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Founded by the Fairmount Park Commission in 2001, the Fairmount Park Conservancy (“the Conservancy”) is fairly new to the Philadelphia non-profit landscape. A nimble organization that is the byproduct of the Commission’s desire to manage 8,000 acres of public park land and a merger with the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, the Conservancy collaborates with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and together they “bring parks to life”.
Per the organizational website, the mission is “Fairmount Park Conservancy exists to champion Philadelphia’s parks. We lead capital projects and historic preservation efforts, foster neighborhood park stewardship, attract and leverage investments, and develop innovative programs throughout the 10,200 acres that include Fairmount Park and more than 200 neighborhood parks around the city.” This lengthy mission dives into the concrete initiatives of the organization, however their true purpose is to bring Philadelphia parks to life. Through civic engagement, historic preservation, community engagement and park stewardship, the work of the Conservancy makes an important contribution to Philadelphia. In terms of their services, the four major pillars outlined in their Annual Report are Park Improvements, Engagement, Activations, and Support. The sub-categories that fall within these pillars include: Arts & Culture, Architectural Conservation Services, Capital Projects, Leasing & Concessions and Programming throughout the city. Generally speaking within the larger local cultural community, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is perceived as an organization for everyone. Whether your primary reason for seeking them out is to discover a hidden gem along one of the trails in Fairmount Park, learn more about family friendly weekend activities, gain additional insight on the park system or just to look up the schedule for this season’s Parks on Tap, the Conservancy speaks to your interests.
In collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy, this blog post details the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for and threats to the Conservancy, as well as recommendations for strategies that could be implemented in the future. Thank you very much for working with me on this project!
Instagram Engagement, Website & Email Aesthetics and Video Content by NBC
Overall, the Fairmount Park Conservative produces visually appealing, on brand and appropriate content and has a noteworthy social media following on all of their channels besides Vimeo.
Facebook: 12,607 Likes and 13,283 Follow their page
Instagram: 1,031 Posts, 20.4k Followers
Twitter: 13k Tweets, 15.6 Followers, over 8k Likes
Generally speaking their social media content generates excitement, especially on Instagram, is concise, mission-driven and features a picturesque wonder of the park. In the case of Instagram, a couple of their most recent posts have over 1k views, over 150 likes and several comments depending on the post. This means that they are creating content on that platform that is both informative and engaging to their audiences. In addition, this translates to brand recognition, the Conservancy has created local awareness of their programming and locals are interested in learning more about their events, especially the Oval+ and Parks on Tap. In terms of their Twitter presence, their page consists of mostly retweets about co-sponsored events and highlights their relationships with neighborhood partners.
The Conservancy website is colorful and contemporary with clean lines and a refined aesthetic, yet it is still approachable. An extension to their website, the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s email campaign through MailChimp follows suit. It’s evident that the email has a set template design consisting of an iconic park-inspired header with the Conservancy’s logo and branding. All the graphics used in their email campaign are very eye-catching, aesthetically beautiful and crisp design-wise. Almost every email is entitled “🌳 Philly Park Chatter 🌳”, gives a overview of their upcoming programs and events, and sometimes features a “Deal Alerts”, a section which provides additional information about discounts on local activities, or short videos related to the trails.
An interesting point to note, the Fairmount Park Conservancy has several Youtube videos where they are featured by NBC10. Most of these video clips are embedded on their website, featured in their emails and highlighted on social media. Through audiovisual content on various digital platforms and media support, Fairmount Park Conservancy inspires the Greater Philadelphia area to go outside and interact with nature and the local park system.
Mobile Friendliness and Communicating about Partnerships & Environmental Impact
A few areas of improvement that could make an impact on the overall user experience include, ensuring that every page on the website is mobile-friendly, sharing informational content about the impact of their work and where event proceeds go, and more engagement on Facebook.
Users who are historically inactive might search on Google “parks near me”, “outdoor concerts Philadelphia park” and “family friendly Philadelphia park conservatory”. Of those key words, the first “parks near me” led users to sites such as visitphilly.com or Trip Advisor rather than the Conservancy website. The second set of key words “outdoor concerts Philadelphia park” led users to the Free Music Nights page on the myphillyparks.org website. This page had a low SEO score of 38 and lacked [alt] attributes on the images and meta-descriptions (see graphic below).
