The East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile, uninterrupted bicycle path that runs from Maine to Florida, is a dream in progress for former executive director of the East Coast Greenway Alliance Karen Votava and her successor, Dennis Markatos-Soriano. In an article sidebar in the October/November issue of Appalachian Mountain Club’s Outdoors magazine (sorry, the sidebar’s not online), Votava talks about how the group needs to build name recognition for the ambitious project in local communities. This recognition, optimally, would help rally support to connect the existing network of greenways in major cities up the east coast, including the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. The Alliance does not build the trails itself, but assists local trail-builders with logistics and project management.
"Building name recognition" and "raising awareness" are such nebulous concepts, but if done the right way, they have the potential to escalate a cause to the right people, and even motivate them to act. The key words are the right people. Landing an article placement in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s magazine was a good start (I am typecasting their readership as treehuggers and happy hikers, and I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch).
Sometimes finding your audience isn’t too tough – but many make the mistake of thinking that a broader reach will equal more name recognition. This isn’t always the case. I'd suggest that a Today Show segment on the East Coast Greenway would be the wrong media placement. It would be a big win, for sure, but with the wrong demographic. If I had to narrow it down, I’d advise the Greenway folks to focus efforts on these three groups:
· Eco-minded consumers – namely the guy or gal that bikes to work; some people call them the LOHAS
· Local and state government – policymakers who have a demonstrated track record for caring about parks and recreation
· The cycling community – there are hundreds, if not thousands of cycling groups up the east coast. And somehow they all know each other
So what next? Find out what these audiences are reading and watching – is it the local news, blogs, websites? Where are they interacting (probably Twitter, maybe they’re Facebook friends)? Talk to lobbyists (I know, the L word – but there are good ones, too) who know the local government’s inner workings. Call and meet in person with cycling groups and find out how to collaborate (fundraising ride, anyone? Newsletters?)
Bottom line: Votava has it right – if more people know about a Greenway, more people will buzz it up. If the people with pull and passion know about it…even better.