Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We've Moved!

Recently, the need to expand our location has occurred.  For those wishing to reach us, the phone number and email remains the same however, our new address is:

Action Strategies
264-B, rue Champlain
Gatineau, Québec J8X 3S1

Thanks to all those who have supported us in the past and continue to do so!


Mark Buzan, APR
Principal & Chief Magnifying Officer

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Facebook Causes Presents Great Opportunities for Growing Audiences and Raising Funds or Friends

Bookmark and Share If you're a non-profit organization and you are on Facebook and haven't heard of the Causes application, you need your team to get on board with this excellent tool IMMEDIATELY!  Basically, Facebook Causes is one of the many applications available to centre discussion around issues of concern to a multitude of organizations.

Any Facebook user with a little passion and initiative can create a cause, recruit their friends into that cause, keep everybody in the cause up-to-speed on issues and media related to the cause, and, most importantly, raise money directly through the cause for any U.S. nonprofit or Canadian registered charity. Causes processes donations automatically via credit card, tallies the results, and reports the donation activity via a public "scorecard" in the cause. 

What I love about this application is that it is a natural evolution of social networking. Leveraging real world social networks is an important part of activism, fundraising, and political campaigning. This is especially true of grassroots activism, local-chapter style nonprofit organizations, and the walks/runs used by many charities to raise money. Given all this, it's a bit surprising that online social networks haven't been more aggressively leveraged until now.

Apart from my business, I operate a small Cause page for a charity I support: Help the Chronically Unemployed find the Right Job.  With very little effort, I have been able to raise awareness of the work conducted by a small grassroots Ottawa charity - the Success Factory Employment Centre.

I recently received this email from Facebook Causes.  I think this new development bring about important and positive changes for the sector.  What are your thoughts?

Hey Mark,
Exciting improvements to your cause are almost here!
  1. You will be able to post bulletins to your members' News Feeds, the first page they see when they sign into Facebook.
  2. Your cause will be searchable in Facebook. Before, your cause was searchable in the Causes application but not the main Facebook search. Not anymore!
  3. Your cause will be featured in the Likes and Interests section of your members' Facebook profiles.
These improvements also mean you can no longer change the name of your cause. Starting September 1st, your cause's name will be permanent. If you want to change it, go to the "Admin Center" of your cause then "Basic Info." * Get started at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/causes/your?m=680e539d
TIP: Popular cause names are often action oriented - Stop Puppy Mills!, Support Arts in the Public Schools, or The Race to End Cancer. Think about what name would get a new person to join your cause if they saw: "Your friend just joined the cause ____."
We're looking forward to seeing the inspiring things you do with your causes after these improvements. If you need any tips or suggestions on doing more with your cause, go to http://exchange.causes.com/resources/activists?m=680e539d.
Good luck!
The Causes Team
When your members link your cause to their Facebook profile, they link to the cause's name. If you were to change the name of the cause, those connections would be lost. Members would have to re-join to be linked to your cause.
Are you a Nonprofit?
Click here for a more clear explanation of what these changes mean for your nonprofit organization: http://exchange.causes.com/2010/08/causes-open-graph-nonprofits/

What has been your experience with Facebook as an organization?  Are you utilizing Causes?  If your organization is looking to build it's Facebook or other social networking profiles, contact us.

Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations.   

Make sure to contact Mark for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Our members and supporters aren't on social media" (and therefore it won't work)

Bookmark and Share Social media has a loyal following.  Many are convinced while others from time to time that I encounter inevitably tell me a number of things:

  • "My members are in the field and don't have access to computers or internet"
  • "My members (usually in the medical field) are too busy to be on social networking sites (they might only be on at night for personal reasons)."
  • "Social media is for another demographic than mine"
Ok, so let me admit this (even as a fan of social media): Social media may not be for you — yet.  The studies on social networking engagement are abound and point clearly to the fact that this phenomena is not going to go away anytime soon.  As with any new technology, there will always be the quick adapters and those for a number of reasons who will lag behind.

Yet, just because your inclining may lead you to think that social media is not a right fit for your audience, I want you to at least open your mind to the possibility that perhaps...just perhaps social networking might make for a good portion in your organization's marketing mix.  As any marketing campaign is only as good as the marketing plan and research behind it, do a survey.  As the lines between personal and professional lives are increasingly blurred, social media is becoming a greater forum than ever for developing niche communities.  My suggestion is to find out how and where your members and supporters prefer to get their information.

For associations whose memberships are made of tradespeople in the field or who are not regularly in front of a computer with internet access, I foresee the growing popularity of mobile and cell text message campaigns bridging the gap.  Stats show that 1/3 of human kind has mobile internet access and that people are twice as likely to use text messaging and respond to this form of communication.  With services such as mGive, organizations can now link their websites to mobile call to actions campaigns.  Many organizations are becoming very effective in mixing traditional campaign calls that lead over to web/ social media presences.  How many have seen or heard an ad referring people over to a website?

