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Friday, December 26, 2008

Action Strategies' blog

is heading off to Bogota for the next two weeks/ s'en va a Bogota pour les deux prochaines semaines.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Action Strategies' blog

is on the train returning from a business trip in Toronto...very interesting insights into non-profits & charities/ est de retour de Toronto

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Action Strategies' blog

is heading off to Melbourne, Ontario to be with family/ s'en va a Melbourne, Ontario pour etre avec la famille

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Action Strategies' blog

is looking for a volunteer Press Chief for the CPC www.paralympic.ca/ cherche un Chef de presse pour le CPC www.paralympique.ca

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Action Strategies' blog

wonders how to leverage social media to create communities/ se questionne comment on utilise les medias sociaux pour creer des communautes

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Action Strategies' blog

is at the Canadian Paralympic Committee, looking over last minute stuff before the holidays...9 days left to Bogota!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Internet for Non-Profits & Leveraging your Lobbying

Two recent articles featuring my advice have been posted to Charity Village. Dealing specifically with how non-profits can be effective communicators and lobbyists, you can find the first article at:

Online PR for nonprofits

In the second article, I am quoted by Elisa Birnbaum. Check it out:

Government communications: Speaking politically.

Let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Taking the Year's End to Analyze Advocacy Efforts

While I've written that the end of 2008 necessitates associations and NGOs consider how their communications efforts link up with their membership strategy, there are some certain things that I have also learned valuable in terms of non-profit advocacy efforts.

Just as with the need to communicate effectively keeps association members engaged and recruits new ones, advocacy can in many ways play an effective role in membership strategy. Many associations have a role in defending the industry interests an association represents. In fact, for many the reason to join an association or cause is just that - defending a cause. Effectively planning an advocacy effort demonstrates value.

But conducting a campaign is not enough. Association executives need to develop strategies to keep members involved, providing tools, training and insight into the ongoings of Parliament Hill. So as 2009 comes upon us, especially with a budget coming in early January and a raucous Parliament (not to mention a possible NDP-Liberal Coalition), how are you linking your membership strategy with demonstrating value to members? More importantly, what is your plan to keep on the government's radar screen in the new year?


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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Linking Communications to Membership Strategy

So, we've arrived at year's end. Notably, I have seen most non-profit and association offices rapping up their work and settling into Christmas parties. But as staff gather around the eggnog and water cooler, this also becomes the time NGOs must analyze the past year and that which is coming. 2009 is upon us and if there has been anything at all that I have learned about the non-profit sector is that membership recruitment and retention is the lifeblood of an association.

Communications is really the heart that pumps the blood of membership outreach efforts. Without an effective communications strategy, members feel disconnected from their association. Donors don't connect with a charity's cause and result, don't see the need to donate! For all to occur wherein donations keep flowing and members become potentially involved in the board and its committees, an organization's intrinsic value needs to be communicated and understood. The same goes especially for campaigns. Here, not only do your audiences need to feel related to, your campaign should have a strategy to relate those campaigns back to the overall value you wish to have identified when thinking of your association.

In all, while I may sound harping, year's end really is the time for non-profits to think of this as the perfect period for a Communications Strategy New Year's Resolution. Namely, let's think of ways that membership and donor strategy can and should be linking to how audiences need to be communicated with.
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Coalition Government of the Minority of the Minority?

Wow! How could anyone claim Canadian parliamentary politics is boring?! The possibility of a Liberal-NDP Coalition government supported by the Bloc drives home a point I have long called upon. Namely, one cannot afford to avoid developing and nurturing relationships with the opposition parties. With the real possibility that some of these previously obscure MPs may become Cabinet members, those who might have only focused their efforts on the governing caucus may find themselves short. If you're a non-proft exec, the time is now to work your parliamentary network and reach out!
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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deciphering the Speech from the Throne. What does it mean for your Association?

Today marked the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne, the direction Prime Minister Harper will be taking Canada over the course of the next few years. Unsurprisingly, the diminishing economy has changed the the Conservatives' policy course and the Speech from the Throne reflected this direction. From a 16 page speech, the Governor General delivered 10 of those pages on subjects related directly to the economy. For association professionals with an interest in financial and international affairs, the following are indicators of where there will be opportunities:

  • Reforming global finance to re-examine and renew the rules that underpin the global financial system.

  • Avoiding structural deficits by putting all federal expenditures under the microscope of responsible spending.

  • Focusing on job skills development especially through the skilled trades and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries.

  • Expand investment and trade by modernizing investment, competition and copyright laws while working with the United States to address shared challenges and pursuing trade agreements in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

  • Reducing red tape, fixing procurement, improving program and service delivery, and improving the management of federal agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations. In this regard, it's likely the Conservatives will be looking for means to tighten the belt. If your association will be looking to expand departmental or program support budgets, you may wish to seek the counsel of a professional as this will be a tough (but not impossible) time to start such an endeavor.

While the economy is the primary focus, do not despair if your association's mandate falls outside this arena. The Throne Speech identified six other items:

  • Securing Canada's Energy Future - Are you involved in Energy issues? Now is the time to take note....BTW, Action Strategies has worked in the energy sector.

  • Tackling Climate Change and Preserving Canada’s Environment

  • Extending a number of social support measures such as the homelessness agenda, improving Universal Child Care, as well as building support for those caring for the disabled

  • Tackling Crime

  • Continuing the Afghanistan mission

  • Important democratic reforms that will give British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario more seats in the House of Commons. Moreover, Senators may face term limits.

The bottom line is this: If you wish to understand where your association's policy agenda is likely to stand (or stand a chance), the time is now to conduct an legislative and political audit. Leveraging the Speech from the Throne by identifying the priorities, gives an indication of how lobbying success can be revealed. Conducting the audit now as 2008 comes to an end means you will be ahead of the curve and save your organization countless dollars and time.

Does this strike a cord? Drop me a line or leave your thoughts.
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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Understanding Parliament to Maximize your Association's Objectives

Now that parliament has reconvened and we Canadians are before another Speech from the Throne, the relavance of situating one's organization into Ottawa's policy arena is more important than ever. Through becoming more acquainted with the parliamentary process and its daily and yearly workings, you’ll be much better positioned to maximize your business’ objectives and goals.

The legislative process can be an intimidating one to stay on top of, especially if you fill your days and mind with the constant needs of a running a nonprofit business. In order to ensure you understand the Parliamentary process on a more personal level, you have to have not only a working knowledge of what goes on there, and what policies are being introduced and put into law; but also, have your eyes, ears, and hands in the political arena. It is a full time job, and many organizations do not have the time or in-house manpower to stay on top.

