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[Webinar] Connecting your Parks and Rec. Community with the Right Marketing Channels | PerfectMind

You offer programs for seniors, but are you reaching this audience the best way you can? You offer toddler classes, but do you know if you’re promoting what parents want to hear? Duncan M. Stokes, Executive Director for Recreation Connections Manitoba will give you basic, yet actionable guidelines to make sure customers are drawn to your organization and programs. Let's grow your business.

In this webinar you'll learn:

  • How to determine your different demographics
  • How to create the right messaging
  • The different marketing channels available and how to select the right marketing channels for different demographics


 Duncan M. Stokes

Duncan M. Stokes is the Executive Director for Recreation Connections Manitoba. He has over 12 years’ managerial experience, having served as the Executive Director of Snoman Inc. and Director of Communications with the MS Society of Canada. Duncan also has a sound background in recreation and sport. 

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Video Transcript

Whitney: Our Twitter is @PerfectMind of you can follow us on Facebook at And if you like this webinar you are sure to like our other webinars as well. You can find those on our website - For the agenda today, Duncan is going to present for the first part of the webinar. If you have questions during his presentation, please ask them throughout the presentation in the questions box and we will get to them once he's finished his presentation. So without further ado I'm going to bring Duncan M. Stokes to the stage. Welcome today, Duncan!


Duncan: Well thank you very much, Whitney, and thank you very much to those of you who have taken some time out of your busy day. Like Whitney says it's good morning or good afternoon, or on the West Coast this will take you up to your lunch hour or close to it. Over on the East Coast in the Eastern time zone I guess it's after lunch. So I'll try to keep this a very concise and easy to follow and very nice introduction by Whitney, the sports radio voice is a little off today, it's that time of year but I think I can manage. I guess a little bit about myself. My apologies here. Okay a little bit about myself. My name is Duncan M. Stokes. I've had a great deal of management experience over the years, having served as an Executive Director of Snoman Inc. and if you're uncertain what's Snoman extends for, that stands for the Snowmobilers of Manitoba, it's just kind of the nickname. I've also been the Director of Communications for the MS Society of Canada, the Manitoba division. More recently as a development communication specialist for an organization called Winnipeg Car Race. And I'm guessing that this probably an equivalent from Winnipeg / in just about every community. Essentially it's an association that collects and distributes surplus food to those in need. So I spend a lot of number of years in the not-for-profit management system. And yes as Whitney alluded to I did start my career in radio as a news director and sports director in both small and large markets, in both small markets in Canada and Atlantic here in Winnipeg before I branched off into the more corporate communications marketing project as massive piece of my career. So it's been quite a journey and I've loved every minute of it.

So we're going to talk today, like I say I'll keep this short and brief, about how to select a marketing channel for those in the Parks and Recreations community. First thing we have to ask is who are our customers, and that's who we're talking to, how do we engage them, and what should we say. You might say this is common sense, not rocket science or brain surgery, or if you like not rocket surgery. But having a look at the demographics and understanding them is the first step your organization should take when determining how to talk to your customers and through what channel. So one of those demographics they are age group. Age group is extremely important because if the Recreation department you manage for example is trying to promote / football, maybe advertising in weekly newspapers or / placemats on restaurants visited by seniors, may not be the best place to gain new recruits. It's a young people's sport so what channels are young people using to get their information? Well most of them is through social media or online. So / age group I mean if your community club is looking to garner interest in that in a long bowling, weekly / long bowling event during the weekdays.




Probably utilizing Twitter and Facebook may not be the best tools to use to fill your league with players. / bowling of course traditionally sports for the 55+ demographics so using social media and recruit enough players to fill your league may not be the best way to spend time and energy. Whereas some of those channels that I talked about earlier - weekly newspapers, e-newsletters, placemats in restaurants, who knows might be channels that would garner that 55+ crowd.

Another important demographic of course household income. It's important how the 55 year old plus demographic spends their disposable income on recreation of course much different than how a dual income family with two children, three children and home will spend their dollars. Of course the 55+ types are more inclined to read a hard copy or e-newsletter than the double income family with children. Statistically they're more inclined to check out the website and social media tools as opposed to reading things that turn up in their mailbox, either the physical mailbox or the virtual one.


Gender, that's another important thing. Dual income families or single parent families are demographics where often it's the female that makes the lion share, the spending decisions when it comes to disposable income. So that means the decision maker is going to want to know when their children's registration deadlines are due, what the costs are going to be upfront, and that sort information before they piece together their spending decision. So actually radio stations where format geared towards female listeners, they're successful in not only informing but also in reminding, because as you know if you ever done or bought any radio advertising, their strength is in their repetition.