Social media does not have to mean only blasting information out through Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Social networking is also a great support mechanism and strategy for getting the word out with other communications mediums.  In doing so, associations bridge the gap between different demographics of their supporters.

It is noteworthy that social media isn’t dominated by the youngest, often most tech-savvy generations, but rather by what has to be referred to as middle-aged people (although at the younger end of that spectrum).  This is a critical element to consider for professional associations whom, for the moment, more likely need to recruit and retain in their ranks.

What do you think?  Is ruling out social media outright a reaction to the unknown or have non-profit executives critical of this new means of communications done their homework in market research to justify the rejection?
Mark A. Buzan, APR
Principal & Chief Magnifying Officer
Action Strategies
#3, 270 rue Champlain
Gatineau, Quebec J8X 3S1
819.770.2899 phone

LinkedIn Group for Public Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitideas
LinkedIn Group for Government Relations: http://tinyurl.com/nonprofitlobbying

Please take a look at my just released book: Online PR and Social Media for Associations and Not-for-Profits -http://www.onlineprsocialmedia.com/associations

Monday, October 18, 2010

The summer brought in a new Cabinet in Ottawa & Quebec City

Bookmark and ShareIt's been a while since this blog has been updated but what a summer and fall we have had that has lead Canada towards an interesting political environment.  Parliament (in Ottawa) returns today with amongst other developments, three new ministers:

John Baird is now replacing Jay Hill as House Leader
Chuck Strahl has moved from Indian Affairs replacing John Baird as Minister of Transport
John Duncan has moved in Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Jean-Pierre Blackburn has left Revenue for Veteran's Affairs

Here's my take on how these changes will effect the direction of government:

1. Jay Hill, now seeking to move out of politics, was known and respected as conciliator.  This is not to say that John Baird is not but I expect that with his reputation of taking no prisoners, the government may become bolder in pushing forth its agenda.  For associations and non-profits looking to push forth their agenda, it will be critical for them to look at means of how their issues fit into the overall objectives and political direction of the government. This will be all the more critical as the government will have to contend with reducing the deficit initiatives and political pressure to keep up stimulus spending.

2. I don't expect Chuck Strahl's movement to Transport and John Duncan's movement to Indian Affairs should affect any serious direction in policy changes.  that said, this is an important change for this department and retooling one's connections will be critical to advance policy in this department.  In the case of the latter department, I can state from my own experience on parliament hill that John Duncan will likely add an important voice and perspective on aboriginal issues from a British Columbia perspective.  As an opposition MP, John was very vocal on aboriginal fishing disputes.

3. Jean-Pierre Blackburn's move to Veteran's Affairs means that this department will have its first Quebec minister in a very long time.  He has already identified his desire to build more awareness for veteran's issues in Quebec as a personal priority.  Also, with Canada's mission to Afghanistan coming to an end soon, the issue of proper compensation for veterans means he will likely be a minister to watch.  The departure of his Chief of Staff (and friend of mine), Michel Lalonde, also leads to a change in the style of operating as well in his office.

Quebec City has also been a hot bed of political activity these last couple of months.  Premier Jean Charest has named the yet-to-be elected Jean-Marc Fournier (now elected from a bi-election this fall) as minister of justice during a cabinet shuffle.  Among the newly appointed ministers: Kathleen Weil takes over immigration, Lise Thériault is named minister of labour and Sam Hamad becomes transport minister.

Despite claims to the opposite, the shuffle was a quite deliberate attempt at deflecting attention away from current troubles the Premier is facing in claims the province's judiciary is named under partisan circumstances.  With different polls indicating various levels of support for the PLQ, I foresee the Quebec Liberals undertaking more initiatives in the field of democratic transparency as a priority as they will likely attempt to reclaim popular support.

So...what do you think?  Where do you see government policy going in the coming months both federally an in Quebec?  What impact (if any) will developments in Quebec have on federal policy or on policy in other provinces?

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Lobbying Regulations in Ottawa

Bookmark and ShareLobbying in Ottawa has changed this fall and non-profit/ association executives would be wise to pay heed.  Anyone who bends the ear of Members of Parliament and senators must now register such activities under expanded new regulations that have taken effect.  Under the new rules, individuals must register when they lobby any member of Parliament, senator or senior staff in the House of Commons and Senate offices of the leader of the opposition.

Previously, lobbyists only needed to register when they communicated with government ministers and ministers of state, as well as senior bureaucrats such as deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers.  The new regulations were released for public consultation in early August and have now come into force.

Under the Lobbying Act, lobbying is defined as any communication with public office holders by an individual who is paid to communicate with office holders on behalf of a person or organization. The subject matter must fall in one of several areas: the development, including legislative amendments and the awarding of grants or contracts.

So, the question association professionals must ask themselves: Are we on top of the rules?  As the rules for registering can be complicated, are we better off keeping our government relations activities in-house or can contracting out even a portion of it benefit the organization?

Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca