Stephen T. Mathers, the first National Park Service Director and special assistant to the interior Secretary of the State in the 1900s, saved the national parks with a massive PR stunt. His job description included promoting use, development, and access to public lands, however Mathers went above and beyond.
After the national parks inception in the early 1900s, there was a brief period where there was a significant lack of use and disrespect of the national parks. Mathers realized that in order for public lands to flourish, the public needed to love and respect them just as much as they people who created them. In the coming months, Mathers recruited journalists to publish articles about the park, never went anywhere without alerting the media, and in 1915, planned “an all-out pitch” trip with a handful of influential authors, politicians, businessmen, and publishers. He gave them the trip of a lifetime, and in turn, they tried to influence public opinion about the beauty of America’s national parks.
Micheal Milstein, a longtime environmental writer and former park ranger, suggests that it is time for a “Modern Mather’s Party” to once again increase the publics (and politicians-Ryan Zinke, listen up) appreciation for public lands. This is a movement that is already beginning. Periscope, an app that allows one “to go live” and then post onto a social media platform, like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram paired with the National Parks Service to engage their followers and visually show them the importance of protecting these public lands. Periscope allows park rangers to do Q & A sessions with their followers, as well as just generally share the experience of visiting a national park to a larger audience.
In 2016, the National Parks Service launched their “Find Your Parks” campaign, promoting the public sharing their personal experiences through the Periscope app. This past year, both Instagram and Facebook launched their own live features on their respective apps and I’m interested to see how/if the National Parks Service will integrate these features into their campaign.
Brands are also picking up the idea of “going live” to advocate for support of public lands. After Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution challenging the designation of Bears Ears as a national monument by former president Obama, calling on President Trump to rescind the national monument status from Bears Ears, Patagonia has been fighting this resolution using a series of 10 360 degree films. Using Google’s 360 technology, Patagonia is raising awareness about the cultural and recreational significance of the Beasr Ear’s Butte lands through stories from Native American Tribes and outdoor athletes who climb, bike, or run in the area. Patagonia is fighting for about 1.35 million acres of federal land spanning Utah and Nevada.
Visual technology is an incredibly important tool in any public relations campaign. We are a visual society; 90% of the information transmitted through our brain is visual, and we can comprehend visual information much faster. In an environmental communications campaign, using the beauty of nature to sway or influence public opinion can make all the difference.
Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in Bears Ear’s Buttes