Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

While my regular posts have been ''business type'', I'm hoping all of you out there have been able to take a moment aside to appreciate the finer points in things. Namely; family, friends and the companionship of those you love. Until my next blog to all of you, my best wishes to all for a happy holiday season!

Stay safe!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

This month's department profile: Canada Border Services Agency

The CBSA administers more than 90 acts, regulations and international agreements on behalf of other federal departments and agencies, the provinces and the territories.

Among them are:

* Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act
* Canada Agricultural Products Act
* Citizenship Act
* Criminal Code
* Customs Act
* Customs Tariff
* Excise Act
* Excise Act, 2001
* Export and Import Permits Act
* Feeds Act
* Fertilizers Act
* Fish Inspection Act
* Food and Drugs Act
* Health of Animals Act
* Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
* Meat Inspection Act
* Plant Protection Act
* Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act
* Seeds Act
* Special Import Measures Act

Since December 2003, the CBSA has been an integral part of the Public Safety Portfolio, which was created to protect Canadians and maintain a peaceful and safe society. The President of the CBSA reports directly to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) - Stockwell Day, and controls and manages all matters relating to the Agency. Alain Jolicoeur is the President of the Agency.

Ok...so you may be thinking so what?

In an era where trade is ever more dependant on free flowing borders, those who monitor Ottawa would be wise to pay close attention to the agency. In fact, if one pays any attention at all to what's going on in world trade these days, security appears to be topping the list in terms of legislative priorities here in Canada and in the US. In political terms, the Conservatives are pressed to show that they can deal with the Americans and move their trade issues ahead in Washington. For this to happen, Minister Day needs to show that security is a Canadian priority.

It's a juggling act that I wouldn't wish on too many. That being said, for the practice of government relations, where there are juggling acts...there exists a definte need to add finesse and skill. CBSA is holding a series of consultations. Three of the current consultations are as follows:

Border Commercial Consultative Committee
Provides CBSA officials and commercial stakeholders with a forum for dialogue on Canada's border operations. The purpose of these consultations, in general terms, is to promote mutually beneficial collaboration between the CBSA and the Canadian commercial trade community on border matters to the benefit of Canada, the Canadian economy and Canada's trade sector. The committee's most recent hearing was on May 9, 2006.

Canada Border Services Advisory Committee
Provides independent advice and serves as a sounding board on major trends and developments that may affect the management of Canada's border, as well as the priorities, business and operations of the CBSA. The committee's most recent hearing was on April 26, 2006.

Fairness Initiative
The CBSA has launched a consultation process to ensure that Canadians and visitors to Canada are treated fairly and can expect to receive the best possible service when crossing the border and in all other dealings with the CBSA. This Initiative includes a series of proposed commitments on how people should expect to be treated by the CBSA. The CBSA will start consulting immediately with clients and stakeholders, including members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security and Ethno-cultural communities, in order to obtain their feedback. These consultations will be conducted across the country until the fall. The CBSA wants to ensure its clients' views and perceptions are taken into consideration in the development of a comprehensive, unbiased and transparent Fairness Initiative.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Story telling for NGOs: The key to winning GR success

By Jennifer Bradd

Today, it seems everyone is telling stories: on talk shows, on the Internet, and for hours and hours with cheap long distance rates. Missing from this information cacophony are the voices that sing the stories of the people who are working for a common good in the charitable sector.

Whether your charity advocates human rights, solar-powered energy, or affordable social housing, you play a vital role in Canada’s economy and contribute to the development of our civil society. Here are four reasons to make a commitment to telling your charity’s story:

To put (and keep) your issue on the public agenda.

Education is the key to raising public awareness about any issue. People cannot act until they care about something. They will not care until they’re informed. Telling the story of your issue or organization is the first step to engaging the public’s interest in it.

To build support, attract members and increase donations to your cause.

By telling your story, you will attract new donors and tap into new networks. You will be educating people and then empowering them to take whatever actions are needed to help you reach your goals: volunteering, writing letters, writing cheques....

To increase the credibility of your organization.

Name recognition will give your organization credibility. People repeatedly return to what they are familiar with, so ensure that they are familiar with your name, slogan, logo and purpose. Share your stories in newsletters, on your website, with reporters and with people in line at the grocery store!

To make sure your story is told in your words.

You are the best person to tell your organization’s story—you have the passion, you
know the facts and you know how you want your listeners to respond. Being proactive,
telling your story before someone else does, will put you in a much stronger position to achieve your organizational goals.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Value of Conducting a Communications Audit

In some instances, usually larger organizations, communications audits can even aim to get the pulse of what employees or members of an association generally feel about the efforts made to communicate with them.

For example, if your organization is above 50 employees, are you aware of your employees' overall impression is of the direction of the company? If you're a non-profit that's looking to make a difference in fundraising dollars or motivate
government, what impressions do the public or your members hold of your executives or even your image?

Failing to grasp whether your communications and PR are in touch with a brand image will likely mean a publicity campaign will be off it's mark. If your marketing collateral isn't the right tool for the job of creating new sales opportunities, then it doesn't matter how pretty it is, or how much it cost to produce. It just won't get the job done efficiently.

You're Only As Good As Your Tools

And a communications audit can tell you just how good your tools are. Before going into any campaign or even a communications plan, I've recommended organizations review these important pieces of their brand and the public relations efforts:

First: Conduct interviews with your staff to review current challenges, perceptions, and infrastructure in place to accommodate effective membership and external communication

Second: Development of a membership or customer survey

In these instances, Action Strategies usually undertakes the mailing, follow up, and tabulation of results to determine satisfaction and overall perception. It's usually recommended that at least 25% of your base should be surveyed. Your top twenty media outlets, target publics and/or key government contacts of relevance to your issues, (creating a random list) need to be interviewed on their perceptions and the effectiveness of your communications to them.

Third, I believe it is essential for a complete audit of your internal and promotional materials (web, print, etc.) be conducted to ensure consistency with your brand.

While these cover the basis http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.spell.gif of a communications audit, they should not be considered exclusive. Like any marketing or PR campaign, there are rare times when a cookie cutter approach can be applied. Over the years, I've developed an approach that is more in depth and thorough. I invite you to drop me a line and leave your comments here for others to see as well.

Happy auditing!

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

This Website Sucks! How to turn your website into a brand builder.

By Tara O'Doherty
Principal, User Experience Practice

Yes, it is true that the Canadian digital marketing field has evolved greatly over the last five years, but we are still two-to-three years behind the US and Europe on the creation of usable and profitable interactive environments. Why is this the case? Two reasons - first, we are not optimizing our user experiences and secondly, usability integration as a method & process are still being perceived as expendable in Canada.

The good news is that there are two guiding principles that one can integrate in order to guarantee a successful and usable interactive experience. These guidelines are applicable for all interactive environments - whether it is an intranet, IVR, ITV, or mobile environment.

Success Guideline #1: Ensure that all of your development cycles, no matter how big or small, include the expertise of a true User Experience Expert (a.k.a. Usability Expert).

Now, don't panic, this is not going to cost you a fortune nor will it eat up your schedule. There are a variety of methods that your usability professional may recommend - and to be honest usability testing is not always the right answer. User experience methods include, but are not limited to: requirements gathering, persona/usage scenario development, user interface structure development (information architecture and wireframes), heuristic evaluations (a.k.a. Expert Usability Reviews), in-situ (field studies), and usability tests.

The key learning from this first guildeline is to understand that a true Usability Professional is not also a creative designer nor a programmer, or my personal favorite - someone who went to one Jakob Nielsen seminar last spring. Contrary to popular belief, usability is not 'common sense' - it's a science. Frankly, for one to be considered an expert in the usability field one must have several years (ideally 5+) experience behind them, specifically in user experience (usability) methodology and implementation, several redesigns & optimizations under their belt, and ideally a scholastic background to support their years of experience. Anything less and you'll be wasting money, time, and in the end risking your potential success. After all, you would not hire an interior designer to take the place of an architect when building a new home, would you?

Success Guideline #2: Enlist the aid of interactive wireframes and iterative usability tests every time to ensure that you eliminate potential usability issues prior to build.

