The Benefit of Experience

Looking at the world through the eyes of others is often the key to true understanding.

Transparency & Strategy

Independent interim management: embedding best practice and leaving a legacy of improvement 

Scope: An educational membership body representing and providing key services for 67,000 union members had long lacked effective corporate governance. It lacked the necessary transparency and accountability to meet the challenges of enormous change and disruption in the sector. As a result, it faced a leadership vacuum and financial distress.

Methodology: Canvass MD acted as interim CEO to stabilize the organization, managing a $31m annual budget with eight direct reports and 300 staff, additional volunteers and a significant property portfolio. Worked closely with sector institutions and stakeholders on a range of critical ongoing issues. As the COVID crisis deepened, Canvass systematically conducted an Organisational Review to provide visibility on problems and priorities and to propose urgent solutions.

Outcome: The results of the Organisational Review provided much needed transparency, also informing Canvass’ work in responding quickly to the COVID-19 crisis. Canvass worked to restructure the organisation to a baseline operation during COVID, ensuring its survival and providing a clear, long term strategic roadmap towards financial sustainability, effective corporate governance and operations in alignment with member interests.


Future-Proofing a Peak Industry Association

Scope: A national industry body for 600+ drinks manufacturers was at a crossroads. The organization lacked the leadership and strategic direction to represent the needs and interests of its members during a time of extraordinary growth and profile. As a result, the sector was suffering reputational damage from regulatory non-compliance, while the association was losing members and becoming financially unsustainable.

Methodology: Canvass MD acted as interim CEO to stabilize affairs, taking the five year old organisation into a new phase of professionalism during a period of intense advocacy activity in state and federal elections. Canvass developed a strategic plan, defining key member benefits and new revenue streams. New collateral profiled the unique culture and identity of the sector in support of advocacy. With a view to a financially sustainable future, Canvass developed and conducted a merger with the major high-profile annual tourism event for the sector, which was also struggling.

Outcome: The organization was placed on a secure new financial footing, consolidating and relocating the management team from Newcastle to Melbourne, with a raft of new, professionalised financial and management systems and processes. The revived advocacy programs found their mark, delivering public profile, ongoing state and federal government support and critical regulatory change, while also driving member compliance with labeling laws and membership uptake.

Navigating Change

Navigating the Digital Shift: A Peak Industry Body
Scope: The digital economy is heralding a time of rapid change for many sectors, including all levels of the education sector. A national peak industry body wanted to inform its strategic planning and lobbying by understanding how key education stakeholders are dealing with rapid technological change and their perspectives on the role of this industry group in the digital shift.

Methodology: Canvass identified 50 senior executives from a wide range of stakeholder groups across all levels of education in Australia: primary, secondary, tertiary and VET stakeholders, as well as other peak bodies, MPs and senior state & federal bureaucrats. Canvass conducted high-level discussions with these executives, covering numerous substantive and reputational issues about the impact of the digital shift on the education sector, the roles and relationships throughout the sector and the implications of these for Canvass’ client.

Outcome: Elite stakeholders welcomed the chance to speak candidly and confidentially about their needs and the issues and opportunities facing the education sector in Australia as a result of the digital shift. The research findings were used to inform and energise effective engagement at the public affairs level and urgently address reputational obstacles.

Evidence Based Strategy

An Evidence Base: A Private Health Insurer
Scope: A large private health insurance company wanted to evaluate its relationships with a wide range of stakeholders including MPs, policymakers, hospital administrators, regulators and business journalists. The research findings would provide an evidence base for evaluation of corporate affairs strategy and team performance, set future KPIs and inform government relations strategy-setting.

Methodology: Canvass research design utilised both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to capture the full range of stakeholder opinion. Canvass was able to secure interviews with elite stakeholders in Canberra and in the major capitals by communicating the demonstrable public policy benefit of participation and positive outcomes for all participants.

Outcome: The client adopted Canvass’ findings and strategic advice and refined its lobbying strategy. The federal government later announced its support for the client’s policy proposal.

Planning Effective Advocacy

Effective Advocacy: A Professional Union
Scope: Canvass was asked to assist a large professional union in New South Wales to gain insight into its effectiveness as an advocate and its standing with a range of elite stakeholders. The research would feed into a broader advertising campaign to position the organisation effectively.

