Public Relations

Mon, 2015-02-23 11:03Sean Holman
Sean Holman's picture

The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Fri, 2015-02-06 11:38Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Canada’s Public Companies Should Disclose Political Spending: Report

Unlike the U.S., where the wellspring of cash flooding federal elections is reaching a new level of absurdity (try $5 billion), Canada has kept federal political campaigns relatively grounded by placing an outright ban on corporate donations during elections. 

Yet the influence publicly-traded corporations exercise in Canada – through lobbying, political contributions during provincial elections, think tank support, advertising and advocacy campaigns – remains hugely significant, according to a discussion paper recently released by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), an organization that provides investment services and research to institutional investors.

Concern about the effect of money on politics is perennial,” Kevin Thomas, report author and director of stakeholder engagement for SHARE, writes. “Aside from the obvious concerns about the outright corruption and/or illicit expenses and bribery, there is a broader concern about the influence of private interests on the development of policy and regulation, as well as on the content and tenor of public political debate.”

Wed, 2015-01-21 17:06Carol Linnitt
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Critics Question Whether News Canada, a Federally Funded Wire Service, Disseminates Pro-Government Propaganda

Forget press releases. Forget press agents, publicists. Forget advertorials and sponsored content and native content. Forget all of it.

If what you want for your company, your government bureau, is total control of a news story, why bother with the pesky journalists who are going to check the facts and get the other side of the story?

No. Here’s what you do: write your own news story.”

That’s the sardonic strategy Jesse Brown, reporter and host of Canadaland, recently outlined on a show dedicated to News Canada, a federally-funded public relations body and news wire service which was recently awarded $1.25 million to distribute hand-out news content meant to “inform and educate Canadians on public issues.”

The story of News Canada receiving a 25 per cent increase in government funding from Public Works Canada was first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter Tom Korski.

News Canada Ltd. president Shelly Middlebrook told Korski the service provides content to media editors and that “journalists either pick it up or they don’t.”

Tue, 2014-12-09 21:20Steve Horn
Steve Horn's picture

Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Mon, 2014-11-17 22:10Brendan DeMelle
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Edelman’s TransCanada Astroturf Documents Expose Oil Industry’s Broad Attack on Public Interest

Edelman TransCanada Energy East PR

Documents obtained by Greenpeace detail a desperate astroturf PR strategy designed by Edelman for TransCanada to win public support for its Energy East tar sands export pipeline. TransCanada has failed for years to win approval of the controversial border-crossing Keystone XL pipeline, so apparently the company has decided to “win ugly or lose pretty” with an aggressive public relations attack on its opponents.

The Edelman strategy documents and work proposals outline a “grassroots advocacy” campaign plan to build support for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline as well as to undermine public opposition to oil and pipelines generally.

The documents should cause well-deserved embarrassment for Edelman, the largest PR company in the world, as well as TransCanada. 

But this is not just a temporary black eye for a PR firm and its corporate client. The Edelman documents reveal a broader industry campaign to undermine the public interest and attack the oil industry’s critics across the board. 

Wed, 2014-01-15 13:12Indra Das
Indra Das's picture

Harper Government Hires Firm for $22 Million International Ad Campaign Promoting Oilsands

The Harper government has hired an international public relations firm to oversee a $22 million advertising campaign to promote the oilsands and Canada's natural resources sector around the world.

The Canadian arm of PR firm FleishmanHillard won a bid for the initial $1.695 million contract to conduct the first phase of the ad campaign, reports the Toronto Star.

The first phase of the ad campaign will reach the United States, Europe, and Asia this year. If the firm's contract is renewed for 2015, it could be worth up to $4 million, with the remaining $18 million reserved for media buys.

Tue, 2013-10-01 13:28Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

LEAKED: Enbridge’s New Northern Gateway Pipeline Ad Campaign “Open to Better”

Northern Gateway Pipeline Enbridge Advertising Campaign Leaked

DeSmog Canada has obtained leaked copies of Enbridge’s new Northern Gateway Pipeline advertising campaign notes, including a ‘mood board’ that sets the tone for images surrounding the project, outlines and scripts for television commercials, and creative platforms for other advertising materials. The theme of the campaign is “Open to Better.”

The documents also reveal Enbridge’s attempt to convince British Columbian’s that Premier Christy Clark’s 5 conditions, which were set as terms for the project’s approval, have been met. Two characters, Janet Holder, Enbridge's VP, and ‘The Orca,’ are used to express how the Northern Gateway Pipeline will offer British Columbian’s what they want: what is better.

DeSmog Canada will provide more analysis of the new campaign in posts to come, but for now, feast your eyes and ask yourself, is building a pipeline for the export of Alberta’s tar sands oil really being ‘open to better?’ Or is it a refusal to actually be better – at managing our resources, addressing the social and environmental pollution associated with our fossil fuel dependence, and beginning the transition to clean energy solutions?

Thu, 2013-02-28 08:01Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

How the Harper Government Fuelled the Anti-Keystone XL Movement

As the Obama administration revisits its decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, DeSmog Canada decided to take a look at how the project became a cause célèbre.

We asked ourselves: Of all the environmental causes to fight, what was it that mobilized Hollywood celebrities, renowned scientists, environmental activists and a handful of Texans to face jail time protesting a proposed pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast?

What’s more: How did a decision on the project - which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once brushed off as a “no-brainer” - get sidelined by the U.S. government ahead of a crucial 2012 presidential election?

While the Stephen Harper government has been quick to point fingers at so-called foreign-funded “radicals” and First Nations, we believe the answer lies much closer to home.

In fact, if the Obama administration decides to reject TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, the Harper government will need to face facts: Its own environmental policies and PR tactics will be largely to blame.

Tue, 2013-02-19 08:00Erika Thorkelson
Erika Thorkelson's picture

Federal Ads Aim To Convince Canadians of Progress Where None Has Been Made

The Harper government has been using taxpayer money to sharpen its marketing toolkit in the debate over natural resource development. According to a recent report from Léger Marketing, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) commissioned the company to perform pre- and post-testing of their $9 million Responsible Resource Development advertising campaign.

Aside from revealing the extraordinary cost the Harper government is willing to foot in order to assure that the country gets a sunny picture of its economic policies, the report provides a unique behind-the-curtain view of the mechanics involved in selling energy and resource development to Canadians.

The reasoning behind the move to hire a marketing firm seems relatively innocuous: “It will be important in this environment to encourage Canadians to become better informed about the development of Canada’s natural resources and the critical impact to Canada’s economy that contributes to our economic growth and jobs, and through generated tax revenues helps to maintain important social programs like health, education and pensions.”

However, the report reveals Léger used focus groups to test not only comprehension and recollection of the message in the ads, but also “the extent to which Canadians were impacted by the language, content and context of the advertising concepts.”

Tue, 2013-02-19 08:00Guest
Guest's picture

The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement, Part 2

Ken Wu is executive director of Majority for a Sustainable Society (MASS) and co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance

For Part 1 of this article, click here.

In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.

FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.  

No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.  

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