The parents ’ guide to communicating in a pandemic

If you’re a parent in this pandemic, you deserve a medal. Not one of the chocolate ones in gold foil. The real deal.

Nine weeks of lockdown has meant nine weeks of juggling your work, your kids, and everything this health crisis has thrown at you. At times, it’s felt a lot longer.

Of course, nothing compares to the pressure faced by parents who are providing essential services on the frontlines – and by all those who’ve lost their jobs and are struggling to provide for their families.

Yet even parents who can work from home have faced a barrage of new challenges. From running a classroom in your kitchen, to carving out a workday when our kids are so talented at interrupting our meetings. Being a parent during lockdown isn’t easy.

But it turns out, parenting is also a great guide for helping us all communicate better – and focus on what really matters. 

Here’s four lessons from parenting in the pandemic that we can all put to good use.

  1. Make your message simple – and visual.

As parents, we’re used to getting complicated questions. Where do babies come from? Why is the sky blue? Are vanilla rice krispies gluten free? And what is gluten anyway?

The last two months have been full of complicated questions for all of us. And right now, finding simple ways to explain complex issues is critical. That’s why every organization – from governments and corporations to unions and non-profits – is searching for effective ways of answering those questions and cutting through the noise. 

Parents know that effective messages are simple, direct, and visual. Concrete images work better than vague ideas. And analogies are a beautiful thing: this is like that, life is like a box of chocolates – you get it. 

The power of visuals and analogies is exactly what makes memes so popular and effective. As you refine your messaging to make it clear and visual, make sure you’re planning for the entire suite of social tools you need – from catchy animated spots to powerful infographics.

  1. Help people take action – and make a difference.

There’s nothing worse than not knowing what to do – or how to help. That’s why the most effective communication doesn’t just grab our attention and connect with our emotions. It gives us clear advice about what to do.

Wash hands. Cover mouth. Stay in. Be patient. These are simple words and simple instructions. But they work – for kids and adults alike – because they give us something to do and leave no room for misinterpretation.

Any time you’re crafting messages, try to give clear advice about what people can do to help. Once you’ve connected with your audience, they’ll want to know how they can make a difference. 

  1. Reach people where they’re at – and build on what they’re already feeling.

If there’s one question that parents everywhere are asking themselves, it’s this.

How do teachers and education workers do it every day?

For parents across the country, two months of distance learning has confirmed more than just our frustration with slow internet. This is a teachable moment about the value of education workers and public education. Parents are feeling a wave of respect and appreciation for every classroom worker. And that sense of appreciation can grow.

In recent years, publicly-funded schools have been hit hard with everything from school closures and bigger class sizes, to layoffs in the midst of this pandemic. And teachers and educators have worked hard to show parents that we’re all on the same side, looking out for what’s best for our kids.

This is a vital moment to build that sense of partnership between education workers and parents. Because every parent has a fresh understanding of the incredibly hard work that educators do.

It’s just one example of a broader lesson. 

Connect with what people are going through. Build on what they’re feeling. And don’t let the moment pass by without acting on what people are experiencing right now.

  1. Keep communicating and grow the conversation. Now more than ever.

Parenting also teaches us the most valuable lesson of all: Never stop communicating. The most important thing is to keep talking to our kids throughout these difficult times.

It’s equally important that unions and non-profits keep talking with our audiences. Just because we’re staying home doesn’t mean we should stay quiet.  

This lockdown is a unique moment. It’s causing many people to find new appreciation for what really matters. And the emotions we experience – and the impressions we form – will have enduring power to shape our perspectives for years to come. 

That’s why we need to speak to our supporters and allies, while also reaching out to those we haven’t reached before. Now is a chance to bring more people into the conversation.

We need to ensure that people’s appreciation for health care workers, public workers, and essential workers of all kinds doesn’t diminish as soon as the lockdown is relaxed. We need to keep communicating about the need for better pay and secure benefits and the value of strong public services. And it’s up to us to frame the conversations and start the campaigns that we’re going to need to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Because the real medal that parents need for enduring this pandemic isn’t some token. We’re going to need action to build the public services that families need today – and that our kids and their families will need for decades to come.

