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National Energy Board’s

Communications Strategy
2013-14 to 2016-17

NEB Communications Strategy: 2013-14 to 2016-17
“Strategic communications is not the solution to every challenge… but it is almost always part of
the solution.” Grant Oliphant, Director of Planning and Communications, The Heinz
Endowments
PURPOSE:

This strategy establishes the vision, and provides a framework, for the NEB’s external
communications-related activities, bringing support to and being consistent with the
Board’s strategic goals and specific objectives. It is a three-year plan, reviewed and
renewed annually.

GOAL:To increase Canadians’ confidence that the NEB is carrying out its mandate:
protecting the safety of Canadians, their communities and the environment.
In order to achieve this goal, we will:

be more deliberate and in control of the story we tell to Canadians about our mandate, our
work and the difference we make;

leverage data and seek opportunities to create awareness, improve knowledge and
understanding, and inspire confidence in the NEB’s ability to fulfill its mandate;

be more responsive to the needs and expectations of key stakeholders, media and the
general public regarding the NEB’s transparency and effectiveness as a regulator;

better equip ourselves to identify potential crisis situations in opinions and/or to handle a
major actual crisis appropriately in terms of the required communications needs; and,

maintain a strong focus on our key theme and messages related to the safety of Canadians
and the protection of the environment.

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KEY ELEMENTS OF THE STRATEGY AND AREAS OF STRATEGIC FOCUS:
There are four key areas of incremental focus for the NEB in its strategic communications plan.
It is incremental to the current best practices work the NEB has in place, which includes timely
responses to media and stakeholder inquiries, proactive management of critical issues, and strong
emergency operations response communications protocols.
In 2013-14 through to 2016-17, the NEB will focus on achieving the goal of increasing
Canadians’ confidence that the NEB is carrying out its mandate in the public interest with one
key objective, and four strategic areas of focus that align with that objective. It is summarized as
follows:
What

How

Objective: The NEB will be increasingly proactive in public relations and issue management…
A: The Media – we will increase
the incidences of positive/
neutral coverage of the NEB
in national, regional and local
media



B.

Community Relations – we
will increase our community
engagement activities to
engage Canadians in
discussions about the NEB,
its mandate and
role/responsibilities


C. Issues Management - we will
increase our capacity to
anticipate and quickly
respond to emerging issues



D. NEB Spokesperson and
Strategic Communications


Build stronger relationships with targeted media representatives
Use social media
Target and tailor communications products for smaller, local media
outlets
Continue to communicate actively and transparently, using NEB data
sources to tell our story
Focus on community-focused media
Identify and pursue community engagement speaking opportunities
that align with NEB activities
Monitor and analyze community concerns and issues through media
monitoring
Develop stronger, trust-based relationships with key publics through
active and honest outreach
Communications and the Regulatory Approaches team will co-lead
an Issues Management process
We will leverage the information and data that the NEB currently
produces to track trends, support our activities and to clearly
demonstrate how we make a difference
We will proactively plan and execute thoughtful, targeted responses
to emerging issues
We will hire a senior spokesperson reporting to the Director of
Communications
NEB teams/ key business areas will have dedicated
Communications Advisors, residing in Communications, who, by
developing depth of knowledge, will be better positioned to offer
strategic input, connect all Board messaging under a common
communications goal, act as primary responders for routine media
enquiries, and alleviate the resources spent by teams/ business
groups in managing communications activity

…using a flexible, transparent, risk-informed, resource-driven approach.

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SCOPE:
This strategy is not intended to be a list of every specific external communication activity that
the NEB will undertake in support of the many important projects and initiatives currently
underway. Each of those projects (including hearings) will still have their own communication
plan, outlining strategy and tactics that will ensure successful communications for each initiative.
This strategy describes an over-arching communications approach that will inform and guide the
planning and execution of all project-specific communication.
ROLE OF COMMUNICATIONS:
The Communications function at the NEB has evolved in step with the organization’s increasing
visibility as a regulator, Canadians’ appetite for deeper engagement, and the Board’s risktolerance for more proactive public relations. In general, we do a good job at responding to
public requests for information about our mandate and processes, insight into Canada’s
regulatory and energy market environment, and media relations.
Now, there is a requirement for the Communications role to expand, to help strategically plan,
manage and sustain the organization’s relationship with key audiences (in some cases, this role is
focused on supporting others who have lead responsibility for these relationships), strengthening
the organization’s reputation and thereby helping the organization achieve its strategic and
operational goals. We have to create and deliver more deliberate, compelling and controlled
messages about the work we do.
TIMELINES AND SCALEABILITY:
This strategy outlines a vision and an approach to better, more cohesive communications at the
NEB. Endorsement of this strategy does not mean that all suggested tactics must be executed
immediately. Demands on NEB resources will be managed with mindful consideration of our
dynamic working environment. This communications strategy will be supported and
implemented by realistic communications tactics over realistic timelines, and implemented on an
on-going (routine work) and annual (special projects) basis over the next one-to-three years.
Flexible planning allows us to adapt activities to respond to NEB/ energy/ regulatory trends
without being restrictive in scope or unable to meet routine service requirements. Depending on
possible (sudden or planned) changes in the NEB’s operating environment, our stakeholder
focus, messages and tools may require adaptation and enhancement; however, the longer-term
vision of the NEB’s communications activities will remain the same.

