Gaining Multiple Community Approval for a Power-Line

THE SITUATION: PR Associates was hired by BC Hydro to develop and implement a communication plan and manage community outreach activities ahead of a vote regarding negotiated agreements around the development of the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL).

THE PLAN: An integrated marketing communication campaign was developed targeting affected communities that addressed the goals of the campaign, the communication needs of members and inherent challenges.

THE OUTCOME:  The strategic outreach was a success with the following results:

  • Members were informed about the NTL project and agreements through a variety of channels
  • The vote participation rate was comparable to Canadian municipal election turnouts
  • Members voted 82 percent in favour of the agreements
  • The communication process for such projects has become standard for community outreach

THE FULL STORY:

THE SITUATION

BC Hydro needed to develop and implement a communications plan and manage community outreach activities ahead of a vote regarding negotiated agreements around the development of the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL). The First Nations had negotiated agreements with the Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro for land use compensation for a section of the NTL to be built in their territories. BC Hydro wanted to help the First Nation communities make an informed decision by providing transparent information about the project, the agreements and the vote.

THE SOLUTION

An integrated marketing communications campaign was developed that addressed the goals of the campaign, the communication needs of members and the inherent challenges. The challenges included a vast range in the age of members (from young adults 18 years old to elders in their 90s). There was also the extreme geographic spread of members (on reserve in three communities within the traditional territory, and spread across B.C., Alberta, Yukon and the United States). Aboriginal culture and individual preferences in how they receive information also had to be taken into consideration. Another major challenge was the lack of a member contact list, which was created as the campaign was implemented.

THE RESULTS

Accomplishing BC Hydro’s goals meant using several tactics. In addition to in-person meetings, communication channels such as traditional media, online and social media, were also put into effect. These included a creating special section on the First Nation’s website to showcase the essential information. Information packages were delivered to members by mail outs email and at local community information meetings. An Aboriginal communication team was established and trained to contact members in person, by phone and email. Radio spots, posters and YouTube videos were also produced. In addition, Facebook soon became a relevant and highly desirable communication channel to reach the members. Media outreach was also proved useful during select stages of the campaign.

Information about the projects, agreements and votes was provided to members in a variety of methods. The program achieved a 45-per-cent participation rate, which is comparable to Canadian municipal election turnouts. Members voted 82 percent in favour of the agreements (voted as one package). This was a phenomenal outcome given the challenges faced. The communication process established for the campaign is now the standard for any community outreach for projects.

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