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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 Qu├ębec 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.