And location - is the community club that you manage or the recreation facility that you work for, is it an area with an older demographic or a younger neighbourhood with young families? And this decision, this is may help decision makers of what kind of program the facility offers as well. For example if it's a pool that you manage in a young neighbourhood, your programs may be heavy for the more how-to swim programs. Whereas a pool in an older neighbourhood may be heavier with therapeutic swimming and adults swimming times, blocked off and make sections, particularly during the working work when some of the younger people are working. So age, income, families, status, location, they're all key demographics to review and looking at who your customer is and how to best talk to them.


So what are the actions you have to consider for marketing? Well, there's lots. There's newspapers, there's radio, and there's television. I'll start with the more traditional ones.


Newspapers - again if the demographic that you're trying to reach is an older one, in a larger center, is a good option. It's also a lot more prudent in smaller communities that may have a weekly, bi-weekly, or tri-weekly newspaper schedulable, that delivery schedule, publishing schedule. That is because some of the smaller communities don't have the same electronic media options when it comes to local programming, and the local paper is actually more heavily read per capita in smaller communities than it is in larger centers.

The association for example that I work for, Recreation Connections Manitoba, is a provincial based one. And although I think it's, I know a fair amount about my province, I always will google the local paper online for more information. Last week I had to make a trip to a community called Brandon which is just a couple hours west and I've been there many times, but it's one of the things I did right away. Okay what's going on in Brandon and check the weather, and check what's going on in the news and sports, etc.


Know that community newspapers they're often more community centered and they're a bit of a hub for readers in both the electronic and hard copy formats. We often hear people in smaller communities, just in the local coffee shops saying 'Did you read this in the paper?' So I think quite often, in fact I know quite often local papers in terms of what they can provide you with public service announcement and some of the value added things in a marketing channel are quite often underestimated.


Radio - you know what despite the predictions and I remember because I come from a radio background. I remember 10 - 15 years ago hearing that radio is a dying media. But you know what the numbers are suggesting that people are still listening.




Primarily tune from work that's why it costs more to buy ads during the drive to work and the drive home at the more traditional 9 - 5 hours. The thing there's just a lot more options with radio now. The formats and the stations are a lot more segmented than they once were. For many years you just had a lot of the same -playing the top 20, top 40. Now you got talk radio, now you got golden oldies, and so it's a lot more segmented market than it was 10 - 15 years ago.

So if you are looking to buy radio ads, you ask your sales consultant their numbers in the demographics that you're trying to reach. Once again, in smaller communities, they don't have a lot of electronic media options. Quite often when it comes to look of programming, there's one local radio station in some communities. And therefore again they have a bigger per capita audience than they would in larger centers. And again if you go to some of the smaller centers, these radio stations will have thing like what's happening file, and you hear people talking about what they heard on the radio station in town.


The final one is in this part, in the more traditional mediums, television, and there's so many TV stations now. That's in goodness sense that has made advertising cheaper, that is unless you're advertising something like Super Bowl. But once again it comes back to demographics and knowing your audience. And then ask the sales consultant for demographics on particular programming. Advertising in an woman's aquatics program on an all sports channel may not be the best fit, but advertising on something like Dancing With The Stars might be.

Once again when you go into the smaller communities in Canada or the US, they often have a local cable channels that run public service announcements on a ticker and this can be wonderful tools for a marketing channel, and they tend to drop bigger capita audiences than in larger centers. I know a lot of people especially that 55+ demographic will stay on stations longer and actually read what's going across ticker. Similarly that's where the weather network. If you look at their weather network account, if you look at their ratings for 55+ demographic is very strong. So television, those local cable stations are often overlooked and underestimated.


I guess the one that most organizations are beginning to embrace at some level is social media. Here's where the challenge lies. It's easy for people to throw up their hands and say 'I'm not going to use social media.' But the risk you're taking not using social media as a marketing channel or communicating through social media is you're cutting off three quarters of your potential market. Because according to Pew Research Center and that labels itself as a non-partisan fact tank that informs public about the issues, attitudes, and trends that shape the world, 74% of internet users also utilize social media. That's nearly even split between men and women - 76% of women who use the internet use social media, 72% of men are engaged with social media.


And what are the demographic of people that use social media, and as you can imagine, it starts off very high. 18 - 29 demographic were at 89%. 30 - 49 demographic: 82%. 50 - 64 : 65%, and 65+ is down to 49%. Again those numbers according to the Pew Research Center. It's all in the 70 - 80% range in terms of social media usage.


If you're high school grad or less, or some college or college less, similarly the income doesn't seem to matter, although it does started 79% for earlier of less than $30,000 a year, and then it drops down to 73%. And then the $70,000+ jumps back up to 78%. So in other words 7 out of 10 people at least, closer to 8 out of 10 people are using social media of some kind if you're on the internet. So it's easy to choose that social media tool, alright, probably not so much.




