First Nations Communications Toolkit
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The First Nations Communications Toolkit is a unique resource jointly developed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, BC Region, and Tewanee Consulting Group. The toolkit was originally developed in 2007 and continues to provide a good basic overview of communications planning, activities and tools. While the fundamentals of communication such as engaging your audience and developing clear messages have not changed, some aspects continue to evolve. As a result, this edition of the toolkit has been updated to reflect changes in communications practices, particularly the use of social media tools.
This toolkit was designed explicitly for First Nations communicators and is based on input from First Nations communicators and administrators working for First Nations organizations. It offers information on many topics, including communications planning, publications, events and media relations, from a First Nations' perspective. The best practices and practical lessons learned that have been included in the toolkit are drawn from Tewanee Joseph's experience working on communications projects with over 30 First Nation communities.
Oral history has been a fundamental part of First Nations culture for many generations -- First Nations people have been effective communicators for centuries. The challenge in modern times is to find the appropriate mainstream tools to share our vision in a clear and understandable way with membership, the surrounding community and with the media. — Tewanee Joseph, First Nation
Communicator and Principal, Tewanee Consulting Group
Input into the toolkit came from rural, remote and urban First Nations throughout British Columbia and included a survey as well as research on First Nation communications initiatives.
Additional input on the toolkit was gathered at a First Nations communication conference in March 2007 in Calgary, Alberta, which was attended by individuals from First Nations in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.
This document represents a true collaborative effort between Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and First Nations communicators and stands as an example of what can be achieved through an effective partnership, a positive approach and clear communications. By raising awareness and facilitating dialogue, effective communications supports strong governance and the development of healthy, sustainable First Nations communities.
How to Use This Toolkit
This toolkit is intended as a resource for individuals from a range of backgrounds. It can serve as an introduction for novices or as a refresher for those with more experience. This kit can also benefit anyone from Chief and Councillors to members who want to better understand and learn how communications activities can support the objectives of the community.
Each section of this toolkit provides a broad overview of a specific communications topic. For more detailed explanations or training on specific communications elements, see the resource section for references.
Templates and samples are included at the end of each section. These can be used as is, or modified to meet specific needs. For convenience, these documents are also provided on the disc included in the back inside cover.
- Communications Planning
- Media Relations
- Event Planning
- Community Engagement
- Web Communications
- Social Media
Communications is one of the foundations for the success of First Nations organizations. First Nation governments are beginning to take a more proactive approach to communicating with membership and the general public. As many First Nation communities are negotiating treaties, specific claim settlements, economic development projects, and self-government agreements, effective communications is essential.
What is Communications?
Communications is an exchange of information. A dynamic function, communications is about providing information to a particular audience, listening to their feedback, and then responding appropriately. Whether you want to talk about an economic development project, a treaty, financial information, health or education, effective communications can build consensus through raising understanding and generating well informed dialogue among members, partners and other parties.
Why is it Important?
Effective communications has the power to change the way a community functions and how it is viewed by members and non-members. It can also facilitate community development. A well planned, resourced and executed communication strategy can make the difference between an initiative's success and failure. A community can benefit from the successful implementation of a communications plan, and conversely, experience poor results from ill-planned communications, or by not communicating.
How Communications Can Support Your First Nation
Communication, whether oral, written or visual, is a tool that every person uses on a daily basis. The key is to do it effectively and strategically. An effective communications plan requires vision, commitment and, most importantly, buy-in. It needs to be something that your community understands and believes in. A First Nation's vision comes from its people. They set the mandate, they provide their thoughts, and they need to agree on the objectives and outcomes.
If planning is conducted on a consistent basis, your community will be better informed, your Chief and Council and your administration will be better prepared, and everyone will be able to make more informed decisions. Fully informed staff will be better equipped to share information, field questions and build cohesiveness in the community.
When developing communications initiatives in your community, you should meet with your Chief and each member of your Council on an individual basis to explain your direction and how the community will benefit.
Well placed communications will raise the profile of your First Nation/organization, generating positive outcomes such as building trust amongst partners, membership and the general public; gaining credibility; and improving relationships internally and externally.
A well constructed communications approach will also provide membership with the information they require to allow for a productive decision-making process. Members who feel informed will also feel confident in voting and supporting initiatives (economic development, social, educational, etc.), and will feel more positive about their community.
Being strategic means having a clear objective and using communication to help you reach that objective.
Support from First Nations Leadership for Communications
Communications can either be a First Nations' biggest asset or its biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis. Done right, it can allow leadership to be prepared for any situation facing the community. Done wrong, it can send leadership into a state of constant crises management.
Over the past several years, First Nation members' interest in their community's business and their interest in effective communications has increased dramatically. As a result of this positive shift, Chiefs and Council and administration should consider taking a more proactive and targeted approach toward their communications efforts.
It is essential to design and implement an effective communications plan and dedicate the necessary resources in order to provide members with updated information on the First Nation's current initiatives. Enhancing communications with members, media and the general public will allow the leadership to effectively plan for the future.
The following list outlines steps for getting communications efforts started:
- Develop a communications proposal for Chief and Council's review.
