Goals and challenges

After a renovation that tripled the size of its waterpark, Round Rock faced pool-closing lifeguard shortages. But Nichole Bohner was determined to keep all pools open in 2017. Rather than trying to draw kids to the city, she decided to find them through one of their most popular communication venues: social media.

“Social media has allowed us a space to build our brand, garner excitement for our programs and feature snippets of the best of our team/facilities,” says Bohner, Round Rock’s aquatics manager. She credits the campaign with having enough staff to keep all facilities open in 2017, while also gaining a higher quality, more consistent seasonal lifeguard team. With four pools and one waterpark, that’s no small task. It requires 200-plus seasonal employees, most 15- to 20 years old.

How they did it

To start, Bohner took a cue from the colors and design of the city’s most recognized facility, the new Rock’N River Waterpark, and created brightly colored Facebook and Instagram pages with the tagline of “Team Work Makes the Dream Work.” She quickly saw that her Instagram page, @roundrocklifeguards, was giving her the best engagement and began focusing her efforts there. They paid off quickly.

After starting with just 15 to 20 followers in late 2016, the page quickly grew to more than 200 followers and 3,000 impressions per week. By comparison, the city’s entire parks and recreation department gets 4,000 impressions per week.

“What this tells us is that our message is getting out there, and people are connecting with what we post,” Bohner says.

They’re also coming to work because of it. Round Rock gained more than 60 employees in 2017, thanks in part to its social media presence. Surveys show that social media and word of mouth were top contenders in attracting the new hires.

As Bohner and her team develop their social media chops, they’re now using Instagram Stories that allow managers to show a behind-the-scenes view of their day. And they’re delving into Snapchat with custom geofilters used with the “Summer Prom.” That step alone led to 7,000 views of the Round Rock lifeguard brand from Snaps taken that evening.

This innovative recruitment is just one reason the program is being recognized for Best Lifeguard Management. After Round Rock gets kids in the door, they turn them into fully capable lifeguards. Along with regular lifeguard training, the city takes special steps to make sure guards are ready for the real thing once the season starts.

“Our goal is to simulate the feelings, sights, adrenaline and pressure a rescuer experiences when an incident happens in front of them,” Bohner says. “We perform drills with distractions and multiple pieces to simulate what happens in real life.”

A good example is the soft opening the team did at its waterpark. City employees and their families were invited free of charge while the team ran various scenarios. This year a young “actor” played a drowning victim. Once rescued, the victim was replaced with a lifelike iPad-controlled mannequin programmed to mimic pulses and coughs. Coordinating with local EMS and fire departments, the team created a real-life rescue scenario with sirens, flashing lights and transfers.

“Not only did this exercise help cement a solid relationship with EMS, but it also helped us clarify expectations between both teams when the worst happens,” Bohner says. “It also gave our team a taste of the feelings they will experience when a situation occurs.”