Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating Social Media Policies for Your Parks and Rec Department

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Creating Social Media Policies for Your Parks and Rec Department

Article excerpt

Social media has proven to be one of the most impactful tools for local governments to engage citizens and encourage local park exploration and activity engagement. Its platforms lend themselves to the sharing of beautiful photography, location-specific postings and event-participant promotions --all of which are ideal for park and recreation departments. Like all good things, however, your social media accounts need boundaries.

Every public- and private-sector entity that uses social media needs to have internal policies in place to ensure proper, safe and legal use of the social platforms that are becoming the new normal for how citizens learn, communicate and share. Not only do social media policies ensure consistency and use of best practices, but they will also keep your staff from inadvertently violating the public's trust or disappointing followers. Establishing and following social media policies will allow your park and rec department to maintain social media accounts your citizens perceive as valuable and choose to engage with--helping you meet your communication and promotion goals.

Social Media Legal Considerations

All individuals who manage a social media account need to have a basic understanding of some legal considerations that surround these platforms to help protect your park and rec department from an inadvertent violation. (Note: this information is not intended to serve as legal guidance; always consult your legal department for proper counseling and advice.) Make sure everyone in your park and rec department with access to post to your social media accounts understands the following three basic principles:

Photographs found online are typically copyrighted. Most likely, your parks and rec department will share photos you take of your parks, trails, local scenery and public events. Understand, however, that even though an endless supply of photos is only a Google Image search away, they are the property of the individual who took the picture and cannot be shared by a public- or private-sector entity without permission. This requirement pertains to pictures that are as seemingly innocuous as those that depict sporting equipment, technology devices or holiday imagery.

You'll want to secure permission to share photos of citizens. Consult your legal department regarding policies your park and rec department should follow when it comes to sharing pictures of citizens. You may take gorgeous photos of a group of kids participating in your community's youth art class, but without the written permission of the parents, you may not want to post them on social media. Photos of citizens participating in outdoor public events or in which the face of the individual is obscured or unclear may not be subject to the same legal restrictions, but wherever minors are concerned, air on the side of caution and seek legal guidance.

Any contests or promotions must follow the platform's terms of service. Some social media platforms outline specific guidelines in their terms of service as to how to operate contests and promotions that use their platforms. Refer to them to familiarize yourself with such terms before building and executing a social media contest.

Creating Social Media Policies that Protect Your Citizens and Your Park and Rec Department

With an understanding of the three aforementioned legal considerations, ensure your park and rec department's social media guidelines address the following scenarios and policies:

Outline goals for your social media accounts, and determine the types of content you want to share. Don't underestimate the importance of establishing goals for your park and rec department's social media use. Whether you are trying to promote activities, increase awareness about available public resources or educate citizens on the importance of advocacy, your goals should directly impact the types of content and messages you share. …

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