Preparing to present at TEDx BCIT

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on January 22nd, 2015

TEDxBCIT_Black_V1_miniHere at AHA, we regularly write speeches and presentations for clients. I really like digging in and understanding what the client wants to communicate, what the objective of the speech is, who the audience is, and how they will take in the information. It’s a process of discovery that is quite interesting. There is always something to learn and usually a challenge or barrier to overcome in getting the message heard.

For the past couple of months (which is never how long we have to write a client speech – they usually need a much quicker turnaround than that), I have been working on my TEDx Talk. I will present it as part of the TEDx BCIT event this coming Saturday, January 24. It has been an interesting process for me to develop this speech – and I really appreciate the advice and feedback I have received on everything from my outfit to speech content and speaking pace. This has been a great opportunity for me to learn and improve – something I am always looking to do.

There is a great deal that goes into writing any speech and this one is no exception. It took about 30 hours to write and revise it to the point where I was confident it had a strong message. I have rehearsed it for about 10 hours (it’s a 15-minute speech) – that includes rehearsing it on my own, taping it and delivering it to family, friends and colleagues – and deciding what to wear was another couple of hours with a stylist.

Here at AHA, we believe that if we are going to do something, we need to do it right. I am looking forward to speaking on Saturday – and I have to admit – I am also looking forward to Saturday night, when I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Critical thinking is more important than ever these days

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on January 14th, 2015

ThinkingToday’s blog post is short and sweet – and I hope there is a takeaway in here for you.

Don’t believe everything you are told or read. Use critical thinking to go through what is being presented, shared, told or provided to you – and verify that information. There is always more than one side to a story. Fact checking is not always done with mainstream media articles or for pieces uploaded to the web and – even if you are hearing it from someone in person – they could have an agenda.

We are working with a client that has an issue. He works in a highly competitive industry – and one that seems to think it is a good business strategy to level accusations at competitors. One of the challenges that he is facing is that there is information online about his business dealings. It is inaccurate and, in some cases, completely wrong. Potential clients, investors, contractors, employees, media and other stakeholders Google him, see this negative information, and some of them believe it is true. It is incredibly frustrating for this client. He wants to set the record straight, but preconceived opinions hamper that effort.

Over time, his actions will speak louder than words. But for the moment, as he takes his business to the next level, this is an issue that we have to deal with. There are several options for us to shift perception of him and we are doing that, but it takes time and effort. We will be writing a case study on this client and how we helped to re-establish a good reputation once we have gone through the process and achieved our goals.

In the meantime – don’t believe everything you are told or read. It’s important to verify facts and to use critical thinking to ensure you aren’t being manipulated as a part of someone else’s misunderstanding, miscommunication, errors or agenda.

Ruth to speak at TEDx BCIT

Posted by Paul Holman of AHA Creative Strategies on January 12th, 2015

TEDxBCIT_Black_V1_miniWe are pleased to report that AHA CEO Ruth Atherley will be presenting at TEDx BCIT on January 24, 2015. Ruth has identified that in this 24/7 connected world, doing the right thing all the time is much easier and more effective than having to face the destruction of your reputation and potentially your business.

Ruth is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to hearing and meeting the other speakers.

 

The year of blended PR, branding, social media and marketing

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on January 06th, 2015

Happy New YearHappy New Year! From everyone at AHA – we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

In the AHA office, we have been talking a lot about 2015 and what it will bring in the world of communication. It is clear to us that this year will bring PR, branding, social media and marketing together – even more than it already is.

I think we have been fortunate because we have been involved in the online world for so long – close to fifteen years. We recognized where corporate and organizational communication was going a long time ago and have always been working towards a blended approach, with strategic PR and brand leading the strategic communications approach (which should include social media and marketing).

Building relationships with your stakeholders and communities has always been at the heart of public relations. And that is what the world demands now – relationships. Whether it is in branding, marketing, advertising, social media or PR – people want an authentic connection with the brand and the people who work at an organization.

There are no longer two worlds for a CEO or president – their personal life runs into their professional life and vice versa. If an organization only uses social media to push information out – it isn’t going to be effective. If ads are only about what the company wants to say rather than what the consumer wants to hear, they won’t work. (And if they don’t have some kind of social media component – there isn’t much chance of building any kind of connection or community.)

“Integrated” might be the word of the year when it comes to what we do for our clients. We need to blend PR, branding, social media and marketing so that you are speaking with the same voice, messaging and positioning, allowing your target market, stakeholders or community hear from you through a diverse range of platforms in a way that is engaging and interesting to them.

