Case Study

National Chief Shawn Atleo’s Campaign

Atleo demonstrated his commitment to keeping the youth involved in the process of change


The Situation

In 2009, the Assembly of First Nations called an election for a new National Chief after the three-term Chief Phil Fontaine decided to step down. Shawn Atleo selected PR Associates to manage his media relations for the National Chief campaign. One of the main challenges for Shawn Atleo was a generation gap—he was the youngest candidate running for the position of National Chief and his main policy platform was Aboriginal education. It was necessary for him to communicate with Canada’s burgeoning aboriginal youth population, while at the same time finding effective ways to reach out to the Chiefs and First Nations communities in remote and rural parts of Canada.

The Solution

Since 65% of aboriginals in Canada are under the age of 25 years old we identified an opportunity to communicate with them using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. By setting up a Twitter account early on in his campaign, Shawn Atleo was able to separate himself from his competitors by having a constant flow of communication between himself and his followers online.

From updating them on which First Nation he was visiting to outlining his long-term plans for education, Atleo demonstrated his commitment to keeping the youth involved in the process of change. By engaging social media, Atleo not only caught the attention of the youth population but also gained followers who were well versed in this media. The Twitter account was also useful for journalists following the campaign and resulted in over 400 print and broadcast stories during the course of the campaign. In the end, Shawn Atleo had over 40,000 followers in the online community, many of whom were instrumental in his election victory.

Shawn won the election, meaning all campaign work paid off, and he was named the new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

After an incredibly busy month of campaigning, and a marathon 22-hour election, Shawn Atleo won and was named Canada’s new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. For the following three months– PR Associates continued to engage traditional and social media to allow the National Chief to travel and connect with many First Nation communities, meeting with Chiefs and community members to identify issues that would form the priorities of the Assembly of First Nations. All this while helping to build a public profile of the National Chief in the rest of Canada PR Associates was retained as part of the transition team and worked with the Assembly of First Nations to help build a media relations and communication team.

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