Methodology: Canvass conducted qualitative public affairs research with a wide range of elite stakeholders including leading current affairs journalists and broadcasters, state MPs, policy makers and heads of sector advocacy groups. Canvass secured in depth interviews and developed a set of questions which enabled stakeholders to give clear, insightful views on the client under a condition of anonymity.

Outcome: The research findings were adopted by the union to modify future messages and communications and feed into wider campaigns – both with members and public affairs stakeholders. The findings guided the client through strategy setting for advocacy and engagement, ultimately facilitating better stakeholder relationships.

Evaluating Communication Success

A Climate Change Initiative: A Community Organisation
Scope: As a condition of a federal government grant, the peak body of a community organisation for the disabled needed to be able to evaluate the success of a communications campaign about climate change to their specific community.

Methodology: From the start Canvass identified telephone interviews as the only feasible methodology to reach this disabled community. Due to the low incidence of this community across the general population, Canvass utilised the community network to recruit a suitable sample across Australia. Canvass then developed a simple but effective questionnaire to measure changes to awareness, understanding and attitudes across the six month campaign.

Outcome: The research findings showed that the campaign had been effective in raising awareness and understanding among a majority of the sample, but that entrenched opposition to climate change initiatives persists among certain demographic categories.

Strategic Planning

Audience Research: A Community Radio Network
Scope: The peak body of a national community radio network wanted to understand its audience demographics and their needs and listening habits and to establish a benchmark against which to measure future progress. It also needed to diagnose why other members of its ‘community of interest’ were not tuning in.

Methodology: Canvass prepared a comprehensive questionnaire to provide a benchmark for tracking the network’s performance over time. Canvass then interviewed a sample of network listeners, as well as a sample of non-listeners from the ‘community of interest’.

Outcome: The research findings revealed that while the network appealed to current listeners it was a ‘well-kept secret’, reaching only a very limited age demographic, virtually unknown in the wider community and therefore unattractive to sponsors. The research also identified significant social inclusion issues. The peak body used the findings to re-prioritise its strategic goals and to develop a marketing plan which addressed listenership and awareness problems. Key findings fed into revised promotional collateral to attract new sponsors and listeners.

Community Engagement

Community Response to the Floods: A General Insurer
Scope: Following catastrophic floods, a general insurer needed to understand current community mindsets as well as changing local contexts, influences and expectations among rural and regional communities in these areas.

Methodology: Canvass developed a series of Community Engagement Forums involving a cross-section of community members from a range of age groups and occupations. Some were client customers, others not. The Forums were designed to be engaging, dynamic and participatory workshops, delving into the social and community context that informs the attitudes and decisions of insurance buyers in regional areas.

Outcome: The Forums revealed that the experiences of rural and regional communities during and after the floods had changed their perspectives. Forum participants made explicit their levels of understanding, their need for guidance and their expectations about the role of organisations like insurers in community life. These research findings were used to inform customer assistance and marketing strategies in regional areas.

Driving Change

Invigorating Membership: A Cultural Organisation
Scope: A long-established professional association needed reinvigorate its membership and sponsor base to ensure its ongoing viability. It wanted to understand and communicate its offer to current and potential members as well as to academic and political stakeholders across New South Wales.

Methodology: In stage one, Canvass conducted detailed desk research, gathering archival information & collateral to form a picture of the identity, role and activities of the association over many decades. Canvass also compared promotional collateral from other, comparative cultural organisations in the sector to position the accurately. In stage two, Canvass conducted a series of depth interviews with key stakeholders to understand the importance of the work of the association, gathering influential verbatim statements to be used in promotional collateral.

Outcome: In stage three, Canvass collaborated with graphic designers to write, design and produce an informative promotional brochure, using the association’s archives to establish a clear identity and position it as a key cultural organisation. The brochure has been distributed widely and successfully to recruit new members and sponsors.

Protecting Reputation

The Importance of Reputation: An Agricultural Supplies Company
Scope: Canvass was retained by a major international agricultural supplies company to conduct nationwide reputational research on the attitudes of key opinion-leaders towards the company and its products.

Methodology: Canvass identified opinion-leaders in the field among high-profile current affairs broadcasters, trade press, industry representative bodies and competitors and conducted in depth interviews covering all aspects of the company’s operations.

Outcome: Canvass’ findings led to an implementation workshop with the company in which gap analysis was conducted and public affairs and media strategies were developed, drawing key messages from the research that resonated with stakeholders.