So now that you have an expert who can predict human behavior and manipulate it to meet your business and communication goals (the true reason behind why you should hire a usability professional). you need to ensure that 80% of your audience can accomplish their primary tasks (use cases) at least 85% of the time.

How does one do this? Simply put, you follow an iterative design and development process that is user-centric.

What is iterative design? The concept of iterative design centers around the idea that design of a product/service/application should be done in repeated cycles where, in each cycle, the design is elaborated, refined, and validated by users/potential users, and the results of validation at each cycle feed into the design focus of the next cycle.

An iterative approach is imperative to your success as the number one reason most interactive environments are not running as efficiently and effectively as possible is that they lack a solid strategic structure and they are not being validated with potential users prior to launch. We in the field highly suggest you validate any and all User Interface (UI) Structures (information architecture, nomenclature, interaction design etc) before creative design or programming. Remember - 80% of usability (or lack there of) comes directly from the UI structure itself.

Insider Tip: Today most of us "in the know" have reaped the rewards of something quicker, smarter, and more cost effective then paper-based Visio wireframes. Update your iterative process by integrating rapid prototyping UX software - in the right hands, you'll be able to cut your UX development time, costs, and potential usability bottlenecks by up to 70%. It's also the only way to truly validate shopping carts and interactive forms/applications.

Every company with an interactive environment or application should be identifying and eliminating the usability bottlenecks prior to creative development and coding.

Ted Woodbery, Executive Director of MEdia Net over at Cingular Wireless in the US is a true believer in the process: "Given our tight development timelines, iterative user experience is mandatory to ensure we have enhancements to mobile products like MEdia Net and Cingular Video right before they are taken to market. These tests allow us to confirm with customers that our interfaces are intuitive and easy to navigate. If issues are discovered, fixes can be tested until the UI is ready to launch".

There is no time like the present to implement the iterative process. Interactive environments that are easy to use will reduce customer service costs, increase ROI, and increase overall brand perception. My recommendation for all Canadian companies would be to first benchmark their current usability success levels (efficiency, effectiveness, and user satisfaction) by running a usability test utilizing NIST (National Institute for Standards in Technology) and ISO (International Standards Organization) Standards. Once you know what is working and what is not working for your users, you can introduce the learnings from this article to optimize your environment in order to decrease user frustration and raise your success levels substantially.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Senate proving to be more and more influential

Had any doubts about the role of the Senate? Let the example of the current legislative gridlock leave no more doubt.

Already, the voyage of the federal accountability act has been longer and bumpier than the government had hoped. When it was first tabled in April, the Conservatives were counting on swift passage through both houses. They had run a campaign focused on cleaning up the way government does business and bringing in more accountability for politicians and bureaucrats, and the act was their central action plan.

But after moving quickly through the Commons in 72 days, the legislation stalled at the Senate for nearly five months. The Conservatives accused the Liberals of foot-dragging in their own self-interest.

Liberal Senators said their colleagues in the House were too terrified by public opinion to raise legitimate objections about poorly framed legislation. MPs of all stripes rushed to back a major bill that affected dozens of federal statutes, and senators said they wanted to take their time to make it right.

Any thoughts? Is this likely to be indicative of more recognition of the Senate in lobbying efforts.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

The Auditor General and the Environment

When most politicos hear of the Auditor General, they think of the annual report given on the state of the government's finances. Yet, there's another perhaps less known role most Canadians may not know of when it comes to the AG. It seems the AG now accepts submissions from ordinary Canadians and environmental NGOs. The environmental petitions process is a formal way for Canadians to bring concerns about the environment and sustainable development to the attention of federal ministers, and obtain a timely response.

The environmental petitions process was created as a result of a 1995 amendment to the Auditor General Act. On behalf of the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development manages the petitions process and monitors responses by making sure that the questions and issues that Canadians raise are answered by federal ministers.

The Commissioner reports annually to Parliament, and each report contains a chapter on environmental petitions. The chapter reports on petitions activities from the previous year and often contains audits of selected petition responses on topics as diverse as genetically engineered fish, military dumpsites off Canada’s Atlantic coast, insurance for nuclear operators, and guidelines for listing species at risk.

In my view, where this seems to be of most application is in accordance with new opportunites for environmental ENGOs (environmental NGOs). If native bands or pressure groups want to call the government accountable on environmental initiatives, a petition to the Auditor General to investigate could be very embarrasing.

With Kyoto a constant sore point for the current government and criticism of their Clean Air Act mounting, could the use of this process increase as well? Time will tell. It will be incumbent on industry, associations and ENGOs to monitor the Auditor General's Office more carefully. They will need to be vigilant with any hired lobbyists to ensure they are covering all potential bases. Equally important, government relations plans will need to review where the AG fits into overall efforts.

For more information on the environmental petition process, visit the Commissioner of the Environment Process website.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Think you know your clientele and market? Are you sure about that...

Regrettably, when it comes to marketing, so many businesses fall victim to the sin of over confidence in what they believe their customers want, what they think, and what the competition is up to. The results can be different from one enterprise to the next but if left unchecked for too long, it often means leaving money on the table by letting pass many great opportunities for client loyalty and new revenue sources. The truth comes back to what I have often repeated time and time again: ''If you fail to plan, You plan to fail''.

I maintain that for a company to remain dynamic, it is essential for it to do a serious soul searching every few years. A SWOT analysis needs to be done to review what has changed since the company was started. Are the marketing efforts used currently and in the past still effective? What's happening in the lives of your target market that could potentially involve a change in their buying habits? Can you honestly say you know the answer to that beyond a question of a doubt?

The bottom line is that being in business is a dicey venture even in the best of times. Reviewing or completing a marketing plan is not something that should be reserved solely for new businesses. Every business needs to look inwardly from time to time. The investment of time and money now in preparation for 2007 may seem like a distraction from every day business but isn't a little self-reassurance worth it?

Any thoughts?


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. Action Strategies has recently expanded its services into professional podcasting for clients looking to leverage electronic PR opportunities for greater publicity. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Can't get media coverage? Use Technology.

From satellite radio to blogging, from podcasts to internet marketing and RSS; technology is ever more pervasive not only in our lives but also in public relations. New techniques are being used to subvert sending messages through third parties (i.e the media) and get them directly to where we want them: the public. Moreover, these techniques are able to avoid broadcasting in favour of narrowcasting. Narrowcasting is the practice of carefully identifying a target audience and crafting a message that speaks directly to it. Unlike broadcasting, its focus and target is much more specific.

Many professionals I come across are concerned (with good reason) with how they can get the biggest bang for their publicity buck. More and more, I'm advising clients and prospects to consider new technology routes in PR as a means of reaching their most desired targets. What are these routes? Let's review some of the options.

Satellite & Internet Radio

Have you heard of XM Radio? As a growing phenomena, more and more North Americans are buying those nifty portable radios that offer hundreds of specialized stations on subjects and genres ranging from the mainstream to the wacky. Are you a bluegrass fan? With Satellite radio, you can subscribe to a station that serves up nothing but bluegrass music and interviews on bluegrass music. Does your business offer combined personal and business motivation strategies? Why not consider getting your message pitched to the producer of the station focusing on personal motivation? Believe it or not, such stations exist and they have a following of a dedicated audience!

In terms of internet radio, there are hundreds of opportunities to become a guest on a show or even host your very own one! One instance of interest for entrepreneurs is EntrepreneurRadio.com. The website is an active radio station with numerous shows from which web visitors can regularly tune in. For a small fee, you can even pitch your own show concept. The popularity of this medium of narrowcasting is even attracting the interest of advertisers looking to sell wares that in a traditional broadcasting medium, might lose out on effect. With Internet Radio, one is not pushing a message out to a general public that may or may not have an interest in your services.

Podcasts, blogging, and RSS

Wow! Don't get blown away with the techie terminology. Here's a breakdown. Podcasts are the newest line of services Action Strategies has broken into. Basically, podcasts are an offshoot of internet radio but they have one important difference: they have the portability of being downloaded anywhere and anytime. Unlike internet radio or regular audio files, podcasts can be stored in one's iPod or music player. They can also be searchable on the internet via search engines. More information on podcasts will be following in subsequent blog postings.

