The Communications Unit producesand distributes information designed to advance the goals and priorities of First Nation peoples and governments. The Unit works to ensure that the messages and perspectives of the AFN and First Nations are properly communicated and understood and that the National Chief, Regional Chiefs and other spokespeople are involved in and given the opportunity to speak publicly through media and other fora to communicate First Nation perspectives. As part of the ongoing efforts to maximize communications potential, the Communications Unit has implemented an active social media campaign using the AFN website, webcasts, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, e-mail blasts and online Virtual Summits on a variety of issues and themes.
AFN Communications strategies and activities are based on clear direction and positions from First Nations in key areas such as education, economic opportunities, fiscal relationships and accountability, claims resolution, citizenship, governance, etc. as outlined in AFN resolutions and broad frameworks such as the First Nations Plan 2012.
Key Issues and Activities
Media and Public Relations
The Communications Unit advises, prepares and implements strategic communications policy and planning for the AFN as a whole, as well as strategies for specific initiatives and/or activities. The Unit works to develop materials and provide information to First Nations, the media and general public about the AFN, its activities and positions, as well as the National Chief’s agenda and priorities.
The Communications Unit prepares press releases, media advisories and statements which are distributed nationally (in English and French) to Aboriginal and mainstream media, with regional distribution as applicable. The Communications Unit prepared and distributed more than 150 press releases/statements during the 2011-12 fiscal year. Communications also prepares media lines, backgrounders, letters to the editor and editorials on current issues.
The Unit prepares speaking notes for the National Chief and AFN spokespeople that are used at a variety of events for wide ranging audiences, including First Nation governments, groups and organizations, professional associations, national and international organizations, and federal and provincial governments. Key events during this reporting period included the AFN’s National Health Forum, National Forum on First Nation Citizenship, the Crown-First Nations Gathering, AFN Justice Forum, AFN National Water Conference, the Philanthropic Foundations Canada national conference, Rideau Club, Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Club of Toronto, Truth and Reconciliation Commission regional and national events, and numerous regional assemblies and gatherings.
Communications seeks to establish the profile of First Nation peoples and issues through media. The Communications Unit is active in media outreach and media relations and has setup background briefings and editorial boards with media, such as CBC, Canadian Press, Post Media, the Globe and Mail, APTN, Toronto Star, Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen.
Over the past year, there have been several developments that have resulted in widespread national and international media coverage for the AFN and the National Chief, including the National Panel on Elementary and Secondary Education; the Crown – First Nations Gathering; the Federal Court of Canada hearings and decision on the human rights complaint filed by the AFN and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society advocating for fair and equitable services for First Nations children; resource development; and federal legislation impacting First Nations.
Public Awareness and Public Education
The Communications Unit works to raise awareness and understanding of First Nation issues and the AFN’s role, responsibilities and activities in this regard. The AFN understands that First Nations have different communications needs and different ways to access information. For this reason, the AFN uses a mix of traditional and new media to disseminate information as widely as possible.
The AFN issues regular updates on the National Chief’s activities and work underway at the national office. National Chief’s communiqués are distributed by fax to all First Nations, provincial/territorial organizations (PTOs) and tribal councils, and are also posted online in both print and video format.
The AFN website (www.afn.ca) is updated regularly to provide current information on AFN activities and priorities.
The AFN continues to expand its use of social media, including two Twitter accounts (AFN_updates and AFN_Comms) with more than 6,000 followers combined and the AFN Facebook page (Assembly of First Nations / Assemblée des Premières Nations), which has more than 5172 “likes”. The AFN also has an e-mail subscription service (listserv) on its website through which users can sign up to receive all information publicly distributed by the AFN. There are currently more than 1,600 subscribers.
The AFN also introduced the use of mobile updates and electronic distribution of a daily newsletter during key events such as the National Health Conference and Special Chiefs Assembly.
The Communications Unit coordinates live webcasting for AFN Assemblies, which included three during the last year: the Annual General Assembly, Special Chiefs Assembly and the Crown – First Nations Gathering.
The Communications Unit also offers editing, desktop publishing and production coordination for the AFN Secretariat, as well as video recording/editing of the National Chief’s messages for the AFN website, YouTube and external events.
The Communications Unit develops and implements global AFN communications as well as targeted strategies for specific events, issues and initiatives. The Unit provides advice, recommendations and communications support to the National Chief, and policy areas within the AFN Secretariat. Communications advice and recommendations are also provided to communities or Nations upon request.
During this reporting period, Communications staff contributed to various planning committees for the AFN Health, Justice and Water Forums, the Special Chiefs Assembly and the Parliamentary Relations Working Group, among others.
The Communications Unit coordinates all French/English translation requirements to ensure that the Canadian public and First Nations are able to access and understand all public materials produced by the AFN in both French and English. As per AFN policy, all public documents that are distributed nationally (including those posted on the AFN website) are available in French and English. The translation requirements of the organization have continued to increase, with translation of more than 969,000 words in 2011-12.
Next Steps - Moving Forward
- Ongoing media and public relations work involving media advisories, press releases, speeches, and interviews.
- Publication of Bulletins/Communiqués.
- Ongoing French translation of public materials.
- Ongoing editing and desktop publishing of AFN publications.
- Ongoing updates of the AFN website.
- Increased and enhanced use of new media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and mobile applications.