What Government Communicators can learn from the Ottawa Auditor General Report

I recently had the opportunity to review the City of Ottawa’s Auditor General’s report on its audit of the Corporate Communications function. I think that other government communications organizations can benefit from reviewing this report so that they can avoid making the same mistakes.

First it is really important that a Communications Function in a large public sector organization have a clear mandate in which services they are delivering (and not delivering). A Communications organization has to clearly define what services they offer and the process for offering them. By not having a clear mandate, your clients may become frustrated as they have expectations that your organization can carry out every communications service under the sun and clearly that is not possible, so clarity of what services you offer is important.

Another major concern is branches and divisions set up their own communication function within their program, because they can’t get the service from the central corporate communications branch.

Now, I don’t have any problems with decentralizing the communications service into a program branch, particularly those that have large communications or marketing needs, (actually I think it is a good idea).   BUT the communication’s function should have the necessary authority to coordinate efforts in order to ensure consistency and avoid duplication and working at cross-purposes. In addition, Corporate Communications needs to ensure that staff carrying out communications or marketing functions are fully qualified to do this type of work.

Often at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing we have seen people that have no background or experience in marketing and communications, managing major marketing and communications campaigns. As the auditor’s report points out; “When this happens, the development and provision of coherent, effective and economical communications to support the public sector’s organization’s strategic and operational goals is compromised.”

In addition the report points out; corporate communication organizations should have  a Strategic Communications Framework and Communications Policy  that defines the overall policy on corporate and program  communications and identify accountability and responsibility for its various elements.

Another major finding in the report was that the strategy for the introduction of the “green bin” (Source Separated Organics Communications Strategy) campaign was inadequate.

Hard to believe but the overall marketing communications strategy had the following problems:

• The target audience(s) was not properly identified;

• The most effective methods for reaching this target audience(s) were not adequately assessed and pursued;

• The strategic messaging to these target audience(s) was not developed; and,

• The communications initiatives utilized were never evaluated to determine which were effective and which were not to guide future efforts?

First, one of the major concerns with this poorly conceived campaign was that the communications function played a very small part in delivering this project and one can assume that those who did deliver/implement the program clearly did not have much expertise in marketing or communications.

Some of the recommendations from the Auditor General included:

1. That the Corporate Communications group needs to develop a performance measurement framework that incorporates qualitative and quantitative performance indicators to measure if desired results are achieved and defined objectives met.

2. There is a need to review and monitor the use of various designs for communications vehicles to ensure the Visual Identity Guidelines are followed wherever possible. Whenever possible? Clearly the city needs to review their branding strategy. I suggest someone from the city review our CEPSM Guide to Branding in the Public & Non-Profit Sectors

3. That, as part of the development of the City’s Communications Policy, Corporate Communications include guidelines on the use of social media. If you are running a major communications organization and you don’t have social media guidelines … I suggest you get busy. Check out the federal government guidelines

4. That  communications plans/strategies, especially those aimed at changing public behaviour, be based on a thorough analysis of the environment within which the communications initiative will be launched.

I have a better suggestion. Why don’t they make sure that anybody involved in social marketing behaviour change campaigns get properly trained. Check out our training program or maybe they can invest in a workbook that has been designed to provide staff who run these campaigns with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program.

5. That communications plans have no more than three objectives, and “should be as precise and measurable as possible in order to ensure measurement and increase mutual accountability”.

6. That all financial and human resources be identified to carry out benchmarking and performance measurement activities included in any communications plan.

7. That core messages be simple and consistent for all target audiences; that they should be tested before being made public and that adjustments to address the interests of particular audiences are added as needed.

8. That a sound media analysis be developed for incorporation into communications plans and updated on a continuing basis so that messaging and media strategies can be adjusted as needed.

9. That, in the case of a major communications plan, advertising be focus group tested before launch and evaluated periodically to ensure it continues to meet operational goals.

From what I understand The Corporate Communications Department is currently in a state of transition as its new leadership is in the process of developing a Strategic Framework and Communications Policy.

I wish them the best of luck.

Let me know what you think.






Thanks to those who chose Healthpartners in 2012

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

A few months ago the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) announced that we are actively working with and supporting Healthpartners.

They became CEPSM’s charity of choice… and for good reason!

Everyone is touched personally by either their own health issues or those of their loved ones. As the  coordinating organization of sixteen of Canada’s most trusted health charities, Healthpartners’ mission is to support lifesaving medical research and health programs in the community that improve the health and quality of life of Canadians.

This fall, Healthpartners through the “Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign” (GCWCC) have been successful in raising millions of dollars through payroll donations to support fellow Canadians dealing with serious health issues.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of Canadians and their loved ones are struggling to ensure the best possible quality of life while fighting disabling and life-threatening diseases. Donations made through Healthpartners this year, will enable health organizations, to provide caring support to these Canadians.

On behalf of CEPSM we would like to thank all of our friends and colleagues working in the federal public service, those who serve in the military and RCMP and public service retirees for their generosity.

Thanks for choosing health and making a difference in the lives of many individuals and their families. All of us benefit from life-saving medical research and support programs.

That’s why CEPSM supports Healthpartners




Upcoming Events 2013 at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

Get out your calendar and insert the dates of all of the exciting events at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

1. World Social Marketing Conference

The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing is delighted to be involved with the World Social Marketing Conference, which will take place in Toronto, Canada from April 21-23, 2013.

The conference attracts participants from many countries and you will get the opportunity to meet social marketers from Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe, South and North America. This is a tremendous opportunity to learn from social marketers around the world and most important the opportunity to network with social marketers like yourself.

Note: The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing will be running a pre-conference 1 day social marketing workshop entitled: Social Marketing Planning: Implementing an Effective Campaign

For more information go to:   http://wsmconference.com/

2.  MARCOM Professional Development

The dates are set: May 28 & 29, 2013
Mark your calendar and start your training plan!
The location is set: Ottawa Convention Centre

Plan now to attend the only forum of this kind in Canada!

3. Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing


The only Canadian university certificate program for government and non-profit marketers.

Feb. 13 – May 23, 2013

7 Course Modules – 8 days over 4 months

Register Today!

Do you work in the government, a crown, corporation/agency, a non-profit organization or an association?

Are you involved in marketing products/services, developing partnerships/sponsorships, increasing membership and revenue generation, social marketing, outreach & public education, strategic communications and online & digital marketing?

Are you frustrated that most programs offered in marketing or communications are not designed for the public or non-profit sectors?

Do you feel that you are falling behind because you are not up-to-date on the latest marketing communications technologies and strategies such as web 2.0?

Do you want to gain value-added skills to improve your expertise in marketing and communications?

Online and web marketing, social media and digital marketing

The Sprott School of Business – Carleton University Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing offers in-depth, advanced-level training in core areas that are critical for marketers in these sectors to excel in their positions.

4. Social Marketing Strategies that Change Attitudes and Behaviour… Moving Beyond Awareness

When: February 6, 2013

Where: Delta Barrington Hotel

1875 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 3L6

(902) 429-7410


To learn about all of our training programs

Go to our web site Cepsm.ca