- Ensure leadership provides a mandate for the communications plan and related activities to be undertaken.
- Within the proposal, identify the resources necessary to carry out work.
- When appropriate, focus on a specific initiative (specific claim, economic development, land use plan, etc).
Before beginning to develop a communications strategy or initiating communication activities, it is important to have a clear understanding of who you are as a First Nation and what you are all about. This section will look at the importance of establishing and managing your brand and how it can support your communications.
Who you are — Your Brand
Your First Nation brand should be a representation of who you are, where you come from and how you want to be perceived. By definition "brand" is whatever a person thinks of when he or she hears your organization's name. Is your community sophisticated? Is it forward thinking? Does it have vision? Is it professional? How does it treat its members?
Your brand will distinguish your communications products and messaging, but it will also help people who work for your community represent a clear and consistent identity.
In First Nation communities your brand extends from the front reception to the economic development officer, to the Chief and Council, and even to the janitor. Every individual in your organization is an extension of your brand.
Establishing Your Unique Brand
All First Nations are unique in their own way and a well developed brand strategy can communicate these unique characteristics in a positive manner. The brand should be a reflection of the First Nation's personality, values and objectives. Branding will create an identity for your First Nation and must be in line with your wider communication objectives.
If your brand is effectively implemented it will create a unique and positive perception of the organization. A well developed brand is identifiable and recognizable.
Once you have a brand, you will be able to develop communication products that have the same look and feel that consistently identify your organization. This includes everything from your Web site to letterhead.
Elements of a Brand
There are several key elements that will support and reinforce your brand. These may include some of the components below:
- Logo/logotype (includes graphic elements and/or text element)
- Wordmark (text only graphic element)
- Slogan (e.g., Beautiful British Columbia)
- Design (i.e., colours, look and images)
This section will outline various aspects of a Communications Strategy including how to develop a communications plan and then how to implement and evaluate it. Every First Nation is unique and it is up to your communications team to undertake a communications strategy that makes sense to your First Nation and relates to your brand.
Developing the Plan
A communications plan is like a road map that will help you to get from where you are now to where you want to be. It doesn't have to be lengthy or complicated, but it does have to be a living document that will evolve over time.
A communications plan should make use of a multi-disciplined approach to address media relations, internal and external communications as well as interactive communications. Different approaches, tactics and activities can be used to convey your messages to different audiences. While the plan is generally written by one individual, it is very important to ensure that a team is involved in developing the overall communications strategy. It should be something that Chief and Council, the administration and membership have a part in developing and providing input into. Allowing all team members to contribute ideas builds ownership and emphasizes that everyone on the project is a communicator, whether they answer the phone or speak directly to the community members.
Elements of a Plan
While there is not one standard model, a communications plan should identify:
- Overall strategy
- Goals and objectives
- Target audiences
- Key messages
- Tactics (approaches, tools and activities)
Communications Goals and Objectives
Every communications plan should begin with a clear statement of goals and objectives. These should be simple and measurable. When developing your objectives attempt to answer the following questions:
- Why are you communicating?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- What do you want people to do as a result of receiving your communications?
- How will you know if your communications has made a difference?
It is vital to know who you are communicating with. You should already have a clear idea of your key audiences and user groups. You also need to clearly identify what you want them to ideally do. It's easy to end up with a long list; however, it is important to identify audiences according to importance and influence based on your communications objectives.
Target audiences may include:
- Chief and Council
- Federal and provincial governments
- Local neighbouring municipalities
- Private sector
- General public
It is important to understand your different audiences and what motivates them. When targeting various audiences, you need to determine for each of them:
- The purpose for contacting them.
- What information and messages they need.
- The best approach for delivering your message.
- What you expect to happen when they receive the messages.
Remember that some audiences such as media are both an avenue to other audiences and an audience in their own right.
Key messages open the door to direct communication with your audience because they bridge what your audience already knows with what you are trying to tell them.
Think about the four or five key points (umbrella messages) that you want your audience to know about your organization or initiative. These are your key messages. They enable you to summarize your initiative in short, concise points so they can be consistently repeated. Key messages will also allow members of the organization to be able to say the same things in the same way.
You should also avoid having too many messages. It's better to have three to five powerful messages than too many. It's useful to experiment with what your message would look like in different formats — a news release, a report, a newspaper article, Web site page and social media posts. It's beneficial to think in advance about stories, case studies and packages of information that will bring your project to life for key audiences.
Although the overall key messages provide a general understanding of the initiative, messages can also be tailored to target various groups: First Nation Chief and Councils, First Nation members, Aboriginal organizations, general public, media, and various levels of governments.
Key Messages are:
- Linked to your objectives.
- Simple, clear and compelling.
- Brief and to the point.
- Written in an active voice.
- Accurate and factual, but with an overall positive tone.
- Focussed on a particular challenge and audience.
- Relevant (clear about why it matters).
- Not overly complex or technical.
It is important to periodically assess what messages may be emerging from the initiative and how these can be incorporated into your communications efforts. You may also want to refine messages based on your experience of their effectiveness.
