The Art and Science of Public Affairs

Electoral Science, or...

Electoral Science, or...

I just received an email from friend, political colleague, and fellow Green Blogger Mark Taylor. The letter was an invitation to register for a Public Affairs Association of Canada conference, co-produced by Campaigns and Elections, and hosted by the Toronto Board of Trade.

‘Big deal’, and “Why are you blogging on this after a month of silence.’ are comments that immediately leap to mind. I’ll answer these putative questions with a list of conference topics. Before I plagiarise the promotional email though, I’ll suggest that this is a great professional development opportunity for GPC, and GPO staff. In addition, with a $50 registration fee for students, pretty well every EDA in Toronto can afford to send a couple of members who are registered students at a dirt cheap knocked down cost. (Regular fees are $775 plus GST). Hey if you’re an out of town EDA, then I’m sure that we can find a warm place to sleep if you want to send someone down to TO to attend.

Furthermore, I have been blogging for almost a year on many of these topics. As a mere grassroots member, I have often reminded that I have limited credibility within the GPC. OK, if I’m a clown and a joker, then perhaps exposing the so-called Pro’s to this stuff will have an impact on how the GPC manages our Party.

Electoral Art.

Electoral Art.

Heres the promotional email in full:

November 4-5, 2009
The Toronto Board of Trade

Just in Case: Develop the right crisis management plan for your organization.
Too often organizations find themselves in a difficult position with no way out. Who could have imagined “it” would happen to us, right? Every organization needs a clear and effective plan to manage the unthinkable. Learn how to develop one by engaging your whole organization on the internet with traditional means.

In this session, you will learn how to read a poll, know when a poll is flawed and ask the right questions of pollsters. Find out how the smartest pollsters are overcoming new challenges and gleaning more and more information from their programs.

Social Media – Best Practices and Finding the Right Metrics & ROI Measurements for your Organizations
Winning your Web 2.0 campaign requires a clear understanding of what defines success. What metrics do we use and what are false indicators? When it comes to social media, is it quality or quantity?

Communicating Your Message to the Media
Too often, folks just “do it” and then wonder why they aren’t getting their message across. Strategic communication is about developing the right message, targeting the right audience and using the right communication tools the right way at the right time. Planning is everything. Learn how.

New Media
Print media, as a standalone business, is disappearing. The only question is which media organizations will be smart enough to make the transition out of paper and ink. How do new media organizations differ from old? What are the new rules and tactics? How does one woo new media?

A moderated panel discussion about the role of government relations in the Canadian policy process
Four panelists talk about the role of government relations in Canada and whether it is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Carpet-bombing your media is no longer effective, efficient or good business. Over the last decade, political and public affairs consultants have borrowed from successful consumer marketing campaigns to create highly efficient messaging campaigns. Learn what microtargeting is, where it is going and how it can help you win.

A Roll of the Dice: Effective public consultation in an age of accountability and transparency
Meeting the public on their own turf can be a risky business – you never know what they will say and who will hear it. For many organizations, public consultation is too scary to mention, yet there are ways to make it work for everyone. Learn from case studies about the 10 best things you can do and the 10 worst things you can do when going down the consultation road.

Five ways to ensure you hire the right consultant
From the pros, those on the buy-side and those on the sell-side, will help you identify your needs and get the consultant help best suited for you.

Recycle and Reuse: How secondary research can save your organization money while delivering the goods
Smart use of existing research can save money while getting you the information you need; identify sources; how to get them; what to use.

Winning political and public affairs battles on the phone
The telephone can be one of our most effective tools, but only if you use it right. Done wrong, political and public affairs telemarketing can hurt your campaign. Learn how to use phones to deliver an attractive message that can be instantly digested by tens of thousands.

US Advocacy Campaign Innovations
Billions of dollars per year are spent trying to influence legislation and public opinion. Find out here how the smartest advocacy organizations are delivering and targeting messages.

New Decade, New Issues?
A panel of pundits meet to look into the future and predict the issues that will be most prominent on the public agenda over the next ten years.


By-Election Called: Is the Green Party of Canada Ready?

By-Elections Called

By-Elections Called

It’s official now, four by-elections have been called, with the vote to fall on Monday November 9. The lucky ridings are:

Hochelaga, in Montreal, with the Olympic Stadium on it’s West boundary.