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KEY MESSAGES:
The primary key messages of the NEB are our highest level expressions of our mandate and our
purpose. They fall directly from the Board’s Strategic Plan, adapted as needed for the medium
being used, and they frame all other, more specific messaging. Primary key messages include:


The NEB is an independent federal regulator.
We regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest.
The NEB will take all available actions to protect the environment and the public.

These messages are repeated in our formal reporting, public engagement, on our web site, and as
the basis for all other messaging we develop.
Beyond these primary statements, key messages are developed on a project-by-project (or issueby-issue) basis, in careful consideration of audiences, what the Board wants to convey, and the
medium being used to relay the information, and risk analysis.
AUDIENCE:
As Canada’s federal energy regulator, the NEB must communicate with all Canadians – an
enormous, diverse and complex audience. Our approach to communicating with this broad
audience is to divide them into target groups. Some Canadians fall into several target groups.
Some target groups require more or less focused communication, depending on current issues,
interests and NEB activity. Target groups include:










Landowners and Landowner groups
First Nations groups
Northern Canadians
NEB Employees
Companies and industry associations such as CAPP and CEPA
Non-government environmental associations
Provincial/ Territorial Regulators and Boards
NRCAN and Parliament
Municipal/ Provincial governments/ Civic groups
Media
General public

The challenge before the NEB is to be responsive to the engagement and information
requirements of different groups, and to do so in a way that maximizes the efficiency and
effectiveness of our use of resources and Canadian taxpayer dollars. A strong communications
strategy, aligned with issues management and carefully utilizing the resources we have, will
increase our chances of successfully reaching all our of target groups.

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COMMUNICATIONS TACTICS in EACH OF THE FOUR AREAS OF FOCUS:
A. The Media
The media - general media, social media and specialty media - is both a key target group as well
as a channel. When we target and/ or employ this group, our goal is to create user-friendly and
accessible communications deliverables about NEB which can be used to target key
stakeholders, as well as appeal to the general public.
Proactive communication efforts towards media will be further developed and strengthened. To
appeal to the general media, we will continue our processes as they have been developed, under
the principles of responsiveness and transparency.
What’s Different: We’ll be engaging the media and general public on deeper, more
deliberately targeted level. We will also have a primary NEB spokesperson who will
provide a consistent point of contact for media, and who will handle crisis media
relations.
Media Relations
Stronger relationships with targeted
media representatives
Strategic use of social media to
broaden our range of contact and media
exposure
Targeted and tailored NEB info for
smaller, local media outlets to ensure
our story is heard in more communities
Dedicated media relations specialist
(NEB Spokesperson) who will provide
consistency for media contact

Status Quo

Over the next 12 months

More accurate,
strategic storytelling via
media =
Increased
confidence that
the NEB is
fulfilling its
mandate in the
public interest

1 – 2 years

We will soon have a Twitter account, and so will be able to incorporate elements of social media
into our strategy for telling our story to Canadians.
We will continue to enhance our relationships with media by focusing on opportunities to tell our
story and by developing closer contacts with specialized media such as Daily Oil Bulletin, The
Hill-Times and Platts Energy, and with smaller local media for project-specific communications.

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We will also take a closer look at what the NEB should be marketing to the media as
“newsworthy” to ensure that any viable strategic opportunity to tell aspects of our story are
seized upon, and begin presenting these opportunities to leadership for consideration.

Tactic: Create and maintain a common data base of all relevant media and contacts.

Tactic: “Push notifications” to media – updates even when directly not sought.

Tactic: Develop relationships with small, local media in areas where specific projects are
underway, and push “background” news items about how the NEB regulates (safety
program overviews, relevant staff profiles, etc.) to boost local understanding of NEB
activities.