Many-if not most-nonprofit entities do seek the aid of a government relations firm or specialist to bridge this gap between their non-profit’s needs and Parliament’s protocol. These specialists bring years of experience in the Canadian political arena, contacts, troubleshooting savvy, and the like to help you learn and approach your government in the most convenient and effective manner. Here’s a look at the actual specifics that these specialists provide-or conversely you will need to enact-in maintaining a constant and lucid conversation with Parliament:

  • Draw from already established political networks and contacts for aid.

  • Keep abreast of past, present, and future legislative action and policy.

  • Prepare necessary legislative documents for presentation in legislative proceedings (briefs, speeches, etc).

  • Gather support for your nonprofit issues by rallying new coalitions and campaigns.

  • Provide constant research on supporting legislative regulations and policies.

  • Keep a constant presence for influence in the House of Commons Caucus committees.

  • Maintain contact and communication with non-partisan lobbying groups.

  • Provide troubleshooting advice, analysis, and reaction as needed.

The Canadian Parliament is a very specialized and established system set up to provide the best regulation, policy, and laws for all Canadian citizens. Keeping informed and involved with the House of Commons and the Senate is vital to having your needs and wants as a citizen and business professional heard and shaped into history. Whether you opt for the assistance of a government specialist or choose instead to gets your hands into the mix, knowing everything you can about past, present, and future Canadian Parliament and how to best specifically address it-as noted above-is the only way that you can help enact change and positive movement in your life and your business’.

What is your opinion on Parliament and its relation to your business or movement? Personally, I am finding more NGOs and their board members seeking outside help to counsel them on where their cause fits into the government's agenda. In response, we're gaining some important insight and success. Drop me a line or a comment if I can be of help. Also, please share your personal experience here.
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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pitch Your Stories By Phone

To get a story in the media, you can’t rely solely on the written word; you can’t merely send a fax or a press release. You also must "pitch" your stories through phone calls to selected editors and reporters. As difficult as it may seem, "pitching" your stories in this way is necessary to getting media coverage. Phone calls humanize and personalize your stories, so if you have a newsworthy story you believe in, get on the phone and tell the media about it. Set aside time right after you have sent off your media alerts or press releases to make phone calls to those journalists you really must reach. Making "cold" calls to people you don’t know can be difficult, but most reporters and editors don’t and shouldn't mind getting them; they depend on and encourage citizens to phone in story tips. Here are some tips to make this task easier.

1. Call at the right time. If possible, call a week before your story will break to give reporters time to prepare for it and inform their editors. Call when the reporter is not likely to be "on deadline," usually early in the day the first few hours of their work day. Even then, always ask journalists if they have time to hear about your story. Don't ask if they got your release; even if they did they may have forgotten or misplaced it. Assume they know nothing about your story and say something like this:

"Hello I’m Joe Blow from the Citizens Energy Campaign, and I have a good story for you about our campaign to cut energy costs. Is this a good time to talk?"

2. Be Prepared: Know Whom You're Calling and Know Your Story Don't make anonymous calls to the media and try to explain your story to receptionists and desk clerks. Call directly or ask by name for the reporter or editor who should have your story. Then, be able to present it in 30 seconds. Tell the story the way the media might tell it to their audience. If necessary, write a script that quickly gets into the heart of the story. Emphasize the newsworthy elements--the conflict, the unprecedented angle ("It’s the first..."), the significance of the story to the writer’s readers and its connection to other issues in the headlines or news peg. You might say:

"Our group is fed up with the recent increase in utility costs granted by the state commerce commission. So we are starting a petition campaign to get lower costs. But this is not just another petition drive; this time we’re starting at shopping mall in the communities of the utility commissioners. We want them to feel the heat from their own neighbors. We kick of the campaign Saturday at Ridgewood, near the home of commission chairman I. M. Connected."

3. Make Your Calls Near a Fax Machine. Even if you already mailed or faxed media alerts or press releases to reporters and editors, be prepared to fax additional copies after your pitch call. Journalists often lose or misplace your releases in the newsroom clutter, and it’s easier to send a fresh copy when the story is on their minds.

4. Be Ready With Specifics. Have detailed examples, statistics, and stories to back up your pitch, and be prepared to give out numbers of people who can be interviewed to tell these stories. Know your issue so well that you can answer most questions then and there.

5. Be Persistent But Don’t Be A Pest. Most journalists can not promise to do your story at the time of your call. When they say they will "look into it and do what they can," that’s about all the commitment you can get. If you push further, you can alienate the journalists and drive them away from you and your stories.

6. Offer To Do More To Make Their Job Easier. Journalists often have too much to do in too little time; they are more likely to do stories that are easy for them to research and report; offer to do whatever you can to make this job easier.

7. Be Pleasant And Upbeat--Not Frantic , Moralistic, Or Nagging. Your story may have serious ramifications and be emotionally stirring, but don‘t let that infect your pitch. Journalists like enthusiasm, but they do not like sermons with their story ideas.
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

6 Steps to Free Publicity for Non-Profits

Everyone wants free public relations; how do you find ways to do this? Below, is a list of the best ways to get your name and objectives out there, so that you can start bolstering your company’s funding initiatives.

1. Fundraiser Events: In your nonprofit, everything practically qualifies as a “fundraising event”, but more specifically, plan an event that offers the community something in return for their time and money. Offer an inclusion entry fee as a minimal to make the event more attractive to the public. For example, if you operate an animal rescue agency, offer a walk your dog event, in which people can bring their dogs, pay a nominal fee to support an upcoming worthwhile project, and meanwhile be introduced to all that your agency offers.

2. Free Seminars and Learning Programs: Especially if your nonprofit is new to the area, offer a free in-house seminar or learning program in which you offer a valuable free lesson on one of your company’s missions. Again, for example in the case of a nonprofit animal rescue agency, you could offer a free train your dog weekend. This way, you receive tonnes of valuable contacts and potential financial supporters visiting your agency. Introductions such as this are priceless when it comes to your nonprofit’s short and long term publicity goals.

3. Online Articles and Press Releases: Even if you are relatively new to the world of the internet and internet marketing, creating free articles, taking part in forums, and drafting online press releases could be key to getting your name and mission out there. There are thousands of online article sites in which you can introduce your nonprofit’s expertise and mission and provide a link back to your company website for free. Press release sites come just as varied online. If you have a new program or product you are introducing, do a quick search for online press release sites, and post a quick description about it-highlighting your business name and contact. Create a free blog and link to your company website-outlining on a regular basis industry news, program initiatives, etc. Take part in online forums: again, this is free, and will help you communicate the importance of your company to not only your local community, but also, the world at large.