So the question then becomes - which social media platform do you need your organization to be part of? And once again it's that question - go back to your audience. Right now as of late 2015 the one that engage the most users is Facebook. That could be in part because they got the jump on the competition on the early 2000's, and while the lead it once held over the other formats such as YouTube and Twitter has dwindled a little bit, and it's still by far Facebook the leading one that people engage when they use social media. And as your problem we're well aware, when the organization that use Facebook, use it like a traditional website. That's because there's a number of servers that can host in terms of picture albums, and events, and programs you may be looking to promote, if you also hold videos and audio news media coverage. And it also allows for a large amount of information to be placed in a post and of course you can link things. You can link to a YouTube video, you can link it to your Twitter account. So you can do a lot of cross-promoting when you utilize various forms of social media.

Not only that, you can of course, you probably know this, you may have even tried it - you can buy advertising through many of these tools. And Facebook for example, lets you control your spending. You can tailor your ads to some of the demographics that I've referenced. So if you know okay I want to talk to and message to females in 35 - 54 demographic, you can plug in those factors into your ad buy and that's where the ads will turn up in Facebook, on the page.

Now the good thing or drawback is that Facebook has to be managed very carefully. You can look at view clicks and impressions but that requires some actual work and some dedication to manage it properly. Quite often you can have a lot of success using social media for investment of zero dollars in infrastructure.

But what often gets overlooked is that almost all the success that comes when social media campaigns or adverts to get something to go viral, usually there's someone behind the scenes who is invested in the time and efforts to steer this successfully. The investment then becomes actually part of your investment in human resources. So unless you're fortunate enough to have a volunteer who's social media savvy, there is going to be on the investment and know it may not turn up on your balance sheet, your income statement. Chances are it's going to come from somebody who is on your staff already who's taking the time to manage it.


Having said all that, all the forms of social media can be beneficial to promote your products, service or event, but you have to follow those three steps - you have to determine your message you want to convey to that audience, you have to determine your audience, and you have to evaluate the success with that particular marketing channel. That's easier said than done, with the schedules being as busy as they are these days.


The evaluation / of how you market your recreational products, services or events is often overlooked. If the results are proven to be not very effective it could cost you money out of the marketing budget. For example your CAO or your council may simply look at the bottom line of spending and if the tenants is down or registrations are down, someone may look and say how and where your marketing efforts were invested and how they didn't work. So maybe that marketing budget the trick. I would counterback with, and I have countered back with in the past, the downward trade is actually when we should be investing a little bit more in marketing budget so it should increase. But that increase that you do ask for your CAO or your council simply has to accompany a strategy. And also at the very least the outline plan should be presented to show where you hope to invest next. It's one of those things if you disagree with a decision without backing up some of your proof or do it or showing a strategy or plan, it can be very career limiting.

Anyway one of the things that is essential I think with any sort of marketing channel campaign is in the evaluation process, and that can be in the form of a SWOT analysis and I'm sure many of you know what a SWOT analysis is - Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. / SWOT analysis should help you determine how to strategize and plan your next marketing campaign.




Let me go back to all this information - how do I choose? Once again - you go back to the demographics. And that means - who is my audience, who am I trying to reach, what am I trying to say them, am I promoting a product, service or event, or am I just informing my constituents of things like operating hours, registration dates or cost, try to induce people to buy a membership in my rec facility with short term lower rates, and how do I market my activity information or event.

Again - go back to the demographics. Age group, the likelihood of recruiting new members in a seniors aquatics program by a social media is probably limited. But you know what, newspapers, your local cable channel, and those newsletter placemats you see in restaurants a lot, those of things that seniors are more likely to read. And if you're advertising for example mix baseball registrations for those ball /, social media is a good place to post registration times. And it goes back again to the numbers - 76% of women, 72% of men use social media. And you know what, when you post those things on social media, you can post a link and get them directed back to your website, because that's the portal and the hub of information you want people to go back to.


Again, household income - how the 55 year old plus demographics spends their disposable income on recreation, it's different than how a dual income family with 2 - 3 children and home would spend their dollars. So the 55+ types are more inclined to read that hard copy or newsletter than the double income family with children. Statistically they're more inclined to check out your website and your social media tools as opposed to reading things that turn up in their mailbox either physical or virtual.


Again, gender - dual income families, single parent families are demographics where, as I talked about earlier, the female often makes the lion share of spending decisions, so they want details. They want to know when the registration deadlines are, what's it going to cost, what's it going to cost now in the registration, with the ongoing expense associated with playing some activities.