We strongly believe that this is the year for strategic engagement with stakeholders, customers or clients, and your communities. We are excited to help our clients achieve this through a blended approach that produces results and is budget-effective.

This year is going to be great for AHA and for our clients!

#UnitedSUCKS – Part III

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on December 03rd, 2014

United airplaneIn my last post, I left off where Paul and I had just agreed to staying in Houston (with no help from United for the hotel), going to Seattle the next day, and then getting a connecting flight to Vancouver – because we thought we had no options.

As we were standing there discussing the very limited options (it seems all United flights are oversold, so when something like this happens, there aren’t many choices for replacement flights), the flight crew that was taking over for the next flight was off to the side of us. They were right beside the lineup of very frustrated passengers – all of whom had missed their flights.

We could clearly hear their discussions – and their jokes about all the people with missed flights. One of the pilots asked someone in the line what was going on and the person explained we were all pretty much stranded – he laughed and said: “Hey – you’ve just spent time in the sun in San Juan – you can’t complain.” Yes, yes, we can Mr. Pilot and you are not helping the situation.

I like a good joke (in fact, I happen to be quite hilarious), but his comment fell flat with everyone. The flight crew continued to joke and laugh and the pilot kept on making funnies about how we (the people in the lineup) probably wished we had stayed in San Juan. I actually wished I had been smart enough not to book a flight on United. It really felt like the issues that everyone in the lineup was dealing with were being discounted and disrespected.

I watched an elderly couple – I estimated they were in their mid-to-late 80s – who were clearly distraught and confused. They didn’t know what line to stand in or what could be done to get them home. No one, not one United Airlines employee, stepped forward to help them. I had a brief conversation with them and got them into the line – I sure hope they got home okay that night.

On top of the concerns about getting home when you thought you would – it was clear that many of the people in line were worried about the cost of a hotel and food. Some were students, some were seniors, and others were young families with children. I felt badly for them. United clearly stated that they were not going to provide accommodation or meal vouchers because this issue was caused by weather (just for the record, it was caused by the fact that our airplane didn’t have enough fuel to circle for more than a few minutes). We weren’t thrilled about having to spend money on a hotel, but we are fortunate in that we can afford it. For those on a tight budget, this was clearly a challenge.

As the person behind the United desk did what she had to do to get us on the flight she said was our best option the next morning, she made it clear how difficult we were making it. She then said to us: “You need to go to the customer service desk to reroute your bags on your new flights. I am unable to do it.”

We didn’t understand why she couldn’t reroute our bags. The customer service desk and the gate desk access the same computer program and we had our baggage tags, but she made it clear that we had to go to the service desk – so off we went like good little order takers (which I think might be a Canadian thing). At the customer service desk, we stood in line for another hour and a half to get our bags rerouted.

While we were in the line, we heard from others that they had run across the terminal only to arrive to hear that their seats had been given away (even though the flight hadn’t closed its doors yet). Another said that the boarding gate had been changed without it being posted, so while they might have made it, with the gate being changed – they didn’t… and that they were never going to fly United again.

When we got to the front of the line and told the person at the customer service desk that we had been sent there to reroute our bags – she shook her head and said: “Why would they do that?” And I had to wonder if it had been done because I kept questioning what could be done better in finding us a flight. Maybe we were being punished or maybe the woman at the gate had just had enough of me.

Then she said – why aren’t you going to Seattle tonight? We told her that the other United person at the gate said there were no flights available. She shook her head again and said, “It’s boarding now. Let’s get you a little closer to home tonight – and get you on an earlier flight to Vancouver from Seattle tomorrow morning.” I wanted to kiss this person for doing her job. My question is – why didn’t the other person do hers? The woman that we dealt with at the customer service desk was the only person who worked for United that seemed to care.

This angel of mercy sorted us out and got us our boarding passes, explained that our bags would never make that flight – but they would make our morning flight from Seattle to Vancouver – and wished us well. I really wanted to hug her.

We hurried across the terminal and fortunately made it just as the plane was boarding. And then we sat there for an hour because of a mechanical difficulty. This pilot at least turned on the Pay TV for the entire time that we were delayed and then for the flight to Seattle.

