Rural County in Ohio Gains Support for Ballot Initiative through Social Media By Megan Hanson, Olson Strategies While millions of Americans were captivated by the top of the ticket in last November’s election, for many parks and recreation districts around the country their focus was on issues much farther down the ballot. The Ashland County Park District in rural Ashland County, Ohio was one such district. Following two previous attempts that failed by small margins, they were campaigning for a third time to secure a tax levy supporting their work. Losing this time would mean possibly closing or abandoning several of their parks, so to ensure success they hired our Coloradobased political consulting firm, Olson Strategies and Advertising, to run their campaign. In addition to the more traditional methods of campaigning – direct mail, phone calls, advertising and blockwalking – we also identified another way Ashland County Parks could increase their support: social media. As Olson Strategies’ Director of Digital Media, I began working with the Ashland County Park’s Facebook page in July 2016. At that time, it was a nearly stagnant page with just 711 likes and minimal interactions. Through creative content, targeted advertising and interacting with the community, by Election Day the page had become an
engaging page with 3,016 likes — an increase of nearly 325 percent and over 10 percent of the voting population. Not only did our social media campaign create more interest and activity on social media, but increased actual park usage, space rentals and event attendance. One post featuring a pavilion available for rent in one park had the park manager fielding phone calls for over a week as community members inquired about how they could book it for events – bringing additional, immediate revenue to the district. Through engaging their community both online and off, the Ashland County Park District made their parks go “viral,” setting the community abuzz about their work for the first time in their 14-year existence. On November 8th, the initiative supporting the Ashland County Parks District passed by less than 1,000 votes. And while the Ashland County Parks District celebrated their win, Olson Strategies was excited about how this campaign could serve as a model for other parks and recreation districts around the country. If you have any questions or want to know how a social media campaign could help you and your organization, please contact us.
Photos Courtesy of Ashland County Parks District
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Winter 2017 • Colorado Parks and Recreation 15
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