In terms of blogging and RSS, the two are concepts that go hand in hand. As many are aware (especially as you are currently reading a blog), blogs a regular journals that allow readers to leave feedback and opinions. In terms of PR, blogging is a gold mine in terms of gaining immediate feedback from your target publics, assuming you have a critical mass of regular readers. RSS however, augments the experience of the blog reader.

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) allows an interested party to subscribe to a news feed through readily available and often free software called RSS readers. The benefit of RSS enabling your blog or website is that your interested publics can now have updates or notices of updates to your web message sent to them directly by email or through their RSS reader. No longer will they need to remember to visit your website on a regular basis. The result? More familiarity with your message! With the overflow of information most face on a daily basis, people have less and less time to visit umpteen numbers of websites. Your RSS feed directly to your audience provides an uninteresting means of reminding them of what you're up to.

The bottom line

You need to view your publicity efforts in a three dimensional aspect. Media relations is an excellent vehicle for publicity but it should never be viewed as the sole vehicle towards your objectives.


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. Action Strategies has recently expanded its services into professional podcasting for clients looking to leverage electronic PR opportunities for greater publicity. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Understanding Agriculture Canada

Along with Agriculture Canada and Agrifoods Canada (AAFC), the organizations within the portfolio support the Minister with advice and guidance relating to their particular sectors. The most relevant agencies under the portfolio of the Minister of Agriculture include:

* Canadian Dairy Commission oversees pricing, policy co-ordination and marketing for the Canadian dairy sector.
* Canadian Food Inspection Agency delivers all federal inspection services related to food, animal health and plant protection.
* Canadian Grain Commission is responsible for grain quality and quantity assurance, research, and producer protection.
* Farm Credit Canada delivers financial services to all sectors of agriculture -- primary producers, value-added businesses and suppliers.
* National Farm Products Council supervises the operations of national marketing agencies or promotion and research agencies established under the Farm Products Agencies Act.

Each of these agencies has their own bureaucracy with most often a direct rapport with the Parliamentary Secretaries of Agriculture. It therefore goes without saying that your lobbying efforts on this front should take into consideration the concerns of the Parliamentary Secretaries an just just the Minister himself. Do your environmental scan and understand where you can most effectively get your message through.

If your lobbying needs are much higher at the top, you would be wise to learn the organization chart of the Minister's office. To get a greater understanding of the Minister's office, click on the image here for an enlarged version:

While each department is different, learning from the example of Agriculture Canada's set up is a good means of getting a grasp on the understanding of Ministerial offices. In coming issues, other departments will be broken down as well.


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Keeping Your Lobbying above Board

by Guy W. Giorno

A CEO who fails to file or who reports inaccurately is guilty of a federal offence. Heightening the stakes is the fact that failure to report and reporting inaccurately are strict liability offences, meaning that a CEO can be convicted even if he or she
did not intend to break the law.

Parliament’s approach to CEOs is much more severe than that of the provincial legislatures. In British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario, a corporation’s employees are individually responsible to register as lobbyists.11 Even the Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec laws, which place responsibility for filing on the corporate CEO, extend responsibility to the individual employees by providing that an employee who engages in unregistered lobbying is guilty of an offence.

Subject to the approval of Parliament, the new federal government intends to make the
federal laws even stricter. Proposed legislation would “ban success or contingency fee arrangements,” a practice currently permitted in provincial lobbying everywhere except Quebec. The New Democrats and Bloc Québécois are on record supporting this reform.

The new government also proposes to amend the federal Act to “Require ministers and
senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists.” This reform, long advocated by Democracy Watch, would be the most fundamental change to Canada’s lobbying laws since the federal statute was passed in 1988. Until now, the obligation to record and report on activity has rested solely on lobbyists and their employers. Those who are the subject of lobbying efforts have to date been free from any requirements of transparency or disclosure.

Democracy Watch has argued, with justification, that it is appropriate to ask those elected to public office and those employed to serve Canadians in government to account for their contacts with persons outside government. The new government agrees and, if Parliament concurs, both government officials and lobbyists will be required to report on contacts with each other.

Recent and pending changes to the federal law have implications for all jurisdictions. In past, the federal lobbyists registration statute has presaged legislative developments at the provincial level, at least in the provinces outside Quebec.

The Diminishing Importance of “Who You Know”

In addition to reforms to increase openness and transparency, the lobbying industry faces a fundamental transformation in how it does business. In the wake of controversy over “insiders” plying their trade, the old-fashioned model of access-based lobbying, still practised by some, faces combined pressure from public dissatisfaction, media scrutiny, and heightened enforcement.

Three areas in particular are now coming under increasing scrutiny: (1) the connection between political fundraising and lobbying; (2) the connection between lobbying and political advice/campaign support; and (3) the provision of services to government departments or agencies that one also happens to be lobbying.

Such activity has already attracted the attention of various advocates of reform. For example, the changes being championed by Democracy Watch include the following: Lobbyists should be required to disclose past or current work with
governments, political parties, or candidates for federal public office.

Lobbyists should be prohibited from serving in senior positions on campaigns of political parties or candidates (as is prohibited in Maryland and New Mexico).

Lobbyists should be prohibited from doing work with government departments they are lobbying, and from having business connections with anyone who does such work.

Among the Opposition parties, the NDP echoes the last of these recommendations. It
explains that “communications consultants should be obliged to decide whether they wish to be private lobbyists or public service confidantes. They should not be allowed to be both.

Meanwhile, following 214 days of hearings in the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry and
the Toronto External Contracts Inquiry, Madam Justice Denise Bellamy recommended that, “113. Professional lobbyists should not engage in any type of political fundraising for candidates or councillors they lobby, beyond making their own donations.

Amid the uncertainty of rules that continue to evolve and change, one thing is clear: the opportunities for old-fashioned, access-based lobbying are diminishing. This trend has obvious implications for companies that engage or employ lobbyists, but also for Canadians, who stand to benefit.

Guy W. Giorno is an attorney at law with Fasken Martineau


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Writing Query Letters to Publish Articles

In the PR professional's handbag, is a tool known as the pitch letter. Very few people understand that the pitch letter is even more important than a press release when it comes to PR.

Very similar in purpose to a query, the pitch letter is meant to gain a media person's attention and make him or her ask for more. Unfortunately, there are plenty of books on how to write a killer query and virtually none on how to write a perfect pitch letter. Most PR people learn how to craft a pitch letter from trial and error (and advice when they can find it).

First things first - format: A pitch letter, like a query, should be limited to a single page. Limit your prose to three paragraphs and keep them clean, concise and direct. Use one inch margins and print it on letterhead or nice quality stationary. Make sure you have called ahead of time and gotten the correct spelling of the person's name and his or her title. If you aren't sure whether the person is a Mr. or a Ms., ask. If you don't know who you're looking for, ask. It is perfectly acceptable to say, "Could you tell me who books talent for the Leeza show? Do you know how far in advance they book a show?" It is better to play dumb and ask lots of questions than send your material to the wrong person. If you think the slush pile at a publishing house is ominous, it is nothing compared to a producer or editor's collection of daily pitches and press packets. A pitch letter can be sent alone or as a cover letter to your press release/press packet.

The first paragraph should introduce yourself and the subject. This is where you need a hook, but one that explains exactly what you have to offer, who you are, when the event is happening and where it will be. These are known as the five W's of journalism and should be included in every pitch letter and press release you write.

The second paragraph should explain why the producer or editor/reporter should have you on the show or include you in an article in their publication. For city and regional media, give them a local angle. It can showcase you as a local person, give a local example of a national incident or trend, or be related to the community. An example would be if you saw an article in the Wall Street Journal on how writing a book can be a quick road to success. Copy the article and attach it to a pitch letter that offers to give the reporter an inside look at what really happens to authors from a local source.