The next morning, we went to the Seattle Airport and as we were checking in (we were now on a United partner – Air Canada), I realized that I had a bottle of salsa from the airport in Puerto Rico in my carry-on. This would never get through security. So I asked the person checking us in if I could check my carry-on bag at no cost – since the reason I had this salsa in my carry-on was because: a) United made us miss our flight and b) they didn’t get our checked bags to us for this flight. She said that she could check my carry-on but that there would be a $25 charge. I explained the reason why I had to check my bag again… and she said there was nothing she could do. Because I had bought this salsa specifically for Paul because he loved it, I ponied up and paid the $25. So the salsa’s cost had now gone up to $40. Ridiculous.

The highlight of this entire journey from San Juan to Vancouver was the quick, efficient and professional approach of the TSA agents in Seattle. They were exceptional in doing their job, not making us feel like cattle, and getting us through security in a timely manner.

The flight from Seattle to Vancouver is pretty quick. When we hit Vancouver, we went to the Air Canada desk to ask about our bags that weren’t on the carousel. The fellow at that desk was incredibly helpful and said to us: “You were right to come to this desk to get some answers as he glanced over at the person at the United desk leaning on his elbows, staring off into space. It took our bags 48 hours to finally be returned to us after we landed in Vancouver.

Between the flight crew not seeming to care that people were worried and upset, the gate staff person who clearly didn’t do her job and who was rude to me, the flight crew laughing about our inconvenience, the $40 salsa, the cost of a hotel and food, our bags being lost for two days (they went to Chicago), and the fact that almost all United Flights are overbooked – which means if you hit a problem with your flight, it’s extremely difficult to find another flight that you can get on – I am done with United.

In my opinion – #UnitedSUCKS.

#UnitedSUCKS – Part II

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on November 27th, 2014

#UnitedSUCKSIn my last post, we were just about to board our flight from San Juan to Houston to connect to Vancouver. In writing this installment, I realized it was going to take three blog posts to cover it all. This story of poor service has too many elements and I don’t want to jam them all in and overwhelm you.

As we waited to board the plane, the United representative at the gate announced that the flight was overbooked and they were offering $300 per person for someone to take a later flight. I thought that was interesting because the United flights we took to get to San Juan had been oversold too and they were trying to get people to take an offer and switch to a later flight.

We were happy to get on the plane and be heading home. The disorganized, ineffective manner in which United handled passengers at the San Juan airport had sucked the energy out of most of us. No one was happy and people were frustrated, hungry and they just wanted to get to their seats.

The flight was reasonably uneventful. I worked, read a bit, and kept checking the map on the screen to see how close we were… Then the pilot announced that the Houston Airport had quite a bit of air traffic due to rain and we would be in a holding pattern for 12 minutes. No problem, I thought – we have an hour and a half and our next flight was at a gate that was close to our landing gate.

Then, 15 minutes into our holding pattern, he announced that we needed to continue holding for a few more minutes…

Then, 10 minutes later, the pilot said that we were diverting to a nearby military base. Hmmm. Now I am sure he must have said to refuel, however – almost no one heard that part – everyone in the seats around me started asking questions and worrying – Why was this happening? Is there some kind of security risk? What is going on? Why are we landing there – will they bus us to Houston? Will I miss my connecting flight? It was all quite concerning. Yet no one addressed the clearly worried and upset passengers or clarified anything.

Upon landing, the pilot announced that we would simply refuel as quickly as possible and fly back to Houston. Why did we run out of fuel in a holding pattern for 25 minutes?

The time started to creep closer and closer to our connection flight’s boarding time and we began to worry. I asked a flight attendant, who was passing by my seat, about this and she said: “I don’t know – you will need to speak to someone when we land.” Really? On West Jet and Air Canada flights, when it seems passengers might miss their flights – the flight attendants are on it and even if they don’t have the answer, they communicate on a regular basis so people know they are doing their best. We received no information from the crew – and many of the passengers on this flight were worried about missing their connections, as Houston is a hub for United.

While we were refueling, the pilot announced that he had turned the Pay TV on for the passengers – as a gift from him for all of the delays. And I thought – that is a nice gesture. For the 45 minutes while we were on the ground, we had access to movies and TV shows at no charge. As soon as the plane hit the runway and went back into the sky, the free TV was cut off. Really? We spent another 30 minutes in the air – getting back to Houston International and circling the airport again. I think they could have left the TV on until we landed in Houston. Don’t you?

When we landed, trying to get off the plane was chaos. Unfortunately, some of the passengers either forgot or had no manners and were trying to push their way off the plane so they didn’t miss their flights.

Once off, we stood in a line at the desk at the gate – about an hour – to have the person there tell us she could get one of us out of Houston the next morning at 6 a.m. and one of us could go to San Francisco that evening and go to Vancouver from there late the next day. As United was claiming that we missed our connection due to “weather” and not due to “refueling” and that they were not going to pay for a hotel, we didn’t see the point in getting one room in Houston and one in San Francisco.