4. Use the Media as your vehicle: A properly developed story targeted according to that which the public yearns to learn or more of or that which is a burning subject of interest is a great opportunity for your organization to leverage. Have your PR consultant or your staff brainstorm on how your cause fits into the debate and provide comment. Doing this over a consistent period of time will build solid relationships with journalists that will build recognition and awareness. However, beware! Some PR consultants may claim “personal media contacts” are the key to successful PR. Exercising these media contacts may involve them charging meals and drinks to your account. Don’t entertain this notion. Good PR is about developing a sound professional relationship with journalists - that means providing them with the information and opportunities they need to interest their readers. Understand what your editors want. Look at samples of key journals, web sites and other outlets on your target list. What is the mix of commissioned articles, features, releases and advertorials? What is the typical copy length, style, and tone of voice? Aim to match these criteria.

5. Develop an newsletter and reach out to your key targets: Newsletters are tricky things - here are a few tips and thought starters. Go back to the beginning. What is the objective of the newsletter? Define clearly what you want to achieve in developing your newsletter. Be specific so that you can monitor outcomes and fine tune to improve success. Describe the typical reader. Think what interests and information needs they have. Are all readers similar? If not, matching content to their interests could be a problem. How do they prefer to receive information - print or by e-mail? Above all, make certain visitors to your website have a clear means of subscribing to your newsletter vi the first page of your website.

6. Leverage the power of social media site such as YouTube, Facebook, etc.: Online social networks used to be just gathering places for friends and long-lost acquaintances. Then the marketers arrived, followed by politicians and job recruiters, all looking to tap into a growing mass of young people who are spending much of their time on the Web. Now, non-profit organizations are testing ways to raise money through these networks, betting that the Internet's viral nature will open fresh avenues for fundraising and marketing. It's a big change for non-profits as they shift from direct-mail campaigns and relying on the checkbooks of older givers to the unpredictable whims of Web popularity. Though the transition is nascent, charities see potential in recruiting young activists who already use online networks to broadcast their identities and make connections.

Have some other tips or ideas that have helped your nonprofit to grow and succeed. By all means, add your thoughts and experience by leaving your comments.
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well, here they are...the new cabinet!

Earlier this morning, I mentioned some of my guesses regarding the new cabinet. Some panned out, others were more of a surprise. Of particular note was that Jason Kenney did indeed become Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. For my sport clients such as the Canadian Paralympic Committee, there's now a sport specific minister - Gary Lunn. For those associations who have approached me with issues dealing with seniors, the Veteran's Affairs minister remains Greg Thompson of New Brunswick. For CPP and social policy matters, the minister remains as Diane Finley. For some of my previous clients who have been concerned by energy efficiency issues, a new face to watch will be a brand new face in Parliament, Lisa Raitt.

In total, here's a list of the newest cabinet:

The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

The Honourable Gregory Francis Thompson
Minister of Veterans Affairs

The Honourable Marjory LeBreton
Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister of State (Seniors)

The Honourable Chuck Strahl
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

The Honourable Stockwell Day
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

The Honourable Vic Toews
President of the Treasury Board

The Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of Labour

The Honourable Diane Finley
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda
Minister of International Cooperation

The Honourable Jim Prentice
Minister of the Environment

The Honourable John Baird
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry

The Honourable James Michael Flaherty
Minister of Finance

The Honourable Josée Verner
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie

The Honourable Jay D. Hill
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

The Honourable Peter Van Loan
Minister of Public Safety

The Honourable Gerry Ritz
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

The Honourable Jason Kenney
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

The Honourable Christian Paradis
Minister of Public Works and Government Services

The Honourable James Moore
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health

The Honourable Lisa Raitt
Minister of Natural Resources

The Honourable Gail Shea
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

The Honourable Gary Lunn
Minister of State (Sport)

The Honourable Gordon O'Connor
Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

The Honourable Helena Guergis
Minister of State (Status of Women)

The Honourable Diane Ablonczy
Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

The Honourable Rob Merrifield
Minister of State (Transport)

The Honourable Lynne Yelich
Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

The Honourable Steven John Fletcher
Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

The Honourable Gary Goodyear
Minister of State (Science and Technology)

The Honourable Denis Lebel
Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

The Honourable Keith Ashfield
Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

The Honourable Peter Kent
Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Things that make you go..hmmm!

Two things have come up today that I'll be monitoring with interest.  First, it appears as though Prime Minister Harper will be announcing his new cabinet.  Of particular interest are the growing rumours that James Moore and Jason Kenney are likely nominees.  From those reading this blog in the past, I predicted they will be ones to watch...let's wait and see.

On the provincial scene, it appears that Premier Jean Charest will be heading Quebec into another election seeking a majority government.  Humbly, this is disappointing as there are a number of legislative issues that will need to be put on hold.  Time will tell what will result of the provinces 3 parties in the National Assembly.

Predictions anyone on either of the two situations?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 Principles of Effective Government Relations

When it comes to ensuring government relations are communicating and teaching the public in an effective and attainable manner, what are the most important services and functions that you should expect from your Canadian government relations resource? From the perspective of someone wondering about the value of a lobbyist, I thought it pertinent to provide my ideas on the most obvious reasons of what should be expected in an optimum government relations office.

1. Parliament: Beyond offering an effective advisory, advocacy, and educating resource for Canadian citizens, an effective government relations resource should know the ins and outs of Parliament and how it relates to the average citizen, to better be able to communicate to the citizen this information. So, how does a government relations resource keep abreast of the most useful Parliament information?

2. Regulation: Another important principle of effective government relations is providing citizens with regulation information and assistance. By acting as an intermediary between concerned citizen and the private sector, government relations specialists can help maintain and revise-if need be-current private sector regulations. They can use their contacts and experience in the government to ensure that all parties are being treated according to fair practice. By keeping an eye and hand in the workings of governmental actions and practice, these specialists can ensure balance through proper regulation.

3. Trade and Investment: Government relations employees are also very necessary in the area of trade and investment. With all the rules and disputes that can arise in trade and investment-between the U.S and Canada primarily-having this resource to secure the best information and navigation in your affairs is absolutely necessary. For example, government relations specialists can teach you about current NAFTA and other trade association regulations, help you acquire financial assistance in relation to trade, set up your new business service or investment program in Canada, and navigate general customs issues.

4. Procurement: Procurement of new technological opportunities for government use is another necessary principle for effective government relations. These specialists not only receive incoming opportunities for technological advancement for government procurement, but also seek out and identify potentially helpful technological resources. Government relations teams as an effective practice; invest their time, money, and resources in technology companies to promote the mutual technological prowess and success of both business and country. On a more specific level, these government relations representatives actively market, network, research competition, and oversee contract negotiations of tech businesses they find promising.

5. Grassroots Campaigns: Generating support for your cause can sometimes seem an overwhelming venture, no matter how important the cause. Government relations representatives can help bridge the gap between the public outcry of grassroots campaigns and governmental decision makers in an effective and demonstrative manner. They help lobby for specific causes and groups through key contacts, organize the campaign for presentation, generate marketing tactics, and overall boost widespread support for a cause or campaign that just needs a voice.

Do you have an example of one of the five effective principles of government relations or perhaps have insight to share on the efficacy of government relations resources and representatives. Please share your story with us.


Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Who's in and ... who's out?

Since the results of last week's election were revealed, it's clear that while a Conservative party minority government has returned to Ottawa, the composition of this government will be different. 35 new MPs (new to Parliament) from the Conservatives were elected making a much stronger minority government from that of the 39th Parliament. Who are these new members of the government? Reviewing the list reveals the following:

Aglukkaq, Leona Nunavut, Nunavut
Ashfield, Keith Fredericton, New Brunswick
Block, Kelly Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, Saskatchewan
Boughen, Ray Palliser, Saskatchewan
Braid, Peter Kitchener--Waterloo, Ontario
Brown, Lois Newmarket--Aurora, Ontario
Cadman, Dona Surrey North, British Columbia
Calandra, Paul Oak Ridges--Markham, Ontario
Dechert, Bob Mississauga--Erindale, Ontario
Dreeshen, Earl Red Deer, Alberta
Duncan, John Morris Vancouver Island North, British Columbia
Glover, Shelly Saint Boniface, Manitoba
Hoback, Randy Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Hoeppner, Candice Portage--Lisgar, Manitoba
Holder, Ed London West, Ontario
Kent, Peter Thornhill, Ontario
Kerr, Greg West Nova, Nova Scotia
Lobb, Ben Huron--Bruce, Ontario
McColeman, Phil Brant, Ontario
McLeod, Cathy Kamloops--Thompson--Cariboo, British Columbia
O'Neill-Gordon, Tilly Miramichi, New Brunswick
Payne, LaVar Medicine Hat, Alberta
Raitt, Lisa Halton, Ontario
Rathgeber, Brent Edmonton--St. Albert, Alberta
Richards, Blake Wild Rose, Alberta
Rickford, Greg Kenora, Ontario
Saxton, Andrew North Vancouver, British Columbia
Shea, Gail A. Egmont, Prince Edward Island
Shory, Devinder Calgary Northeast, Alberta
Uppal, Tim Edmonton--Sherwood Park, Alberta
Weston, John West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country, British Columbia
Weston, Rodney Saint John, New Brunswick
Wong, Alice Richmond, British Columbia
Woodworth, Stephen Kitchener Centre, Ontario
Young, Terence H. Oakville, Ontario

With 35 new MPs to choose from as well as a number of notable MPs who are not returning to this Parliament, the Prime Minister will have his work cut out for him in constructing a new cabinet. Most notable in those that I have had contact with in the past include Monte Solberg (Minister of Human Resources and Social Development) and Rahim Jaffer (Chair of the National Conservative Caucus).

Of the MPs for which I have had some personal contact with, I would wager that some important MPs to watch would include James Moore (Port Moody-Coquitlam), Jason Kenney (my former boss), Maxime Bernier (even with the troubles experienced earlier in the year, the Prime Minister needs Quebec representation in the Cabinet), Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Lawrence Cannon, Stockwell Day, and Pierre Poilievre.

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Monday, September 08, 2008

So there's a Federal Election...Which MPs will not be Running this time?

Reading the Ottawa Metro news this morning, I came across a very interesting article that association executives would be wise to heed. Anytime an election is held, it's crucial to monitor who the likely star candidates are and above all, which one's have declared they won't be returning.

In the paper, an important listing of MPs declared as not running was publsihed. Among them:

Conservatives:

Dave Batters (Palliser, Manitoba)
Norm Doyle (St. John's East, Newfoundland)
David Emerson (Vancouver Kingsway)
Loyola Hearn (St. John's South, Newfoundland)
Monte Solberg - Minister of Human Resources (Medicine Hat, Alberta)
Myron Thompson - Long term Reform then turned Conservative MP (Wildrose, Alberta)

Liberals
Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Ontario)
John Godfrey (Don Valley West, Ontario)
Paul Martin, Former Prime Minister (Lasalle-Emard, Quebec)
Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, Ontario)
Belinda Stronach (Newmarket, Ontario)

New Democrats
Bill Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona, Manitoba)
Alexa McDonough (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

These were by far some heavy hitters in the last Parliament and in many instances, from several parliaments going back. Many of these parliamentarians had their own "pet" projects or interests that fall in line with the interests non-profits and associations espouse. Savvy Government Relations calls upon association execs to do a serious audit of where their issues will stand given the coming changes in the make up of the Parliament to come.

Where will your association stand up - better or worse? I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on how this will affect your GR efforts.
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Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Myth vs. PR: Where does Public Relations deliver value for non-profits?

How does an executive know if a communications strategy is needed and how do they know what public relations can reasonably deliver?

PR cannot fix it all but it is an important part of an association's outreach efforts in ensuring that the its messages are received and understood by those needed to advance an organization's cause. Communications practitioners work closely with other administrators and managers who all have an important part in the strategic direction of an organization. This includes attending formal meetings, all the way down the line to the way crafting strategies for how your volunteers interact with the community. If there is a problem in a certain area, PR acts a repair and reputation manager in a crisis situation.

Public relations can promote activities and developments surrounding your organization, and make the public aware of what your organization is and what it does. It can sustain a mutually beneficial relationship between your organization and your audience. PR professionals provide you with solid ties to media outlets, and can pitch articles on behalf of your organization. Most importantly, PR complements an organization's marketing and advertising efforts. If your association is undertaking a new membership benefits package, good PR counsel will identify the tactics and strategies that will build a thorough understanding of the package and boost the value of word-of-mouth efforts.

Where an Executive Should Exercise Caution

Although it can accomplish many things, misconceptions are abound that public relations can sugar coat any sticky situation by withholding and spinning information. This simply is not true. Attempting to fool the public is never a good strategy nor is it very effective. Nothing works better than telling the truth. Most people are media savvy and can see right through propaganda. More importantly, you run the serious risk of a damaging reputation with members and potential members. Public relations strategies should be used to disseminate the truth. Lying will only hurt your organization in the end, and create mistrust between you and your publics.

Finally, PR practitioners cannot guarantee media coverage. The success of your association's media relations need to be based on solid relationships that foster a two way exchange with the media. Although most practitioners have close ties with gatekeepers, the media cannot be told what to publicize. Likewise, practitioners cannot get reporters to only write “good stories”. Although errors within an organization occasionally occur and such stories appear in the press, a professional PR practitioner will maintain a good relationship with the media so that they report on the successes as well as the errors.

Ethics in Public Relations

Most practitioners subscribe to a code of ethics committed to honesty. Members of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) subscribe to their own ethics called codes of professional standards. If seeking the counsel of a public relations professional, ask them the tough questions about what they feel can be honestly delivered from a PR campaign. If the claims sound too good to be true, it usually is the case. Membership in an organization such as CPRS and/ or accreditation from CPRS is usually a good standard from which to start in assuring that you are presented with the whole and true picture.

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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A new direction for Action Strategies

Well, it has been a while since I've published an entry in this blog but there has been a reason. I've taken this time to seriously evaluate how I as a Public Relations and Lobbying consultant can make a difference in advancing the profession. With that, I have given serious thoughts to where in my mind, the value of Action Strategies' services lie in public relations and government relations. I came to an important conclusion.

Reviewing our case studies and the comments we have received from those clients who have been our biggest fans, it became clear that there is a definite need for a combined communications and government relations agency that specializes in the association and non-profit sector. As a sector that arguably calls upon GR and PR strategies more than any other sector (government or private sector), I was amazed to learn of the challenges they face. Interestingly enough, there seem to be few who specialize in non-profits or truly understand the complexities they face.

In fact, in my estimation I do not believe there are any Canadian firms (although I welcome being corrected on this!) that serve exclusively the non-profit and association market. There are undoubtedly many who service them. However, in all instances, they approach the situation as a PR or Government Relations generalist - serving all sectors with a sprinkle of non-profits to fill in the mix.

My feeling however is that non-profits and associations have indeed particular aspects that do require a specialist as opposed to a generalist. While private sector PR serves the valuable role of maintaining a corporate image and assisting marketing efforts, non-profit directors and executives face a series of challenges:

-With the pressing demands of running an organization, how does an Executive Director keep their organization's members and supporters engaged and informed of the good work that's happening? If they are unsuccessful in communicating this, how long will it be before they run the risk of a disconnect?

-In terms of lobbying, associations face the challenge of building consensus and ensuring their message is inline with their members' concerns all the while ensuring that government understands that their association is indeed the voice of a given industry.

-Many non-profits run fundraising initiatives. How effective though can a fundraising campaign be if the community is unaware of the organization or of the problem the non-profit is aiming to resolve?

-Unlike the private sector, most non-profit and association executives must contend with a Board of Directors (most often from across the country and/ or from varying backgrounds and diverging interests). These board members are volunteers and as such, need to be communicated with in a means that will motivate and engage. Not to mention, many associations face the challenge of recruiting board members.

While these are just a sampling of the issues at hand, they were enough to inspire me to demonstrate how effective and specialized GR and PR for non-profits are so required in Canada. With the experience I've gained with organizations such as the Canadian Hydropower Association, the Canadian Construction Association, the Canadian paralympic Committee and many others, I believe there are some clear solutions that can be provided to the non-profit sector. The nuances each of these have faced along with the many other associations I have helped have in my mind made it very clear that the non-profit world is different than other sectors.

What are your thoughts?
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good Research - the Key to Lobbying Success

Writing my most recent edition of Corridors, Action Strategies' monthly government relations newsletter, I began to realize something really important. Namely, the success of a government relations campaign can often be based off of an organization's ability to present their case from the perspective of where it fits in with the public good. More specifically, legislataors want to know how adopting your organization's policies and/ or ideas will gain them favour with their constituencies. With the plethora of ideas pushed forward before Parliament and the provincial legislatures, the cause or organization with the most researched and thought out position wins. Therefore, presenting your case in detailed policy paper is essential.

Government Relations consultants are more than just ice-breaker with government officials. Good ones are also policy wonks. They know how to research and draft position papers. They also draft them with care and detail so as to bring out the essential elements.

The process starts with setting an objective in mind. Ideally, a policy paper is going to be most effective if it will circulated amongst those in the civil service or close advisors to legislators. As such, Action Strategies always sets out the goal of either having our draft placed in their hands or guiding them with our research in the drafts of their briefing papers.

Second, our clients find the value of entrusting the development and research of their policy papers because they can be challenging to put together. They are challenging because your goal must be to keep them short and succinct. Recommendations need to be clearly pronounced and under them lie the explanations. I always advise that they should be prescriptive, not descriptive.

Third, solid fact-based research should be communicated throughout. We gain and communicate our research by releasing polls and relaying academic research. Gathering this information is no small task. Placing this information in a formal and informative tone requires an overall paper that presents the answers of what and why your issue is important.

Our clients recognize the value of seeking out the research that will build their case. They also trust Action Strategies to formulate and draft policy papers that communicate in the professional manner your organization or cause deserves.

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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Budgeting for Public Relations Campaigns

Regrettably, PR departments are often the first to go when budget cuts are necessary within. But PR is an essential investment that gets results. In fact, some industry analysts observe it delivers as much as 100 times more influence than advertising. Organizations can get the most out of their PR budget by understanding the costs associated, knowing the right techniques and maximizing their ROI.

One of the most important things an organization can do to create a cost-efficient budget is to plan for possible threats and opportunities that may arise. When preparing your budget, set money aside for new projects that might require funding, and for setbacks that could be costly. Circumstances can always change, so planning ahead can save an organization from floundering because of unplanned expenses.

Get the most out of your PR budget by taking advantage of free speaking opportunities appropriate to your organization. Every organization should have a speaker’s bureau with trained individuals who can educate the community, motivate your publics, and announce new projects and events. Look for opportunities to speak for free at events like trade shows, conventions, and community-service groups. This provides a more personal approach to communicating with your audience. A good PR consultant can assist you in setting up the costs of such a campaign and set appropriate priorities.

Some organizations have a difficult time determining which PR agency is the right one to handle their account. Which proposals are priced fairly? Choosing an agency that fits within your budget and satisfies the needs of your organization is important. Begin by creating a benchmark to determine which agencies charge what amount for which tasks.

As you can see, there are many things you can do to get the most out of your PR budget. I have only listed a few, however there are many more. PR is an investment that can provide substantial results when allotted a proper budget. Knowing the right techniques can help you get the PR you need with the budget you can afford.
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New jobs in PR and Sports

Wow! It seems new changes in the amateur sports arena is producing a flurry of job openings for communicators. Being privy to the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), I come across a number of shifts and changes that will undoubtedly open the door for those in PR looking for work.

First, I can say with confidence that CPC will be seeking both a bilingual Public Relations Coordinator within the next 2-3 months and a junior level web content editor in short order. Jackie DeSouza, the Communications Chief for the Canadian Olympic Committee has announced her resignation, opting for a position with the communications department of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. CODA, the Canadian Olympic Development Association in Calgary will be looking for a Communications person soon as their Director of Communications has too announced that he's moving on to greener pastures. Finally, the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association has announced that they will be hiring their first-ever Communications Director.

If you're a Public Relations professional with an interest in amateur sport, there now seems to be opportunities abound in Canada!

Mark

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Using the Internet to Lobby Government

As a Strategic Communications Consultant, I consider myself a consument reader and podcast subscriber to various issues on internet marketing and its input on public relations. I am constantly in touch with those who blog and speak on the subject of social media and its impact on the practice of public relations. Surfing the net as I often do, I came across an interesting series and bits of information on online advocacy the tools of internet marketing as it can be applied to an advocacy campaign. As Web 2.0 advances in its usage and the integration between government relations practitioners and public relations practices occurs, GR specialists will need to avail themselves of the knowledge required to undertake online campaigns.

One of the most standard ways of lobbying Parliament undoubtedly occurs via email broadcast campaigns. During my time as a Hill staffer, we were often the recipients of various messages from constituents and advocates of varying causes. Those had their impact, especially if they were received on masse.

However, I would wager that nowadays, the volume of email has increased thereby taxing the resources of parliamentary staffers. One of the main ways staff deal with volume is to “triage” the communications – hence, the very high volume, low originality e-mails, blast faxes, postcard campaigns, etc. are virtually ignored. In fact, in an ironic twist, the deluge of increased communications via e-mail petition and spam campaigns has lead to a dramatic decrease in their effectiveness. Another, possibly more effective means that offices now use to deal with the deluge of e-mails specifically is through sophisticated filtering systems. In these cases, e-mails that do not include an address, or that reflect an address not in the district, are automatically routed out of the system.

What Does This Mean for Cyber-Activists?

Frankly, it means that cyber-advocacy is not the silver-bullets some of us once thought. Effective advocacy of any sort is still about the basics. Whether you’re communicating via e-mail, snail mail, telephone, or carrier pigeon, what is said to elected officials, who says it, and how it is said (i.e., message development) is more important than the method chosen to relay the message. At its most basic level, e-mails are the latest in a long line of message delivery tools, like the telegraph, phone, and fax machines before it. The strength of the Internet is not in the ability to send 50,000 identical e-mails from a specific advocacy web page. The real strength of the Internet for cyber-advocacy lies in the research, network, and training capabilities that answer the what, who, and how questions.

Using the Internet's Strength

So, how do you use the Internet’s strength to develop and deliver messages that Parliament (and other elected officials for that matter) really listens to? I have identified six areas where I believe cyber-advocates (or those developing full-fledged cyber advocacy campaigns) can best focus their efforts. They are research, monitoring, sharing “real time” information, community building, training, and organization.

One of the items I’ve left out of this list is the ability to develop, post, and encourage people to send form letters. Yes, you can use web-based techniques for this kind of activity. But frankly, it’s just not the highest and best use of the web for truly influencing policy-makers. Truly effective advocacy takes a combination to getting the right people to say the right thing to the right person at the right time in the right way. The Internet certainly makes some of those tasks easier, as discussed below, but it cannot be used to meet all of those goals.

Research

The Internet offers amazing resources to help you, your clients, or your members figure out both what is needed, and who to ask. Clearly, the most effective web-based advocacy campaigns include links to talking papers, briefing materials, and fact sheets on a particular issue. This assists the target audience (i.e., the people you want to take action) in making sure they have their “ask” down. If you want to take the research capabilities of your site even further, consider how research resources can help your audience with the “how things are said” question, i.e., message development. For example, a person who uses the Internet to review your talking papers, write a quick, personal note, and send it off to their elected official may be effective.

Monitoring

Through resources widely available on the World Wide Web, effective advocates can easily monitor the status of legislation, federal agency actions, and general important happenings in the world of politics. This will assist in figuring out “when to ask”.

Community Building

Using the Internet to create a network and use that network to develop personal messages is one of the most effective “cyber-lobbying” techniques around. Through a combination of list serves, web-based content, chat rooms, and other tools, effective advocates can build a community of like-minded individuals, and encourage political action.

Facebook is also fast becoming a forum for advocacy. Of note, I found a few examples of groups formed by ordinary Canadians looking to make change. For example:

-Sell the LCBO, a facebook group of individuals from Ontario organizing online to privatize the province's liquor control board.
-"Let's put a stop to animal abuse" - following serious reports of animal abuse in the Toronto region, animal rights activists decided to organize online for tougher animal protection legislation. Their facebook page even invites members to write their Members of Provincial Parliament.

The Top Five Things for Effective Advocates to Remember

Number Five: The effective "advocate" is not just a "cyber-advocate" – the cyber part of the lobbying campaign must be integrated with offline action.

Number Four: The very nature of representative democracy means that members of Parliament and their staff will ALWAYS ignore spam and irrelevant information. Messages from advocates outside the district or state, with no indication of a connection to the district or state, are essentially spam. This leads us to point number three.

Number Three: Volume does not equal effectiveness. One personal, thoughtful, well-argued e-mail or letter is more effective than a thousand postcards or petitions.

Number Two: Two-way communication is more effective than one-way communication. The effective advocate will focus on uses of the Internet to make it easier and more convenient for Members of Parliament to interact with constituents. Instead of encouraging a one-way rant, try spending time engaging members through online chats, townhalls and the like. This is the wave of the future.
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Number One: The Internet is a wonderful tool – but what you say is always more important than what tool you use to deliver the message.

Conclusion

The Internet holds great promise for enhancing citizen involvement in the political process. It gives interested people the ability to learn about issues, form an opinion, communicate with other like-minded individuals to strengthen the message, and, ultimately communicate with elected officials – either individually, or as part of a coordinated effort. However, as with all methods of communication and information gathering, there is a right way and a wrong way to use the Internet in efforts to influence policy. The rules for effective communication still apply – content still matters, messages must still be timely and relevant to the elected official, and knowing what you are talking about is still crucial.


This article has been adopted and modified for Canadian purposes and to accommodate new developments in social media. Many parts of this submission were taken from the "advocacy guru", Stephanie Vance. To see the entire original article, click here.


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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

New staff & developments at Action Strategies

We're growing! Completing our strategic objectives of bringing youth up into the profession of public affairs, Action Strategies is pleased to announce the addition of Nicole Reid as our newest intern. Nicole is completing her 1st year of Public Relations studies at Algonquin College and will be assisting me in a number of PR projects and will be a contributor to this blog as well as the Magnifier and Corridors series of newsletters.

