Saturday, September 22, 2007

Oh ya...Special Olympics and the Truck Convoy

Two weeks ago, I made mention of how Action Strategies has been offering its media relations and public relations services to the Special Olympics Committee of Ontario. While I wasn't able to report on how the event went off during that same weekend, I am happy to report that it all went off with a huge success. Over 114 trucks took part, over $58,000 was raised and with the help of Action Strategies; some very notable media covered the event including CTV television (Southwestern Ontario) and CFRB, Toronto's largest talk radio station!

Special thanks go out to Tammy Blackwell, organizer of the event and to Lynn Miller of Special Olympics Ontario for allowing Action Strategies to be associated with such a great cause and great event. This photo here was taken by the editor of Truck N'Roll Magazine just after the press conference.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What I've heard through the grapevine: New hires on Parliament Hill

Here's what I have learned.

In addition to Gary Keller as the new Director of Communications for the Minister of Environment, this summer's cabinet change brought the arrival of Diane Ablonczy as the new Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism. With that comes new staffers that GR practitioners like myself will watch. Rob Taylor becomes her new Staff Director, Jason Valentin as her Policy Advisor; Catherine Godbout as her Senior Communications Advisor; and Anna Marie Young as her Special Assistant.

Stay in touch as I will report back from time to time on any other leads I find and/ or contacts in Government Relations I develop.
Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Understanding the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Charged with reviewing major projects that can potentially have a serious impact on the environment, the CEAA works in partnership with other government bodies and stakeholder groups. Federal departments and agencies, provinces and territories, environmental and Aboriginal groups, industry and others are often included ensuring that department efforts are coordinated and harmonized.

Why pay attention to CEAA? Can our organization make a difference?

Well, is your organization looking to launch a major project that could have an impact on the environment? Energy sector firms, construction companies, chemical industries and organizations with an interest in the environment would be wise to pay heed. There are enormous opportunities to have your word heard and influence government policy! here are many current opportunities and ways to get involved in federal environmental assessment, through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Agency officials value the knowledge of participants about a project's physical site because it can help to identify and address potential environmental effects at an early stage of the environmental assessment process. It is even possible to apply for funding to assist your participation, or that of your organization or group, in the comprehensive studies, mediations and review panels through the Agency's Participant Funding Program. (Contact Action Strategies for help in this process)

Other opportunities exist in taking advantage of opportunities to participate in screenings, including reviewing and commenting on screening reports before a final decision is made on the project. You can examine and comment on a class screening report before the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency declares it an appropriate means to assess similar projects. Finally, you can review and submit comments during a comprehensive study process. The Minister of the Environment takes public comments into account before determining the future of a project.

Action Strategies has worked with energy sector clients in the past. Give us a call if you think your organization would have an interest in taking part in a CEAA review.
Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & government relations consultancy. He brings a number of years of understanding of working with various government agencies and policy makers. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Job Openings at Managing Matters

From time to time, I'm approached by colleagues in the event managment, PR and advocacy field either looking for work or looking for candidates to fill a position.  A good friend of mine, Jenny Faucher the President of Managing Matters is seeking full time Event Coordinators and Membership Managers from her Toronto office.

If you are looking for more information, I invite you to visit her website at: www.managingmatters.com


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Action Strategies helping Ontario Special Olympics

Hey all.  As an added note, I thought I would give a heads up.  I've long spoke about the importance of using charitable events as a good leveraging point for publicity.  Action Strategies is now working with Special Olympics Ontario to coordinate the media relations of the World's Longest Truck Convoy!

Stay tuned, and I will try to give further details as we approach next Saturday, the day of the event!


Thursday, September 06, 2007

No Matter What Your Marketing Efforts, Ignoring the Basics Cancels the Best Intentions

When I consult clients on developing a promotional campaign, I am insistent on
developing a brand image that is consistent throughout every aspect of their operations. This extends to the commitment to what they preach in their tag lines and the presence of their logo everywhere it counts. Marketing does not stop at the expression of a brand.

Most recently, I was confronted with a client's desire to improve membership recruitment efforts through their website. While they were successful in reaching thousands of visitors, their brand was unclear and the visitor was left confused as to what services were available to purchase and navigation the site was confusing.

The lesson? No matter how good your marketing efforts are, you cannot expect tangible results without working on the basics first!

This lesson brings me to another great article I found. This time written by Laura Pasternak, I thought I would bring your attention to this great article:

Brand Beyond Marketing
From Laura Pasternak

Imagine you are about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. You’ve received brochures for a luxury resort. The rooms are lavish; the grounds impeccable. Photos of the restaurant’s signature dishes look delectable. You’re sold.
You go to the hotel. The room is musty and a tad dirty. The food is barely passable. Service is brusque and spotty at best. When you complain to management, you’re met with indifference, or worse, silence. You leave disillusioned and disgusted. For all the resort’s slick marketing, they’ve fallen woefully short.

Branding goes well beyond marketing. It will not be successful without ensuring that all aspects of your business reflect and support your intended brand. One of your most valuable assets—your people—must be well-trained in articulating and delivering on your brand.

This step is particularly important for service organizations that don’t have concrete products. Their offerings are soft assets like knowledge, experience and people. When employees don’t deliver the brand, it can be the kiss of death for a business. Don’t believe me? Visit a hotel review web site like TripAdvisor.com. Peruse travelers’ comments and you’ll likely come across more than a few who cite poor customer service for their negative hotel reviews. Conversely, employees who represent the brand flawlessly and consistently can propel a business to stardom.