Strategies and Tactics
Once you've created a prioritized list of audiences and developed your messages, it's then important to think about the most appropriate vehicle to use to reach them. How are you going to communicate your message and persuade the public about your initiative? How are you going to build awareness and share important information?
There are many different communications vehicles available today that you can use to get your message out to your target audience.
You should determine the most effective strategy or approach to getting your message out by considering how your audience can best access and take in your message. Choosing the right format will increase your chances of reaching and influencing your target audience. That might be through a publication such as a brochure or a newsletter. Your approach might include media relations. Or it may be through promotional material such as a poster, banner or magnet.
Whatever communications strategies and tactics (also referred to as approaches and tools) you decide on, your objective should be to tell your story and tell it well. Your goal should always be to promote a free flow of information in areas that are important to your First Nation, and that facilitate dialogue and networking within the community and with your external audiences.
Before you produce any specific material, it is important to define its purpose. Producing materials is expensive and time-consuming. As with other parts of your communication strategy, the question should be: why are we doing this?
Other key questions to ask are:
- Will producing this material further our objectives?
- Is it the best type of material for our target audience?
- Is there another way we can do this?
While not an exhaustive list, here are some tools used in different communications approaches that you might want to consider when developing your communications plan:
|For Media Relations||For Information and Promotion||For Community Engagement|
|Media event||Advertising (radio, TV, print)||Presentation material|
|Media kit||Video/DVD/CD||Summaries and briefings|
|Fact sheet||Poster||Fact sheet|
|News release||Bulletins/newsletter||Web site|
|Backgrounder||Web site||Social media|
|Web site||Social media|
Careful consideration must be made when deciding which of the communications tools will be utilized. Ask yourself these types of questions:
- Why a regular newsletter rather than a more occasional briefing?
- Why a Web site rather than just e-mails?
- Why an e-mail bulletin rather than more face-to-face contact?
- Why a news conference rather than just issuing a news release?
Every community has its own unique circumstances. The approaches that you use to communicate with your audience, and the tools you use to disseminate your messages, should be determined based on what works best for your community.
Developing a communications budget can be a challenge. Many of the financial resources in your community may already be allocated to various programs and services. Convincing departments within your organization that a communications budget is important may take some work.
To assist you in your budget planning:
- Start with a specific project or initiative.
- Develop your plan with the guidance of your key people (Chief and Council and department heads).
- Don't try to do too much. Narrow down your planning options so that you focus on what you can do well in the amount of time that you have.
- Make sure your budget is realistic. Don't underestimate the cost of items such as printing (colour versus black and white), postage, envelopes and delivery, catering, etc.
When you are thinking about your initial communications objectives and activities, it is worth building in some simple performance indicators and evaluation measures from the start. This will help your organization know if its communications initiatives have succeeded. You can measure your success by:
Evaluating participation and feedback from meetings or events
- Develop feedback sheets where individuals can make comments or ask questions about the organization.
Maintaining a record of all feedback received from target audiences
- Track telephone calls and maintain a list of questions and comments from individuals. (This can be done through a toll-free voicemail system.)
Tracking awareness of your initiative among your audiences
- Analyze responses before and after implementing your tactics.
Tracking media coverage including volume and nature of coverage
- Determine which media and blogs are relevant to you and monitor on a regular basis.
- Utilize a media monitoring service that can track references to your organization in the media.
- Analyze changes in how the story evolves through ongoing coverage.
Monitoring Web site usage
- Assess how many people are visiting your Web site.
- Track all e-mails and comments for review on a regular basis.
- Monitor comments from your social media channels.
- Review statistics to see if you are reaching your target audiences.
Before you know where you are going it is important to know where you are coming from. Effective communications planning should be based on sound information researched and gathered by you and your team. This should include assessing perceptions of your First Nation members among potential target audiences.
Gaining an accurate view of your current place in the world can help you develop a communications strategy that will give your initiative a distinct identity. More importantly, it will help you build the foundation for your overall brand.
The more research you conduct, the better positioned you will be to prepare the necessary plans to effectively engage your audience.
Ways to find the information you need include:
No matter which method of engagement you choose, in addition to gaining valuable information to use in your communication initiative, you will begin the process of building awareness and trust within your community.
Information gathering (surveys)
Surveys conducted within your community or with your target audience can be a valuable tool for your organization while providing an opportunity for community members or others to provide their input.
Having the pulse of the community and understanding what they are thinking and feeling at a particular moment in time can help lead your initiative in the right direction. Also having representatives canvass the community provides an opportunity for face-to-face interactions, which is a good way to build relationships.
By simply undertaking a survey, you are communicating to community members that you care what they think. However, it is essential that the questions are clearly understandable and are seen as relevant.
- Key Messages
- Main Elements of the Initiative / Areas of Focus
- Communications Products
- Web site
- Fact sheets
- PowerPoint presentation
- Frequently asked questions
- Support Materials
- Legal documents
Develop your key messages before you begin creating communications products. Key messages are the main points that you want to communicate about your organization or initiative. The messages will serve as a focal point and ensure your communications products are consistent and have impact.
Before developing products, you may also want to consider if there are main elements of your initiative or broad topic areas you will need to address (such as economic benefits, governance, culture, etc.). Incorporate these into your products as well.
