Share Your Story the Three Pillars Way

By Claudine Heizer | Posted on March 7, 2014

Just like many of you, every time I attend The NRPA Annual Conference I’m inspired by the ideas and strategies that are presented throughout the week. During the conference I feverishly take notes, dreaming of implementing cutting edge practices and techniques when I return to my desk. The last day of conference feels almost like graduation – full of hope and optimism. Unfortunately, reality strikes within a week or two of returning to my office. Once again, I’m consumed with the traditional day-to-day, keep-your-head-above water tasks and my inspired plans seem to disappear as quickly as they had appeared.


Kettering Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs uses Fast Facts
to communicate about the impact they make in
their community through the Three Pillars. 

But not this year. While attending the 2013 NRPA Annual Conference in Houston, my inspiration came from listening to NRPA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane’s opening address. Barbara’s passionate speech implored park and recreation professionals at all levels to reflect on the impact their agencies are having on three critical issues facing our communities and country – health and wellness, social equity and conservation. These “Three Pillars” are areas that many of us are already addressing every day in creative, positive and successful ways. Through countless methods – both large and small – our profession is addressing these challenges head-on. And when Barbara said, “We’ve got to start telling that story!” it felt like she was speaking directly to me. 

So, while waiting in the airport I started to develop a public information campaign called “Fast Facts.” The primary purpose is to demonstrate how the Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts programs, events and facilities support NPRA’s Three Pillars. Will this campaign increase both program registration numbers and annual revenue? Maybe.  Maybe not. But the importance of the message stretches beyond mere numbers. Telling your agency’s stories that support the Three Pillars helps to:

  • Build advocacy within your community, partnerships and organization;
  • Emphasizes the value of your department to elected officials;
  • Demonstrates your department’s willingness and ability to tackle major social issues; 
  • Celebrates your department’s successful programs and policies; 
  • Supports the need for parks and recreation services in your community. 

The cornerstones of the Fast Facts campaign are the weekly facts about our commitment to conservation, health and wellness, and social equity. Each week we write one fact for each of the three pillars. Writing 156 facts in a year may seem daunting; however, so far it has been remarkably easy. Presentations explaining the campaign have been given to the department leadership team and supervisory staff, along with our volunteer boards. Ideas for facts are gathered from staff, annual reports, award nominations and department and board meetings. A few examples of our facts include:

  • Social Equity: “For some people fishing is a hobby and for others it is a passion. But for everyone who visits one of our four stocked ponds in Kettering…’s FREE! So grab your fishing pole, stop by one of our ponds, relax and enjoy what nature has to offer – and you might just catch the big one!”
  • Conservation: “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Three words we do our best to abide by. Over the past 6 years our patrons have saved more than 215,000 water bottles from landfills by using the water bottle refillers in our recreation complex.”
  • Wellness: “The benefits of walking really are endless. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to improve health, walking can reduce the risk of diabetes, cholesterol, stroke, obesity, depression and high blood pressure. Start a healthier lifestyle today by enjoying the 35 miles of walking trails in Kettering!”

We’ve created a template that includes the facts along with a relevant photo. These images are:

  • Posted on our social media accounts;
  • Posted on our website; 
  • Placed on the television screens in our facilities;
  • Listed in two internal employee newsletters; 
  • Linked to NRPA’s Facebook page and Twitter account; 
  • Included in our annual report and quarterly activities guide. 

Long term promotional ideas include:

  • Creating a 3-4 minute DVD about the program; 
  • Developing a feature story in the local newspaper; 
  • Placing news stories in state and national trade publications; 
  • Presenting an education session at NRPA’s 2014 congress; 
  • Creating facility banners with patron testimonials and pictures demonstrating each pillar.

Creating your own public information campaign that connects your organization to NRPA’s Three Pillars is relatively easy and cost free. Take a moment to brainstorm with your coworkers about simple facts regarding how your organization is a community leader in health and wellness, society equity and conservation. And start telling YOUR story today!

Are you using the Three Pillars to communicate about the impact you make in your community? Which pillar resonates the most with your public? Tell us about it!

Claudine Heizer is the Communications/Marketing Manager for Kettering Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs in Kettering, Ohio.