Tactic: More aggressive correcting/ commenting where strategic (for example, response
to Alberta Energy Regulator report in Fall 2013.)

Tactic: Advance notice to key media contacts with whom we have active professional
relationships.

Tactic: More us-to-them suggestions and pitches for themes and stories (individual
reporters and Editorial Boards).

Tactic: Leverage the rich data sources within the NEB (via the Regulatory Information
Analysis Initiative, currently in development) to tell our story, illustrate how we make a
difference as a regulator and support discussions of industry trends.

Tactic: Create a common calendar of important industry, regulatory and energy-related
events in order to better plan activities and maximize media attention by issuing of
relevant press releases and effective event participation.

B. Community Relations
The NEB has robust programs in place for application-related engagement, and non-application,
operational engagement as it relates to liaising with companies regarding construction and
maintenance of facilities, and landowners who may have specific questions or complaints about
that activity. These two programs, managed through the Applications and Operations Business
Units, cover direct “rights and interest of those affected” communications.
What is lacking is a slightly higher level program of engagement that speaks to groups who may
not qualify as “directly affected”, but who are very interested and/ or concerned about how the
NEB regulates, or how that regulation impacts others issues (such as environmental protection).
Currently, we primarily address these groups through our web site, publications and the general
media: while these mediums are viable to limited extents, they do not necessarily build trust or
develop relationships between the NEB and those communities of “not-affected -but-deeply7

invested” individuals. Building relationships with our publics is at the heart of increasing public
confidence in the NEB, and we are missing an opportunity to do so here.
To fill this gap, external communications should provide organized, complementary,
community-level engagement for non-application engagement. To differentiate this type of
engagement from that being done by Applications and Operations, we are calling this
“Community Relations.”
The cultivation of community relations opportunities, with a view towards creating an organized
and sustainable community relations program, should be a top priority for Communications, in
consultation with Applications, Operations, Strategy and Analysis, the Secretary’s Office and the
Northern Engagement team.
Communications also intends to work closely with the Information Management team to
maximize the effectiveness, accessibility and technological integrity of our web-based
communications.
What’s Different: We’ll be taking opportunities for engagement that we previously
have missed out on, and filling in gaps in our engagement processes that are not
currently being addressed.
Community Relations
Greater exposure of mandate and
goals in community-focused media
Face-time with community leaders
and interested citizens (builds
relationships)
More opportunities for audience
specific messaging
Deeper understanding of audiencespecific issues
Status Quo

Over the next 18 months

Stronger
communitylevel
relationships =
Increased
confidence that
the NEB is
fulfilling its
mandate in the
public interest
2 – 3 years

Tactic: Work with key regulatory staff/ groups, including the Technical leader,
Environment, the Land Matters group, the Aboriginal Engagement specialists, etc.) to
seek out, develop and recommend strategic, value-focused community relations
opportunities to leadership.

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Tactic: Develop and maintain an annual calendar of potential speaking engagements for
technical experts, the NEB Spokesperson and Board Members (based largely on
historical research and maintained in partnership with the Secretary’s Office) and
leverage speaking engagements where possible vis-à-vis community interests or issues.

Tactic: Leverage specific stakeholder lists currently maintained by Board staff (including
ENGOs, government committees, or landowner groups) to ensure that any notable
publication (Safety Culture Framework, Energy Market Assessments, etc.) are shared
with all appropriate stakeholders.

Tactic: Based on feedback from community groups, begin developing series of fact-anddata-sheets that help explain or illustrate key issues under the Board’s mandate that are of
community interest. These sheets would be tailored to specific regions of Canada, address
specific aspects of industry regulation, and would be broadly available for community
relations/ local media outreach.

Tactic: Leverage existing regulatory engagement plans to plan parallel community
relations activities: for example, if technical inspections are being done in a specific area
or community, Communications would explore the potential to provide NEB information
about the inspections through the local paper, municipal departments or community
groups.

Tactic: Develop, in careful coordination with appropriate Hearing Managers and the
Rights and Interests Steering Committee, community relations activities to lay a
foundation for positive engagement and facilitate understanding of NEB’s mandate and
role, in anticipation of complex/ controversial hearings. These may include meetings with
provincial and municipal leaders or committees, specific professional associations or
other identified civic groups.

