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Marketing Committee Meeting Minutes - April 18, 2013



Board Members Present:     

President Mike Reid

Vice-President Maureen Yanes

Commissioner Susan Aberman       


Others Present:                     

Director/Secretary John V. Ohrlund 

Superintendent of Recreation and Facilities Michelle Tuft

Assistant Superintendent of Recreation Jon Marquardt

Marketing Manager Jim Bottorff



Commissioner Michael W. Alter

Commissioner Jerry Clarito



Vice-President and Committee Chairman Maureen Yanes called the marketing committee meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners to order at 6:05 p.m.


Executive Director Ohrlund introduced Marketing Manager Jim Bottorff, who he indicated would summarize the various areas of the District’s marketing operation, and field questions and ideas during and after the presentation.


Mr. Bottorff made a few opening remarks, mentioning the various areas operated by the District’s marketing department. He asked meeting attendees to feel free to ask questions or discuss ideas at any time.


Mr. Bottorff discussed what he called “the flagship marketing tool of the District,” the seasonal program guide series. This year the series moved to full-color, utilizing a retro theme in celebration of the District’s 85th Anniversary. He credited the department’s graphics team for executing the series’ layout and design. He said that District community surveys overwhelming report that Skokie residents’ preferred vehicle for engaging District information was through these seasonal guides, which are sent to all Skokie homes. He showed attendees the Summer Camp Brochure and Summer Fun Guide. Commissioner Aberman remarked that she found the summer event summary in the Fun Guide a convenient way to find summer events. Mr. Bottorff also mentioned the Skatium and Golf guides. He told the committee that, including newsletters and online newsletters, the department annually produces more than 85 publications and event programs. Mr. Bottorff indicated that his staff would meet with the recreation and facility staff in 2013-14, and would look at the best use of District dollars for publications in 2014-15. He suggested that the District would either maintain the current publication lineup, or move money to new publications. Director Ohrlund discussed the difficulty in measuring return on investments of print publications and other marketing efforts. Mr. Bottorff suggested a possible Fitness First annual piece if it worked into the budget. Vice-President Yanes said that she liked that idea.


Mr. Bottorff explained the strategy behind the new District website built in 2011, showing attendees the first-ever connection from a park district website directly into a WebTrac search, bypassing the WebTrac login page. He showed attendees the newly-updated homepage with Parks and Facilities dropdown menus for easier direct access. Mr. Bottorff indicated that production has just begun on updating the Programs and Places page to a bigger and better ‘Yelp-style’ filtered map system. He mentioned that the department maintains the site on a daily basis. He also said that the marketing department’s Scott Walker has learned to build new sites from scratch, with all staff having learned a rudimentary amount of html code. All staff maintain the Districts’ other three sites including Backlot Bash, Festival of Cultures and Scream Scene. He reviewed all four of the sites’ Google Analytics data, showing attendees that traffic on the District site has tripled since 2011 and that more than 2,600 hits were registered on backlotbash.com on the Saturday of the 2012 event. Mr. Bottorff also said that the District would be building a new mobile device website, a stripped down, easier to view and use version of the current site, for cell phones, tablets, etc. Vice-President Yanes, Commissioner Aberman, and President Reid all remarked that this would be ideal, as all three are current users of mobile devices.


Mr. Bottorff said that the department creates Facebook posts and Twitter “tweets” many times per week and is currently running a ‘Like Us’ on Facebook promotion. (Potential sponsors are now interested in our Facebook ‘Like’ count). The department also collects District photos on its Flickr page, sometimes using them in publications, after obtaining permission. Mr. Bottorff credited the department’s Rachel Pozner for coordinating all daily social media posts and the setup of new accounts. He also showed attendees the Twitter feed that is embedded on the District website’s ‘Water Parks & Swimming’ page and explained the ‘roving news ’ use of Twitter at the 2012 Backlot Bash. Superintendent Tuft showed Commissioner Aberman the District’s Twitter and Flickr accounts on the commissioner’s mobile phone. Vice-President Yanes asked Mr. Bottorff to look into District uses for ‘Pinterest.’


In February 2013, Mr. Bottorff indicated that he had formed a committee of customer service supervisors, districtwide, to look into a uniform marketing setup for all front desks and lobbies. This will include stand up racks for brochures and fliers, a policy review for non-SPD fliers; and weekly emails for front desk staff to remind them of current District events. Vice-President Yanes  and President Reid both remarked that the idea was a good one.


Mr. Bottorff explained the District’s print advertising strategies, including frequent ad placement in the Pioneer Press by ‘zone,’ as well as Chicago Parent ads utilized for the Exploritorium and Skatium. He also mentioned several niche magazines like Golf Time, as well as several community guides. Superintendent Tuft added that the District runs ads for the Festival of Cultures in many ethnic papers. Vice-President Yanes inquired about the Chicago Reader. Mr. Bottorff said that the Reader was utilized for Backlot Bash music ads.


Mr. Bottorff talked about in-house advertising such as posters, fliers, bulletin boards and more. He said that the graphics team develops and places internal ads throughout the District. Last year, the District began cutting 11 X 17” posters vertically in half, saving paper, while still creating a striking look for our event ads.


Mr. Bottorff talked about event and revenue facility advertising on four video screens in the lobbies at Weber, the Skatium, Devonshire and Oakton. Vice-President Yanes asked about putting a screen in Fitness First. Mr. Bottorff said that it had been decided that a screen there might be redundant, as health club members see the Weber screen when they enter the building.


Mr. Bottorff reported that the department is currently writing copy for two Lakeshore Public TV 30 second spots to run May through November, featuring Sports Park and the Exploritorium. He also discussed a YouTube video for Skokie Sports Park’s application for “Top 50 Golf Ranges.” The two-minute piece was scripted by Rich Lee, edited by Jim Bottorff and voiced by Pamela Zeid. Scott Walker provided new video and edited the piece. Bottorff said that all marketing staff continue to attend events and take photos for the website, future brochures, ad copy, staff events, skating, etc. The continually-updated 10-minute video, “The Skokie Park District: Your Parks, Your Backyard” continues to run on Comcast Channel 17 and RCN Channel 22, as well as on the District web site.


Mr. Bottorff discussed messages that rotate on the outdoor message centers at Weber and Oakton, pointing out that the signs have limited memory and that there sometimes is a waiting list of District events for the signs. He said that this limited number of messages is necessary in order for every message to be seen in the rotation.


Mr. Bottorff indicated that almost all successful marketing begins with engaging copy. The department writes and edits facility publications and pieces and all seasonal program guides. Staff also continue to write press releases, new stories for the website, speeches, all other copy for the website, lighted sign messages, all ad, poster and flier copy. Superintendent Tuft mentioned that the department writes all award applications and that the application for the Skatium Ice Arena won the 2013 Outstanding Facility & Park Award for large Illinois park district "renovations to an existing facility” and Sports Park was named a “Top 50 stand-alone golf range in America.”


Mr. Bottorff said that he would be manning the District’s annual display at Parks Day at the Capitol in Springfield on April 30, meeting with legislators, lobbying for state funding of open spaces, and networking with other industry marketing professionals.


Having discussed and offered ideas in the various areas of marketing throughout the meeting, there were no more questions or comments. Executive Director Ohrlund thanked Mr. Bottorff for his presentation and the other attendees for their input. Vice-President Yanes adjourned the marketing committee meeting at 7:04 p.m.

________________________________                 _______________________________

Michael Reid                                                                 John V. Ohrlund

President                                                                       Secretary