Nicole, welcome aboard!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The advantages of Events in Public Relations

Recently, a lot of my work with the Canadian Paralympic Committee has called upon me to use my event and tour planning skills. In fact, this May and June, I'll be traveling from coast to coast working with various disability groups and rehab professionals to draw awareness for Canada's Paralympic team. This combined media tour and outreach effort to encourage participation in disabled sport will, I am sure, prove to be a great advantage to the entire paralympic movement. In part, I believe this is because we will be relying on the prudent strategy required of a well-timed coordination of efforts.

Hopefully, by the end of our efforts, we will be able to notice a marked increase in the interest the media has for paralympic sport.

That being said, events can be used and taken advantage of in many different circumstances. They also:

Can be used to thank your existing customers for their support. Looking to shore up your clientele base can often be best accomplished by making them aware of your appreciation. Holding a customer appreciation day or special sale brings to light for them their importance to you and in a sense, a form of membership in your organization. Once this happens, they will be more likely to provide you with more referrals. At the event, consider handing out a special membership to your preferred clients.

Events can also provide an excuse to celebrate the holidays. Invite your prospects and customers out for a Christmas party. Trust me, they'll think of you as a friend and more than just a sales rep. I'll bet you'll agree that it's harder to say no to a friend than a stranger! Interesting enough, these parties are often viewed as opportunities for networking for your prospects as well. The saying that all business is personal is very pertinent in this application of promotional event marketing. Remind attendees to bring business cards and make them available to all. If your attendees realize your event could be beneficial for their business, they'll have just one more reason to positively remember your brand.

Promote a new product line. Think of Sony, Coca Cola, Ford, on any other big brand name. When any of them have a new product, one of the first actions taken includes an announcement to the media with an official launch. In the case of Apple Computer, the most recent launch of the iPod Nano was shrouded in secrecy. The rumour mill nonetheless built up enough interest that the product's launch event became news in itself. Personally, I can attest to the model of a local MINI dealership launch of the MINI Convertible. Invitations for a private party were sent to preferred customers and as a result, customers were given a sense of privileged status.

As I alluded to before, organize a networking event. After time and if you organize enough of them, you'll build up enough PR capital as THE go between in the community. Don't think this won't have an impact on your bottom line and your business image!

As you can see, PR is more than just connecting with the media. It's also about reaching out to the public and creating a lasting image. Try connecting now with your prospects, clients, and the general public...you might even make a friend!

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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Quebec's Opposition moves towards more business support

As referenced in Corridors, my e-newsletter for Government relations, I have spent the weekend in Laval, Quebec observing the bi-annual Action democratique du Quebec's (ADQ) Congress. For those not aware of Quebec politics, the ADQ is the Official Opposition in Quebec's National Assembly. A great opportunity to connect with various members of the caucus, including Mario Dumont the leader, a number of important policy initiatives were undertaken.

The weekend's theme centred around a number of issues important to businesses who may have an interest in following government policy as it concerns government financing of large scale projects. A considerable turn from the past, the ADQ seems to be taking steps towards a more direct interest in partnering with big business. While the full context of the issues is yet to be placed online, a summary is available. Notably, the ADQ is now engaging itself towards supporting large scale investments in the Caisse de Depot that will work with investors looking to build up Quebec businesses. Substantial calls for more tax credits for large scale business start ups was also the call of the weekend. Finally, immigration reform to the tune of facilitating immigrant integration was also taken up.

What does this mean for those interested in lobbying? With a minority government in Quebec lead by the Charest Liberals prone towards supporting government help for business and now a receptive Official Opposition, corporations and business associations with particular projects desired to be pushed forward, now is the time to start a government relations campaign.

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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Highlights of Quebec's budget

For those who have followed Action Strategies' work in government relations, you will know that we also have a keen eye on what goes on in Quebec City. On March 13, Quebec Finance Minister, Monique Jerome-Forget released the 2008 budget. Where this will place Jean Charest's minority Liberal government stability remains to be seen. However, it is unlikely either the Action democratique du Quebec (ADQ) or Parti Quebecois (PQ) will feel themselves in a strong enough position to force an election.

It appears though that there will be enough in the budget for at least one or both of the opposition parties to continue propping up the government. In essence, here are a few of the elements presented by the Quebec Liberals:

 Completely eliminating, as of immediately, the tax on capital for all Québec firms in the manufacturing sector;
 Introducing a new investment tax credit available to all Quebec regions;
 Introducing a new tax credit to support the information technologies industry, available throughout Quebec.

 An investment of 250 million dollars over five years in universities;
 The launch of the Employment Pact that will enable as many Quebecers as
possible to integrate the labour market;
 A 20% increase in the funding for immigration, in particular for the integration and francization of newcomers.

 An increase from $1 500 to $2 000 over two years in the maximum amount of the tax credit for retirement income;
 A new 30% tax credit for informal caregivers to cover part of the expenses incurred to obtain replacement help;

 Limiting spending growth to 4.2% in 2008-2009;
 Making the government’s main missions—health, education and support for families—the investment priority;
 Increasing from 50% to 75% the share of Hydro-Quebec’s profits paid as
dividends to the government, which will avoid the addition of $11 billion to the
government debt by 2025.
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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

A summary of the Federal Budget

The 2008 federal budget came and went by like many federal budgets. As always, these are times lobbyists are keen to pay attention to the finer details of what was mentioned and often, what was not mentioned. Budgets set the policy direction for a government and its list of priorities. For a government relations consultant to be effective, I believe they need to advise their clients and watch out for the following elements:

1. Most obviously, was my client's issue addressed? Was it left out and were their "opponent's" views considered? Either way, this is a time for both client and consultant to review the situation, decide on next steps, and communicate your message to your publics, stakeholders, and to the media.

2. Prior to the launch of the budget, there's a carefully developed checklist needed. Did your counsel suggest and prepare presentations before committee? Did you seek out any champions for your cause amongst MPs and Senators? Don't forget the gatekeepers! Executive, Legislative and Administrative Assistants will ease your entry into legislative offices, so treat them well.

3. How well researched was your point and could it have fit in with the government's agenda? GR Consultants offer the value of not just bridge building but also researching how your point can have the most success potential and be communicated in government policy lingo that politicians will understand.

While the full context of the budget can be found out at www.budget.gc.ca, some of the hot topic subjects of the day that I find my clients and subscribers to Corridors follow were addressed:

1. Environment: Always a hot issue over the last 2 years, the Conservatives launched an ecoAction plan. A key element of the plan is the regulatory framework for industrial air emissions, which will impose binding national regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants across all major industrial sectors. The ecoACTION plan also includes a mandatory fuel-efficiency standard for new cars and light trucks for the 2011 model year and standards and regulations for other forms of transportation, renewable fuels, and the energy efficiency of consumer and commercial products.

2. Infrastructure: Those in the construction industry or following municipalities, were also considered with the development of an Advantage Canada program. Investments in infrastructure were announced to reduce road congestion and travel times and ensure efficient movement of goods to market. Quality infrastructure, such as reliable water systems and public transit were also announced.