C. Issues Management
Organized, proactive issues management is an increasingly important area of focus for the NEB.
While we have historically been able to “rise to the challenge” of responding quickly and well to
emerging issues, those responses cost a great deal of staff time and effort to coordinate, and we
run a reputational risk if we are caught unprepared or without adequate information. A more
strategic, coordinated, responsive and timely approach to issues management supported by
factual data will help us to ensure that we are able to carry out our mandate to protect the safety
of Canadians, their communities and the environment.
This will require a well-designed issue management process that enables proactive management
and response preparation, relying on the better use of regulatory data to identify issues, support
NEB activities and inform the NEB’s external messaging. Work on this project is currently
underway in the Strategy and Analysis business unit, and Regulatory Approaches is developing a

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work process through which various NEB information channels (for example, media monitoring,
the look-ahead and other internal and external reports) will be reviewed for current and
developing issues and recommendations would be made to leadership on potential strategic
action. The Communications Team will be very involved with, and supportive of, this project, as
there are strong links between issues management and the strategic communications plan.
In addition, NEB Communications liaises regularly with other government communications
departments, providing background and / or messages on NEB files, and reviewing messages
that may impact the NEB. We will maintain these positive and open working relationships to
help support the issues management process.

What’s Different: We’ll improve our ability to identify and develop proactive responses
to issues by leveraging NEB-sourced data to demonstrate what we do and how we make
a difference, and by developing a strong, communications-focused issues management
process.

Issues Management
Well-designed issue management
process that enables proactive
management and response preparation
Better use of regulatory data to
identify issues, support NEB activities
and support the NEB’s external
messaging
Better internal coordination of
complex issue response across teams

Status Quo

Over the next 2 years

Responsive,
timely issue
management
supported by
factual data =
Increased
confidence that
the NEB is
fulfilling its
mandate in the
public interest
2 – 4 years

D. NEB Spokesperson (Media Relations Senior Spokesperson) and Assigned
Communications Specialists
The Communications team is both a tactical service provider to other teams at the Board, and a
strategic advisory group with a stake in the outcomes of the Board’s external-facing activity.
Historically at the NEB, the emphasis of our function has been on service provision. Our service
role and processes have been developed to maturity. It is time for our focus to shift toward

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developing our strategic communications function, in order to become more active and effective
partners in fulfilling the Board’s mandate and goals.
Senior leadership have also identified a need for a senior-level, bilingual NEB Spokesperson.
This person would act as a primary media relation contact and crisis communications contact,
working closely with leadership and Legal Services to represent the Board on complex issues.
He or she would also be an additional resource for community relations activities and would
support NEB leadership with media coaching and advice. There will always be instances when
the only appropriate or credible spokesperson will be a senior technical specialist/ Business Unit
leader or the CEO; strong communications planning in any organization recognizes the need to
ensure senior leadership is prepared to take on those roles when required. These instances will be
addressed as they occur.
We will further develop our Communications Officers’ capacity to act as Strategic Advisors and
as NEB Spokespeople across the Communications Team by dedicating communications officers
to specific business units/ projects (they will continue to reside in Communications and report to
the Director of Communications) and identifying them as lead communicators for these areas.
The dedicated officers will be expected to develop a deep understanding of the work activities
and communications needs, to provide strategic guidance on internal and external
communications. The Communications Officer assigned to business units/ projects will be more
consistently involved in the planning and the “lifecycle” of a project communications, sharing
responsibility for not only the quality of communications deliverables, but for measuring the
effectiveness of their use and providing recommendations for future communication approaches
on similar projects.
What’s Different: The NEB will have a bilingual spokesperson who will act as our
primary media specialist, and crisis/ issues management spokesperson. Critical NEB
business activities and projects will receive specialized, proactive, and strategic
communications advice from an specifically assigned communications officer.

NEB Spokesperson Capacity
An NEB spokesperson will provide a focus
for media in crisis/ issues management
Communications will offer more
comprehensive strategic advice on critical
NEB projects/ activities
Board communications will be more
consistent, with a single key media contact
and a more unified look and feel
Communication staff will assist in
promoting stronger internal information
sharing

Status Quo

Over the next 2 years

More strategic
communications,
delivered
consistently and
proactively =
Increased
confidence that
that the NEB is
fulfilling its
mandate in the
public interest
2 – 4 years
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Tactic: A gap analysis of non-application communications at the NEB will be
undertaken. Through a consultative process with team and group leaders, an assigned
Communications officer will identify and analyze the Communications support being
provided at the Board, looking for any gaps in support or emerging needs for support
across the Board’s various teams and project groups. The result will be recommendations
for leadership on where more communications focus is required.