I could clearly tell that we were frustrating the woman behind the counter by asking her about better options. She sighed quite a bit and she rolled her eyes twice at my questions. Her voice held no helpful tone – it was sharp with the sound of frustration – directed at us because we had the gall to miss our flight. Let me explain here – we are polite and courteous… even for Canadians. We say please and thank you a lot. We say – would you mind checking to see if this is possible… we keep our voices calm and respectful. We knew she was having a tough day too and did our best to be sympathetic to her situation. However, that didn’t go both ways. There was absolutely no need for us to be treated like were a pain in her butt.

Finally, she said she could get us on a flight that night to Chicago and another flight the next day to Vancouver that would get us in later in the evening. That wasn’t great either. I asked her if there were any flights to Seattle (you know – that major U.S. city just south of Vancouver) and she looked at me like I had three heads… I admit I am making an assumption here, but I don’t think she actually knew where Vancouver was … She looked up Seattle and said she could get us on a flight there the next morning at 10 a.m. and then from Seattle to Vancouver later that afternoon. We would arrive in Vancouver at 5 p.m. We’d miss a day’s work, have to pay our dog sitter for another day, have to get a hotel room, and pay for all the meals. Thinking that this was our only option, we said yes.

In our next installment, I will tell you about the United pilot who thinks he’s funny, the $40 bottle of salsa and how the TSA provided the best customer service of this whole trip.

AHA CEO Ruth Atherley to speak at TEDx BCIT

Posted by Paul Holman of AHA Creative Strategies on November 21st, 2014

AHA-logoHere at the AHA office, we’re used to working with clients to develop speeches and presentations. Today we’re talking about what Ruth will speak about at TEDx BCIT on January 24, 2015. She received the call yesterday confirming her as a speaker for this engaging, thought-provoking event. We did an AHA Happy Dance in the office after that call.

We’re looking forward to this event and seeing all of the other speakers that day.

#UnitedSUCKS – Not a good brand reputation (but true)

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on November 19th, 2014

UnitedI travel quite a bit for business and pleasure, and I have to say my most recent travel on United Airlines (from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Vancouver) was the worst experience I have ever had on an airline. #UnitedSUCKS (the trending hashtag) should be painted on their airplanes. Talk about the inability to deliver on a brand promise – although I have to admit, I am not sure they actually have a brand promise, understand, or even care about what their brand reputation is. Their customer service was so shockingly bad that it almost felt like we were being pranked. As it turns out, when I shared our experience as it was happening on Facebook with family, friends and colleagues (many of whom are journalists – quite a few are travel writers), there were dozens of responses talking about how United Airlines had treated them poorly too.

I am going to write this blog post in two installments – there was so much wrong with how United Airlines treated us and many, many other passengers that it will take more than one post to explain it. I am appalled by the unprofessional, often rude, clearly incompetent actions by United staff in both Puerto Rico and Houston (where we ended up stranded after United caused us to miss our connection to Vancouver).

We always tell clients that public relations and a brand promise are connected. Having everyone who works for your organization deliver on the brand promise is crucial to your success and a strong brand reputation. Customer service is at the core of your business – especially if you are a service organization. Clearly, no one cares about this at United Airlines. They are a shining example of what not to do when it comes to customer service.

Two cruise ships docked in Puerto Rico on Sunday, November 16 – letting thousands of passengers off – most of whom were heading home. Many had flights with United Airlines. Paul and I were two of those people. We got to the airport at 9 a.m. – our flight boarded at 1:20 p.m. We were going to spend some time working before we boarded, but there was no one at the United desk to check us or anyone else in. However, Southwest, Delta and all of the other counters were open. The United desk was completely empty.

At about 9:15 a.m., people started to line up at the United area – so we did too. We were about 25 people back in the line. We expected that the desk would open at 9:30 a.m. – nope. 10 a.m. came and went. Still not one United employee to check anyone in. The lineup kept on growing longer and longer and longer… The clock hit 10:30 a.m. and still no one arrived to take our bags (we had already checked in online) or to help any of the hundreds of other United passengers who were growing increasingly frustrated with standing in line (while so many other people who had booked with different airlines sailed through check-in and were off to their gate). There were no signs to say when the desk would open. No one at the airport knew when the United staff would show up.