For national television, radio and print media, tie yourself to a national trend or incident. If you have a book coming out and want to get on the radio, tie the controversy of America's obsession with the Clinton "sex" scandal to the misinterpretation of romance books as "sex" books as a comment on our society. Remember that reporters are always looking for material that can be tied to a holiday, is timely or gives a new slant to a current trend or issue.

The third paragraph explains how you can be reached. Give them phone numbers and voice mail even if it is already printed on your letterhead. Always end your pitch letter by saying that you'll be contacting them and tell them when (such as next week, the beginning of the month or you can be specific and say a day.)
Above all, make sure that what you are pitching is what the media person needs. Don't pitch your book signing to the gardening editor or the financial editor, you'll only make enemies. Research is important. Look at back issues of a publication or watch/listen to a show before you pitch. Get to know what types of people they interview, what topics seem to repeated often and which journalist is the one reporting. If this seems like a lot of work, it is. But thorough investigation will pay off in better responses from the media. Their number one complaint is that they receive material which is not suited to their publication or show.

Media people need and want fresh ideas for their publications and shows. If you give them what they need, and make it easy for them, the more likely they will be to use your material and possibly interview you. Remember to think like a journalist on a deadline when you're writing a pitch letter.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Six Future Trends Changing Marketing

By Mary Brown

1. Consumers Are the New Creative Directors

Brands that create a process of discovery drive passion and ownership of the brand. Consumers like being the creative director and feeling in control of shaping the products and brand. Born from consumers' desire to differentiate themselves from the mass market, this trend toward customization will continue to grow with the flexibility and efficiencies offered by technology at home and in manufacturing.

2. Cynicism Raises the Bar for Authenticity

With consumer cynicism about marketing at an all-time high, brands must cultivate authenticity on a level never demanded before. Consumers are smart, resourceful and savvy. If your brand doesn't deliver on all its promises, or fails to speak to a consumer's specific, personal needs, your brand will become irrelevant, or worse: a pariah.

Conveying brand messages via third parties, especially if they are a trusted, impartial source, will be better received. We'll see an increase in brands using the more transparent channels of public relations, sponsorship, niche interaction, word-of-mouth/buzz and blogs to deliver seemingly unbiased brand communications.

3. Multitasking and Info Overload: Don't Waste My Time

Consumers look to companies, media and marketers to provide information filters—tools to edit the mass amount of data available. As Robyn Waters, trends guru and former VP of Trend, Design and Product Development for Target, points out, "too much information without editing is toxic."

To effectively filter and communicate relevant data to a specific consumer, brands will need to be well versed in the art and science of interpreting, translating and delivering information. This requires cultural, ethnic, gender and generational expertise as well as sophisticated global knowledge of word associations and linguistics.

4.Humanisticn of Technology

Successful brands will "humanize" technology by delivering a brand experience where the technology is transparent to the consumer. Products, services and communications fashioned around innate human behavior, instead of the ideals of a programmer, will win consumers.

5. From Multi-Channel to Uni-Channel

Increasingly, consumers will be less aware of separate marketing channels. Instead, all experiences of brand communications will be perceived as one all-encompassing, 360-degree, 3-D channel. Brands can prepare now by investing in creating a consistent and integrated customer experience across today's communications channels.

6. Trends in Trending

With more than ever a largerproportionn of the population aging, marketing will need to find ways of catering to this ever important demographic.

Mary Brown is president of Imago Creative. For more information, visit www.imagocreative.com.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It seems the times have changed the date of an election

Once again, the unstable nature of minority parliaments have shown themselves. I, as a result have to admit that perhaps the proverbial gun was jumped. A federal election in Canada now looks incredibly unlikely to occur. The opposition parties decided not to call the OM on his threat to call an election and the softwood lumber deal is going to go through. The question remains however, when will it be?

It seems the next likely date will be this Spring. Notwithstanding ''jumping the gun'', it is still wise to prepare your organization for the change in lobbying tactics you'll need when the writ is dropped. Have any thoughts? Let me know.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Contesting government buying decisions

Many entrepreneurs I come across in the Ottawa area have expressed an interest at one point or another in doing business with government. Many of them express frustration in the complicated process or have even accused the RFP issuers of already having a supplier in mind.

I want to touch on two subjects.

First, the latter is possible but it is not impossible to overcome. Well placed questions to RFP issuers are welcome. Just as in the sales process it is important to uncover the real motivations of a potential buyer's concerns; it is just as important to get to the heart of government purchasers concerns. For example, in a recent Communications RFSO available on the Merx system, I sent no less than 2 inquiries asking the purchaser to justify requirements I felt were unnecessary towards doing the job at hand.

I suppose the message here is that you should not be afraid to ask questions. You might just get them thinking!

Second, believe it or not, you can beat a lot of RFPs from ever making it to the Merx system by pricing your items under $25,000 and getting on the ''good list'' of decision makers. Believe me when I say it, if given the choice, many decision makers would prefer if they could just get on with the job. If you build relationships and market your company to the point of being top of mind, you could end up avoiding the headaches of frustrating challenges to RFP requirements.

Let me know your thoughts.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Is a federal election coming?

Ok, so the word is out. It seems the Prime Minister has drawn the battle lines along the softwood lumber deal. This fall, Parliament will be called upon to ratify the treaty signed earlier this year. The vote will be a confidence vote.

Chances are the Tories will lose the vote and the Liberals will be thrown into a frenzy trying to manage an election campaign at the same time as the party is seeking a leader. What's the PM's motivation?

The answer is simple. At no time sooner than now will he have a greater opportunity to secure a majority government. The polls seem to be confirming this fact. Interesting huh?

But here lies the crux of the problem if you're an organization head trying to get attention for your agenda: time is unfortunately, not on your side!

If you've managed to get attention for your issues up until now, my congratulations go out to you. My guess is that depending on how far along matters have progressed, you have a reasonable chance of seeing matters through to the end. The government will be anxious to demonstrate it has accomplished things and pushing initiatives through parliament in anticipation of an election is the way to go.

If however you've experienced challenges thusfar, you may want to consider shifting gears away from the bureaucracy of committees and parliament. Getting to know the potential campaign kingmakers of the various political parties may be the more appropriate route.

For example, how many of you have been plugged into the Liberal Leadership campaign? Yes, I know...they're in the opposition and don't influence day to day policy directly. BUT they can influence the direction of the governing Tories in how they perceive policy issues. Just as when the Alliance and later the Tories were in opposition, I maintain that it is sound government relations professionalism to maintain relationships with the opposition parties regardless of whether there is a majority or minority parliament.

Regrettably, many other practitioners don't see it that way but I digress.

Now is the time to push for recognition of your issues in the platforms of political parties. Far too many times, I have seen pressure groups attempt to get their issues recognized during an election. Beyond the attempt in getting media attention, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS???? By this point, it's TOO LATE!!!! Doing your work in advance of an election gets the parties to adopt your ideas once the election is taken forward. From there, you can watch the politicians talk up the importance of your concerns on a national and regional level.

If your issue is selling services and goods to government, my suggestion to you is to do everything possible to speed up the process. My experience has shown that government tends to go into buying paralysis during, just before, and after an election.

Let me know your thoughts.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Getting the Biggest Bang from Your Advertising

I'm going to let you in on something really interesting I learned a while back when having a discussion with a former ad sales rep and good friend of mine.

Here it is: It is very possible to advertise your organization in major publications at a fraction of the cost you may think!

One trick to use is monitoring the times when a given publication is printed. Did you know that newspaper and magazine sales reps don't always meet their weekly or daily quotas?

When this happens, they cannot go back to the publisher with empty spots in the publication. Having personally known sales reps for several newspapers, I've seen examples where even half-page full colour display ads have gone to small businesses at half price! All of this happened simply because the sales rep needed to fill in a page of the paper at the last minute. Given the choice, an editor would prefer to give away a steal than be robbed of any revenue at all!