Renée Cable is our Winnipeg-based Account Manager, where she works with clients across the prairies and Northern Canada. She’s working from home with her kids – and encouraging her son to practice his tuba lessons on the front step.

Heartwarming scenes help HEU thank British Columbians and all health care workers

How do you say thank you, when thank you isn’t enough?

You show how you feel. And that’s exactly what Canadians are doing, every evening, to applaud health care workers. 

From balconies and porches, front steps and driveways, people are using anything we can – pots, pans, voices, and hands – to show our gratitude for the dedicated people who are taking care of all of us.

It’s heartwarming to see and hear. And these powerful images and sounds are the inspiration for new ads from the Hospital Employees’ Union that thank British Columbians for staying home to keep everyone safe.

HEU represents more than 50,000 members providing patient care and keeping BC’s hospitals and long-term care homes safe and clean. 

NOW couldn’t be more proud to work with HEU to bring this campaign to life. We pulled out all the stops to deliver ads that wouldn’t just be compelling and beautiful – but also fully respect all public health directives.  

Filming at six locations across the province, the team of videographers at Gab Films captured the uplifting visuals and inspiring sounds of everyday British Columbians showing their support for health care workers. We also filmed a shift change outside St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where health care workers can hear the sounds of support at 7 pm each evening. 

Throughout the filming and production process, we ensured that physical distancing was always maintained to keep everyone safe. The 15 and 30 second ads are now airing across BC. 

On behalf of everyone at The NOW Group, thank you to all health care workers, on the frontlines and behind the scenes, for taking good care of all of us.

The first-ever NOW Reading List celebrates World Book Day!

It’s World Book Day! And with everyone stuck at home during this pandemic, there’s never been a better time to crack open a great book, step into someone else’s shoes, and set out to explore the world with new eyes.

As a creative agency, our team likes to read. A lot. And we keep those creative juices pumping with a pretty eclectic array of books on the go. 

To celebrate the joy of reading on this World Book Day, we asked around NOW’s virtual-office to see what we’re reading right now. And here it is: Our team’s first-ever recommendations for good reads.

An Ocean of Minutes, by Thea Lim. Take a story about a couple separated by crisis and borders and flip it 90 degrees so they’re separated by time, instead of distance. An Ocean of Minutes is a novel that leans on time travel but it’s not sci-fi – instead, it explores separation, longing, and imagination in a world that’s been thrown askew. Sound familiar?

On The Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement, by Rod Mickleburgh. As an agency devoted to promoting social good and helping unions connect with working Canadians, we love a good labour history. And exploring BC’s labour history is an incredible journey – from mining strikes and fiery speeches, to the lasting victories that unions have won for BC’s workers. On The Line is the story of how the labour movement has helped to build BC – and the vital role that unions play in making life better for all working families.

Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention, by Tings Chak. Through a little over a hundred pages of precise illustrations, photos, and words, Chak informs, enlightens, and provokes us about the way we use built environments to restrict human movement and the ethical responsibilities designers face. A unique work from the perspective of an author who wears the hats of both artist and architect.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, by Ronan Farrow. This is a powerful book about the importance of survivors’ voices – and the irreplaceable value of investigative journalism in uncovering truths that powerful interests would prefer to keep buried. Catch and Kill documents Farrow’s struggle to uncover the stories of multiple sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who now sits convicted in a New York prison cell. Farrow reveals what it took to bring so many women’s stories to light – and help catalyse one of the most important criminal cases of the 21st century.

What Goes Up: The Right and Wrongs to the City, by Michael Sorkin. The social conscience of the architectural design field, Sorkin tragically passed away on March 26 as one of New York City’s first victims of the COVID-19 virus. But he left us with a profound legacy through his decades of writing and architectural practice. Drawing inspiration from George Orwell’s reasons for writing, Sorkin hoped that his own design practice “strikes a blow against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.” Full of thought-provoking ideas about building better spaces for all city residents, this collection also showcases Sorkin at his witty and playful best. Who knew that every architect should be aware of the flowering season of azaleas?

