Guest Message- Gwen Davenport
Message From The Director
This month I am excited to introduce you to a member of the team whose work you definitely know, but whose name and face you may not. Gwen Davenport has been a part of the park family for years and has helped create the image we share with the world today. She has pushed us into markets and areas we were unfamiliar with and resistant to and continues to make us better. I hope you enjoy discovering a little bit more about the team that helps keep your parks awesome.
It’s the mid-90’s at Clemson University and I find myself sitting bored and unfulfilled in engineering classes semester after semester. Is this what I’m going to have to do the rest of my life? My sophomore year ended, and I headed home for the summer only to find myself bored again and watching the noonday show on WIS-TV out of Columbia. On that show was a representative from the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism talking about what the agency does for the state of South Carolina. From that point forward I knew that’s what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.
I hurried back to Clemson in the fall, changed my major to Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management with a minor in marketing, much to my parents’ dismay, and the rest is history. After graduating from Clemson, I immediately found a “foot in the door” job at SCPRT and moved on to various positions here until becoming the State Park Sales & Marketing Manager in 2005.
The sales and marketing manager for state parks was a totally new position at the time. Up until then, there wasn’t a person dedicated to marketing our parks, and our parks were not accustomed to marketing and promoting themselves and their programs. It was a new frontier. A frontier I would have to navigate cautiously, convincing park rangers that I wasn’t going to “sell their souls,” but that I was going to carefully and thoughtfully bring people to parks to enjoy the outdoors and all we had to offer. (Luckily, I had worked with park rangers before during my summer job at Dreher Island State Park at the admission booth during high school and college. So they kind of saw me as one of them. Never did I think this summer job would come in handy, or that I would come full circle and return to parks!) I remember one of the first Park Managers’ Conferences that I attended and how I presented the new partnership with parks and sales and marketing. We called it “Married to Marketing,” and the relationship between the two has flourished ever since!
Today our parks marketing team consists of two people dedicated to promoting and marketing parks with a ton of resources from the tourism side of SCPRT. We are responsible for the parks website, SouthCarolinaParks.com, social media promotion through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (follow us!), an annual parks advertising campaign, Ultimate Outsider promotion, the park eNewsletter, printed and collateral materials promoting parks like the park guide, maps and venue sheets, promoting parks at consumer shows across the state, brand management and creative and the list goes on. Basically, if you see the Come Out & Play logo on it – we manage it! It is our job to spread the word and tell the stories of South Carolina State Parks to the people of South Carolina and to all those interested in visiting these 47 awesome places across the state.
And those park rangers who didn’t want anything to do with marketing over 14 years ago… today they embrace it and understand it as an important part of managing parks and have become “marketers” themselves! It lets me know that I have done my job and helped move the state park service forward.
I’ve never worn the hat and badge like most of the folks you meet in our eNewsletter, but deep down I’m a park ranger at heart. I love the people and the places that make up our 47 South Carolina State Parks. As a wise woman once told me – if you have to work, it’s not a bad gig.
Now don’t waste anymore of your time reading this! Come out and play in a South Carolina State Park, soon. You’ll be glad you did.