Tactic: NEB spokesperson will identify his/ herself to key media and reinforce a primary
contact point in order to proactively foster strong working relationships in advance of
“media issues” responses.

Tactic: Develop issue-specific media kits that outline the issue from the NEB perspective,
offer facts and data on the issue, and provide an overview of the NEB’s involvement or
role.

Tactic: Bi-weekly Communications strategy discussions that emphasize information and
idea sharing among the Communications officers, facilitating consistency, best practices
and streamlining of effort across all NEB communications.

Tactic: Develop a common toolkit of communication best practices, focused both
generally and specifically on NEB communications, and ranging from planning to
measurement, will be created, maintained, and used by all staff in developing projectlevel communication plans.

Tactic: A Communications-driven publication review, focusing specifically on the quality
and consistency of our external print/ web publications, will be undertaken. The goal will
be to have compelling, relevant, user-friendly information available to the public to
maximize the impact of this type of communications.

KEY PARALLEL NEB INITIATIVES
Excellence in Communications cannot happen in isolation of technology, data management,
issues tracking, government reporting protocols, and so on. Communications is fully aligned
with key NEB projects that run parallel to the development of this strategy, and that will inform
and contribute to its outcomes:




The Issues Management Framework
The Regulatory Information Analysis Initiative
The Transparency Project
NEB Web Renewal Project/ Government of Canada Web 2.0
Information Management Renewal

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MEASURING OUR SUCCESS:
We will continue to measure whether or not external communications are being delivered
efficiently and effectively. This includes both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Specific
targets will be established based on the applicable baseline data by the end of the first year of the
strategy. Indicators of success may include:
• An increase in positive/neutral media coverage about the NEB;
• Maintenance or improvement in response times to media enquiries;
• An increase in public interest and awareness in the NEB’s activities, including visits to
our website, requests for information, and/or participation in NEB forums and events;
• Positive feedback (surveys) from Canadians’ about their view of the NEB;
• An increase in opportunities for engagement and discussion with Canadians about the
role of the NEB.
The following methods could be used as source data to measure the impact of the strategy:
Medium
Website

Quantitative

Qualitative


Visits/statistics (Website content
management system)
Links from other websites/blogs
Downloaded presentations


User surveys
Direct user feedback




Distribution at events
Downloads
Requests or mentions from other sources
Additional print runs


Reference from other
institutions/bodies
Survey of users

Information
requests


Phone/fax/e-mail
Measure of info requests via the
website

Events



Participant totals
Booth/ display visitors
Publications distributed


Evaluation forms/direct feedback
Focus group/ Follow-up calls

Media



Mentions
Requests for info/ interviews
Media response times (primarily for
complex inquiries)


Positive mentions, more requests
Successful uptake of NEB-generated stories
or pitches
Assessment of interviewees as to the feel of
an interview (i.e. positive experience)

Social
media



Number of views, shares, re-Tweets
Number of followers on Twitter
Subscriptions for the NEB RSS feeds

Positive mentions, quality of the information
about the NEB (i.e. accurate or inaccurate)

Community
liaisons

Number of meetings completed with key
stakeholders

Analysis of discussion/ development of ongoing relationships

Publications

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RISKS AND MITAGATION:
There are always risks associated with strategic communications – notably, the risk that media
coverage of an organization’s key messages and strategic communications objectives are
misconstrued, not understood or not well-received by stakeholders/ communities.
The NEB, in response to the issues raised by Board Members and leaders in the context of
strategic planning, has incorporated this area into its Corporate Risk Profile for the NEB.
THEME AREA for Corporate Risk Registry:

Risks:

Maintaining public confidence as an effective
regulator and enhance communication with
Canadians

Inaccurate, incomplete or inadequate information about NEBregulated facility or NEB operations communicated to
Canadians
Negative media coverage of NEB processes

These risks are best mitigated by ensuring we have strong and consistent communications
practices, including:

Ensuring our communications activities align with an overarching Strategic
Communications Strategy and the NEB’s Strategic Plan;

Supporting the career development and technical expertise of our communications
specialists;

Ensuring we have training available for ALL those involved in media engagements,
supported with strong key messages and strategic communications tools and plans;

Establishing key, strategic messages that align with the NEB Communications Strategy;
and

Ensuring roles and responsibilities for communications activities are clear and welldocumented, so as to demonstrate compliance with best practices in this area.

These mitigation practices are in place or underway, and are notably aligned with the adoption
and implementation of this strategy.

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