There There, by Tommy Orange. This novel looks at what it means to be “native” in a modern American landscape – not as one all-encompassing group but as individuals with unique experiences and struggles. The unique structure of the story allows the narrative to shift perspectives between twelve characters, almost spiraling towards the climax as they all make their way to a Powwow in Oakland. The writing is vivid and poignant, and you find yourself thinking about each of the characters for hours after putting down the book. Can’t wait to see what Tommy Orange writes next!

The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975, by Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh. This book looks back on the time in office – and the long list of legacies – of Dave Barrett, the first NDP premier of British Columbia. It was just three years, but Barrett’s government helped shape the future of BC as we know it. It passed hundreds of bills, set up public auto insurance, created pharmacare, and so much more. This book is well worth the read – and a timely reminder of how much a government can do to help people, if it has the political will.

P.S. Next time you order a book, please support your local independent booksellers. We can’t imagine our neighbourhoods without them – and we need to make sure they survive this difficult period.

And a big shout-out to public library workers across Canada for making incredible e-books and electronic resources available during this period of isolation. Thank you, librarians, for making the world of books accessible to more people than ever.

Lessons of the crisis: This isn’t the ‘great equalizer’

The winning tagline for the Covid crisis seems to be “We’re in it together.”

It might be new as a rallying cry, but it’s always been true. We just didn’t talk about it before.

This pandemic is not the ‘great equalizer,’ as Madonna declared from her $5,000, petal-filled bathtub. Those who were already struggling are being hit the hardest. And nothing short of an earth-crushing asteroid can equalize a world with this much inequality (although smart social policies, fair corporate taxes, strong public services, compassionate immigration laws, and transformative climate policy would be a start).

But this pandemic is the ‘great exposer.’ It’s showing us just how close to the edge many middle-class and working class Canadians have been pushed. And it’s proving that a better future is possible.

For many Canadians, concerns about eviction, access to food banks, and income assistance had never touched them directly. And a ‘precarious job’ was thought to mean some combination of low pay, no security, and no benefits. 

This is a wake-up call: it could be any of us. And one catastrophic event can turn almost all jobs into precarious ones. 

None of this precarity was widely-recognized as a problem until it became a problem for ‘everyone’.

In a flash, people who felt they had secure paycheques, suddenly didn’t. My niece with a union job in Toronto’s booming film and TV industry. My friend, the massage therapist and owner of a wildly popular specialized clinic, that takes bookings two months in advance. Another friend who works in a dental office (Who could imagine a time without a demand for dentists?). It was a stretch to think that any of these jobs could vanish, one at a time. Let alone losing all of them overnight.

Yet, the system has been cracking – and those cracks didn’t happen overnight. For decades, we’ve seen governments cutting public services, squeezing the most vulnerable, and trying to convince all of us that those cuts wouldn’t hurt us a bit. And year after year, the evidence of families’ growing financial hardship has been mounting.

Last fall, personal bankruptcies were up 10% over the previous year. Headlines in early March shouted that Canadians own $3 trillion in personal debt. With an average household debt of $72,950, we’re carrying $1.76 in debt for every dollar of disposable income. And average debt per consumer increased 2.7 per cent in 2019, compared to a year earlier.

Here’s the thing: people who live paycheque to paycheque are in a world of pain when those paycheques end. Families drowning in debt can’t float when they can’t cover the monthly minimum. 

And now, the rug has been pulled out from under people – and there’s no floor to stand on. 

“No shit,” say the millions of Canadians whose lives keep getting harder thanks to conservative governments, like Doug Ford’s and Jason Kenney’s – governments that remain intent on cutting the public services and social supports that we need now, more than ever.

But none of this precarity was widely-recognized as a problem until it became a problem for ‘everyone’. And by ‘everyone’ I mean the stock market. And corporations who suddenly don’t have consumers. And governments facing a collapse in revenues.

Overcrowded shelters have been overwhelmed, underfunded, and stretched thin for so long that many simply can’t provide the safety and security that every human being deserves.

Now that it is a problem for ‘everyone,’ we suddenly see that governments can act swiftly to help people, when they have the political will. 

