Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Get me rewrite! Study says many union print ads aren’t connecting with audiences

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Photo of a stack of newspapers

Two University of Saskatchewan researchers are about to publish a must-read study about union communications—specifically, print advertising.

Professors Barb Phillips and Dionne Pohler studied 177 union ads spanning five years, and while “unions are doing a better job on advertising than the researchers thought,” they could be doing a lot better.

“[T]he ads were often far too text heavy, often did not have a call to action, and missed the mark on answering the ‘what-does-this-mean-for-me’ question, particularly when it came to providing an understanding of what unions do for the general public,” according to the university website. “They also found that many union ads too frequently focused on strikes.”

Of course when a strike is underway and your audience is being affected, it’s important to keep communicating, and avoid leaving the conversation exclusively to management. But an effective strategy involves communicating and building support, trust and relationships long before a strike is on the horizon.

And it requires communicating based on your audience’s values, needs and experiences. The study’s authors suggest unions “focus on what they do for society to build good will with the public.”

The study hasn’t been published yet, so we’re not sure exactly how the authors mean this, but we’d frame it more sharply. “Society” doesn’t vote, decide where to shop, or phone their elected representatives; individual people do. Building public support requires you to show your audience how unions benefit them personally.

And there’s another factor we hope the study addresses, one that comes up frequently for us in our work with public- and private-sector unions: the need to engage your members as well as your external audiences. Often labour communications are aimed as much at reinforcing internal solidarity in the face of management attacks, or at mobilizing members to take action, as they are at persuading members of the public. Reconciling messages crafted for those different audiences is one of the biggest challenges unions face.

But that aside, what we’ve seen so far suggests this study could open a lot of eyes. It reinforces much of what NOW’s Paul Degenstein said a few years ago in his manifesto Reviving Labour’s Image, when he urged unions to “Make friends – because when you need a friend, it’s too late to make one,” “Know your audience” and “Talk about them, not you.” It amplifies what Marie Della Mattia told the Canadian Labour Congress Political Action Conference two years ago, when she said “Our real power is when you talk about what’s in it for everyone,” and advised attendees to ask themselves, “Are my words and actions telling everyone, every day, that I care about them?” And it underscores Joanne Deer’s bargaining communications tips published just last month on the Canadian Association of Labour Media blog.

NOW was founded in 1992 to help bring a new communications discipline to the Canadian left, grounded in modern methods and strategies. Progressive communications have come a long way in Canada since then, but this study makes it clear there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

On a national day of mourning, let’s look abroad as well

Monday, April 28th, 2014

One day is not enough. One death is too many. April 28: Day of MourningToday we mourn the many workers killed or injured on the job. For 30 years now, Canadians have set aside April 28 to look beyond the sheer statistics — the workplace deaths that top 1,000 every year in Canada, the thousands of injuries ranging from painful to permanently debilitating — and to commit ourselves to action.

Better enforcement of laws and regulations that look good on paper, but mean little if employers can shrug them off. More resources for workplace health and safety. More stringent contract language.

And a stronger, broader labour movement, so nobody feels they’re alone when they tell their boss a task is too dangerous or a risk is too great.

The situation is even worse in many other countries. As horrible as it is to think that more than a thousand Canadians die on the job every year, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh on April 23, 2013 claimed as many lives in a single day.

Paul Dewar, foreign affairs critic for Canada’s NDP, has helped lead a drive to ensure Canadian companies disclose far more information about their supply chain: the global assembly line that brings products to our store shelves. As he points out,

On April 24, 2013, Canadians across the country were wearing clothes made by workers in Rana Plaza and equally unsafe factories worldwide. In the wake of the catastrophe, many of us have sought to learn more about the conditions in which our clothes are made.

We all want to know what we can do — individually and collectively — to prevent a future tragedy. […]

Ultimately, social responsibility is grounded in a simple premise: no one should leave for work in the morning and not make it home because basic labour standards were not met. The strong response to the Rana Plaza tragedy showed that Canadians feel it is our responsibility to demand responsible, sustainable, and equitable economic and social engagement with people in developing countries.

It certainly is. And it’s our responsibility as well to recognize that one workplace death — in Canada, Bangladesh or anywhere else — is one too many, and to combine remembrance with action. We need fewer reasons to mourn, and more reasons to hope.

14 ways union communicators can succeed in 2014

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Next year promises to be an eventful one for progressive communicators, and we’d really like to see you knock it out of the park. So I asked around NOW’s offices: what are the ways (large and small) unions (small and large) could dramatically improve their communications impact?

Here are just some of the suggestions I got back. (Big thanks to Kristen, Joanne and Marie!) And whether you’re a professional leading a major public campaign, a volunteer helping your local get the word out, or somewhere in between, we suspect you’ll find something useful in this bulging holiday stocking of advice. (more…)

2012 National Day of Mourning

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

In support of working people across Canada on this National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job.

Please copy or share and help promote safety for all workers.

7 Pollie Awards international recognition for NOW’s clients

Monday, March 14th, 2011

We’re so proud of our clients and our work together! This weekend, creative work on highway privatization, pension security, parks, public services, and election awareness was recognized with seven international awards.
The Pollie Awards have been called “the Oscars of political advertising” and recognize the best of public affairs and issue advertising.

NOW’s clients won in 5 categories:
International candidate direct mail:
Silver – for the pension leaflet for the Ontario New Democratic Party caucus called “What’s the plan?”
Bronze – for the Manitoba New Democratic Party caucus’ direct mail brochure “Hugh”

International candidate radio:
Silver – for a radio spot on parks privatization done with the SGEU called “Grandpa”

International candidate television:
Honorable mention – for the spot made for the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party called “Balloon”

International public affairs internet campaign:

Bronze – for the anti-privatization campaign site for the SGEU

International public affairs television:
Bronze – for a public services branding spot from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union called “Commitment”
Honorable mention – for the spot that defines the risks of highways privatization, from the SGEU: “Signs”