After 15 years of working in the agency world, I am joining the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in a communications role.
Leaving High Road is tough. It’s a special place. I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot of colleagues, clients and partners to thank. My seven and a half years at High Road were full of change and growth. The agency tripled in size, expanded from three to five offices, and won big Canadian brands and interesting U.S. clients. During that same time, digital technologies and social platforms have added new ways for people to communicate, connect and search for information. High Road has trained, hired and acquired to stay ahead of these developments and make sure the right skill sets are in place to help clients benefit from them.
What has stayed consistent throughout all the change is a corporate culture that combines leadership with team work, risk-taking with sound advice, and entrepreneurship with fun. I am lucky to have benefited from it; I learned a lot from High Roaders. Another thing that won’t change: the fact that High Road is an agency. This is why I have decided to make a move. I started my career in the public sector (on a different continent), and always considered it something worth revisiting. Well, now is the time.
I love that governments are increasingly going digital to communicate or seek input. For example, Canada recently let people and organizations submit and vote on ideas for its Digital Economy Strategy; Germany’s chancellor and some ministers are answering citizen’s questions using “many-to-one communications” platform DirektZu.de; the U.S. Department of State in 2007 launched its DipNote blog and added other social media services over time. A lot is already happening across the world, and we need more of that. I want to contribute to it here in Ontario. But it’s not simply about choosing new ways over old. It’s about looking at all aspects of communication, and choosing the smartest ways to inform and interact. Digital, social and mobile ideas can play a big role here.
Yet, my best personal experience with government communications is still a handshake. When I arrived in Canada ten years ago, I was greeted at immigration with an extended hand and the words “welcome to Canada; glad to have you here.” Whether it was based on a customs officer’s individual effort or official guidance, I don’t know. What matters to me is that the welcome handshake made me both feel excited about my future in a new country and think about my responsibilities as a new resident.
It was a simple, powerful act of government communication. As a public relations professional, I always thought it is an example of something to aspire to. Granted, interaction between government and citizens is usually more complex and less heart-warming. But I’ll carry the spirit of the handshake and the passion for new ideas with me when I start my next job on Monday at the Government of Ontario. I can’t wait to meet my new team and get going.
If you have suggestions or examples of great government communications, I’d love to hear from you.