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The Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games Experience

13. Communications

The Games were an excellent opportunity to highlight ECCC’s contributions to a national and global audience. The Communications Branch worked with ECCC and federal partners to develop and deliver the Games communications program detailed below.

13.1 Governance

The Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH) led the engagement of all federal organizations, including ECCC, through a Federal Communicators Network (FCN) within the formal federal coordination governance structure. The FCN coordinated all federal government communications efforts to support the Games. This was to ensure successful and consistent communications on behalf of the Government of Canada, and included the development and implementation of a communications framework, plan, processes, and procedures as described in the following sections. ECCC coordinated its communications planning and activities through the FCN, and in particular PCH as the federal lead.

The FCN served as the primary media contact during the Games. All media requests during the Games were to be directed to PCH, and where appropriate, specific requests for a particular department were forwarded to that department for response. Responses to weather-related media queries were shared with the FCN, as were the completed fact sheets.

ECCC Communications staff also worked with the ECCC Games Project Team and the FCN on the public safety and emergency elements of the communications plan. Key messages for possible scenarios were collected, written and shared with FCN members. Communications staff participated in ECCC table top exercises and planning meetings before the Games and advised on media protocols and processes. During the Games, Communications staff participated in the daily EFS teleconferences about issues of the day for situational awareness and to provide advice if necessary.

13.2 Communications Plan

A comprehensive communications plan was developed to leverage media and public momentum surrounding the Games by raising awareness about:

  • ECCC’s commitment to public safety with respect to its monitoring, products and services provided for high-impact weather events and environmental hazards;
  • ECCC’s leadership in scientific and technological innovation, particularly in the area of weather monitoring and forecasting to continuously improve its operational systems; and
  • ECCC’s partnership with other levels of government, universities, schools, Public Health Units and other stakeholders to enhance services for Canadians and visitors.

The communications plan included sustained communication through a variety of channels including media activities, a technical showcase, fact sheets, a media pitch, social media that included Facebook and Twitter, and internal communications.

Key messages for the Games focused on ECCC’s role in assuring the safety and security of athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators. Specifically, the key messages were:

  • ECCC is a primary partner in the delivery of the Games, providing enhanced weather monitoring, a venue-specific weather alerting program and environmental emergency response.
  • ECCC’s role in the Games will help ensure the safety of athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators.
  • As part of its contribution to the Games, ECCC is developing cutting-edge technology for weather prediction and hazardous weather alerting, providing a legacy to benefit future generations of Canadians. 

A proactive communications approach was recommended and implemented to help ECCC achieve its communications objectives.

13.3 Internal Communications

There were two facets considered for ECCC’s communications surrounding the Project and preparation for the Games: internal and external. For our purposes, internal communications is defined as communicating the status of the preparation of the Project to senior management and staff within ECCC. Once the lead-up to the Games began with the Pan Am Torch Relay, communications shifted from a planning perspective to an operational perspective. Logically, following the Games, management wanted to be apprised of how the federal operations ran and what lessons were learned from the experience that could benefit the rest of the organization.

13.3.1 News@ECCC

News@ECCC is a weekly internal email communications tool for employees at ECCC. A series of short articles was published by News@ECCC leading up to and during the Games to help employees understand and be proud of the Department’s contributions to this event. The short stories highlighted everything from the torch relays to the closing ceremonies of each of the Games, and they included topics related to cutting-edge science being tested during the Games, the contingency role played by the Storm Prediction Centre in Winnipeg and the function of the briefing teams.

13.3.2 Buzz@ECCC

Buzz@ECCC is a monthly tool for managers to engage employees in a conversation on key departmental priorities and initiatives. The June 2015 edition featured information about ECCC’s contributions to the Games and highlighted some of the technology used during the Games.

13.3.3 Internal Presentations

Throughout the year leading up to the Games, during and following the Games, many presentations were conducted to inform senior management and colleagues about the Project Team’s progress and our state of readiness. The impressions that were made were described as being significant because of the breadth of resources involved in the many facets of preparation leading up to the operations of the Games themselves. Presentations to senior management included ones to the Executive Management Committee, the Ontario and Quebec ECCC Councils, the ECCC Corporate Services Branch, and the MSC Forum and Management Committee. Between 2013 and 2015, yearly updates were given to ECCC employees during National Public Service Week.

