The Benefit of Experience

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

Twenty-First Century Timber

Providing a Robust Platform for Advocacy

Scope: A venerable timber industry association was facing a perfect storm of commercial, regulatory and political challenges, as well as natural disasters that threatened not only the social licence of the industry, but the livelihood of thousands of business owners and their staff. Canvass was brought in to rebuild the organisation’s brand, influence and advocacy capability over the long term.

Methodology: Working with the Board and CEO, it became clear there was a lack of structured, science-based information about the sector, leading to confusion and misinformation. Working with in house experts and creative agencies on a tight budget, Canvass developed, wrote and produced fundamental communications platforms, programs and infographics for the organisation, from which diverse campaign modules could easily be added. Over many years, Canvass was a trusted support and adviser, developing and drafting a series of communiqués in response to regulatory initiatives, industry working groups and parliamentary inquiries.

Outcome: The communications platforms unified the industry around a common set of science-based messages and provided media, government and supply chain stakeholders with a firm understanding of the scope, scale and science of the sector and its role in abating climate change in the 21st century. The advocacy served to manage political risk, rebut misinformation campaigns, elicit and direct government assistance and ultimately to steer the industry effectively through its many challenges and opportunities.

Policy Change for Progress

Building a New Profession

Scope: Technological change, new forms of contracting and surging property markets were providing challenges for a new group of licensed property professionals. Internally, the group needed to understand its members and their needs at a time of significant transformation. Externally, the group needed representation with government, regulators and the property sector more widely to contribute to industry developments and improve its reputation.

Methodology: Canvass began a program of consultation with external stakeholders and developed a member survey to understand the demographics and challenges facing these professionals. From there, Canvass retained photographers and graphic designers to refresh the brand and frame the identity of the sector as a platform for advocacy. Working with the results of the stakeholder and member research, Canvass then devised an advocacy plan, developing communications materials and platforms.

Outcome: The identity and needs of the sector were brought into focus. Canvass fed back to members the survey findings and the new look and feel of the organisation, building alignment, purpose and collective pride in the new profession. Canvass then took the policy issues to government, seeking key policy changes to enable the sector to work more effectively. With credible, evidence-based arguments, Canvass was successful in achieving policy wins and influencing technological and policy developments going forward.

Delivering for Members

Embedding Best Practice and Strategic Alignment 

Scope: An educational membership body representing and providing key services for 67,000 students had long lacked effective corporate governance. Without strategic direction, it was not engaging with or understanding the needs of its members. It was struggling to meet the challenges of enormous change and disruption in the sector. It faced a leadership vacuum and financial distress which was heightened by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Methodology: Canvass was brought in on an interim basis, managing a $31m annual budget with eight direct reports, 300 staff and volunteers and a significant property portfolio. Canvass worked closely with sector institutions and stakeholders on a range of critical ongoing issues. As the COVID crisis deepened, Canvass conducted an Organisational Review to provide visibility on problems and priorities and deliver urgent solutions, as well as a plan to reengage with members and stakeholders in the ongoing COVID context and beyond.

Outcome: The results of the Organisational Review provided much needed transparency and direction. It also informed Canvass’ work in responding quickly to the COVID crisis, stemming financial losses and managing safety and staffing issues. Canvass steered the organisation through the challenges of COVID, ensuring its survival through member retention and stakeholder engagement. The Review also provided a clear strategic roadmap to align the organisation with the interests of members and key stakeholders and ensure a sustainable future.

Holistic Corporate Affairs

Future-Proofing a National 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 members’ needs and interests during a time of extraordinary growth and profile for the industry. 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 was brought in on an interim management basis, 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. In support of advocacy and member retention, Canvass created new multimedia communications collateral which profiled the unique culture and identity of the sector. Canvass developed and conducted a merger with the major high-profile annual tourism event for the sector, attracting both key skills and an ongoing communications platform.

Outcome: Canvass consolidated and relocated the team to Melbourne, with a raft of new management systems and processes. Over the course of a year, Canvass undertook revised advocacy programs which found their mark, delivering public profile, media attention and attracting new members. The advocacy also delivered ongoing state and federal government support and critical regulatory change. Targeted member communiqués drove member compliance with labeling laws, helping to repair reputational damage. Ultimately, the organisation was placed on a sustainable financial footing.

Navigating Technological Change

Navigating the Digital Shift: A National Industry Body

Scope: The digital economy is heralding a time of rapid change for many sectors, including all levels of the education sector. To inform its strategic planning, a national industry body needed to understand how key education stakeholders were 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 nationally: 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 nationally as a result of digital developments. The research findings were used to inform and energise effective engagement at the public affairs level and urgently address reputational obstacles.

Effective Corporate Affairs

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 federal and state stakeholders 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 corporate affairs strategy. The federal government later announced its support for the client’s policy proposal.

Data Driven Advocacy

Effective Advocacy: A Professional Union

Scope: Canvass was asked to assist a large professional union by providing 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 more 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 findings provided a pathway for setting advocacy and engagement strategy. Canvass worked with the research findings to modify union messaging and communications to feed into wider campaigns – both with members and public affairs stakeholders – ultimately facilitating better membership satisfaction and 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: Canvass identified telephone interviews as the only feasible methodology to reach this community. Due to the low incidence of this community across the general population, Canvass utilised the community network itself to recruit a suitable national sample. Canvass then developed a questionnaire to measure changes in 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.

Attracting New Audiences

Audience Research: A Radio Network

Scope: A national radio network wanted to understand its audience demographics, their needs and listening habits and to establish a benchmark against which to analyse audience development. It also needed to identify reasons why other members of its ‘community of interest’ were not tuning in.

Methodology: Canvass prepared a comprehensive questionnaire to track the network’s performance over time. Canvass then interviewed a sample of network listeners and non-listeners from the ‘community of interest’. 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.

Outcome: In strategic planning sessions at the Network, Canvass worked to re-prioritise its strategic goals on the basis of the findings. Canvass developed a communications and marketing plan to address listenership and awareness problems. Key findings and listener verbatims fed into revised promotional collateral, attracting new sponsors, new listeners and government support.

Engaging Local Communities

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.

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 policy holders, others not. The Forums were designed to be engaging, dynamic and participatory workshops, delving into the social and community context that informed 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. 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 informed and enhanced customer assistance and marketing strategies in regional areas.

Revitalising Identity & Purpose

Communicating Purpose: A Cultural Organisation

Scope: A long-established cultural organisation needed reinvigorate its membership and sponsor base to ensure its ongoing viability. It wanted to clarify and revise its offer to current and potential members as well as to academic and political stakeholders.

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 organisation over many decades. Canvass also compared promotional collateral and positioning of comparable cultural organisations in the sector. In stage two, Canvass conducted a series of depth interviews with key stakeholders to understand the importance of the work of the organisation, gathering influential verbatim statements to be used in messaging.

Outcome: In stage three, Canvass collaborated with graphic designers to write, design and produce informative promotional collateral, using archival material to establish a clear identity and offering and position it as a key cultural contributor. The print and digital content was communicated widely and successfully to recruit new members and sponsors, breathing new life into a venerable institution.

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 and develop a strategic response to the findings.

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 then conducted an implementation workshop with the company, undertook a gap analysis and developed public affairs and media strategies, drawing key messages from the research that resonated with stakeholders.