CS Strategic Communications

Saskatchewan Health

The Project in Brief

We served as the lead communications agency for the Primary Health Care (PHC) branch of Saskatchewan Health as it developed a new approach to health care in the province. We began this project when the report, Patient-Centred, Community Designed, Team Delivered, Saskatchewan’s new framework for primary health care, was drafted in 2011.  We helped develop the initial communications plan and revised it during the second phase when was it was rolled out to the regional health authorities and other health stakeholders.

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Our Approach

We began this project by attending meetings of a steering committee that was responsible for developing the new approach to primary health care. We reviewed the draft Framework document and helped facilitate discussions with key PHC members on the best methods to communicate this new framework. We also conducted a stakeholder assessment with the branch and reviewed the best methods to communicate with them. We created a PHC communications committee consisting of members from both the PHC and Communications branches.

Results and Challenges

Our strategy focused on the benefits of the PHC redesign, which was a challenging undertaking since each stakeholder group received different benefits. For physicians, for example, the emphasis was on an improved quality of life through better time management. For patients, it was on better service and greater control of their personal health care. The communications strategy matched the different phases of the redesign: the framework development, re-affirmation, pilot project, and general roll-out. During the initial phase, the majority of the communications took place on a direct contact basis. Spokespeople were identified for the target audiences and they received appropriate supporting materials such as a stock presentation, questions and answers, and a Highlight document from the Framework. Feedback was received in the form of information obtained during the presentations, through email, and via the telephone.

A regular email newsletter was developed which provided on-going communications with key stakeholders, presented updates on various aspects of the campaign, documented success stories, provided information on overcoming challenges, and addressed any other issues as they developed. Additional feedback was solicited and monitored through email and the newsletter, and whenever necessary, changes in either the communications strategy or the implementation strategy were made. As PHC teams formed and experienced success, these achievements were documented through stakeholder consultations, email, telephone, website and by monitoring RHA newsletters and other communications tools. Due to the complex nature of primary health care, it was challenging to review successes in one area of the province and communicate those best practices in other areas where the situation may be different.

Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition

The Project in Brief

The Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) consists of a large cross section of disability advocates, consumers and organizations across the province committed to advocating for a better income support system.  For years DISC had been working with the provincial government to increase funding for people with disabilities living on social assistance. Although there had been some commitment from the government to proceed, very little action had taken place. DISC approached us to create and implement a strategy that would apply pressure on the government, but at the same time not create a backlash against the groups.

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Our Approach

We worked closely with the Communications Committee to develop a strategic communications plan that encouraged a dialogue between DISC and the provincial government, yet applied pressure through media relations and targeted advertising. The committee was a collaboration on of representatives from organizations such as the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, Canadian Mental Health Association, Neil Squire Society, Saskatchewan Schizophrenia Society, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and many others. We were able to use this committee as a community sounding board for ideas and creative concepts.

Results and Challenges

With only a shoe-string budget, we created a media conference which allowed members of the media to experience a specific disability, ride a Paratransit bus, and visit with a family living in poverty and coping with multiple disabilities. A similar event was held for Members of the Legislative Assembly. We developed letters to the editor, arranged for spokespeople to take part in talk shows, and arranged for an advertising campaign with radio, newspaper and digital outlets. During the election campaign, we developed a DISC-specific campaign package which encouraged members to discuss the issue with local candidates. A campaign of this nature can be challenging due to the varied and diverse nature of people affected by disabilities, but we were able to develop a common vision for the group to follow.

The end result was this became the largest election promise by the governing party. Since that time, the government has increased both the amount of funding and the number of people living with disabilities who are eligible to receive that funding.

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