However, this is not something that can be arranged all of the time. Beyond the obvious route of hiring a marketing professional to monitor and negotiate the best deals for you, the key here is...you guessed it:


As with PR, take time to invest in your contact building. It all pays off in the end. Please leave me your comments and let me know what you think.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Using Blog PR to Promote Your Website

Bloggers mold and shape the opinions of their readers, who are normally the most important in their particular industry, many of whom are also bloggers. Not long after a post from an influential blogger, your news has been picked up by several other bloggers and within days you are all over the blogsphere. Before you know it your site is getting more attention than it would if a story ran in the local newspaper! So how do you get the influential bloggers in your industry to run a story about your business?

Why Would Anyone Do a Story About Your Business?
Are you a new company? Did you just launch a new product that they could review? Did your business wín an award? Are you a group of college kids who started a company on savings from your summer jobs? You get the idea. There needs to be a reason that someone would want to read about you. Bloggers take pride in the content they feed their readers. You don't stand a chance of getting a blogger to write about you if you don't have a story that their readers will be interested in.

Research Bloggers in Your Industry
More is less when it comes to contacting bloggers. Buy a list of 1,000 bloggers and send out a generic email to all of them and you'll likely get no response. But send a small amount of personalized emails to the appropriate bloggers and you'll be shocked at how many positive responses you get.

The first step is to make a list of the bloggers that would be interested in your story. You can generally get a feel for whether or not a blogger would be interested in your story by reading a couple of posts and checking out their bio. If they've done a few similar stories in the past or they are heavily involved in your industry, there is a good chance they'll want to hear your story. If not, leave them off your list and move on.

The single best method that I have found to research blogs is the Technorati Blog Directory. You can peruse blogs in your industry in order of "authority" - how important Technorati thinks a blog is. This is extremely useful. For example, if you are in the travel industry, you can view a list of the most influential blogs in the world of travel.

Another great way to find the right bloggers is to search through your competitors press sections on their websites to see what blogs have mentioned them. You can also find out who has mentioned your competitors by looking at the sites that have linked to them (type in "links:www.theirsite.com" on Yahoo!). There's a good chance that if they found your competitors story interesting, they'll find your story interesting as well.

Compose Your Email
The best way to contact bloggers is by email. The good news is that most bloggers make themselves easy to access and provide their email addresses on their blogs. The bad news is that most people don't know what to do with said email address once they get it. Use the following outline for your email and you'll see amazing results:

  • Have a simple subject. You probably won't get many responses by treating your email like a press release and writing RELEASE in the subject line. Try something simple like "fan of your blog" or "comment about your blog." You want to make sure they actually read your email and don't mentally mark it as spam when they see the subject.

  • Start by complementing them. Since you've read their blog and learned about them from their bio, you know quite a bit about them. Use it to your advantage. Compliment them on your favorite post, or how cool it is that they worked for XYZ company.

  • Request them to post about you (be direct). In three sentences or less, tell them your story, why you think it would be of interest to them and their readers, and respectfully ask that they write a post about it. Be direct and to the point. They will respect that.

  • Offer something in return. You have something that could help them. Maybe it's a link back to their blog from your personal blog, or maybe you could provide them with a free product or service that could help them or their business. One way or another, there's something you have to offer them in return for the time spent on a post about you.

  • Close with something nice. Thank them for their time and wish them luck with their blog and/or business ventures.

Notice that of the five components of the email, only one is about your story. The rest of the email is spent complimenting them and offering them something. Your chances of getting a positive response have just gone through the roof. Every blogger, no matter how large, likes to hear that people are enjoying their posts.

Respond Promptly and Respectfully
Not everyone is going to agree to run your story. Some will say that they don't do that type of thing or that they don't have time. Since you have been so nice as to compliment them, they will still usually reply either way. Regardless of the response, be sure to thank them for their time and wish them luck with their ventures. You nevër know when they will encounter someone who needs your product or service in the future (remember, they are in your industry) and if they have a positive image of you and your company they will undoubtedly give you a good recommendation.

Sit Back and Watch the Traffíc Roll In
Over the course of the next few weeks you will see post after post appear about your business. Be sure to send another thank you email to the blogger after the post and also be sure to promptly provide whatever you offered them in return. At this point you have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with someone important in your industry that can become invaluable over time.
That wasn't that hard was it? With a little research and a carefully crafted email, any business can effectively use blog PR to drive traffíc to their site.

About The Author
Adam McFarland owns iPrioritize - simple to-do lists that can be edited at any time from any place in the world.


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Avoiding the Pitfalls in Municipal Lobbying

Guy W. Giorno
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
(September 27, 2005)

Note: An edited version of this commentary appeared in The Globe and Mail, September 27, 2005, p. A19, beneath the headline, “Register this: It takes two to lobby”

The judicial inquiry into Toronto’s MFP fiasco has produced sensible advice, not just for Ontario’s largest city, but for municipal governments across the country.

For example, Madam Justice Denise Bellamy’s report in the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry contains welcome recommendations to establish a municipal lobbyist registry and a code of conduct for those lobbying civic officials.

Toronto’s official response is that it wants to establish a lobbyist registry, but lacks sufficient authority under provincial legislation. Pointing its municipal finger at the Ontario government, city council claims that it is otherwise unable to require disclosure of who lobbies whom.

As usual in cases of buck-passing, the reality is somewhat grey. Certainly the provincial government should introduce legislation permitting municipalities to create full-blown lobbyist registries and to regulate the activities of professional advocates. (Quebec is currently the only province with a law providing for lobbyist registration at the municipal level.) In the meantime, however, Toronto and other cities are far from helpless. There is much they can already do if they are sincere about making lobbying transparent and accountable.

It takes two to lobby: an advocate to make representations and a public servant to listen. Civic officials always have the right to refuse access to lobbyists who won’t play by certain rules. They don’t need provincial legislation to do so.

For example, some Toronto councillors make lobbyists sign a log before accepting their visits. The registers of lobbyist visits are turned over to the city clerk’s office, where they are available to the public.

It’s a simple system: unless the lobbyist signs in, he or she cannot speak to the councillor. The shortcoming of the Toronto model is that this process is voluntary -- voluntary for councillors.

Even though Toronto councillors voted overwhelmingly to create the lobbyistsregistry, only a tiny handful of them make lobbyists register their activities. There are 45 members of Toronto’s city council. Last month only one of them submitted a lobbyist log. In August only two councillors participated.

The record of Toronto’s mayor is little better. David Miller has filed lobbyist logs exactly twice: in January and February 2003. This was before he became mayor and, in fact, before his mayoral campaign gathered steam.

As chief magistrate, Mr. Miller has chosen not to file lobbyist logs with the city clerk. Nor does he make lobbyists sign in upon entering his office. Who meets whom there is undisclosed.

Nonetheless, municipal lobbyists routinely meet with staff in the Toronto mayor’s office and various lobbyists have taken clients to meet Mr. Miller himself. I spoke to several lobbyists who confirmed that this occurs.

Toronto’s mayor vividly boasted about opening the front doors to citizens and padlocking the back doors to private interests, but contact with lobbyists continues.
That in itself is unobjectionable. Lobbying is easily maligned but does not threaten our democracy so long as the process is transparent. Few would deny the fundamental importance of allowing citizens, interest groups, trade unions and businesses to present their positions to government. This democratic right is rooted in the Magna Carta, which confirmed the right of nobles to seek redress of grievances, and the 1689 Bill of Rights which declared “That it is the right of the subjects to petition the King ...”

What the public interest requires is to make lobbying open and to shed light on representations to government. That is the laudable theory behind Toronto’s voluntary lobbyists registry, even if the participation rate is execrable.

Municipalities can take three immediate steps to make lobbying transparent.

First, they should create lobbyist registries. While the ideal registry is mandatory, in most places that would require provincial legislation. In the meantime, even a voluntary system should be sufficient to secure the participation of elected officials. Every councillor sincere about the process ought to cooperate already.

Councils then should make the lobbyist information readily available. In this day and age, that means posting the registry’s content on the Web. Toronto’s logs are stored in a 12th floor office and are accessible only by personal inspection. It is almost as if access has intentionally been made difficult.

A further, obvious reform would be to instruct municipal employees to record all their dealings with lobbyists. These records, too, would be filed with the clerk and publicly available. No provincial legislation would be required, and a council could enact this policy almost immediately. The only requirement is the political will to make lobbying open and transparent.

