8 Reasons to Convert Your Printed Community Guide to Digital

Written by Kathryn Boutwell

Your citizens expect anytime, anywhere, online access to parks and rec events, activities, and information. Can you deliver?


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The COVID-19 crisis isn't just creating a temporary reliance upon digital tools, services, and information. It is changing the foundation of how we interact with brands, businesses, and one another. While we are all craving a return to the life we knew before the global pandemic, experts agree that when it comes to our new appreciation for online engagement, there's no putting the genie back in the bottle.

If your parks and recreation department is still exclusively providing your annual community guide or seasonal class registration booklet in hard copy, it’s time to go digital. What follows are eight reasons why you should convert your printed community guide to a digital marketing program.

1. Citizens start their research in a browser. According to SmartInsights, 81 percent of people ages 16 to 64 have searched for a product or service online in the past month. That means that your citizens are searching for information about available recreation services using desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets. This includes moms looking for summer youth camp activities, seniors looking for swim classes, and adults looking to form corporate softball teams and join community leagues. If information regarding your available programs is only available in a printed directory, these digital searchers won’t find it.

2. Citizens are searching and registering for events using a mobile device. Not only are citizens researching recreation activities using a desktop computer, they are researching events when out in the community using a smartphone or tablet. In fact, according to The Search Review, nearly 60 percent of online searches are now performed from a mobile device. For mobile users, print-only community guides won’t get them registered and engaged in your community events.

3. Digital recreation marketing is better for the environment. If you produce a 20-page community guide, and print 1,000 copies, once the current season is over, 20,000 sheets of paper will end up in (we hope!) a recycling bin. Digital marketing reduces paper, and protects your sustainable resources.

4. Updates to printed content are difficult, or impossible. If you need to change the date, time, or location of one of your classes or events, when you use a recreation management software solution, the update can be made in a few keystrokes. If you have already printed and distributed thousands of paper booklets, however, you simply won’t be able to update existing copies. Accurate publishing of content ensures a positive citizen experience. The availability of outdated, or incorrect information, however, creates issues and confusion, and may make some hesitant to sign up for future events.

Blog - Convert You Printed Activity Catalog to Digital (1)

5. Even your seniors are turning to digital solutions first. If you’re worried that eliminating your printed community guide will alienate the senior members of your community, you can rest assured. According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans age 65 and older are Internet users. With each passing year, data trends show that these numbers are only expected to continue climbing. That means the majority of your senior community members are increasingly comfortable accessing recreation information online.

6. Digital marketing enables immediate registration. Citizens who read about community programs in a printed guide may, in the moment, earmark a page, highlight a few class options, or make a note for themselves to call their recreation department the next week to register over the phone. Citizens who read about community events, classes, and leagues online are more likely to take immediate action and register. Why? Ease of use. They don’t have to make a phone call, fill out a form by hand, find a stamp and envelope, and walk to their mailbox. The entire registration process, including payment, can be completed in one sitting.

7. Digital marketing enables data analytics that can inform future marketing decisions. If you are only printing paper community guides today, how do you know where citizens are learning about community programs? You can’t assume every class registrant learned about the opportunity from your printed community guide. Some may be past participants. Others may have heard about the class from a friend, while others may have called your office directly to inquire about options. With a digital marketing strategy and a recreation management software platform that includes reporting capabilities, you’ll know exactly how citizens learned about available classes. Knowing if citizens became informed through online advertising, social media, online searches, or your local government website for example, will help you strategically plan future event promotions.

8. Digital marketing is cost efficient. Consider the dollar amount you have allotted in your budget to produce, print, and mail your annual community guides to the cost of staff manually entering information and managing the development and distribution process. Now imagine slashing those costs, and increasing revenue from community events, courses, and league participation. When it comes to the conscientious allocation of taxpayer dollars, no budget has room for wasted, ineffective marketing spend. An investment in a recreation management software solution that will allow you to track registrations and help you promote events will produce a stronger ROI long-term than an annual spend on printed booklets.