Three Ways to Use the Three Pillars

By NRPA|Posted on May 7, 2013

In this April’s Parks & Recreation cover story, agency leaders discuss how their programs and facilities fit into NRPA’s three pillars—conservation, health and wellness, and social equity. But above all, the pillars are a communications strategy, so how are these agencies communicating those priorities to the public and policymakers? Managing Editor Elizabeth Beard takes a look at how three agencies are using the pillars messaging in three very different ways.


Three park and recreation agencies share three ways they are using the three pillars


Just as conservation is woven throughout San Diego County Parks and Recreation’s programs, conservation is also woven into agency communications. However, along with the typical social media, county news center, publications, marketing, and special events, the county also has a not-so-secret weapon.


“Our parks themselves are great communication outlets -- wherever possible we use interactive signage to draw customers’ attention to conservation in action” says Director Brian Albright. “Over time we have become adept at threading the conservation message into most of our programs.”


In Prince George’s County, Maryland, in the Washington suburbs, the park and recreation agency has found that data about the results of health and wellness programs makes for a great message to policymakers in particular.


“That’s a major emphasis of ours – not just to create the program but to create that track record,” says Ronnie Gathers, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. “I think the value is in proving how important we are – making sure that mayors and county execs and governors make it first on their agenda in terms of funding choices.” 


Finally, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has discovered that social equity messaging is crucial for grants, partnerships, and fund raising. Mike Shull, assistant general manager of the Planning, Construction, and Maintenance Branch, explains how the city has raised over $100 million to build 50 new parks.


“We talked a lot about social equity—I wasn’t telling them anything that they didn’t already know. It was an easy message and quite frankly, a lot of the grant funding that we got demanded it,” Shull explains.


These three agencies have used the pillars messaging to reach three different audiences in three very different ways. How is your agency communicating using the three pillars? Which combinations of messages and audiences are working for you? Let us know so we can share your success stories!