There are many types of communications products — determine which to use based on what will work best for your audiences.
Finally, support materials may be used as background to develop communications products. Conversely, support materials may incorporate some of the information from your communications products.
Media relations is about working with and building relationships with print, broadcast and electronic media. The following section highlights key points on how you can work more effectively with the media to deliver your key messages to your target audiences.
Why Media Relations is Important
The media is one of the most important and highly visible communication channels. How you appear in the media significantly influences your brand. Media relations, therefore, should be an essential element in your communication strategy. You can use the media for publicity, to get your story out or raise the profile of your group or activity.
In many First Nation communities, dealing with the media has been a very challenging and sometimes overwhelming experience. Most of this can be attributed to the fact that First Nation governments are extremely busy on a day-to-day basis and lack the resources and tools to work effectively with the media.
Reactive Versus Proactive Media Relations
Has your community ever had a reporter call your office looking for someone to speak to about a breaking story? Has your community ever had a television crew show up at your administration office asking you if you would like to comment on a high profile event that has occurred? More often than not this ends with a media report that includes a small one liner that says "unavailable for comment" or a quote from someone from your community who knows very little on a very important issue, providing information. This is a classic example of unplanned, reactive media relations.
Meeting with reporters and returning their calls is an important first step in initiating a proactive media relations approach. If you start with these basics you will be better prepared to brief your spokespersons on any issue and respond in a more coordinated and effective manner.
Journalists are just ordinary people who have a job to do. When you think about building relations with a media outlet start with meeting for a cup of coffee. Ask a reporter to meet you at a designated location to discuss your community. Help the reporter understand more about your community.
Who are the Media?
The media is an all-encompassing term for print and broadcasting organizations who disseminate information to the public. Geographically, media can be local, regional, national or international.
It is important to understand the media so that you can maximize the success of your communications goals. The following highlights the advantages and disadvantages of using various types of media:
The Media Enquiry
As much as you attempt to prepare for media enquiries, from time-to-time you will receive calls that are unexpected. When responding:
As part of media outreach, First Nations need to identify a primary spokesperson and provide media training for key individuals including Chief and Council. The communications contact within your organization should be the individual to "background" the journalist and provide relevant fact-based information. Tell the reporter that this information is "not for attribution" which means they can use it for background but not quote you directly. The communications contact should also prepare the key messages for the spokesperson along with a list of possible questions.
Once the spokesperson has been prepared, only then should you call the journalist to conduct an interview. If you are prepared as well as the journalist, it will make for a more balanced story and a better interview process.
You may consider creating a log of media calls. This will help you form a database of media contacts and track how often specific reporters call and if they are consistently calling about certain issues.
Letters to Editor
If a story that appears contains errors or misrepresents facts, you may want to consider submitting a letter to the editor. A letter to the editor may be used to respond to inaccuracies, an editorial stance or another writer's letter to the editor. Letters to the editor are usually short and address a specific issue.
Cultivating and maintaining relationships with local reporters and editors is critical and should be considered your number one media relations priority.
Being proactive with the media is not just about issuing a news release or holding a news conference. It's about actively pitching stories. In fact, in some cases, you may find the most effective way to pitch your story is to simply pick up the phone and talk with a reporter about it.
Whether you decide to utilize a more recognizable tool like a news release or go a less formal route, it is important that you build a positive relationship with the media. If you know the media and they know you, you will be much more effective when it comes to pitching your story.
Getting to know your local media and finding out what they are interested in, their deadlines, requirements and how they operate will allow you to more effectively get your message out. You'll get a better sense of the news angles and hooks that should be in your news release or pitch. This will increase the odds of your story being picked up.
The News Release
While being proactive with the media isn't just about issuing a news release, the news release is a central and commonly used tool in planned media interactions.
The purpose of a news release is to:
- Announce something newsworthy
- Respond to a negative or erroneous story circulating in the media when it is absolutely necessary
When writing a news release, try to think and write as a journalist would. Highlight the news. Be clear about the key messages you are trying to communicate. The more professional your release, the better chance of having it published in its existing format. It is also important to remember that neither the reporter nor your intended audience are experts in the subject you are communicating about, so it is important to be very clear and concise in your messaging.
Media outlets typically receive dozens, if not hundreds of news releases per day. It is very important for you to highlight news that is current, unique and relevant to many people. A news release should ideally be one page, and never more than two.
No matter what the content or the style, each news release will have the same basic format, consisting of the lead, the inverted pyramid and quotes.
The title or caption of your news release, usually set in large, bold type, should be something that will catch the attention of the news room.
The lead is the introductory paragraph in which the main points are summarised clearly. In theory, it should be able to stand on its own as the news story, and should generally cover the six key questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? It should be crafted in a way that catches attention.
The Inverted Pyramid
The inverted pyramid is the basic format for news stories — it presents information in order of importance. Start with the most important message in the top paragraph and work to the least important at the end of the release.
Quotes are the backbone of all releases. All points made in a release have to be attributed to a reliable and credible source.
Journalists receive a large number of news releases, and many inevitably end up in the bin. To help ensure yours is not among them, here are some simple guidelines for writing good news releases:
- Think about your style — writing for the media is different than writing academic reports.