In the last example, “Fairmount Park Conservatory family friendly events”, if the primary device was a mobile phone, the page only partially loaded and not all of the page resources loaded properly. Similarly, when an engaged constituent interested in Parks on Tap searched “Where’s the next Parks on Tap?” in Google on their mobile device they were directed to www.parkontap.com, another page that only partially loaded. In terms of Parks on Tap, 70% of users interested in learning more about the program are doing so through their mobile device therefore mobile friendliness is a major factor that could improve the overall quality of the user experience.
In terms of the the Oval+ website (https://theovalphl.org/), mobile friendliness is also the area of greatest need. It is the least mobile friendly of all their pages and contains clickable elements that are too close together and content wider than the screen. With a score of 42/100 this page delays 8.0 seconds to become fully interactive, 11.6 seconds to populate the contents of the page, and 3.2 seconds for the first text or image to appear. The score for this page is higher on a desktop however many users these days primarily use their mobile devices and their desktop is a secondary option.
Lastly, as we all know,“Likes” and “Following” don’t always translate to engagement or an informed citizenry. In the case of Facebook and Twitter, their most recent posts only had a couple “Likes” and that seems like a trend for those channels. Interestingly enough both of those platforms happen to be the channels that highlight their partnerships and the impact of their work the most. Concurrently, older audiences who are not as familiar with Instagram or Twitter are more likely to use Facebook. This is an opportunity for the Conservancy to gather data about their Facebook audiences and reach, invest in an awareness campaign on that platform, and share informational content about the meaningful impact of their environmental stewardship and how a portion of the proceeds from their community activations fund park endeavors. This could all culminate in the launch of a conversion-focused, donation or membership-based, more targeted call to action.
New Audiences and Impact Reports
Of the over 12,000 followers of Parks on Tap on Instagram, currently the most engaged age range is between 25-34 (57%) and the second most engaged age group is between 35-44 years old (27%). Those 45+ and under 24 are the least engaged with percentages in the single digits. Furthermore, women are about three times more active on the Conservancy’s Parks on Tap Instagram page than men, 72% and 28% respectively. Although I did not have access to the Instagram analytics for the Fairmount Park Conservancy, Parks on Tap is one of their most well-known initiatives and I suspect that these data points are probably very similar. Therefore an opportunity for constituent growth could be broadening the reach of their social media campaign and providing content that speaks to older adults and men.
One idea for reaching an older constituent base could be advertising senior/AARP discounts with trackable promotional codes. In order to receive the discount an individual must share their zip code and with that information the Conservancy can build out a more targeted marketing strategy tailored based on attendees’ demographic and psychographic features. This strategy would incentivize older audiences, create greater awareness of the Conservancy’s impact, drive attendance and encourage revenue from a currently untapped age group.
Another opportunity for expanding brand awareness is through the NBC10 partnership. This relationship could be leveraged and transformed from video clips about the trails and programming to a podcast about the parks system. These podcasts could featuring the voices of the park rangers, the visionary perspective of the executive director of the Conservancy or even be a collaboration between the Conservancy, NBC10 and possibly even WHYY or NPR. Furthermore the “Community Spotlights” on the Conservancy website and blog are great opportunities to put a face and a voice to their meaningful environmental stewardship plans.
Lastly, rather than have a “Connect” tab on the Fairmount Park Conservancy website with the digital newsletter sign-up form, the website could feature a prompt or pop-up on the initial landing page that encourages site visitors to sign up for the eblasts. This would facilitate the sign-up process and include a tick-able menu that invites prospects to select all the content they are interested in learning more about (e.g. family friendly activities, beer gardens, park system updates and restoration initiatives, programming, “park happenings”).
Mission-Driven Messaging and Staffing Constraints
Six years ago when the current marketing manager joined the Fairmount Park Conservancy team it consisted of about 7 full-time staff members. Since then the Conservancy has increased the number of staff employed by the organization, broadened the engagement offers and experienced high turnover. As a result of senior leadership changes, the execution of the organizational mission has shifted from one executive director to the next and the messaging surrounding the mission has likely changed. Today the Conservancy relies on a staff of 20, including a newly appointed marketing associate, however data-driven strategies and a refinement of the mission could further the impact of the digital marketing strategy.
Another area that could be considered an obstacle to the Fairmount Park Conservancy is its name. There seems to be confusion between the Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. Quite often the two organizations collaborate on joint-initiatives however that is not always the case and the launching of a new awareness campaign might provide the Conservancy opportunities to have a singular identity rather than a joint one.
