Tahltan Nation-BC Hydro Northwest Transmission Line
PR Associates was enlisted to develop the communication process and manage community outreach activities
The Tahltan are a First Nation in Northwestern British Columbia. The Tahltan Central Government (TCG), the governing body of the Nation, had negotiated agreements with the Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro Corporation for land use compensation for a section of a transmission line to be built on the Nation’s territory. The agreements had to be taken to the Tahltan people to vote on. The TCC had to help them make an informed decision by providing unbiased information about the project, the agreements and the vote. Who The TCC hired PR Associates to develop the communication process and manage community outreach activities.
All Tahltan members 18 years or age and older as of the last day of the vote were eligible to vote. The Tahltan Nation includes on and off-reserve Tahltans living in Telegraph Creek, Dease Lake and Iskut, and more than 3,000 people living across BC, Alberta, in the Yukon and in the United States. Tahltan traditional territory encompasses 11 percent of British Columbia. More than 50 percent of all mineral exploration and mine development in the province takes place in Tahltan traditional territory.
Those living in the territory, particularly elders, tend to have a stronger tie to the land and are more apprehensive of development impacting their traditional way of life. They also tend to have a lower education level and many do not use email or computers.
Those in urban centres tend to have a higher level of education (many post secondary) and more widely embrace technology (computers, email, mobile phones), with a high percentage (80%) using social media. The Tahltan told us their people are very visual and their culture embraces social gatherings and feasts for the sharing of information. Trust is hugely important and much information and opinion is shared by word of mouth.
The Tahltan Nation is relatively small (approximately 3,000 members) but closely related. They know their people in terms of lifestyle, preferences, locations and mindset. Therefore the approaches used and activities undertaken were guided and informed by the Tahltan community leaders involved with the initiative.
Goal and Objectives
A comprehensive and integrated marketing communication campaign was developed that addressed the goals of the campaign, needs of members and inherent challenges.
Key messaging developed included:
PR Associates was able to execute quickly and gain immediate media coverage on mimik technologies and their mobile application, Pandimik. Mimic had very little media coverage since its’ inception and, after partnering with PR Associates, mimik had an impressive audience reach via national and local print, broadcast and digital channels of over 85 million.
A variety of tools and tactics were used to reach members across geographic regions. These included:
- A special section on the TCC website and information material
- Information packages sent to members by email and postal mail
- A Tahltan communications team to contact members in person, by phone and email
- Community meetings in key areas where Tahltans live
- Radio ads, posters, videos and Facebook
Implementation and Challenges
There were several challenges in implementing the campaign:
- A short timeline – less than three months – from the time outreach began to the start of the vote.
- The list of members was old, out-of-date and incomplete, so a new member list had to be developed at the same time as the member outreach for the vote.
- Controversy about the NTL project itself and its implications, primarily in Tahltan communities, and the short timeline.
- Members were spread across a large, diverse area and had different preferences in the mode of communications they received.
Measurement/Evaluation of Outcomes
Tahltans registered to vote
of eligible voters turned out to vote
participation rate, exceeding the average Canadian rate of 38 percent
This was a phenomenal outcome given the challenges faced. The communications process established for the vote has since been applied by the TCC for similar projects and votes facing the Nation.
The Tahltan leadership was pleased with the result of the vote– members voted 82 percent in favour of the agreements—the best result was the unprecedented involvement of the Tahltan people in choosing their future.
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