Governments around the world are proving that it’s possible to provide direct financial assistance to help people who are unemployed. In mere weeks, basic income went from being a great hope for many activists and the fantasy of Andrew Yang’s long-shot candidacy… to a cheque that Donald Trump is signing. (Of course, truly universal basic income will take much, much more than a one-time cheque in the midst of a global crisis). 

At the same time, municipal governments are proving that it is possible to take real action to provide emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness – and proving, by doing so, that so much more can and should be done to improve long-term access to housing for everyone. Because overcrowded shelters aren’t just a health hazard today; they’ve been overwhelmed, underfunded, and stretched thin for so long that many simply can’t provide the safety and security that every human being deserves.

The truth that this crisis exposes is that we can do better. 

We don’t have to settle for a politics of austerity and precarity. We don’t have to live in a country that pushes working families to the brink. We don’t have to ignore the needs of vulnerable people in our communities, with the hope that it “never happens to us.”

We can do better. We can build a future where safe and affordable housing is a right and a reality. Where working families have secure incomes, benefits, and pensions. And where the health and safety of everyone is protected, on and off the job. 

The crucial test will be what happens after. Having exposed the precarity that people face and proven that governments can do so much more to help, what happens when this is over? What happens to that political will, when certain politicians try to take us back to ‘normal’? 

Pandemic or no pandemic: we’re in this together. We always have been. And this time, let’s make sure we don’t forget it.

Five wins at the 2020 Pollie Awards

We’re all safely keeping our distance from… well, everyone. But thanks to video calling, so many things are still possible. 

Working from home? Check. 

Connecting with family? Check.

Hosting cocktail hour a little more often than ever before? Check.

And handing out awards for the year’s best in political advertising? Check.

We’re thrilled to announce that our collaborations with clients have won five honours at the Pollie Awards (aka the Oscars of political advertising).

Hosted by the American Association of Political Consultants, the Pollies were originally scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the year’s best political creative advertising from across North America. But due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s awards were announced earlier this month during the Pollies’ first-ever virtual ceremony.

The NOW team has a long record of Pollie wins and, this year, our clients have once again been recognized for excellence in five categories. 

Government of British Columbia – Retrofit

  • Gold Award for Television in the Public Affairs / Issue Advocacy Division, Statewide
Retro-fit

Health Sciences Association of Alberta – Health Care Awareness

  • Silver Award for Best in Show, Overall, Public Affairs / Issue Advocacy Division

Here’s a fun piece that formed part of the larger, multi-platform campaign:

Bitter Pill

Canada’s NDP – Federal Election Campaign 2019

  • Gold Award for Television, Candidate Division, Best Use of Negative or Contrast
  • Silver Award for Best in Show – Democrats, Overall, Candidate Division
  • Bronze Award for Best Use of Collateral, The One that Got Away

So many ads and pieces of creative to choose from! But we’ll go with this one:

In it for you

We’re all in this together

Diverse society social distancing from each other while protecting during Coronavirus infection.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying, “we’re all in this together.”

And it’s true.

None of us is untouched by what’s happening across the country and around the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. We’re all worried about the health and safety of our loved ones, our co-workers, and the people in our communities. And from the NOW family to yours, we hope you are safe and healthy, wherever you are.

When people say we’re all in this together, it gives me hope. Because that sense of solidarity is exactly what we need to get through this crisis.

People are recognizing that we all count on frontline workers. From health care workers to grocery store clerks, cleaners to child care workers and so many more, working people are the heroes of this crisis. Many of our economy’s lowest-paid and hardest-working people are being seen and acknowledged, for the first time. It’s been a long time coming (just ask anyone who’s campaigned for a $15 minimum wage in recent years). Let’s carry that forward.

People are recognizing, in a deeper and clearer way, that the most essential things in life can’t be done alone, even at the best of times. That’s why we need universal public health care, great public schools, and strong public services in general. And now, more than ever, people see the importance of the services we’ve built together – and how cuts make it harder to respond to a crisis. Let’s remember to keep building and improving them so they’re always there when we need them.