New Westminster – Coquitlam, In Vancouver, where NDP Incumbent Dawn Black quit to run Provincially.

Cumberland – Colchester – Musquodoboit Valley, Right next door to Central Nova.

Montmagny – L’Islet – Kamouraska – Rivière-du-Loup, East of Quebec city, on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence.

It’s no big surprise, but it will have some interesting consequences. First off, Elizabeth May once promised to run in the first available by-election. Well, I doubt very much that will happen now. She has made a major commitment to running in SGI by picking up and moving to the West coast. It appears that  $62,000 has been commited to pre-writ spending, and the canvas is already in full swing. The die is pretty well cast, and I’d be surprised if Elizabeth’s next few months were spent anywhere outside SGI, meeting her prospective constituents.

Mike Nagy By-Election beneficiary

Mike Nagy By-Election beneficiary

So if Elizabeth May isn’t going to be the Green Party’s focus in these by-elections, what’s the plan? We have

Chris Tindal in Toronto Centre

Chris Tindal in Toronto Centre

seen in the past how important By-elections can be for building up a strong EDA. There are two by-elections that spring to mind. Toronto Centre, where Chris Tindal’s campaign ID’d thousands of new supporters, and Guelph, where Mike Nagy and his team went all out, and posted one of the most competetive finishes ever for the Green Party. Then, of course, there’s London North Centre, where Elizabeth May surprised her sceptics, and pulled off a strong second place finish. Thousands of Green Party supporters were identified in London. It seems clear to me that every by-election is an opportunity to mobilise and target resources. We should always be ready to take advantage of the electoral opportunity to build another strong EDA to go forward with.

By-Elections are utterly predictable. You don’t know exactly where they’ll be, and you’re not exactly sure when they’ll be, but sure as rain, there will be a couple of By-elections every year or so. For the leadership, there will be a number of media opportunities, where they will have a few opportunities to speak before the national media. For the National Campaign team, there is an opportunity to ‘test drive’ parts of the national platform, and campaign theme. There is an opportunity to build the infrastructure for the central party to lend direct support to target ridings. For the local Electoral District, there is the growth in membership numbers, and profile of the Green Party of Canada. Local capacity to fight future elections will be dramatically higher after a by-election supported by an active Party apparatus.

I know the Election Readiness Commitee has been pretty pre-occupied lately. Small wonder, it’s always a daunting task to prepare for a General Election, and that was properly their focus in the past several months. I’m sure the search for a riding for Elizabeth May to run in took up a lot of attention, and ‘bandwidth’ at head office too. We can also remember though when the last by-election / general election tangle occurred, it confounded the national Party. They were seriously wrong footed by the general election call. I’m afraid that this has been the case for every election since 2004. There is a persistent problem with election readiness.

I find it hard to credit that out of all 23 staff listed on the website, only Catherine Johannson is tasked to election readiness. The Election commitee is Catherine’s election team, but they are all volunteers, not a permanent staff with resources dedicated to the job. We need to have a much more robust campaign infrastructure, and the mechanisms to effectively direct staff and volunteers to acheive strategic and tactical objectives. I mean things like phone banks, volunteer co-ordinators, and field workers to send to hot spots. Trained and experienced campaign managers to plan and execute deployment of resources. Obviously, they should all be prepared to re-focus quickly, as priorities change.

In the past, a relatively ‘green’ (pun intended), leadership made the assumption that elections were all about the Air War waged on the National stage. I think though that Elizabeth May’s experience should by now have taught her that the local election campaign cannot be won by the air war alone. The way she was constrained to choose between such a small number of viable EDA’s to run in for this election should drive home the need for many more well organised EDA’s, with lots of volunteers, money, and experienced campaigners. It would be natural to conclude the central Party needs to be supporting EDA development, and doing all in it’s power to augment local teams. This isn’t a small thing, as it would require a shift away from the current focus on communications. There are only so many salaries to go around, and putting real resources into election readiness, and EDA support will require re-thinking the current payroll. It’s not enough to have an effective public relations organisation. You have to have people on phones, and pounding the pavement if you want to realise your potential. The central party is in a unique position to put in place the infrastructure to augment local efforts, but it will take administrative skill, and some tough decisions.

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