- Separate the main news from technical information (which can be attached separately as backgrounders).
- Stick to three or four points backed up with a few strong facts and figures.
The Media Kit
A media kit is basically a folder containing documents you want to provide to the media. For significant announcements it is a good idea to have a standard media kit which can be provided to media at the event as well as posted to your Web site. In addition to including the news release, a standard media kit will include a fact sheet, a backgrounder and a question and answer document.
- No more than one page.
- Provide relevant technical information, or a summary of key points.
- Cover the six key questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
- No more than three pages.
- Provide the basic information that a journalist will need to know to understand your initiative and issues.
- Provide additional or more detailed information in order for the journalist to have a more thorough understanding.
Question and Answer Document
- Can be one to five pages in length.
- Questions are posed and then answered.
- Anticipate and answer the basic questions about your initiative.
- Responses should be relatively concise but fully address the question.
Your media kit can include biographies of the people who have been identified as spokespersons for your organization and/or initiative. Bios should:
- Highlight the individuals' accomplishments
- Explain their role within the community
- Include a photograph
- Be no longer than one page
If you feel pictures can enhance your story, provide them electronically on CD in your kit. Pictures of your initiative (building, logos, renderings, spokespersons) should be at high resolution; at least 350 dots per inch or more. They should represent you and your initiative in the best possible way.
The News Conference
Some of your initiatives may be so newsworthy that it is worth holding an event to bring together key reporters.
These events should only be organized if they will add value. You never want to hold a news event and have no media show up. For example, if you are gathering reporters for a news conference, ask yourself what they will get from turning up that they wouldn't get from reading a news release or talking to you on the phone. Think about what's in it for the reporter — could they get an in-person interview to capture a different angle, get some good visuals, view the unveiling of a model or a logo, or does your event bring together key individuals (Chiefs, local, regional or national politicians)?
A media briefing kit containing a press release, fact sheets and/or backgrounders should be prepared in support of any news conference.
To attract media to your event, a media advisory is generally sent directly to the news room of the media you are inviting. Your advisory is your formal invitation to the media and includes your logo, who will be speaking, date, time, place of the event and contacts. This should ideally be sent to the media one to two days in advance of the event. If you have time, you can contact the media to ensure they received your advisory.
Since timing is critical, take into account reporters' deadlines and try to schedule your news conference in the morning. Ensure that your event is well organized and no longer than 60 minutes. Your news conference can be a stand-alone event or could be part of a longer conference, community event or a regional Chiefs meeting. Choose your speakers carefully. Stick to the allocated time. Done well, an effective news conference with the media will raise the profile of your initiative.
It is important to track what is being said about your First Nation in the news. Whether you have initiated a media campaign or not, it is important to stay on top of what is being said so you can react appropriately and adjust your communications if necessary. You may want to consider utilizing a media monitoring service that tracks references to your First Nation in the media.
Without evaluation and monitoring, it is impossible to assess the effectiveness of your media relations campaign. Monitoring and evaluation not only help focus activities and resources, but help show tangible results.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluation will often include:
Clippings should be analyzed to determine how effective you have been in getting your key messages across. By analyzing media coverage, you will understand how your First Nation or organization is being portrayed to the public. This is essential to determine how you strategically communicate your message to meet your objectives. You may find that media coverage has been positive and effective, or you may determine that your approach needs a major overhaul. In either case, it is critical to continually manage your media presence.
Whether you are planning a general band meeting, a consultation meeting on a specific project, or a youth or Elder meeting, events should all be carefully planned. The purpose of an event is to share information, ask for feedback or educate. You should consider the timing of the event and its location. Having an event scheduled at the same time as another community event can cause distraction and the loss of focus for your particular initiative — you may not receive the response you're looking for.
Remember that individuals are busy and their time is valuable. Make sure that your event purpose is clear and those who attend know why they are there and what action you want them to take as result of their presence.
Planning your Event
Set your objectives for the event early on by asking yourself why you are holding it in the first place. Key questions you should be able to answer are:
Community engagement can be defined as the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those people. It is a powerful vehicle for bringing about environmental and behavioral changes that will improve the health of the community and its members.
Within First Nation communities, community engagement can take the form of band meetings, traditional work, door-to-door visits, Chief and Council meetings, e-mails, telephone conversations and yes, even gossip. One of the goals of your communications plan should be to ensure that your initiative is being talked about. Regardless of whether they are initially supportive or not, if members are talking about the initiative, then they are demonstrating an interest and transferring information. It is a cause for concern if there is no discussion or demonstrated knowledge by your community members about the initiative. The challenge is to ensure that community members are informed and they have access to information and a chance to be heard.
Individuals who are vocal in the community provide an excellent indication of what should be addressed in your messaging. Often, these individuals will have a number of relevant questions; try your best to provide answers or to seek answers and follow up.
It is important to create a safe and inclusive environment in order to make people feel comfortable expressing themselves. This will also make them more receptive to what you have to say. By effectively listening and engaging all members of the community — youth, Elders and on/off reserve membership — you increase awareness and involvement. There are diverse opportunities on a daily basis to engage your community members. If you have a solid plan and understand how to use some basic communications tools, you can use these opportunities to greatly influence outcomes in your community.