And of course we talked about this - location. Depending on where your facility is of your community club, if it's a neighbourhood with older demographic or younger demographic, you're going to tailor your marketing in different ways to those particular demographic.


So what do we say? How do we message? How we message is defined by who we're talking to and what we message is defined by who we're talking to. So whatever format you choose, whether it be traditional medium - radio, newspaper or television; or you want to go into the social media side of things, always keep it simple, and always link your message back to your website.

Again your website is the hub of the information you want to host so keep the website simple as well, very easy to steer. If you can drive traffic to your website then I'm sure you know it can become a potential generator for you as well. You can sell some advertising on your website.


Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is have the financial capacity and the human resource capacity to market effectively. You can open up all sorts of accounts in terms of social media. All the old ones, all the new ones, all the existing social mediums space if you want. You can overspend dollars in every marketing channel if you want - signage, electronic, and print advertising.


But unless you identify your audience, and you know what you know what you want to say and how you're going to say it, you're doing what many in the business refer to as a "spray and pray". That means you're using or sometimes overusing channels by overloading as well as overspending, and sometimes your information gets sprayed out so many different directions and you're just praying for the right result. The spray and pray rarely works effectively. But knowing your audience and knowing how to communicate with them or what marketing people sometimes call "supersize in the core" is much more effective.


Just something to keep in mind, when you're talking about customers, remember it costs seven times more to recruit a new customer than it does to maintain an existing customer. So keeping your core customers happy means repeat business and it means a good buzz as well.




Something else to be aware of is be aware of changing trends. I found and I'll just give you a bit of a personal example here. It was kind of personal experiment I conducted without even knowing that I was doing it. And it shows kind of my own evolution into the electronic age. Earlier this year, you know I've got a couple kids in their 20's, they're not around much, I thought I'm going to start subscribing to the newspaper again because I can read it. So somebody showed up at the door and I thought okay I have some time to read this on the weekends so I actually subscribed to both of local papers here in Winnipeg. I'm not much of a fiction reader. I read the odds, sports or political biography, but I thought it would be nice to read the paper on the weekends. So I could tell you though, after three months I'm finding I'm not reading the newspaper very often. And they're going almost right into recycling bin with little or no read for me.

And what I've discovered, and when I sat down and kind of thought about it, 20 years ago I used to wake up, I get the paper out of the mailbox, I'd listen to the radio as my primary source of news and sports information, and I still do listen to the radio when I'm going to work. But that newspaper was a primary source of my information.


Then I thought about things 10 years ago. I used to wake up, turned on my PC, go to some websites that I'd have on my favourites, get my news, sports, and weather information from some of those favourite spots. Quite often I even listened to a radio station online.


Then I thought about what I did this morning. Got up at 6 o'clock in the morning. I realize I'm waking up to the alarm on my smartphone. I'm then tapping my weather app to see what it's going to be like outside, and then I'm tapping my Twitter feed to get my news, sports, and pop culture information. This is all before I got out of bed this morning. I'm in that I guess you could say the 45 - 54 age demographic. I never thought I would make that kind of a transition. So now I rarely read the paper, I got rid of my PC although I still have a laptop but I rarely use it, and I got rid of my landline at home. I do have a cellphone charger just about everywhere though - got one at my office, got one in my car, my living room, my bedroom, and whatever jacket I happen to be wearing that particular day.


And I'm in that demographic that says statistically I shouldn't be doing be that. But trends do change so keep that in mind when you're picking your marketing channel and before you overspend on something. So remember - consistent messaging, and the website should be a portal for the information for your product, your service, or your program.


In conclusion, again, three simple steps - determine your audience. Once you determine your audience, pick your tool that you want to use where you're going to get thing for your buck. Execute the plan, evaluate the plan, revise the plan, and repeat. And if anybody has any questions now, I'd be willing to entertain them. Thank you very much for your time.


Whitney: Duncan, that was fantastic. You mentioned this presentation might be common sense but I'd say that was the best, most educational basic "common sense" info in the webinar I'm seeing. That's awesome. I mean you knew things to look out for like weekly, by-weekly publishing, and you know the fact that small communities are more likely to read the paper and open discussion with their neighbours and friends. You had stats on gender in social media. So congratulations, that was awesome!


Whitney Donaldson
Whitney Donaldson

Whitney is the Marketing and Events Coordinator for PerfectMind. She brings four years of marketing and communications experience with a focus in the digital media and technology industries. She has a Marketing Management Certificate from BCIT and an English Literature degree from the University of Victoria. She is an avid runner and swimmer, and enjoys spending her free time outdoors. She is motivated by a good cup of coffee, and conversations that convert a great idea into a reality.

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