Case Study: Rogers Aquatics Center

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June 20, 2013 by Beth

“You turned the tide on public discussion about the Rogers Aquatics Center…”

This project is a great example of the sort of short-term initiative I love to tackle: it came with a very clear vision, a request for fast turnaround and specific, measurable desired outcome.  It didn’t hurt that my primary point of contact is a delight to collaborate with and a longtime friend.

Allyson Twiggs Dyer is the executive director of the Rogers Convention & Visitors Bureau, a destination marketing organization which operates as an arm of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce in order to promote Rogers as an outstanding corporate and leisure travel destination.  It so happens that I held this position myself some years ago and often had the chance to work with Allyson in her capacity with the Fayetteville CVB, so I was fortunate to have a leg-up on this project thanks to my deep experience with and passion for the tourism marketing industry.

As the city of Rogers prepared to open the brand new Rogers Aquatics Center which was funded by the 2011 city bond issue, a sizable number of individuals began expressing dissatisfaction with the splash park and encouraging the community to boycott the new attraction upon its scheduled opening in May 2013.

The unrest stemmed very simply from fixable communication gaps: many citizens didn’t understand the planned pricing for the Aquatics Center, the caliber of the attraction itself and the city’s desire to simply open the facility with the intent of monitoring attendance patterns in the first few months before offering future discounts and special admission promotions.  The park is operated by the Parks Department, causing further difficulties as a small but vocal group of citizens became upset in their attempts to communicate with city employees, who were naturally focused on making the park operational, safe and ready to open to the public.

Allyson partnered with the Parks Department and the director and staff of the Rogers Aquatics Center to propose an innovative approach, and we were able to work together to plan a special advance visit to the facility for a hand-selected group of influential bloggers (chosen from Arkansas Women Bloggers).  The premise was simple: the facility is stunning and well worth the admission price, but the public needed to see it to believe it.  Additionally, the bloggers are local women with strong social media followings and dedicated readers who trust their opinions and recommendations.

Several weeks of planning, ample attention to details and consistent, detailed communication with the participating bloggers resulted in an outstanding event which more than achieved the desired results for the city and the CVB.  The women spent the entire day at the facility flooding social media channels with photos, talking about the high caliber of the Rogers Aquatics Center and how impressed they were with its value, safety features and amenities.  The buzz caused a ripple effect across the state, with other visible bloggers and social media mavens mentioning the facility and how jealous they were of those visiting, compounding awareness, increasing impact and amplifying the project’s overall marketing reach.

The event was planned for the week prior to the facility opening to the general public, resulting in the bloggers’ posts and raving about the best new attraction in northwest Arkansas hitting the public airwaves at an opportune time as the traditional press picked up on the approaching grand opening.  And, unlike a newspaper article that runs on a single date, the blog posts live on and continue to generate traffic and positive press for the Rogers Aquatics Center.  The twelve posts written by the bloggers show up when someone performs an online search for the splash park, resulting in ongoing public relations for the facility.

“You turned the tide on public discussion about the Rogers Aquatics Center,” says Dyer.

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