Marketing For “Guerillas”

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks-and-rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.

The “LBWA” column in the April issue touched on the marketing mission that all recreation departments must adopt to remain competitive in today’s environment. The article prompted one Florida recreation superintendent to write in with some additional ideas.

Shannon Schafer, in the city of Safety Harbor, wrote about some of the ideas used in that department.

“We are one of those small departments with no marketing division, but the importance of marketing has been shared with all our staff,” Shannon wrote, adding that the entire staff is involved in brainstorming, production and delivery of marketing ideas.

The members employ all the standard marketing tools, such as news releases, flyers, banners, postcards, brochures, social media and the like, but one unique idea was to gain permission from the local schools to appear on morning video announcements.

“We have an excellent partnership with our local schools so we make regular visits to their morning shows,” Shannon noted. “We not only promote our programs, but the mission of all parks and recreation departments, which is to keep kids active and healthy. Kids come up to us at our centers, parks, events and say, ‘Hey, I saw you on TV at school.’”

That is a great idea and one that gets right to the market center–convince the kids, and parents will follow. They are also fortunate that their schools will allow this; not all do.

The Guerilla In The Room

This is a good example of “guerrilla marketing,” a concept introduced in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson in his book of the same name, which I highly recommend. This book is for the recreation professional with high aspirations but a low marketing budget, which probably covers about 99.9 percent of us.

Simply put, guerrilla marketing is using unconventional no- or low-cost ways to get information to the target market, without a huge marketing budget. The use of military terminology is not accidental. Like a guerrilla fighter, the guerrilla marketer uses resources already at hand in the local area to wage a campaign of communication.

A good example of this concept is the “chin-up challenge” offered by the Marine Corps. Recruiters set up a chin-up bar at local events, and challenge people to do the 20 pull-ups required of Marines to earn a perfect 100 in that category of the physical fitness test. Prizes are given to those who do well … and even to those who don’t, but who try. More important, information is given out about the Marine Corps. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that Levinson once worked for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, which for decades has created the legendary Marine Corps commercials.

Shannon’s department is definitely engaged in the guerrilla mode.

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  2. The Marketing Mission
  3. Marketing Parks
  4. Guerilla Influence
  5. Communication
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