People are also recognizing governments do have the capacity to help people. Public policy ideas – like boosting wages for workers, supporting the unemployed, and helping prevent homelessness when families are on the brink – were written off as impossible by too many people just weeks ago. Now, they are not only possible; they are necessary and urgent. The lesson is that governments can – and should – play a positive role in people’s lives. Let’s never let the politicians forget that.

And, now more than ever, people are recognizing that we all count on each other. Not just to respect public health directives, but to help everyone get through this. Whether it’s offering help to a neighbour, or cheering for health care workers from our front lawns and balconies, people have a desire to show that we’re in it together. It’s amazing to witness.

At a time when so many question marks are hanging over people’s livelihoods, that’s exactly what we need to do: show our solidarity. Because it’s our solidarity that will get us through this crisis, together. 

But I also worry.

Will every frontline worker get the proper protections to keep them safe? We all need to use whatever power we have to ensure that workers receive decent wages, protective equipment, and paid sick leave – now.

Will every government in Canada provide the supports that working people urgently need? We all need to speak up to ensure that support for working people is delivered fast and frequently throughout this crisis. 

Will COVID-19 be used as an excuse by governments to cut workers’ protections and ignore collective agreements? We need to organize to stop any government from using this crisis as a pretext to rip up the rights that workers have fought for, earned, and won.

And will our opponents argue that we need more private sector solutions to keep up with demand? That’s the wrong answer. Instead of cutting or privatizing, we need to invest in strong public services so they are always there when we need them most – no matter who we are, how much we earn or where we live. 

So while we all do our part to practice physical distancing, let’s not isolate ourselves from the needs of our communities and the people around us.

Now more than ever, we need to be there for each other. To keep our voices raised. And to not shut up, even though we’re shut in.

Because, after all, it’s true. We’re all in this together. 

PSAC calls on governments to protect the future – by protecting public services

If you’re feeling stressed about the future, you’re not alone.

From the impact of the climate crisis on our communities, to just paying the bills and making ends meet every month, there’s a lot to worry about. But taking action can help turn that worry into something positive and productive.

It’s the difference between being scared about the future – and working to help change it for the better.

That’s the insight behind PSAC North’s new campaign to protect public services and stop privatization plans across northern Canada. By protecting what’s already working – like the strong public services that families rely on – people can help protect good local jobs and protect the ability of northern communities to tackle the challenges they face.

The NOW team is thrilled to work with PSAC to create this ad and to help protect public services. Along with an incredible crew from our production partner, Play Creative, and an amazing photographer in Adam Reiland, we spent the final week of January filming in Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Iqaluit. 

These are communities separated by 3,300 kilometres. But they’re connected by strong public services and thousands of dedicated public sector workers. And meeting these workers – the members of PSAC – was the highlight of our week.

We met a man who set up a food bank in his community’s school so that kids can help themselves to food on their way home – no questions asked. Because no one should ever have to ask for food.

We met firefighters whose gloves freeze almost instantly, when they turn on the hose to put out a blaze. 

And we met an Elder dressed in beautiful traditional clothing who lit the Qulliq, a traditional oil lamp, and welcomed us to her community. Like every family and Elder in the north, she relies on the services that public sector workers provide, day in and day out.

If you ever happen to forget why it’s so important to protect public services for today and tomorrow, just go meet a public service worker. Thank them for the work they’re doing. And tell them that you’ll help pressure our governments – municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal – to make their jobs better.

Whether you’re in a remote community in the north, or in downtown Toronto or Vancouver, you’ll meet the most amazing people. And you’ll know exactly why public services are worth fighting for – and worth protecting for the future.

Heather Fraser is President and CEO of The NOW Group.

It’s Awards Season! And this one’s for you

The NOW Group and our clients’ campaigns are nominated for six Reed Awards

Roll out the red carpet!

It’s Oscars Sunday in Hollywood. And if you’re anything like us, you’re stocking up on snacks for the big show.

But there’s more to awards season than just the Oscars.

The NOW team is thrilled to be a finalist for six Reed Awards, including Best International Firm. The Reed Awards honour the best in political communications from the US and internationally, and this year’s awards will be handed out in Atlanta on February 20th.

