Chatter: Canadian telecom’s anti-Verizon campaign

August 09, 2013  |  Jeff Fraser  |  Comments

The “incumbents” in Canada’s telecom industry – Bell, Rogers and Telus – stepped up their campaign to convince the public that Verizon’s entry into the Canadian market won’t be good for consumers. Bell CEO George Cope penned an open letter to Canadians across two full pages of the Toronto Star, while Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed told the media a four-player market would be “unsustainable” and Telus CEO Darren Entwhistle warned of a “bloodbath” should Verizon be allowed to bid on Canadian wireless spectrum.

The campaign has sparked backlash from media, advocacy groups, and consumers themselves – raising the question of how effective the telcos’ PR strategy has been, and what could have been done better.

Here’s the chatter on the anti-Verizon lobby:

A blog post by University of Winnipeg graduate student Benjamin Klass garnered some attention with a detailed historical perspective on the Canadian telecom industry in his own open letter to Cope.

Bell began its life in Canada as a branch plant of an American company; in a strange twist of fate, it’s now a descendant of National Bell Telephone – Verizon – which is contemplating (re)entering the Canadian market … You suggest that “US giants don’t need special help from the Canadian government,” but that’s exactly how Bell got to where it is today!

Business columnist Peter Hadekel @ The Calgary Herald said the telcos have treated the potential Verizon bid as a “foreign invasion.”

Verizon hasn’t even confirmed if it’s coming here. But Bell, Telus and Rogers all have raised nationalist alarms and trotted out the well-worn cliché that Canada needs “a level playing field” in the wireless business.

Marketing consultant Karen Geier @ Global News criticized the company for being out of touch with consumers.

It’s inexcusable in a world where customers are used to getting real time answers to their questions, and getting action on their requests. If Porter Airlines, Metrolinx, or McDonald’s can open their brands to consumer feedback (and have had their share of controversies to answer for) then you are more than capable of doing so. If your company infrastructure resists change, change your infrastructure.

…and for Bell’s choice of medium.

Your second problem, from a marketing perspective, is that you chose an old media method like an open letter to express your opinion about the coming competition. This is in direct opposition to how most Canadians feel about the issue and is the very reason this market deserves competition: you seem too old fashioned a company to compete in the modern marketplace and this letter only served to draw that to the average Canadian’s attention.

Do you think the telcos’ PR campaign has been effective? Will it win over Canadians? Let us know in the comment section below.

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