INTERVIEW WITH Jean Backs, Public Information Section Manager, Division of Parks and Recreation
What do you do to support outdoor recreation in Ohio?
My job is to get people excited about the outdoors, persuade them to visit their state parks and help them decide where to go, what to do and where to stay. I do this by developing publications and website content, and by working with the media and tourism and outdoor recreation organizations to inform the public about Ohio’s state parks.
How do you create publications that spark people’s interest in the outdoors?
I work with a layout-design artist to create an overall mood with a catchy title, active words and appealing pictures to attract the reader’s attention. For adults, I try to evoke childhood memories of good times they had in the outdoors. I also appeal to their need to connect with nature, and to relax from their busy lives. For children, I try to give them a sense of the adventure that awaits them outdoors. I try to show them that even the smallest or most ordinary things in nature are interesting and special in their own way.
How is developing web content different from developing a brochure?
When developing a brochure, the information you can convey is limited by the size of the paper. Since there are 74 state parks in Ohio, our brochures often use complicated charts or maps with symbols to provide details about all of the parks in a small space. Typically, the chart or map appears on the back of the brochure, while the cover and front panels provide photos and brief text to catch the reader’s interest and set the mood.
Good website content also sets a mood and provides details, but key information should be relayed at a glance. Unlike the two-dimensional plane of a flat piece of paper, a website can be thought of in three dimensions, with links connecting the main ideas with their specific details. For example, our website begins with a map where readers can select a specific park, which takes them to the park website. Here, appealing photographs, brief mood-setting text and important information is relayed at a glance before the reader scrolls down to further information about the park.
Do your publications always motivate people to visit a state park?
No, but they can still have a positive effect. Even if people don’t or can’t come out to the parks, we want them to know about them so they will develop a sense of ownership of their state parks. Besides, in addition to promoting the parks, our publications and website teach about nature and the environment, as well as history and culture.
What is most challenging about your job?
Sometimes it is difficult to get started on a brochure or article, and I often have deadlines. When I feel stuck or have writer’s block, I like to take a short break from writing and think about my own experiences and feelings about the outdoors.