Community meetings are a critical tool that you can use to engage your community. A lot of planning needs to take place to ensure you have an effective meeting. It is a good idea to develop a protocol for community meetings.
Decisions will need to be made on a number of issues when planning a community meeting. Will this meeting be attended by the First Nation members only? Will there be media? Will other parties be invited? Planning beforehand will ensure that all staff are prepared for the meeting and understand their role.
When planning a meeting it is useful to consider:
Community engagement activities will likely bring together a diverse group of people with many different views. Having a facilitator lead the meeting will help to ensure everyone is heard and able to fully participate. A facilitator will know how to direct the dialogue to help ensure goals for the meeting are met, encourage participants to speak and work through conflicts. It is also generally the role of a facilitator to set a structure for the meeting (agenda, timing, etc.), and ensure that housekeeping is taken care of, such as setting up the meeting space and notifying participants.
It may be useful to hire a professional facilitator to lead your meetings but if this is not possible, find someone in you community who has natural facilitation skills to take on this role.
What Makes a Good Facilitator?
A good facilitator:
(Source: University of Minnesota)
It is natural for different views to arise when groups are discussing issues. As noted above, a skilled facilitator can generally work through conflicts by giving individuals a chance to be heard and helping them determine how their needs can be adequately addressed so that they are satisfied with the outcome. Complex or historical conflicts may need to be resolved outside a public meeting structure. If this is the case, consider using traditional conflict resolution approaches or involving someone with conflict resolution expertise.
Web sites are an important part of most communication strategies and can benefit your organization in many ways. One of the most important features of a Web site is its global reach. Web sites are effective for communicating with broad, varied audiences, and can be very cost-effective. A Web site will allow interested users worldwide to find out about you easily and quickly. You can use your Web site to promote events, publications and key messages.
Carefully planned, a Web site should meet the communication needs of a wide range of users, from community members to the media and the public. It saves users time and effort if they know they can get what they need directly from your Web site. Similarly, it saves you time and money if users find information for themselves. A Web site should work hand in hand with your social media channels in order to achieve a fully effective online presence.
A Web site allows you to set up two-way information flows with your users. Bulletin boards and online polls allow you to gather information from your audience. Online exchanges can allow users, who would otherwise not have the chance to voice their opinion, to make a contribution.
Steps you will need to take when developing a Web site:
- Select a Web designer.
- Identify a person to work with designer (to coordinate, research, develop content and scan information).
- Identify sections for Web site.
- Identify a person to receive and respond to e-mails.
- Update as required.
Social media is an interactive and accessible form of communication that has become a significant part of our everyday life. Using social media and incorporating it into your communications planning can be an efficient and cost-effective way to reach and engage your community members and other stakeholders.
What is Social Media?
Social media is a term used to describe a wide array of different Web-based applications or tools that enable individuals to create, share and exchange ideas and information through words, pictures, audio and video.
Chances are you have heard of many of these social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr, WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, LiveJournal, Wikipedia, Wikidot or Reddit.
Social media is a very powerful tool that has led to grassroots movements and even revolutions around the world. It's a medium that communicators have learned to incorporate into their planning to help their organization achieve its communications goals.
Why Social Media is Important
Should your organization use social media as part of your outreach? The answer to that question is most definitely "Yes."
Here are some of the reasons why social media should be part of your communications planning and activities:
- Increases awareness of your organization.
- Increases traffic to your Web site.
- Increases brand recognition.
- Supports timely dissemination of information.
- Simple and cost effective way to tell your story.
- Allows you to engage, interact and stay connected with your audiences.
- Enables you to monitor what is being said about your organization and have a better understanding of the perception of your brand.
- Provides early warning of potential issues that may impact your organization.
Because social media never sleeps, some organizations are reluctant to use the social media tools available to them. Monitoring social media sites, answering questions and managing and creating content takes time. One way to tackle this is to consider starting small by focusing on one social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Since these platforms have options that you can either activate or deactivate such as the comment section, you can reduce the time you spend managing them by limiting the number of options that are activated. Focusing on information sharing and monitoring may be an initial strategy for your First Nation to begin exploring what social media can do for your community.
Create a Facebook account (www.facebook.com)
Facebook allows users to create a profile, add "friends", "like" pages, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles.
To create a Facebook presence for your First Nation, you will need to set up a organization page at facebook.com/pages. You must have a personal account to administer the page.
Create a Twitter account (www.twitter.com)
Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called tweets. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users can subscribe or "follow" another Twitter account and will then automatically receive tweets as they are posted. Users can access Twitter through a Web interface, text messaging service, or mobile device application.
Create a Hootsuite account (www.hootsuite.com)
Hootsuite is a social media management system that allows you to manage your organization's social media presence. It is a social media dashboard designed to listen, engage and measure all social networks from one simple interface. By using Hootsuite you can:
- Schedule messages and tweets,
- Manage multiple social profiles, i.e. Facebook and Twitter,
- Track mentions about your organization online, and
- Analyze social media traffic.