Philadelphia summers are known for outdoor installations and beer gardens. Currently there are engaging community events at Cherry Street Pier, Spruce Street Harbor Park and a slew of outdoor beer gardens throughout the city. How can you encourage prospective visitors to attend Parks on Tap? It seems that there are many options to choose from and convenience is the primary motivator for selecting a location. Furthermore, over-priced beer venues are a dime a dozen and the Fairmount Park Conservancy needs to be competitive within this market and highlight their impact on the parks system owning that they are the beer garden that gives back.
As with many non-profit organizations within the arts and cultural sector, the Conservancy may lack the financial resources for a re-launch of the Oval website and the capacity to execute the suggested initiatives in this report.
Digital Marketing Strategy Recommendations
My recommendations for their digital marketing awareness strategy are three pronged:
- Highlighting the Impact and Creating Engaging Content
- Improvements to the User Experience
- Reaching New Audiences
Highlighting the Impact and Creating Engaging Content
Integral to the marketing strategy should be an emphasis on the impact. Not only should the Conservancy promote the fact that a portion of event proceeds benefits the parks, they should also quantify that impact. For example, the Conservancy saved X amount of plastic cups thanks to visitors who brought their own reusable Parks on Tap cup. Or, the profits of the Schuylkill Banks beer garden allowed the Conservancy to maintain 2 miles of park land or plant X (number of) trees. Buy a beer, support the park! Visitors should feel good about their purchase and know that each dollar they spend supports a cause that gives back to their community. And if that isn’t motivation enough, the $1 discount on beer when you bring your Parks on Tap cup might be a great incentive that could be promoted further.
Another way of both highlighting the features of the park and providing engaging content for Philadelphia audiences is through social media stories. These slices of a narrative have the potential to evoke emotion, spark curiosity and promote interest in the park system. For example, imagine how you might react to a 3 second clip of a mother and daughter walking on a trail together, hand in hand on their way to the Discovery Center and the excitement of the small child when she suddenly spots a great blue heron or majestic mallard coasting on the lake or in the distance. This strategy can be employed in a variety of contexts such as Parks on Tap or the Oval. The clip could be of a young family with their dog all playing a friendly game of corn hole and a father and son taking turns biting into a hot dog. Whatever the narrative/concept may be, it should elicit emotion, involve food or dogs, and illuminate the fact that relationships grow in the natural world.
Lastly, the Fairmount Park Conservancy should conduct a qualitative and quantitative audit of all the content on their social media to identify: 1. What content is the most engaging? 2. How are people interacting with it? Through analytics the Conservancy should evaluate the number of impressions, clicks, click through and open rates, as well as engagement through likes, comments and shares.
Improvements to the User Experience
As previously mentioned, every page on the Fairmount Park Conservancy website and relevant pages such as parksontap.com and https://theovalphl.org/ should be audited for mobile friendliness and search engine optimization. All issues that surface from the audit should be addressed and corrected.
In terms of the MailChimp eblast campaigns, content should feel almost personalized. Through tagging and segmentation, individuals would be able to opt into the subject area they are most interested in and receive more relevant content. For example, some people may be interested in only Parks on Tap whilst others may be primarily interested in the park stewardship and environmental element of the mission. In an effort to increase engagement and open rates individuals could be tagged on a list (e.g. family friendly, environmental, environmental news, all programming) and receive emails more specific to their needs.
Reaching New Audiences
Currently the majority of visitors to the Parks on Tap (https://www.parksontap.com/) site are doing so through Google (43%), by directly typing in URL (36%) and through Referrals (14%). That 14% is through back-links from well-known websites and “Philadelphia authorities” such as visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com. Not only do these sites drive traffic, they also give their seal of approval on quality and experience. Public relations needs to be a fundamental aspect to this strategy. By establishing relationships with well-known Philadelphia websites and partnering with organizations who provide environmental programming, such as the Academy of Natural Sciences, Bartrams Gardens or the Wagner Free Institute of Science, the Conservancy can leverage their brand, take advantage of cross-marketing of joint programming and encourage new audiences to engage with their work. The primary emphasis on this strategy is natural science education.
Along the lines of promotional efforts, the Fairmount Park Conservancy should strongly consider applying for a Google Grant. Google Ad Grants give non-profits $10,000 of in-kind advertising support every month. As we all know, more advertising translates to greater event attendance, increased revenues, wider organizational reach and possibly even more volunteers. This is an incredible benefit to take advantage of!