At 11 a.m., the United Desk finally opened with two people (one for first class and one for economy). By that time, all of the other airlines had maybe 20 people in line at any given time. They had checked in the majority of their passengers – passengers who were now through security and enjoying a coffee or bite to eat on the other side. The United lineup had grown to hundreds and hundreds of people. Frustration was in the air.

There seemed to be some confusion about how a lineup works, as the first person to arrive at the United desk took anyone who came up to her – instead of looking to the first person in line (the people who had been standing there since 9:15 a.m.). People from the middle of the line started to swarm her and she began checking them in. It was chaos.

By the time we got to the front to be checked in – about an hour and 15 minutes later (even though we were only behind 25 other people in the “proper” lineup), they had added two other United check-in agents. Yet – the line behind us had not become any shorter. It was long and full of upset and frustrated people. We wondered if some of the people at the back of the line would be checked in by the time their flights left. As we were checking in – I mentioned that to the person behind the United Airlines desk. She shook her head and said: “The cruise ships do this to us every week. They let you off the ship too early.” Really? So this happens every week when the cruise ship lets people disembark and readies the ship for the new passengers… Apparently, no one at United realizes that if they opened up the counter an hour or two earlier it wouldn’t turn into such chaos. This wasn’t the cruise ship’s fault. It was United’s for understaffing a busy period – that they know happens every week!

Adding two people for an extra two hours each, once a week – how much would that really cost budget-wise? I would estimate less than $250 in hourly wages. And what is the cost to their brand reputation for all of the people who went on Facebook and Twitter that morning and talked about how poorly they treat passengers and showed how long the line was. (You actually couldn’t get it all into one photo – the line wrapped a long way around the airport.) Or all of the people who said they won’t fly United again. Me included. It seems like they are busy watching their pennies while dollars are flying out the door.

We finally got checked in, through security, and then sat at our gate. Because we were near the front of the line, we got to the gate about an hour before our flight – which was a luxury compared to what others experienced. We saw person after person coming to the gate minutes before boarding. They were frustrated, angry and upset about the inefficiency of United. People – including some elderly and physically challenged individuals – stood in line for anywhere between two and three hours trying to check in. No other airline at the San Juan airport had this kind of issue.

There was no communication from United to passengers waiting in the line to check in. No one from United asked anyone in the long lineup what their flight time was – or if someone needed to be rushed through so they wouldn’t miss their flight. If they were cutting it close, people had to take it upon themselves to cut into the line to get checked in and go through security. And everyone I asked in the airport who was booked on United said the people checking them in blamed it all on the cruise ships and the fact that “every week, they do this to us.” Talk about denial.

It was a nightmare. By the time people boarded their flights, they were frustrated. And it only got worse from there…

Stay tuned for the next post on more challenges United faced with its brand promise. To give you a glimpse of things to come, it took us 32 hours to get from San Juan to Vancouver and we arrived in Vancouver 46.5 hours ago but haven’t seen our luggage yet.

They really should change the branding on their planes to #UnitedSUCKS. It’s what their reputation is – and it’s the brand promise they deliver.

(Image credit: © Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com – United Airlines Boeing 757 Photo)

What makes a good client?

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on November 05th, 2014

AHA-logoA good relationship between a client and an agency is a two-way street. We have been fortunate at AHA – for the most part, we have had exceptional relationships with our clients. However, that isn’t to say that we haven’t had relationships that just didn’t work – sometimes, it just isn’t a good fit in personality or “chemistry” (that magical ingredient we search for). Other times, the client’s expectations may not have matched with what we knew we could deliver. (I remember one client saying that we needed to get him on the cover of Maclean’s magazine because I had worked there… his story wouldn’t have interested Maclean’s and when I explained this – he just didn’t understand why I couldn’t call up my former colleagues and “get it done.” Needless to say, we had to end our relationship with this client). And, of course, every communications person I know has had a client that is just too “out there” for a productive relationship to exist.

A positive client/agency relationship benefits everyone involved. At AHA, we go the extra mile for our clients, and that’s because of the good relationships we have built together. It’s hard to be motivated to work over a holiday weekend for a client who is unreasonably demanding, has unrealistic expectations, or is just hard to work with; but for the clients you like and respect – you dig in and do what needs to be done.

Below are our five key elements for a positive relationship.

Define goals

When we know what is expected of us, and what our client has committed to deliver, we can focus on strategy, creativity and generating results. We know that every once in a while, a goal post has to move – but that should be the exception, not the rule. Understanding expectations, our roles and our goals makes both the AHA team and our clients happy.