Establish a blog on your organization's Web site
A blog is a discussion or informational site or page that can be hosted on your Web site. Blogs consist of discrete entries or "posts" which are typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
Keep It Simple
Now that you are ready to enter the social media realm, make sure your text is short and to the point. Don't try to say everything in a Twitter or Facebook post. Think of your posts as teasers to capture your audience. Use links in your post to direct readers to your Web site or blog where you can provide more detail.
Remember you can also link to bulletins, press releases, meeting notices, videos, pictures and fact sheets that have been created as part of your communications activities and are already posted on your Web site. You can also link to your blog where you can have longer written text and stories. Individuals will be able to find more information about your First Nation or one of your initiatives through a simple click of a button.
By posting relevant and interesting information to your social media accounts for your target audiences, you should strive to increase followers, likes and mentions. Being active on social media will also provide you with critical information and feedback for your overall communications plan.
You may want to consider using YouTube (www.youtube.com) as a medium to connect and network with your audience.
Video has become more and more prevalent today and by setting up your own YouTube channel you can post videos about community initiatives or from your organization's events. You could even include interviews of people from your community.
Posting to YouTube takes only minutes and you can use Hootsuite to post links to your new YouTube content on your other social media accounts in seconds.
People are watching events online as they happen. They will be willing to share and like your posts if they find the information touching, humorous, relevant or informative. This can provide you with valuable insight into what your target audiences are interested in.
By asking your audience to subscribe to your YouTube channel and having them leave comments you can create an ongoing network where you can engage and communicate.
This diagram provides an example of how to link your social media and electronic resources.
This listing provides a sample of the types of resrouces that can be found on the Internet or at your local library.
- BCIT — Marketing, public relations, journalism, design and editing courses
Courses can be taken full and part-time, individually or as part of a program. Some distance education options.
- Capilano College — Communications programs
Courses can be taken individually or as part of a communications program; full- and part-time, day and evening classes.
- Justice Institute of BC — Conflict resolution courses
Course can be taken individually or as part of a certificate program. Courses are offered in various locations throughout BC or via distance education.
- Kwantlen University College — Public Relations Diploma
Full-time, two-year program located in Richmond.
- Simon Fraser University — Public Relations Certificate
Courses can be taken individually or as part of the certificate program.
- University of Victoria — Public Relations Certificate
Also available by distance education.
Toolkits and Other Support Materials
- Comprehensive Communications Toolkit that can be Downloaded for Free
- Facilitation Resources
- IAP2 Public Participation Toolbox: Techniques to share information
- International Association of Facilitators – Basic facilitation primer
- The Skilled Facilitator
Schwarz, Roger. The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches. Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. 2002.
Organizations and Associations
- Canadian Public Relations Society
Networking and professional development organization serving public relations practitioners.
- International Association of Business Communicators (BC Chapter)
Professional association for communicators that provides educational and professional development, access to communication and information resources and networking opportunities.
- Canadian Press Caps and Spelling
Companion to Canadian Press Style Guide.
- Canadian Press Style Guide
Writing style guide with practical answers on writing clearly, accurately and concisely.
- BC Community Newspaper Association
Provides links to most community newspapers in BC.
- Black Press
Provides links to Black Press owned community newspapers in BC and their profiles.
- The individuals or group of people you address through communications activities. Audiences can be defined based on everything from age to location to interests. Communications tactics may target a specific audience or several different audiences.
- Information provided to help educate a journalist about a specific topic. To "background" a reporter means the information provided may be reported, but the source is typically not identified in any way in a specific story.
- A document containing background information about an initiative, service, organization or event.
- Blog is short for weblog. A public Web site functioning as an online journal where users post their thoughts, comments and philosophies, as well as links to other Web sites and images. Blogs are updated frequently, can be written by one person or a group of contributors and normally reflect the views of the blog's creator.
- The process of creating a distinct identity (brand) for a product or organization. A brand is a symbolic representation of all the information connected to the product or organization and serves to create associations and expectations around it. A brand can include a logo, fonts, colour schemes and symbols which may be developed to represent implicit values, ideas, and even personality.
- Case study
- Analysis of a particular project, initiative, or organization to learn what factors led to its success or failure.
- General agreement from all parties.
- A decision-making process where parties reach an agreement by finding common ground.
- General agreement from all parties.
- Legal ownership that protects literary, music, or artistic work.
- Direct Mail
- A common marketing approach, in which communications materials such as flyers, newsletters, postcards, etc. are sent directly to customers using the postal service.
- Electronic Media
- Type of media where messages are delivered to an audiences through an electronic channel such as e-mail, Webcasts or the Internet.
- An examination and assessment of a particular initiative that reveals strengths and weaknesses of the approach and whether or not the overall outcome is successful.
- External Communications
- A strategic method of communicating that seeks to inform and educate external audiences about an organization's mission, objectives and initiatives.
- Fact Sheet
- A brief, easy-to-read document containing factual information about a product, service, organization or event. Fact sheets often contain lists, statistics, and answers to common questions. In some cases, fact sheets may be a summary of a longer document.