Toronto’s voluntary lobbyists registry is a model that Canadian municipalities should emulate. The unfortunate caveat is that other cities and towns should do as Toronto’s mayor and councillors say, not as Toronto’s elected reprentatives do.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Solid Research Builds Success in Government Relations

Background research really is the foundation in lobbying success. However, before beginning any campaign, the savvy lobbyist puts their efforts behind solid research.

Some of the most common themes I include in environmental scans prior to beginning a government relations campaign include:

Section 1: Current Substantive Goals
Although your organization may have formulated and ratified its goals explicitly, restating them briefly in priority order is important because they constitute the audit's base. It is very important that any misunderstandings or differences of opinion about the goals be brought out. "Substantive" refers to tangible action - specific behaviors - that are sought.

Section 2: Target Publics And Desired Behavior
Elicitation of specific behavior is the key behind any government relations’ strategy. Rigorously defined and listed in priority order, those groups of policy influencers who can help the organization achieve its substantive goals, and the precise actions that the organization wants these people - both internal and external - to take (or to NOT take).

Section 3: Attitudes/Opinions/Beliefs of Target Publics
This section reviews what is currently known of an organization and what is currently being undertaken in the policy arena of interest. It is likely that available information will be insufficient, and the good amount of work in research by interview will be required.

Section 4: Messages To Be Conveyed To Target Publics
This section discusses the organization's present and prospective government relations’ messages for its ability to produce an effect, and its acceptability by the target publics. It also identifies which targets in government apparatus are most open to a given message.

Section 5: Overall policy environment review and other notices
This section identifies the coming trends to watch. It may also go into the specific pieces of legislation, private members’ bills, and various departments that are on the leading edge of the issue at hand.

Section 6: Measuring And Reporting Results
This section recommends any baseline research deemed important, so that an organization can measure the results of any coming government relations’ efforts. Recommend ways to report both the results and the measurements to its management and leadership.

Section 7: Budget
This section estimates the costs of the programs discussed in the preceeding sections, and compares them to the organization's present and prospective government relations’ budgets. If necessary, it suggests ways in which the two can be reconciled.

Section 8: Staffing and Other Implementation (optional)
This section recommends possible avenues of implementing the plans discussed in the previous sections - including the existing arrangement, possible staff additions, reliance on out-sources, and working relationships between any proposed communications staff and the rest of the organization.

Depending on the needs of a given campaign, this study can be shorter or even include other items. So the question remains; where are you positioned? Let me know your opinions by leaving your comments here. Do you think this plan serves the basis for good government relations?


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Using text messaging (SMS) in your marketing

And why not? Nearly everyone has a cell phone and I would be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't at least take note of a specialized text message sent to your cell phone encouraging you to take part in a poll or visit a website to win a prize.

The trick is learning some of the rules of etiquette involved in this emerging marketing method. It's also crucial to grasp the most appropriate uses of the technology. Among the common possibilities most experimented with, SMS is becoming popular to accomplish a number of objectives:

  1. SMS advertising,
  2. SMS competitions,
  3. SMS polls,
  4. Product/service branding,
  5. Promotion of specials and offers,
  6. Customer loyalty initiatives
  7. Chat engines to encourage immediate feedback on a recent company initiative
  8. Bulk distribution of SMS messages to your existing lists

Mobile marketing provides retailers the opportunity to reach customers with a reminder or incentive anytime, anywhere. More often than not, it is outside of the home, which allows for the opportunity to impact customers while they are out making shopping decisions or in transit.

Text messaging is a very targeted, private medium. Because a cell phone number is a unique identification number associated with an individual person, marketers must be respectful of the privacy and preferences of users. In essence, when a person gives someone their cell phone number they are providing an opportunity to be contacted on a device that is carried in a purse or pocket, which makes for a very direct, personal communication channel.

In the example of CollegeRecruiter.com , SMS messaging was even used to a targeted list of graduating university students. An article in Media Life Magazine has described how a Minnesota-based Campus Media Group is helping its clients target the college population by sending advertisements and other text messages to the cell phones of those students. Click here to see the article.

If you're up for something that will set you apart from the rest, SMS is sure to be a technology to watch.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

What to Say When You're on the Phone with the Press

Getting the media's attention and developing a great story is one thing. However, when you have but only 30 seconds in the best of times to convince a journalist of the value of your story, you've got to get your message right. Just as a telemarketer or sales person invests time in writing down the essentials of their sales pitch, you've got to do the same in your media pitch.

Start first with a very brief introduction of yourself. Forget telling them right off the bat why you're calling (you haven't got time!). Instead, jump right into the exciting aspect of your story. For example, 'did you know that xyz product prices have jumped in price by 50% in just the last two weeks?''

Next, it's essential you get into exactly why this little factoid is so important to their readers/viewers/listeners. This is where your advance research into the beats covered by your targeted media comes in.

It's only there and then that IF you've captured their interest, you can get into some of the other specifics such as your credentials.

Make sure ever word you deliver counts! To give you an idea of what I mean, here's a successful example script I delivered to a targeted media list:

Hi, is _________ there? This is Mark Buzan, I'm calling you tofollow upp on an interesting trend that seems to be happening in _______ (small business, HR, internet) nowadays.

More and more, people are going online to bid for the services of freelancers. This is really interesting because it means people starting out a business have a real shot at quickly accessing a clientele base. For those looking for an economical way of meeting their needs, they now have the opportunity to have people from all over the world bid on their project but in the inverse way of Ebay.
Did you get the release from FUGUS.com?

They're new and Canadian taking on the bigger established business of elance.com.

Is this something of interest? I could arrange an interview with Chad Karroum - a Canadian, the innovator of this site who has launched two other successfulul online ventures.

Have any comments or questions? I'd love to hear them!

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Taking Your Lobbying to the Provinces

Most important in your government relations the further way you get from lobbying Ottawa and closer to local levels is one simple rule.

Think locally--before you act globally. As an advocate for a cause or a business, you can most likely have the best leverage with your own legislator, then with legislators representing other ridings in your province. Normally, if you want a bill sponsored or amendments made, you would go through your own legislator. Try getting municipal (and school board members if applicable) leaders on board. Because municipal leaders most often have a closer link to provincial legislators, they may provide a useful link in getting your agenda pushed one step further.

Second, do your homework. To be an effective voice you need to know where policymakers stand on specific bills or even particular funding programs. In some provinces such as Quebec, MNAs (Members of the National Assembly) even have specifically set aside budgets for various non-profit and infrastructure programes. If you are aware of where they have stood on these issues, you will be a step ahead of the gaqme.

Through your efforts, you'll identify key advocates, with a variety of viewpoints, who work in the public eye and behind the scenes.

To learn more about the policymakers and their positions,

* keep track of what officials say in the media;
* attend meetings and hearings (or obtain copies of transcripts or summaries if necessary);
* directly request a policymaker's statement of position; and
* learn the names and numbers of appropriate bills, their sponsors, and the rationale for support or opposition;
* check the World Wide Web pages many legislators now maintain.

Third, just as at the federal level, make sure you've registered your activites with the appropriate provincial lobbyist registration commission. Here are the links to a few of Canada's lobbyist registration agents:


Office of the Integrity Commissioner

Nova Scotia
Registry of Lobbyists

British Columbia
Office of the Lobbyists Registrar

Newfoundland and Labrador

Registry of Lobbyists


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Using Video & Great Photos for your PR

There is little doubt that a well thought out story is what makes most assignment editors' lips chop at breaking a new angle. However, in the years that I have been in the industry of PR and marketing communications, I have seen many potentially great client stories passed up for one simple reason:

The story was not backed up with great visuals. Unless you are looking to pitch your story to radio, this is often the forgotten and second most important aspect to consider.

Let's take the example of newspapers or magazines (or even many online publications). If your organization has a pressing story to tell about its product or a crying issue that needs the public's attention, do you have any professionally developed photos? Providing a professionalphoto of the CEO may be one option. If you're using a current affairs angle to launch your issue into greater publicity, can you suggest a great photo angle that in itself tells a story? More often than not, journalists will be either accompanied by a photographer or send one to your location after interviewing you over the phone.

