In November 2013, after more than 16 years of negotiations, the Deline Self-Government team was on the verge of finalizing an agreement with the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories on the first community-based self-government agreement in the NWT. The first critical step to approving the agreement was a vote of Deline First Nation members and land claim beneficiaries. A vote date was set for March 10-12, 2014 leaving little time to prepare for the initialling of the final agreement on December 16th and mere weeks from then to the vote.
The communications challenge this represented cannot be overstated. Of the approximately 700 eligible voters, half lived outside of Deline and many lived outside the NWT. The bar for approval was very high: to pass, 50% +1 eligible voters would have to vote in favour of the agreement and anyone who did not vote would be counted as a “no” vote. This meant that every possible means would need to be used to ensure that no matter their location, their preferred information channels, their literacy level or their first language, every voter would need to be aware of the ratification vote, have an opportunity to review the agreement and have the opportunity to ask questions. Each voter would need to be convinced to cast their ballot to ensure the vote result was clear and legitimate.
Further, because the agreement would have different implications for people who lived in Deline and those who did not, communications had to ensure that information was provided on interests specific to each group. While the agreement held many significant benefits, it also required some trade-offs with respect to the tax status of individual voters. It was important to be transparent about these elements of the agreement and promote the value of the collective benefit to be gained.
Tait Communications was contracted as the one-stop, full-service communications support team for the Deline Self-Government team, providing a full suite of consulting, content development, design, production, advertising, video, web and social media support.
Due to the complexity of the subject matter and the sheer volume of work the Deline team was facing, the Tait team had to be highly self-directed and pro-active. Our first priority was to quickly develop the “Our Deline” brand, produce a suite of attractive plain language materials and launch a website in time for the December initialling. At the same time, we gathered interviews and footage for a series of YouTube videos and launched a Facebook page. Our consultants also acted as the primary contact with Canada and the GNWT on all tripartite communications, often taking the lead on developing joint products and messaging. Our event coordination team provided significant support for the initialling events in Deline and Yellowknife and many subsequent information sessions in communities around the NWT and in Edmonton, and conducted two mass mail outs to all voters.
Perhaps the greatest success of this campaign was the role social media and social media advertising played in reaching voters and creating excitement about the vote, as well as a dynamic, genuine dialogue about self-government. The Our Deline Facebook page achieved more than 760 likes and the page’s content reached a peak of 82,000 people, with daily content reach averaging nearly 6,000 people per day.
Tait was well integrated into the Deline team. Our staff were highly motivated and self-directed. We took initiative to lead the communications as if we were as invested in the outcome of the vote as our client was. We brought energy, dedication and innovation to the campaign. When obstacles presented themselves or new challenges arose, the Tait team solved problems and got the job done, at times under the most challenging circumstances and deadlines.