In this three-part series we look at how organizations can use public relations to effect change. 

A well-researched report can be like a SWAT team for changing perceptions around an issue:  bust down barriers and help you take control of a conversation. Beth McMahon, vice president of Government and Public Affair for Canadian Vintners Association (CVA), is trying to do just that by changing the perception of Canada’s wine industry with her report, Wine Tourism in Canada.

Canada has some of the best wine tours in the world. Ranking favourably alongside California’s renown Napa Valley or the Adelaide Hills in Australia, but most people outside of Canada haven’t heard of the Okanagan Valley or Brome-Missisquoi Quebec. Here’s are the tactics McMahon is employing to instigate change that you can use in your own public campaigns.

Clearly identify the issue to be resolved.

Analyze your current roadblocks and begin to map out how they affect your organization, the public, and the government at large. Then conduct industry research to provide data-driven proof of your hypothesis.

In McMahon’s case, three issues need to be overcome: the domestic wine industry is highly regulated, foreign exports are too heavily taxed, and Canada’s wine tourism industry is domestically-focused rather than international. Her report examines these problems cogently, while keeping a positive outlook for the future perception she sought to shape.

Know your target audience.

First, find an articulate bilingual expert who knows the facts and can speak passionately about your issue to serve as a spokesperson for your campaign. Secondly, provide messaging in your report that can be used to reach a variety of interest groups and targets. The CVA’s interest groups are anyone who benefits from wine tourism, wine lovers at large, and government officials who help direct tourism advertising funding.

Provide a targeted message for each industry group.

Local businesses and organizations. The benefit to the business community or other organizations must be clear to garner support, just like McMahon’s pitch below.

“Today only 50 wineries out of almost 500, benefit from international exports. However all them benefit from tourism.”

Wine Industry Statistics

The public. The CVA uses the scale of the wine industry to illustrate its impact. Large numbers are difficult to conceptualize so keep these messages simple and the number of data points limited. For example, one of McMahon’s talking points is:

“Canadian wineries receive more than 3 million visitors a year, which contributes more than $1 billion to Canadian businesses.”

Government. Governments are swayed by tangible benefits such as increases in taxable revenue or net-new jobs. Your proposal should answer these two questions:

  1. What do you want? 
  2. Why is that beneficial? 

McMahon’s organization is seeking an international marketing strategy for wine tourism, answering question number one. The report cites a third party to clearly answer question two. “A study by Deloitte found that every 1 per cent increase in tourism results in more than $800 million in economic benefits.”

Timing is everything.

The CVA released its report in late May intentionally. The summer is wine tourism’s pique season and also when the benefits of the industry are the most obvious. Sharing the report now gives the CVA the best chance to influence discussions around funding priorities before this fall’s federal election. Know your industry and research when the best time to release your report is so it will have the greatest impact.

Check back next week and learn about the communication battle between employers and unions in Part 2 of the Pressure Tactics series.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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