Keep us in the loop and respond to our requests for information

It is crucial that we are kept up-to-date with what’s new and our clients’ marketing initiatives. (That means regular meetings and knowing what is going on at the client office.) When we need information or a response (to a media request for an interview, for example), it is important that we get this as quickly as possible, or at least know the client’s schedule so that we can understand why they aren’t responding.

Communicate regularly

We connect with our clients on a regular basis – a quick coffee, a phone call or an e-mail just to check in – and they do that with us too. At AHA, we send status reports each Monday – so our clients always know what we are working on and where the project budget or monthly retainer stands. If a campaign isn’t going the way we thought it would, we brainstorm internally and reach out to the client to discuss solutions – and they will flag it if they see something that doesn’t look effective as well. If there is an issue, we come together with our clients to discuss it. Regular communication is essential to a good relationship, and it is important that both the agency and client are proactive in this area.

Make us feel like part of the team

Making your agency feel like a seamless part of your team is really important. Department or organizational e-mails, team meetings, including us in company functions… these are all of value. Our clients see AHA as an important part of the team. There is huge benefit to that – we get to know the marketing and communications people (including those managing social media), we understand the internal challenges that you face, and we have an emotional investment in your success. For AHA and our clients, there is no “us” and “them” – it’s all “we” – and our clients will tell you that provides exceptional return-on-investment.

Pay us on time

While this might seem like a no-brainer – not paying your agency on time can create a problem in your relationship. Treat us with respect – and pay us on time. When you don’t pay our invoice on time, trust is lost and that can negatively impact how we work together.

AHA CEO to speak at CPRS Vancouver event

Posted by Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies on October 27th, 2014

AHA-logoOn Wednesday, October 29, I will have the privilege of speaking at the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver chapter with the Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C., who was the Commissioner of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI).

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was an important initiative that was tasked with making findings and recommendations regarding the conduct of police in handling numerous reported cases of missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – a controversial, highly sensitive subject with a diverse range of stakeholder groups.

I served, with the support of the AHA team, as director of communications for the MWCI and as editor of Forsaken: The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Report. This was the 1,400-page, five-volume report for the Commission. I also wrote the executive summary.

I look forward to speaking with the Commissioner. Working on this project is a highlight of my career, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the MWCI team. These were exceptional professionals dedicated to making improvements in the world. Working on the MWCI was one of the most challenging things I have ever done professionally. It was a 24/7, seven days a week job – that was emotional, demanding and unrelenting.

As a communications person, I knew how crucial the communications role was in this initiative. There was a wide range of stakeholders and it was important that each of these groups was kept informed – even during times when they were being highly and publicly critical of the Commission. I also have to say, I was fortunate that Commissioner Oppal, Senior Legal Counsel Art Vertlieb, Policy Counsel Dr. Melina Buckley, and the Commission team also knew how important it was to inform, update and strategically respond to the stakeholders.

During the presentation, we are going to discuss some of the key communication elements from our work during the Inquiry and the development of the report. They include:

  • Managing controversial, high stakes communication with tight deadlines and diverse stakeholder groups.
  • The importance of planning ahead when it comes to potential issues and controversy.
  • How a communications professional can build a trust relationship with the leadership team during a challenging time.
  • The reality of embargoed information in the age of social media.
  • How to manage a consistent message when communicating with diverse stakeholder groups.

There was certainly much more to the communications aspect of working at the Commission, but these five areas are, I believe, at the foundation of strategic communication outreach.

Another component that will certainly thread through what Commissioner Oppal and I talk about is how we balanced the emotional side of the work we were tasked to do. Everyone who worked at the Commission cared deeply about having recommendations made that would make a positive difference to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This feeling of dedication, passion and commitment to making a difference ran through everything that we did – it wasn’t just a job for any of us. We were all emotionally involved. And we all had a commitment to help make positive change. I know I had to be vigilant that I didn’t let my or anyone else’s emotions influence my actions – it had to be about effectively managing the communications aspects for the Commission, instead of leaping into a discussion about feelings and emotions (positive, negative or defensive).

Commissioner Oppal is a great speaker and I look forward to discussing the communication aspects with him at this event – which will have an informal setting. Since there are two of us speaking, my sense is that it will be a little more interactive than a typical presentation. It will be interesting and, I hope, informative for attendees.

The event is on October 29, from 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m., at the Metropolitan Hotel, at 645 Howe Street in Vancouver. If you are interested in attending the event, you can register at: https://members.cprsvancouver.com/eventcalendar.aspx.

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