In the case of television, this point is even more important. Because television stints need to be compacted into such short periods of time, assignment editors are looking for video cuts that stimulate the eyes and ears of the viewer. For example, would a television news cut on a local car accident be the same without a camera crew on site filming? Of course not!

In developing your press releases and especially your media kits, be cogniscent of these important aspects. A little attention to these forgotten details can score you some big coverage of television and in the major written publications.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the “newsletter” menu.

Using Craigslist in your Internet Marketing

Cold calling is not only one of the most difficult things to do, it also takes too much of your time, time which can be better spent in front of prospects.

So what do you do? There is still a need for cold calling, but it should only be part of your overall prospecting equation. Until you make business contacts and connections and have a wide business network, try some free online resources which can help you. The following is my list of online marketing methods which you can try. None of these on its own will generate enough business for you, but taken together it could give you a good start. Best of all, all these suggestions are free. So take a half day and try these:

1. Post a free classifieds ad on craigslist.org. Craigslist is ranked the 41st biggest website in the world (by alexa.com). What this means is that millions of people visit the site every month; that is, millions of potential clients. So if you’re a lawyer, a financial consultant, an insurance broker, a real estate broker, a contractor, or you sell anything at all, there is category for you to post a free classifieds ad. Classifieds ads posted on craigslist.org stay there for 45 days, so you only need to post once every month and a half. But even better is that these classifieds ads find there way into Google search results. So, even people that are not specifically searching for your product or service on the actual Craigslist site may be coming across your ad through search engines.

2. Create a free profile on trade-pals.com. TradePals is a directory of business professionals, entrepreneurs, sales people, and trades people across the U.S. and Canada. It is categorized by city and business category. The website provides sales leads to its members. Basically, you create a profile and place it in the proper city and category. So let’s say that you are an engineering consultant in Miami. You create a profile and place it in the engineering category in that city. If someone from Miami is searching for an engineering consultant and sees your profile they can contact you by filling in a contact form and you will be notified by email that someone wants to do business with you. TradePals allows you to post a photo of yourself. Take advantage of this option as profiles with photos are viewed more often.

3. Create a free profile on MySpace.com and join in on the discussions in some of the business groups on that website. Myspace is populated mostly by teens and younger adults, so the audience may not be your target market, but there are some mature people using the site too so it’s worth a shot. The good thing is that this website is ranked #28 in the world (by alexa.com) so a lot of people find there way to this site.

4. Create a free profile on ziggs.com. Ziggs allows for a comprehensive profile and also places it into categories. But instead of a directory style approach, it uses a search option. For example, you can search a keyword “lawyer” in New York, and you’ll be shown all the results of lawyers in New York that have created a profile.

5. Create a profile in business discussion forums and join in on the discussions. By adding your 2 cents into these discussions people will see you as an expert in your given field. Include you business phone number in your profile so that people that want to contact you can easily do so. Two of the best online forums that I have found are small-business-forum.com and smallbizgeeks.com.

These five suggestions can get you started and get your name out there as a business professional. Together, these websites receive millions of visitors a day. Each of these visitors is a potential client. Building your own website costs money and advertising it will cost even more. Take advantage of websites that are already there for you to use. In addition to these, there are dozens of other websites that offer free advertising, from press release websites, like pr.com, to business networking websites, like linkedin.com. See what works best for you and use the services that they offer. So, while you are cold calling and prospecting in the traditional sense, these websites will be working for you and advertising your services 24 hours a day.

Tino Buntic's B2B sales career ranges from selling copiers to selling insurance. Currently, he is running his newly launched website, http://www.trade-pals.com

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Using the Senate in Your Lobbying

One of the great ways to cover all your government relations 'bases' is considering the Senate. With a current minority parliament in place, not every piece of legislation passed in the House of Commons is guaranteed the safe passage it may have had in the past.

With pressure coming from the Prime Minister to reform the Upper Chamber and limit the stays of the Senior House, some senators are saying that the reforms may make the institution more powerful.

Here's an exert from a recent article in the Hill Times:

The Hill Times, June 5th, 2006
By Simon Doyle

Harper could create 'the most powerful Senate in the world': Joyal

PM Stephen Harper hopes to see Senatorial ballots in the next election, but Senators warn they'd be far more powerful than the MPs.
In a week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he hopes to move ahead quickly with Senatorial elections, Senators warn that the plan would overturn the Red Chamber's delicate balance with the House of Commons, creating a radically different Upper Chamber that would be partisan, more powerful than the House of Commons and over-represented by central Canada.

"We would be the most powerful Senate, probably, in the world," Liberal Quebec Sen. Serge Joyal told The Hill Times in an interview. "You have to see the overall operation of the institution and its full powers before you say, 'Oh, we'll just elect the Senators and it's going to function smoothly. As I mention to you, it's the law of unintended consequences. You do something that may seem small but you trigger a whole chain reaction in the system."

Last week, Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) made a first step toward Senate reform, introducing a bill in the Senate to limit Senators' terms to eight years. Senators are currently appointed by the Prime Minister and serve until age 75.

Mr. Harper's move toward reform follows on the Conservatives' 2006 election platform, which promised to create a process by which the Prime Minister would appoint Senators elected in the provinces or territories. The campaign platform also promised to "propose further reforms to make the Senate an effective, independent, and democratically elected body" that equitably represents all regions of Canada.

But after the government tabled its bill for eight-year Senate terms, critics quickly pointed out that Mr. Harper was holding back on the comprehensive Senate reform promised in the campaign, but in an interview last week with CTV, Mr. Harper committed to moving ahead with the 'consultative' Senatorial elections as early as the next federal election...


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

What's Hot in IT Services? New Procurement Opportunties!

Government IT managers and department heads have made it certain in no 'uncertain' terms that they are looking for means of simplifying the process of shared services. With so many different protocols (over 2400 mentioned in Treasury Board alone), the time to integrate them has come. Treasury Board officials responsible for purchasing IT services want to bring their current 64 servers down into the single digits.

They recognize that in a world more centred around service, service managers and service management will be more valued than ever. To reach these objectives, the Treasury Board of Canada is seeking out five requirements from the private sector:

  • Open development models
  • Open Standards
  • Real IM
  • IT Security
  • AND...Reference models

If your firm feels up to the challenge of delivering on this, the time to strike is now while the iron is hot! The Treasury Board is actively seeking input from the private sector and comments are welcome. Remember however, that this isn't just a sales opportunity. Selling to government requires an understanding of the political environment. Make certain to lay out your government relations plan in conjunction with a solid solution to your targeted department's needs.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Seeking input - PR & Public Affairs teleconferences

Blogs are a great tool. They allow professionals like myself to reach out and gage opinion. For sometime, I've been considering the launch of monthly teleseminars on publicity, PR, government relations, and public affairs. I would love to hear back from you all on what format would work best.

For example, would a fee of $75 for a limited group of 5 on a teleconference be something of worth? What would you need to feel you got your money's worth? My initial reactions would be that this format would allow one on one interaction in and amongst the group.

Other teleseminars I have participated in have been free but you ended up doing a lot of listening without much opportunity to participate actively in the discussion. Thoughts?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Using Surveys and Polls to Advance Your Marketing.

There are various forms of surveys you can use in marketing communications.

  1. Communications Surveys- A key element to an organization's success is how well they communicate internally and externally. Miss the important link and employee/ customer satisfaction can plummet. When communication flows, an organization flousihes. Communications surveys or PR audits, provide benchmarks for how you would like to adjust attitudes or impressions.

  2. Trade show surveys-If your company is like most, tradeshows are a large part of your marketing. How though do you measure their success? When used correctly, trade show surveys can help gather valuable feedback, attract new visitors, and gather information.

  3. Market Research surveys-The most common form of surveys in marketing, these surveys form the first step of a marketing plan. They serve the purpose of finding the perceptions of your brand and service. They determine whether there is a demand and at what price the market is willing to pay.

