Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Preparing Liberal activists to communicate to win in 2015

This blog is cross-posted from my LPC(O) vice-president, communications web site. Please visit there to learn more about my campaign.

I first considered seeking the position of vice-president, communications of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario) in February during the national biennial in Montreal. I boarded the train home considering the challenges we face as a party, and by the time we pulled into Scarborough it was clear to me what I wanted to accomplish: give our Liberal members, supporters and volunteers across Ontario the training and resources we need to communicate and win in 2015.

There are many responsibilities this role has, and each person that holds the position tends to make it their own. We absolutely need to communicate more intelligently with our members about what the LPC(O) and the party are up to. We need to be more responsive to member queries. We need to coordinate communications across the riding, LPC(O) and LPC levels – there’s only one member/supporter, and we can’t inundate them. And we need to get more tactical about our fundraising asks. I'll have ideas to share around each.

But first and foremost, I want to focus on training and skills enablement. The next election is going to be won on the ground, door by door, conversation by conversation. We need every Liberal ready, willing and able to take our message to voters across the province. We can’t control the air war – Ottawa will design the advertising, and the spokespeople and pundits will take our message to the national media. That’s not what this position is about – the LPC(O) is about the ground game. That’s where I believe we can make a difference.

Particularly in a world where the media market is fragmented, and people are so busy with daily life to pay attention to the national news. It’s harder to get our message out, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful of traditional sources of information anyway. They do, however, trust you, and every Liberal has access to their own very powerful networks. Whether it’s your social network like Facebook or Twitter, or the friends you meet for donuts on weekends or at shinny on Thursday nights.

We need to tap those networks. Not with canned talking points or suggested tweets; they know you better than that. We need to help you craft your own message, about why you’re supporting Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team, about how a Liberal government can make a meaningful difference in their lives. We need to make sure you have a) the policy background and party positions you need on the issues you care about, and b) the training and tools to craft your own message and bring it to your own networks.

How do we get there? I have five points I’d like to start with.

  1. A communications training track at every LPC(O) biennial, executive board and regional day. We Liberals get together a lot, and any time we’re not taking advantage of these opportunities for hands-on training is a missed opportunity. I want to ensure each of these meetings has a communications breakout track. I’ll develop a curriculum with beginner and advanced sessions so attendees can develop their skills, and leverage the great communications talent in our party by bringing in experts to teach them.
  2. Regular training sessions for Liberals via Google Hangouts on key communications issues, from social media tips and digital campaigning to media training and best practices for communicating to members. Attending all those Liberal meetings can be expensive and involve a lot of travel, and that should never be a barrier to participation. I will ensure these communications courses are available online, utilizing technology such as Google Hangouts, and will also bring in regular guest speakers on communications best practices so Liberals across Ontario can participate.
  3. More templates for riding newsletters, press releases and event invites drawing on what other ridings have done successfully. We have so many ridings that are doing so many things right. Some have amazing e-newsletters. Some do a great job with their community papers, or getting people out to events. They’ve honed and perfected their techniques, and discovered what works really well. And others are just getting started, and need some help. We need to share more of that across ridings. I want to create a central repository where we can not only access templates, but ridings can share what has worked for them. Let’s take what works and replicate it across the province.
  4. A communications track in the LPC(O) mentorship program to connect seasoned communications veterans with newcomers taking on the communications role in their communities. There is so much institutional knowledge in this party – we need to leverage it. I want to build on our LPC(O) mentorship program with a communications track. Under Justin Trudeau, so many new members and supporters have come into the party eager to help, and they don’t know where to start. Let’s connect them with mentors and build our communications capacity.
  5. Increase the frequency of the LPC(O) newsletter to monthly, and exploring a redesign of the web site. We need to get better as an organization at communicating with our members. Making the LPC(O) newsletter monthly would be a start, with reports from all our board members on their activities. I’ll look at how we can make our web site more responsive and useful to our membership. And, while some things will always need to be confidential, I will commit to providing as much information as possible on the discussions and activities of the executive board.
I know I’m proposing a busy agenda, but I’ve never been one to collect titles. I want results. We have lots of hope; now is the time for hard work. If we want to see a new government in 2015, one that believes in bringing Canadians together, one that believes government can be a force for good, then we each need to make that goal our personal responsibility.

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