over the years, we have come to know that they do cause pollution. Although the tributary network that feeds the Mississippi River is vast, there is absolute proof of pollution in the Delta dead zone. Additionally, algae blooms in lakes and rivers impact marine life affecting the fishing industry for both food and sport.

But there is good news on more than one front. The companies that are responsible for those fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides are beginning to promote sustainability initiatives. Although there is no standardized comprehensive definition for a sustainability initiative, there are three important features that distinguish a program as sustainable. They are the effective use of material and energy, a shift away from non-renewable, non-biodegradable materials, and the prevention of emissions and contaminants from having a negative environmental impact.

And farmer heroes, who are making a difference to improve America’s water resources as they provide America’s food supply, have adopted nutrient use management practices which minimize nutrient runoff from their operations. To read their individual stories, go to epa.gov/nutrientpollution/farmer-heroes-manage-nutrients-farm

For millennia, the Earth’s fresh water supply has washed across the landscapes of the world supplied by rainfall, snow and glacial melt, runoff and infiltration. If telling the story of how you are working to improve the quality of that water supply for the hydration of crops and livestock, as well as for thirsty people is important to you and your business or organization, the Barton Marketing Group which specializes in life sciences and agriculture can help get your message to the audiences who need to hear it.

How Agrimarketing is Different

How Agrimarketing... wheat field

Do you remember the television ad that shows a man on the phone with his doctor trying to get directions to do his own surgery? After listening for a moment, he says “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” We all want the best counsel when we engage a professional—and that includes marketing. And that’s why when you are communicating about agronomy to people who no longer understand who farmers are, what they do, and how the very civilization of the world depends on them, it makes sense to choose an agrimarketer to tell your story. 

Once upon a time most people lived close to the land. Because they grew their own food, no one had to tell them how vital agriculture was to their survival. Their lives were intertwined with the seasons and revolved around plowing, planting, growing and reaping. Even though they knew that some soils were more productive than others, they rarely examined them below the level where crops grew. Soil was something that would always be there—or so they thought.

When the discipline of soil science was born in 1870, soils began to be identified as independent natural resources, each with distinct properties resulting from a unique combination of climate, living matter, parent material, relief, and time. Coincidentally, when soil science was in its adolescence around the turn of the 20th Century, the basic concepts of marketing began to be explored. By the 1960s when the field of marketing was differentiated according to discipline, the marriage of these two fields resulted in the birth of agrimarketing.

Today just two percent of the total U.S. population works to produce, process and sell the nation’s food. Because such a small number of people have a connection to the land, when most people think about the food supply, they think about their local grocery store. But ultimately soil sustains life and is a finite natural resource.

Today, agronomists are the frontline warriors in the defense of civilization and the protection of the environment. Not only do they help to feed a hungry world, but they also have the power to inspire future leaders in this global struggle to maintain a safe, affordable and abundant food supply as well as a viable environment.

Barton Marketing Group specializes in life sciences and agriculture, I can help you reach the audiences that need to hear the stories that you have to tell.