If you have spent any time on our website, you have probably gathered that we are strong believers in a strategic approach to communications. Nowhere is a careful strategy more important than in an advocacy campaign.
Over our years in business, we have designed and implemented several advocacy campaigns; we can tell you from our experience, as well as the experience of many others, that such campaigns often demand a number of coordinated efforts, working simultaneously.
They are similar to many other public relations campaigns, except that they are solely aimed at influencing public policy. In other words, getting the government to do, or not do, or stop doing something. Inevitably, an advocacy campaign requires bringing several elements together: research, planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the advocacy effort. In our experience, it's often about identifying and building alliances with people and groups who share the desired result, and in the end, it's about persuading the government that what we want is also what they should want.
Bissett Matheson Case Studies:
Drugs for rheumatoid arthritis
Many New Brunswickers with rheumatoid arthritis were suffering because the drugs they were taking weren't working. Other drugs did exist, and while they were extremely effective, they were also quite costly, and the government's drug plan didn't cover them.
Our advocacy campaign was aimed at getting these medications added to the list of drugs the government plan covers.
The campaign strategy was to take a dual tack: financial and humanitarian. On the financial side, we produced figures to show that while the drugs were expensive, the cost was reasonable when compared with the cost of not providing them: including the ineffective drugs, more hospital stays, more operations, lost productivity and increased social assistance. On the humanitarian side, we focused on the difference in quality of life with and without the medications.
We also recruited people and organizations that we felt would be sympathetic to our cause and willing to weigh in on the issue.
With no budget for an advertising campaign, we used the most effective communications vehicles available, from letters to the editor to meetings with government. This was before the onset of the power of social media. If it were today, social media would play a prominent part in such a campaign.
The campaign was successful, as the government of the day announced that the drugs in question would be covered.
Refurbishment of Point Lepreau
The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station was in need of refurbishment. The government decision was to either approve this significant expense or mothball the facility. IBEW, which represents the NB Power employees at Point Lepreau, were concerned that a decision against refurbishment would leave many of their people unemployed.
Our advocacy campaign was aimed at convincing the government of the day that refurbishment was the better option.
The campaign strategy was diversified and complex. The first step was extensive research to determine the public attitude toward refurbishment and what our key messages should be.
The campaign included pulling together other stakeholders who shared our client's objective, initiating and maintaining a strong media presence, developing an advertising component, and ramping up a concerted lobby effort supported by a speaking tour around the province, meetings with government, rallies and a strong and active website with all aspects strategically timed for maximum effect.
In the end, the government announced that Point Lepreau's refurbishment would go ahead.