Sunday, April 27, 2008

New jobs in PR and Sports

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

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

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


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Using the Internet to Lobby Government

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

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

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

What Does This Mean for Cyber-Activists?

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

Using the Internet's Strength

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

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


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


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

Community Building

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

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

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

The Top Five Things for Effective Advocates to Remember

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

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

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

Number Two: Two-way communication is more effective than one-way communication. The effective advocate will focus on uses of the Internet to make it easier and more convenient for Members of Parliament to interact with constituents. Instead of encouraging a one-way rant, try spending time engaging members through online chats, townhalls and the like. This is the wave of the future.

Number One: The Internet is a wonderful tool – but what you say is always more important than what tool you use to deliver the message.


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

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

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

New staff & developments at Action Strategies

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

Nicole, welcome aboard!