13.4 External Communications

It was important to prepare external messages for media, partners and stakeholders so that our enhanced services and products could be understood and properly presented for the Games. Here, external is defined as any person, group or organization outside of ECCC. The sections below outline what was accomplished for external communications before and during the operations of the Games.

13.4.1 News Articles

In advance of the Games, interest from media led to stories in both regional and national media regarding the Mesonet as well as our roving AMMOS vehicles that provided data during the Games. These articles were prepared for Maclean’s, the Toronto Star and the Metro (Toronto) newspaper. Any of the stories can be provided upon request.

13.4.2 Technology Showcase/Media Day

To demonstrate and explain the cutting-edge science being studied by ECCC scientists, a decision was taken to host a technology showcase to communicate the details of what was involved. Media were invited to ECCC’s Toronto office for a one-day event on June 23, 2015, where staff were available for filming, including interviews about the technologies that were being shown that day. Fact sheets, presentations and equipment were prepared relating to 10 subject areas. Project staff worked with communications advisors to plan the day and prepare the information to be presented. Crews from 2 of the 4 major Toronto television networks attended the event, and a third conducted interviews on another day (see Figure 39). There was also a live interview on a national morning show with one of the briefers. Additionally, there were a few print and Web articles covering the event. Most coverage from the technology showcase was published or broadcast during the two-week lead-up to the Games.

Media interest provided a great opportunity to showcase the technologies used during the Games. The subject matter was very visual, so it lent itself well to television/video coverage. The broadcast reach for the outlets that covered the story included several million potential viewers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area, and indeed around the world for the Web content.

A separate media pitch was made to CBC, the official broadcaster for the Games, which yielded a more in-depth profile of ECCC’s contribution to the Games. Ultimately, it resulted in three segments on our role in marine forecasting, the challenges of urban forecasting, and the expansion of the atmospheric monitoring network in southern Ontario for the Games.

Figure 39.

Two photos: Environment and Climate Change Canada’s lead briefer at the TO2015 MOC (left) and marine network specialist (right) are interviewed by reporters during the outdoor Technology Showcase day: June 23, 2015.
Photos: © Diane Johnston

13.4.3 Fact Sheets

Fact sheets were prepared to describe a selection of the technologies and services that ECCC would be providing for the Games. These fact sheets were available at the Technology Showcase, and content from them was used in several reports and communications products.

Fact sheets were prepared on the following subjects:

  • Compact Monitoring Stations;
  • AXYS WatchKeeperTM Buoy;
  • TRIAXYSTM Directional Wave Buoy;
  • Upper Air Observations;
  • Scanning Doppler LiDAR;
  • Southern Ontario Lightning Mapping Array;
  • Automated Mobile Meteorological Observing Stations (AMMOS);
  • CRUISER (Canadian Regional and Urban Investigations System for Environmental Research);
  • Weather and Air Quality Prediction Modelling; and
  • Briefing Teams.

13.4.4 Social Media, Including Facebook and Twitter

In terms of social media for the Games, Tweets and Facebook posts were prepared for each Games period. For the Pan Am Games, there were 6 tweets posted to Twitter (3 in English and 3 in French). These tweets combined resulted in 34 retweets, 29 Favorites and 10 comments. The 6 Facebook posts (again 3 in English and 3 in French) resulted in 14 Shares, 194 Likes and 10 Comments.

A Spotlight story and photos were provided on the Canadian Heritage website.

13.4.5 External Presentations

Presentations made externally by ECCC were equally important as those made internally to the Department. Early on, the presentations described what services could be offered to the TO2015 Organizing Committee and other partners. Once the services component of the Games had been accepted, the presentations evolved over the years to provide updated status reports on ECCC’s preparedness and readiness for the Games. Following the Games, partners and other organizations were keenly interested in the story of ECCC’s involvement, experiences and execution of the Project from planning through to project closure.

ECCC scientists delivered presentations to national and international audiences on the Science Showcase projects.

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