Brand: The Sum of All Its Parts

Despite what many believe, brand isn’t about your logo, tagline and glossy brochure. Instead, a strong brand integrates multiple components, all of them necessary, including customer interactions, employee communications, corporate philosophy and advertising/marketing efforts. Your brand extends to your employees, customers, the media and even the general public as the above story illustrates. If these components don’t consistently reinforce your brand, customers will become dissatisfied. The negative impact of their perception, should they voice their opinions to other potential customers or even the media, could have a ripple effect on your business. This can erode your brand equity and create misperceptions about your company in the market, that in turn could lead prospective customers, employees and investors to pass on your organization.

On the other hand, brand consistency throughout all levels of the organization helps drive an organization to grow and prosper. Strong brands can drive an increase in sales. The company is better suited to attract and retain the best employees. Vendors can see value in your brand and look to establish partnerships with your business, while investors will see the business and your brand equity as a valuable commodity.

Maintain Brand Consistency
This step is essential to building a strong brand. However, it is often one of the first steps to unravel. You must establish consistency throughout all aspects of your organization. But setting the standards is not enough. You must constantly evaluate your actions. Establish checkpoints for each aspect of the business that interacts with customers and the general public. Ensure that each employee is empowered to identify and address inconsistencies in your brand. Fail to deliver on brand with one customer, and he or she might forget. Fail to do so for another, and he or she might not be so forgiving. It only takes a scant few to dispel the brand you are touting.

Practice What You Preach.
The best way to lead is by example. If your brand projects your organization as one which supports its employees and then reneges on that promise, your brand (and sales) will suffer. Case in point: Wal-Mart. The company says, “We believe that one of the keys to our success is our people and how we treat them.” However, the retail chain has been the subject of unfair employee wage practice lawsuits. Moreover, though they say they value their target customer (the hard working middle class) their actions aren’t necessarily consistent with the rhetoric.

Implement Brand Guidelines.
In order to ensure brand consistency, your organization must establish a framework or set of brand guidelines for all to follow. We’re not merely talking about logo or corporate identity guidelines, but actual brand guidelines that communicate the company’s brand positioning statement, key messages, core values, brand attributes, measures of success and processes for handling customer issues or feedback. Federal Express was an early pioneer in this idea. The international shipper utilizes an Internet-based program which outlines the company’s brand guidelines. This detailed approach provides guidance on everything from the graphic standards for use of the company logo to how cultural differences affect brand (particularly important for global companies). Establishing brand guidelines leaves no room for misinterpretation and helps maintain consistency throughout all levels of the organization.

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

11 Tips for Using Photos & Graphics for PR

With my new work at the Canadian Paralympic Committee, I've become more sensitized than ever to the need for effectively managing a database of photos and video for the media. At CPC, we manage an Image Bank specifically for interested sports media. With a ready source of print media ready images of athletes in action, we greatly increase our chances of good media coverage. With our focus directed at improving this service, it got me thinking of what many in the business take for granted: Snapping up headlines with good photos (emphasis on good) is part an parcel of media relations success.

In my search through the net, I came across a great article of real relevance in public relations. A woman whom I respect, Joan Stewart aka the Publicity Hound, had this to say on good photos and public relations:

Snap up some headlines with the right snapshot:

1. Make sure you have good-quality, above-the-shoulders photos of all your experts who are likely to be interviewed by the media.

2. Consider asking your photographer to shoot "environmental portraits" of your experts. An architect, for example, might be shown holding several rolled up architect's renderings under her arm. A construction executive can be shown holding a hard hat or other tools of his trade. Weekly newspapers that don't have big photo staffs would probably welcome these photos.

3. Have interior and exterior shots of your company available for the media. The interior shots can show people at work. Please, no cliche "on the telephone" or "working at the computer" shots.

4. Submit photos with news releases about routine announcements such as new hires, promotions, retirements, awards, etc.

5. Pie charts, bar charts and other graphics can often help readers understand complicated issues such as budgets. Offer to supply information to media outlets so they can create their own graphics to accompany the article they're writing about.

6. If you're sponsoring an event that doesn't necessarily warrant a story, call the photo desk at your local newspaper and let photographers know what's happening.

7. If a photographer from a newspaper or magazine takes photos at your company, never demand to see the negatives, or dictate what photo they should use with the article, or ask for free copies of prints. The negatives are the property of the media outlet, and the media maintain full control over their use. If you want prints, expect to pay for them.

8. Make sure all photos are scanned at print-quality 300 dots per inch and available for instant download at your website, preferably under a button called "Media Room" that can be accessed from the homepage.

9. Avoid using big clunky photos at your website because they slow down the time it takes a page to load.

10. Never, ever ask a newspaper or magazine to take photos of a check-passing, ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting ceremony. The media hate these staged events. And don't wimp out by uploading these cheesy-looking photos to your expensive website.

11. Offer an architect's rendering instead of a ground-breaking shot. In place of a check-passing photo, take a photo that illustrates what the money will be used for. Instead of a ribbon-cutting photo, how about a photo of a business person with a customer on the first day of business?

Are you starting to get the picture? Photos and graphics can be a powerful publicity tool--but only if you use them.

Joan Stewart, aka The Publicity Hound, is author of the ebook
"How to Use Photos & Graphics in Your Publicity Campaign."
She also publishes the free ezine "The Publicity Hound's Tips of the Week."

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