3. International assistance: Canada committed to double international assistance by 2010–11 from 2001–02 levels. Budget 2008 delivered on this promise. It ensures that the funding is in place to bring Canada’s total international assistance to $5 billion by 2010–11.

4. Tax-free savings accounts (T-FSAs): Probably one of the most fundamental changes in the tax scheme from this recent budget was the introduction of T-FSAs. The accounts will be a flexible savings vehicle that allows Canadians to contribute up to $5,000 a year to the account. Investment income, including capital gains, earned within the account will not be taxed and withdrawals will be tax-free.

5. Sport investment: On the sport front, my clients in the Canadian Paralympic Committee were happy to learn Budget 2008 provides funding of $24 million over the next two years and $24 million per year ongoing to support the Road to Excellence. Still short of the needed $30 million, the funding will nonetheless enhance the Government’s excellence programming for summer athletes, increasing the number of coaches, training camps and opportunities for our athletes to compete internationally.
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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good presentations, events, and marketing yourself...a lesson of what NOT to do!

Ok...it's not often I use this blog to rant. In fact, I would say that I try to keep this forum rather calm and professional. After attending what I believed would be a joint web marketing and internet payment processing breakfast seminar for non-profit organizations (after all, my main clientele is with non-profits and associations), I have been prompted to write something on the subject of appropriately inviting large amounts of guests out for breakfast and luncheon seminars - especially if you plan on using them to market your expertise.

Earlier this month, Deloitte & Touche and Moneris held an info-seminar for non-profits, undoubtedly with the objective of marketing their expertise in web marketing and online payment processing. While I most certainly do not fault them for using this approach (in fact I fully agree with this approach in publicity and marketing), I feel compelled to share some experiences of what NOT to do when giving a presentation, especially if you are tying the presentation to an event designed to market your services and build awareness. Regrettably, the representatives of Moneris did not follow this advice:

1. For God sakes people....if you're going to write every single note you have on your PowerPoint slides, PLEASE just spare me the presentation and mail me the notes! Most people who would be qualified to attend your sales presentation are busy people and literate. We don't need you to read out everything we can clearly see!

2. Don't speak in a monotone voice.

3. If you are going to call me and my colleagues in to present your case as to why you think your widget is the best thing since sliced bread, at least add a slice of education into the presentation. Leave me feeling that my time was well spent. Simply pitching over and over just leaves you talking over the heads of your audience.

4. Don't talk about features only. If you've spent all your time telling me what colours "doo-hicky" A come in versus "doo-hicky" B, where am I left to understand how your product or service actually fills a need I have?

5. COME PREPARED!!!! Nothing kills your brand and credibility faster if at the end of your presentation, the presenter cannot answer any of the audience's questions. While I could not bear another moment of the presentation, members of my staff reported that Moneris' sales rep constantly had to refer to a colleague for questions from the audience....hardly something to inspire confidence!

Now, don't get me wrong. I am a firm believer in using breakfasts or luncheons to show off a company's expertise and prove the credibility of your claims. However, when you don't take the trouble to present your case in a rehearsed, engaged or interesting format; you blow away any credibility or linkage that could have existed. So, if there is anything to be learned from this experience is that all the best marketing and public relations tactics in the world will backfire if care and attention to delivery and brand experience are not considered.

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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Are PR efforts to Ethnic Communities worth it?

It seems the answer would be YES if you talk to Fred Sherman of Nexus Africa! In late November, I interviewed Fred, the host of Ottawa's newest radio show for the African-Canadian community. In his opinion, marketing and communicating to ethnic communities is becoming more important than ever. Tune into my podcast interview with him on the Magnifier.

If you do a preliminary search on the internet for the subject of "Public Relations to Ethnic Communities", there's a multitude of subjects that come up. In the United States, some press release distribution services now specialize in reaching them. BlackPR is one interesting example. Their's is a service that broadcasts your news release out to the African-America community throughout the United States. With what I believe is an estimated population of 8 million alone, reaching out with a specific and targeted message to this community is potentially powerful.

Toronto is now a city where 50% of the population was born in a country other than Canada. According to New California Media, 13 percent of the U.S. population now turns primarily to ethnic media. If you only pitch publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Time, you will leave out a huge chunk of your potential audience. More than ever, a complete media strategy requires reaching out to ethnic publications.

Many of Canada's political parties recognize this as well and will even appoint specialized PR professionals to reach out specifically to multi-cultural communities as well.

In a media relations campaign I did for the Canadian Ski Council, we took a very targeted approach in reaching out to ethnic media. Recognizing that many immigrant kids were not taking up winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, the Canadian Ski Council invited a group of underprivileged Toronto area kids out to the slopes for a school field trip. Focusing on Toronto's diverse media outlets, Action Strategies placed particular attention towards attracting those ethnic radio stations with an interest in sports with interesting results.

So in brief, to answer the question earlier of "whether PR efforts to Ethnic Communities matters", the answer is indeed YES!
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Networking, keeping in touch & investing in friendships

In my recent newsletter for Public relations the Magnifier, I made mention of my October podcast on Networking and PR. In this episode, I drove home the importance of viewing networking as more than just an exercise in collecting business cards. Public Relations and the business of nurturing relationships is crucial in building good rapport.

For government relations, the case is no different. I had the fortune of reconnecting with two old friends and colleagues this past Saturday and a Conservative Party function here in Ottawa. Both an old friend of mine, Pierre Poilievre and my former employer Jason Kenney, MP were present at the Nepean Carleton Conservative Association's annual breakfast. While it usually doesn't take much to convince me to get out for bacon and eggs, there was at least one important fact I was reminded of.

Sometimes in the hullabaloo of our everyday lives we forget the importance of just showing our faces to those with influence. More importantly, expressing one's support for an MP or candidate is an important gesture of paying it forward. Whatever your political affiliation, I recommend reconnecting or connecting with your local and regional political associations. A contact made today could help tomorrow.
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Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Great Example of Video Used in a News Release

In my recent issue of the Magnifier Newsletter on Public Relations, I touched on the subject of using and leveraging video clips for effective public relations. In doing some research on the internet, I found this great example of how an organization looking to promote a recent medical study in the media incorporated great video TV stations can use and a ready made interview clipping.

If your organization has the resources, I highly recommend developing promotional pieces like this one here:

video

Developing good and ready to use video the media can find valuable involves important considerations. In October, I developed a podcast episode that touched on this

Check it out by following my October 17, 2007 episode on the subject The Importance of Providing Good Audio & Video Clippings in Public Relations.

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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign or integrating audio & video in your marketing communications. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.