“Earning a designation as a Reed Award Finalist isn’t easy. Thousands of entries compete, but very few make the cut. So if you’re a Reed Awards Finalist, know you’re in good company.”
– Shane D’Aprile, Co-Publisher, Campaigns & Elections

The NOW Group is pretty unique for an ad agency. Sure, we like trophies as much as anyone! But our work isn’t about us winning awards.

It’s about helping people win.

We work with incredible organizations to strengthen public services, protect working families, and build stronger communities. And when our work is nominated, the recognition belongs to all of our clients and partners across the country. They’re doing important work every day – and we’re honoured to help them reach, grow, and move their audiences.

Here’s just a taste of some of the work we did in 2019, as nominated by the Reed Awards.

Best International TV Advertisement – It Takes a Teacher – BCTF
Best International Online Video (Sub-National) – It Takes a Teacher – BCTF
Best Advocacy Advertising Campaign (Grassroots) – BCTF

“It Takes A Teacher” has a great message: Investing in kids and their teachers is crucial in an ever-changing world. We matched that message with superb performances and meticulous attention to sound design – including the memorable squeak of a shoe on the basketball court. We’re thrilled for BC Teachers’ that their campaign is nominated.

Best Canadian TV Advertisement – Moments – ETFO

Together, we created an ad that emphasizes the common ground between teachers and parents: The shared sense of responsibility for children. The impact of the ad relies on striking a genuine emotional chord – and this ad achieves it with first-rate, authentic performances and beautiful production values. It’s great to see ETFO’s ad nominated.

Best Canadian Use of Outdoor Advertising – Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Prevention – Government of British Columbia

These ads needed to be impossible to miss – because the message cannot be ignored. Sex without consent is rape. The posters have been displayed on campuses throughout the province, as well as in bars and clubs. The website on the posters, SafeCampusesBC.ca, directs users to an information hub where they can get help immediately, learn more, and spread the word.

Image of two people at a bar with the caption "Drunk is not yes"

Best International Firm – The NOW Group

For over 25 years, NOW has been creating winning campaigns for good causes. And we can’t wait to see what we create together in 2020. Together, let’s do some good!

Three big tips for turning digital potential into your next successful campaign

You remember in the federal election, when Jagmeet Singh had that amazing viral video on TikTok?

A lot of people had three reactions:

One, good for him!
Two, what the heck is a TikTok?
And three, do I really have to learn another frigging app?

We’re all busy people. And there’s so much to keep track of. New tools constantly coming. And the tools we already use? They keep changing.

For those of us in communications and advertising, the pace is even faster.

But whether you’re an ubergeek or a confirmed Luddite, or somewhere in between, progressive organizers and communicators have to keep learning how to make the most of these ever-changing capabilities.

Our movements, unions, and non-profits have powerful and well-resourced adversaries. And we need to get better at taking them on.

It’s up to us to design smart campaigns that marry ever-growing digital potential with the power of offline action. And to do that, we have to pay attention to three big lessons that today’s most successful campaigns are getting right.

 

Tip #1: Message matters.

No matter what medium you’re in – TikTok, Instagram, or Morse code – one thing’s still true.

Message. Matters.

The right message can succeed even on a shoestring. The wrong message will fail no matter how much money you spend – or what whiz-bang tech you throw at it.

It needs to connect with people emotionally, contrast with the alternative, and offer hope for a solution. And that helps put your campaign on the winning track.

 

Tip #2: Whenever possible, our digital tools should lead people to action.

One of the most seductive things about the digital realm is how measurable it is. You can track shares, and likes, and views, and follows. You can plot them against demographic information. You can make charts. Charts!

But there’s a mistake in thinking that the fact we can count it… means that it counts. If it’s just the same people liking and sharing over and over again, we haven’t reached outside of our social media bubble. We haven’t persuaded anybody. And we haven’t built a community.

But the click, the like, the share… they can be useful if they connect to action that has an impact. That is, if we translate online action to offline action.

