Port Metro Vancouver tries to bolster its image with new campaign

A new campaign by Port Metro Vancouver aims to connect more deeply with B.C. citizens as it faces increased opposition to its coal expansion plans. The Port, which borders 16 municipalities and several aboriginal communities, recently launched a series of cinema and television ads that focus on stories about the goods it imports every day […]

A new campaign by Port Metro Vancouver aims to connect more deeply with B.C. citizens as it faces increased opposition to its coal expansion plans.

The Port, which borders 16 municipalities and several aboriginal communities, recently launched a series of cinema and television ads that focus on stories about the goods it imports every day and the jobs created in B.C. by Port activities.

“We chose to focus on stories about people and how [they’re connected] to the Port. We also wanted to showcase some of our initiatives around the environment,” said Evangeline Englezos, director of communications and government affairs.

The ads, which were created by Edelman Vancouver, “are really an extension of what we are already doing in terms of educating and informing the public of what the Port does,” said Englezos.

The communication strategy is switching from an approach that was heavy on information to one more reliant on storytelling. “By telling stories about people and by showing that it’s so much more than just ships and trucks and rail – that it’s actually a connection to people’s livelihoods – it’s more interesting and more engaging.”

One ad, for example, features Michelle, an operations planner at Canadian Tire. It’s her job to know what’s in every container that arrives from the Port and ensure that the goods get to the right destination. Her job, according to the spot, is one of more than 76,000 generated by the Port each year in British Columbia.

Last year, the Port launched PortTalk.ca, an online forum where concerned citizens can have their questions answered by staffers on any issue that pertains to the Port. In September, the Port added a Facebook page that features a series of short documentaries describing people’s connection to the Port. It also uses Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to connect with the public.

Victoria-based environmental group Dogwood Initiative isn’t entirely convinced the Port’s PR effort is genuine. “It may be a genuine attempt to use social media tools to get a better sense of what people are concerned about, [but] at the same time it may be a box to check,” Laura Benson, campaign director of the group’s Beyond Coal campaign, told Marketing.

Benson added she is worried that the Port may be focusing on public relations rather than making a proper attempt at public consultation.

“The Port Authority has a conflicting mandate between promoting trade at Port Metro Vancouver… versus their mandate to protect the public interest and be the public regulator for those public lands on the waterfront,” she said. “I don’t think PR and fancy TV advertising is all that helpful for a public regulator. I think what they should be focusing on is consulting with the public in a real and meaningful way.”

Englezos said that, on the contrary, she believes the Port has been extremely active in its public consultation role. “In 2012 we did 600 events out in the community,” she said.

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