Development of a Multi-Dimensional Scale for Implementing Positioning in Public Park and Recreation Agencies
Keywords:public parks and recreation, repositioning, scale development, benefits
AbstractPositioning is concerned with influencing the place an organization holds in the minds of stakeholders relative to competitors. It has been advocated as key to public park and recreation agencies’ efforts to compete successfully for tax allocations. There are three fundamental axioms of positioning. First, positions are determined not by the image that a service provider seeks to convey, but rather by how this image is perceived in the minds of stakeholders. Second, an agency’s position is considered by stakeholders not in isolation, but rather it is perceived in relation to that of its competitors. Third, positioning requires consistency and tight focusing of a selected message over a long time period, often many years.The centrality of positioning in the parks and recreation field has been accentuated in recent years by the emergence of (i) the Benefits Approach to Leisure and (ii) by the development of a new theoretical paradigm to explain public sector marketing. The revised paradigm replaces the traditional notion of voluntary exchange with the concept of redistribution controlled by elected officials and voters. Both of these two movements have caused agencies to recognize that the key to resource acquisition is establishing the public benefits of parks and recreation in elected officials’ and voters’ minds. This is accomplished using real, psychological, and competitive repositioning strategies.To implement an effective repositioning strategy, agencies need to empirically identify priority issues in a community and stakeholders’ perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of park and recreation services in addressing those issues. To do this, an instrument was developed which will enable agencies to identify the issues deemed most important in the community, and to measure stakeholders’ perceptions of the performance of park and recreation agencies and their ‘competitors’ in addressing those issues.Initially, the park and recreation repositioning scale (PARRS) was conceptualized to be comprised of ten domains represented by a total of 55 items. A content validity check by expert judges resulted in ten of the original items being discarded and an additional six being created. In addition, the judges’ input led to one of the domains being expanded to embrace a broader mandate and to another domain being removed.The remaining 51 items were administered to a sample of undergraduate students, who were asked to rate the importance of the items in the context of their hometown. This pretest resulted in a reduced set of 40 items, which was formatted to solicit views on the importance of the nine issues from a sample of residents in a municipality of 45,000. The 331 useable questionnaires that were returned (40.1% response rate) were analyzed to produce a final PARRS instrument that is comprised of 36 items which measure nine potential repositioning domains.In some contexts, a 36-item scale which has to be completed twice to measure both importance and performance elements may be too long to be practical. Hence, three alternate options are offered: (i) use of a shorter, 26-item instrument that measures all nine domains; (ii) address only those domains that an agency believes to be important in its community, rather than all nine domains; and (iii) adopt a two-stage process whereby the important domains are identified in the first stage, and the second stage investigates an agency’s perceived performance, and potentially that of relevant competitors as well, on only those high priority domains.
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