- Broad, general statements of desired outcomes (i.e. to inform audiences about the treaty process). (See objectives)
- The title at the top of a newspaper article or at the beginning of a news release, usually set in large, often bold type. Written with the intent to catch the eye of the reader, often using catchy or active language.
- The act of putting a plan into effect. A practical method for accomplishing specific goals and objectives.
- A term used to note that resources from within an organization will be used instead of contracting for the work to be done externally. This is often an effective way of minimizing costs.
- Interactive Communications
- Two-way communications process which not only delivers information but provides an avenue for the audience to respond with comments, questions and suggestions.
- Internal Communications
- Communications inside an organization, usually between departments or between the organization and employees. Newsletters, intranets and other media are often used for this purpose.
- Inverted Pyramid
- Organizing information, particularly within a news story or news release, so that the most important, interesting or substantial information is presented first, at the top of the page. Other information then follows in order of diminishing importance.
- First few sentences of a news release, outlining the nature of the news or story below. Typically a lead should attempt to answer most or all of the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why.
- A graphical element or symbol designed to represent a company, organization, product, service, and sometimes places. Logos are typically designed to cause immediate recognition by the viewer. In some cases a symbol is used alone (a red cross for the Red Cross) but usually both images and the company name are used together.
- A communication process that promotes goods, services or information.
- Media advisory
- Invitation to the media to attend a news event. Advisories typically include the date, time and place of the event, and the name of the spokesperson and contact information.
- Media Feed
- A technical capability that allows media to plug their recording equipment directly into a sound system to get a clearer recording of the speakers.
- Media release
- Written communication directed at members of the media for the purpose of announcing something that is newsworthy (i.e. conferences, announcements). A news release is usually mailed, faxed or e-mailed to editors of newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and television stations.
- Media Scrum
- The situation where a group of reporters and TV cameras surround a public figure, spokesperson, or other key individual, and bombard them with questions (often following speeches or sitting of the House of Commons).
- Mission Statement
- A formal statement that describes the overall purpose of the organization. Mission statements are typically provided in the organization's formal documents such as a strategic plan.
- News conference
- Media event which newsmakers invite journalists to attend for the purpose of making an announcement, answering questions, etc. A news conference allows a newsmaker to answer questions from reporters all at once rather than answering dozens of phone calls and can help attract news coverage for something that journalists were not aware of before. (Also called press conference.)
- News Release
- See media release.
- Not for Attribution
- An agreement between the provider of information and a reporter that the information given can be used but the source must not be identified. In some cases, individuals may be quoted but are only identified by their general occupation (e.g., a spokesman for FNES.)
- A specific statement of what is to be achieved. To be most effective, an objective should be measurable, specific, realistic and have a time targeted for completion.
- Survey to gather information or opinions from the public.
- Press Conference
- See news conference.
- Public Service Announcements (PSA) or Community Service Announcement (CSA)
- A non-commercial "advertisement" which is broadcast for free on radio or television as a public service. PSAs are most often used to raise awareness and educate the public about health and safety issues.
- Public relations/ Publicity
- The management of communications between an organization and the general public with the intention of building awareness of and/or fostering a desired attitude towards the organization, a product or a service.
- A brief memorable motto or phrase used in advertising or promotion. One element of branding.
- An individual or group of individuals who affect or can be affected by an organization's actions. Stakeholders may include community members, employees, local communities, government, etc.
- On-line Web site address or locator, beginning with http://
- Description of what an organization hopes to achieve in the future.
- A simple text-only graphic created from the name of an organization to be used as a clear, visually memorable identity. The word becomes a visual symbol of the organization or product.
Social Media Glossary
- Replying to a social media post with an affirmation, question, disagreement, etc.
- Signing up to receive the posts of another person or organization.
- A person who follows or subscribes to the posts of another individual or organization on social media.
- A list of other users you have chosen to watch or follow on social media. Updates from these other users will appear on your home page.
- The network of people an individual connects with through social media.
- Friend (verb)
- To add (a person) to one's list of contacts on a social media site.
- A username.
- A word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. For example, "#Aboriginal" or "#SocialMedia".
- Including the handle of an individual or organization in social media content. That individual or organization then gets notification that they've been mentioned. For example, "Great discussion with @johnny_doe17 at the meeting last night."
- A way for users to indicate positive feedback concerning a post. A user can "like" posts they find interesting or engaging by clicking the "like" button below each post.
- A way to repost or share someone else's tweet in Twitter.
- Social media
- Web sites and applications that allow people to create online communities or networks to share information, ideas, and pictures/videos.
- The content you share with your Twitter followers.
We hope the information, templates and examples provided in the First Nations Communications Toolkit serve as a useful resource as you develop your own communications tools and programs. This is not intended to be a definitive communications guide, nor do we consider it final. As communications practices continue to evolve, we will add new material to ensure the Toolkit remains up-to-date.
We encourage all First Nations communicators to share their best practices and success stories with their colleagues and other First Nations through this Toolkit. If you would like to share your examples of communications successes with us or have suggestions on how we can make the Toolkit more relevant, please contact us.
Communications and Consultation
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Phone: 604-775-5100 (local) / 1-800-567-9604 (toll-free)
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