Marketing surveys don't need to be expensive endeavours either. New internet applications like Survey Monkey and Web Surveyor allow even small business owners to develop an online application with invites sent by email.


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the “newsletter” menu.

Stuck on Story Ideas? Try Chases' Calendar of Events

Did you know May 26 is the birthday of John Wayne? If you own a movie theatre, it might've been great to hold a John Wayne Film festival. Undoubtedly, the entertainment media would lap this up with you as the expert.

Are you a professional business or personal coach? did you know May 31st is ''What You Think Upon Grows Day''? Seriously...it is! It's a day set aside to remind people of the power of positive thinking!

June happens to be ''Child Vision Awareness Month'' - a great opportunity for optomotrists. It also happens to be ''Do it Yourself Marketing'' Month for entrepreneurs!

What's the relevance in this? If you learn to leverage even the oddest holidays and memorials, there's a good chance you can leverage some very positive publicity. Where can you learn about these holidays and the thousands of other events celebrated year-round? Chases' Calendar of Events is where it's at!

Once you have this tool at your disposal however, you still need on the layout of pitching the idea to the media.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & marketing tips newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the “newsletter” menu.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Gaining Free Publicity for Your Business

Recently, I was invited to address the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce on the subject of using public relations to build business profile. I was quite happy with the results and noticed many taking notes. For your review, I have taken the liberty of enclosing the text of my address. Please feel free to ask any questions you like as some points may not be self-evident without the benefit of the powerpoint slides used.

''If you’re looking to take your business to the next step, publicity and marketing are I’m sure – a consideration most of you reflect on regularly. We all know that those who are famous can leverage their notoriety for the benefit of a business or cause.

One only has to think of George Forman and his well known grills or Jerry Lewis and his well known telethons.

But for the rest of us, I’m reminded of a quote by a US historian, Daniel Boorstin:

‘’Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.’’
My purpose here today is to get you thinking of your marketing and business in a different light.

In fact, this morning, I want you thinking of your 2006 – 2007 plans for publicity.

I’m asking you this because I’m making an assumption. I’m assuming you’re all interested at one level or another in growing your business.

Many of you are equally aware of the importance of building credibility and a reputation. You know that somewhere down the line, this impacts on your success.


Especially, in industries where sales cycles are longer or reputation closes the deal.

Yet, despite what seems the obvious, I’ve heard stats saying that as few as 10% entrepreneurs in Canada feel they have an effective brand strategy.

This tells me that there’s a lot needing to be done in educating entrepreneurs on the path of unknown quantity to glowing success.

Today, I’m going to lay out three important arguments for your consideration.

First, most of you have heard of sales funnels. Today, I’m going to speak to you about marketing funnels. They are essentially what eventually make sales funnels possible.

Second, I’m going to explain why public relations should be an integral part of your business.

Third, I’ll detail some of the ways you can draw greater public attention to the great work you do.

The latter is why I like to call myself a magnifier. I’ve made it my mission to magnify the talents of under appreciated professionals in the eyes of their market.

Regrettably, very few businesses, organizations or even charities take the first necessary steps towards setting themselves apart.

In other words, building a longstanding and well-known brand. As I mentioned earlier, only 10% of entrepreneurs take an active role in the branding process.

But a brand is only the first step in converting prospects!

Many confuse marketing with sales as they do with marketing and publicity.

In fact, they are all very different and require a separate strategy for each.

(bring up pyramid slide)

(this slide was used to describe where PR fits into converting the general public into buying customers)

To often, I’ve seen potentially successful people give up to soon or continue in a single direction without a plan. In truth, if they had simply viewed these blocks as the key to their long-term growth, they would be much further ahead.
Virgin CEO Richard Branson stated once, "Branding is important. If you get your face and your name out there enough, people will start to recognize you.

Many people know the Virgin brand better than the names of the individual companies within the group. A young girl once came up to me and told me I could be famous because I looked just like Richard Branson!"

But you see there is something prophetic in this.

Once you have decided on the brand you’re looking to put forward, you have got to take the necessary steps to make in known.

For purposes of this session, we’ll focus on publicity or better known as public relations.

Many have asked me: ‘‘what is Public Relations?’’ Others ask, ‘‘why would I use it?’’

(bring out reasons slide)

Well, here’s ten possible reasons…

Still not convinced? How many here have heard of KPMG?

For those who haven’t, KPMG provides audit, tax and advisory services.

Their success depends on the quality of the consultants they are able to recruit. As such, it should be of no surprise that one of their main branding objectives is to be recognized as an employer of choice.

All their marketing backs up this message but what is interesting to note is that they also have an aggressive PR campaign to compliment the message.

They strategically pick the trade shows at which they present and work with polling companies to release interesting human resources stories to the media.

They link their strategy from the top down.

Both Westjet and Starbucks are known for getting to the position they are in not necessarily just from advertising but rather good public relations.

In the case of Starbucks, they long ago got onto the bandwagon of fair trade coffee.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are very successful organizations.

Now at this point, I’m going to ask many of you to drop the regular shyness most have in terms in front of large groups.

I’m going to do a quick poll.

How many of you have a business plan? From this group, how many of you have a marketing plan? (asking to keep hands up)

How many of you have a publicity or Public Relations plan?

This is not surprising!

Yet, without a roadmap, how will you know where you’re going and if you’ve achieved any benchmarks?

More importantly, how will you know if the publicity you’re receiving fits in with your marketing objectives?

So, the first thing to do is set to work on a communications plan.

Here are the essential elements (break out next slide):

Think of your plan according to the RACE formula

RESEARCH – what’s going on in your industry?

• Think of every possible story angle from which you could pitch story ideas to the media
• Research your target market. What is it about them that’s interesting?

ANALYZE – What kinds of activities are most likely to appeal to your identified market? What trends are likely to occur in the next 5 years?

• How will you approach them? Will it be through:

o Media?
o Tradeshows?
o Events?
o Articles?
o Sponsorships & Charities?
o Speaking Tours?
o Traditional advertising?
o Online PR and blogging?

This stage of the process is very important.

COMMUNICATE – once you’ve analyzed the environment, it’s only then that you get down to communicating.

• Who will speak for your organization and when?
• What procedures will you have in place with your staff when the press does come calling?

• What are some of the techniques you will use?

o (Pull out Chases Calendar of Events) Is there anything you can say about yourself that’s interesting? Use the media as a friend. Remember, the exchange is simple:
ß You give good story, they give you free publicity
ß Find an interesting anecdote on the calendar and pitch your expertise on the subject to the journalist responsible for a given beat
ß Keep tabs on the stories covered by every journalist you can and build relationships. Don’t be afraid to call them up if AND IF you think there is a genuine story. Don’t be afraid of bothering them and be patient
• (Point to Leo’s quote on slide)
• (Next- point to Mike) Just as in networking, it’s about building relationships
(Switch to RACE slide)
o Are there trade shows you can tour?
o Ever thought of getting involved in or sponsoring a charity? I am sure many of you do. But how many of you have a corporate giving strategy?

The bottom line is – GET CREATIVE!


So you’re getting publicity…

Is it working?

How will you know?

Develop your strategy to include focus groups, polling or even review if the natures of the clippings you’ve received are more or less positive than when you started the campaign.

Remember, your image is everything. Everything you do or say is public relations.

My message is essentially that as entrepreneurs and leaders in associations and organizations –

You need to think of marketing and publicity in separate lights. They are all essential and need to be done simultaneously

My most important message to you is that it is never too late to build a public relations plan. Put it into place for 2006-2007

The result will be a roadmap for your brand and your prosperity.

You notice an empty plate in front of you. It represents a clear slate for your reputation. In other words, a fresh opportunity to build a name for yourself

To do this, you need to be equipped with knowledge

By dropping your business card on this plate, I’m offering you a free subscription to my monthly newsletter on tips for building your marketing and PR efforts

Now imagine if after 12 months you were able to implement just 12 publicity ideas, where would your organization be positioned?''

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs and marketing communication consultancy. He has developed stellar marketing plans for numerous clients. You can subscribe now to his monthly PR & Marcomm tips newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.