Magazine article Communication World

Photo Finish: Using the Photo-Sharing Site Flickr, a California Parks District Updated Its Promotional Materials at Minimal Cost

Magazine article Communication World

Photo Finish: Using the Photo-Sharing Site Flickr, a California Parks District Updated Its Promotional Materials at Minimal Cost

Article excerpt

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is a public agency that operates 65 parks comprising 100,000 acres of open space and more than 1,100 miles of trails in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area. In the fall of 2007, EBRPD's public affairs division conducted an informal survey of the digital photographs that the agency had on file, with an eye to the needs of the publications staff.

The publications staff typically produces a bimonthly 16-page activity guide, approximately 20 park brochures and up to 80 print advertisements, as well as fliers, a web site and park information panels. All of these use photographs of the parks and trails.

Each park or area was graded A to F for the quality and quantity of photos available. Photos needed to be high-resolution digital files no more than five years old, in addition to being of good aesthetic quality. Of the 65 parks, 29 percent scored an A, meaning there were numerous high-quality images available; 43 percent scored a B, meaning there were high-quality images available but of an inadequate number; and 28 percent scored a C or below, indicating that the images were insufficient in number or quality.

The dearth of high-quality images for nearly a third of the agency's parks was clearly a problem for the EBRPD: The park brochures needed updating, and individual web pages for each park displayed just one photo, if any. In order to create more up-to-date and visually interesting print and electronic media, the district needed to vastly increase the pool of digital photographs available. Yet the staff was limited in the time they could spend visiting and photographing such a large number of locales, and as a public agency, they had to be mindful of spending public funds.

The solution was to use the photo-sharing web site Flickr to build a community of photographers and ultimately to direct some of their photographs into park district publications. Flickr members are digitally savvy and interested in sharing their photos, and many were already visiting the parks.

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Goals and objectives

The primary goal was to access photographs of the district's parks that could be used in publications. The objective was to attain 100 percent coverage of the 65 parks in the district by December 2009. A minimum of five high-quality photographs per park was needed in the Flickr pool to successfully create Flickr galleries on the parks' web pages. For its print publications, the district needed representative photographs from all seven geographic zones of the district and examples of a variety of ecosystems, such as woodlands, creeks, shorelines and so on.

Solution and implementation

In December 2007, the publications staff created the agency's Flickr account and uploaded its own digital photos, which the public may view, comment on and use in their own blogs. The team also participated in the Flickr community, building contacts through keyword searches and commenting on relevant photos taken by Flickr members.

In the second stage of the plan, the team opened an EBRPD photo pool to Flickr members. The conditions of membership included granting the agency permission to display members' park photos in thumbnail view on its web site. …

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