There are three key ingredients to the most powerful connections to action:

The first is urgency. People need to understand why it’s important to act right now. The second ingredient is meaning. Our audience needs to see a connection between the action we’re asking for, and the outcome they want. And the third ingredient is impact. Show your audience how this action is already changing things. And show that they, too, can be a part of the change.

 

Tip #3: Understand what tool does what job best.

You can get away without knowing the ins and outs of every social app. But you do need to know what each of the channels available to us is good for, when to use it, and where it falls short.

That applies to traditional tools, like TV and radio, as well as the latest and greatest. (More on what-tool-to-use-when in a blog post coming soon!)

With every channel, though – from radio and print to Instagram and TikTok – think about the communications fundamentals. What’s your message? Who’s your audience? What’s your call to action?

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your content and channels is the first step. Understanding how they can connect and amplify each other, though: that’s your superpower.

Together, let’s do some good!

It’s up to progressive organizers and communicators to put these tools to work for working people, not against them. We can use these tools to push back against the forces that are trying to cut public services, keep working people down, and make life harder. We can motivate and mobilize like never before.

And when we do that, we’re doing more than just building audience share. We’re building a community – and building our movement.

Heather Fraser is President and CEO of The NOW Group. This blog post is a condensed version of Heather’s speech to the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

Eight to watch in 2019

Whether or not you made a new year’s resolution, the new year is upon us and with it comes an opportunity to look ahead. At NOW, here’s are some of the things we’re keeping an eye on.

 

1. Marketing gets influenced

It’s not just for fashion and health products anymore – even the federal government is experimenting with influencer marketing. By partnering with owners of popular social media accounts to have them talk about a chosen topic in their own voice, marketers are finding they can reach broader audiences, engage them for longer periods of time, and weave their story into conversations that are already under way.

 

2. Podcasting gets heard

They’ve been around for a while, but in the last few years attention on podcasting has exploded and we’re expecting to see more of it. If 2018 was the year you either became or knew someone who’s a podcast fanatic, 2019 might be the year you either become or know someone who starts a podcast. Some of our favourites include Pod Save America, Ear Hustle, Labournauts, Objection!, Just Work It, and NSGEU Union Matters (shout out to our client!).

We’re super excited about the potential for podcasting to tell in-depth stories about working people, to explain complicated ideas and policies, and create strong emotional connections that mobilize and move audiences.

 

3. The early bird gets the ad

With a federal election on the calendar this fall advertising spots are starting to fill up. Booking advertising early is going to provide significant strategic and financial benefits for anyone looking to reach voters.

 

4. The 2019 federal election

And speaking of a fall federal election, all the events leading up to the election – and its outcome – are ones we’ll follow closely. And, of course, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and playing a positive role in determining its outcome!

 

5. The shifting border between news and advertising

Native advertising – ads whose form mirrors that of the content around it – has been with us for some time now, and the border between advertising and content continues to move and morph. As the news industry continues to re-make itself and its business model, expect the spectrum between advertising and paid content to include new entrants. On this topic, we’re reading The CANADALAND Guide To New Popular, Populist Political Media and keeping an eye on interesting news startups like Topic, The Outline, The Discourse, The Conversation, The Logic, and more.

 

6. Messaging platforms eat into social media; slide into your DMs

Is your work team on Slack, Skype, or Google Hangouts? Does your family have a WhatsApp group? Whether you’re exchanging short text messages and emoji with a group of 5 or 500, private group chats are operating outside of the public eye and playing a progressively bigger role in influencing what people think, what they think about, and in mobilizing people to act.

 

7. The continuing reign of storytelling

A lot has changed in media, but it never ceases to impress us that one thing remains the same: the value of storytelling. Regardless of what media we’re employing to put a message into the world and what context that’s happening in, it takes outstanding storytelling to tie together experiences, emotions, and facts to shape public opinion and motivate action.

 

8. The role of audiences in telling a story

As we all get used to a more participatory media environment, no story seems complete without an invitation to tell a story back to its teller. So tell us – what are you looking forward to in 2019? Let’s be in touch.

 

Written by Aylwin Lo, our new Account Manager and Creative Technology Specialist at our Toronto office.