The Ontario Election is over: Now the work begins

The past six months have provided Ontarians with an entertaining, terrifying and action-packed election campaign. Many who follow politics regard the time in advance of an election as the ‘silly season’ and with no exception, the political parties and candidates in this 2018 campaign have certainly lived up to the hype. 

The pre-writ period saw tremendous support and energy from the Ontario PC’s. The November 2017 launch of ‘the People’s Guarantee’ that, while light on detail provided a brilliant strategy that positioned the PC’s in the middle of the political spectrum. The package included a host of progressive nuggets of public policy, enough to court frustrated Liberal voters and ensure the PC base in Ontario. Consuming this middle ground also forced the governing Liberal’s to scrape away further at the left, which continued to reinforce the PC’s positioning them as ‘tax and spend’ and poor managers of the public purse. Perhaps more significantly, the strategy helped the very likable PC Leader Patrick Brown create distance between comparisons to conservative leaders like Trump, Harper and Harris.

As we watched 2017 come to a close, there was a strong sense that voters in Ontario wanted a new government. The Liberals went into full damage control focused their legislative agenda on delivering incentives to court voters. The spring budget included a host of financial and public policy leavers they felt necessary to win the election. The cornerstone of the agenda hinged on revised labour legislation that included a historic 32% increase in minimum wage and more than 60 changes to labour and employment law. The Liberals strategy sought to use public spending to drive a wedge into the political narrative, as a means of overcoming diminishing popularity. 

The Liberals had previously committed to balancing the books for the 2018 election however Finance Minister Sousa’s ‘Fiscal Recovery Plan’ proved to be a sharp U-turn with massive increases in spending and projected deficits well out to 2025. Ontario’s debt to GDP ratio was projected to balloon to 38.6%, and firmly cementing Ontario’s status as the most indebted sub-national jurisdiction in the world. While the Liberals were ready to hand out ‘free daycare’, ‘free prescriptions’ and more, all polling indicated that the voters clearly just wanted to be ‘free’ of the Liberals.

Not to be outdone, the Ontario PC’s have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Just weeks into the year, Brown faced a scandal that resulted in the leader resigning in January 25th, just five months from the election. Four candidates quickly emerged in the leadership contest, including the first to enter the race, eventual winner Doug Ford. The leadership contest was held March 10, and despite some concerns over the voting process, the party remained focused and united on defeating the Wynne Liberals. 

The uncertainty of a new PC leadership and redevelopment of a winning campaign for Team Ford, provided an opportunity for the Andrea Horwath led NDP to gain significant ground. Ford’s own lack of popularity both within the party and amongst the electorate at large created a significant window of opportunity for the NDP who remained predominately an afterthought until the 11thhour of the election. The NDP saw a considerable surge in support in mid-May as Horwath performed better than many anticipated in televised debates and found some momentum. In fact, 70+% of declared Liberal supporters indicated that that would consider throwing their support to the NDP as the next best alternative. 

The second debate provided a unique moment for the Premier and her team launched a ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ campaign that sought to distance personality from electoral record, but this had little influence over voters. Support for the Wynne Liberals eroded so quickly during the campaign’s final days, that the Premier publicly announced on Saturday June 2nd, that a Liberal loss was inevitable.  In January, the Liberals were polling as high as 32% in a solid second position behind the PC’s and well ahead of the NDP. The incumbency of government is a natural advantage, however the Liberals declining fortunes met with a ‘change’ minded electorate as popularity dipped to less than 20%. The late-stage projections for the Liberals even had many within the campaign worried about retaining party status in the legislature. 

The results of the June 7 election to many, were unpredictable and provided for a wide array of predictions. Would the NPD win a majority? Would there be a minority government? Would there be a coalition? Could the PC’s and Team Ford possibly pull out a majority?  The PC’s early leads eroded into a statistical tie with the NDP within days of the election provided significant trepidation for volunteers and organizers in all camps.  The only thing that was absolutely clear, was that after 15 years of Liberal governments, Ontario votes were voting for change.

In the end, the Ontario PC party pulled out a clear majority delivering 76 seats with the NDP doubling their presence at Queens Park with 40. The decimated Liberals suffered their worst defeat in the history of Ontario politics, and will now officially lose party status managing only 7 seats.  Wynne immediately resigned as leader, setting the stage for a complete party rebuild. And, for the first time ever, the Green Party will have a seat in the Ontario legislature thanks to a convincing win in Guelph by leader Mike Schreiner. 

The circus atmosphere of the 2018 election campaign provided no shortage of mystery, wonder and its fair share of WTF moments.  The election results will be poured over by strategists and political sciences for years ahead. The challenge however for most organizations is to move beyond figuring out what happened and into the realm of how to deal with it. The new Ford government’s agenda will respond to the votes call for change. 

For many organizations this will mean retooling government relations and communication strategies. This will require re-engaging the array of new, untested and unproven MPP’s and political staff on all sides of the legislature. Ford is likely to move quickly to announce his cabinet, likely before the end of the month, and it is likely to be a smaller cabinet. Their agenda will be focused on creating quick wins by increasing economic opportunities and reigning in spending.

Premier-elect Ford and his transition team will be quick to will open the books and look for efficiencies. The question remains for you and your organization is how to influence the new dynamic at Queens Park. How does your organization maintain presence and focus with a narrow economic agenda? What will Ford and his government’s relationship with Ottawa look like and how can your organization benefit from that?  Give us a call, we can help.

Media Relations

I’ve spent most of my professional experience listening to business leaders provide me with arguments as to why they don’t need or want media training.

  1.  “I’m not the company spokesperson”
  2. “It isn’t my job to speak with the media”
  3. “I’m too busy”
  4. “We don’t have the resources for media training”

One excuse after another as to why you would never, ever need to be a spokesperson. Unfortunately, you never know when or what circumstance may thrust you into the spotlight. Just ask these business leaders, no one really needs to be prepared.

Executives should be ready to respond to media inquiries and feel comfortable sharing corporate messaging - even in crisis communications situations. Are you prepared?  

 Media interviews can often go sideways very quickly – and while most people think the media is out to get them, but in reality, interviews most often go wrong, because spokespeople go in unprepared.  

Executives often look to their communications team to be spokespeople, the truth is that it is far easier to train someone to speak to the media than to educate a PR team on your specific discipline and the sensitivities that go along with that. In particular, in the midst of a crisis. Get prepared, you never know when the media is going to be on your doorstep.

Join us in Vancouver, May 6-8 and we will help you advance your skills and help you prepare for dealing with the media.  Our program is designed to empower, educate and transform your performance with the media.  This is an exceptional opportunity to build your skills for public speaking, delivering presentations, or speaking to the media and investors. Unlike other training programs, we promise not to bore you with excessive jargon-ridden seminars.


Get American Investors’ Attention!

As a start-up founder or CEO in Asia, you are thinking about business growth in the biggest market in the world, the United States. To expand to the US you need the right investors. Most people think their only option is Silicon Valley. The fact is the US has many cities that are friendly to start-ups and also have investors. To get investors’ attention you need to think and talk like a them. In the US you get one chance to pitch a VC that you can’t waste. Nate Habermeyer has worked with large and small technology companies helping them create a brand and media coverage to help them achieve their business objectives. Nate will be presenting brand strategies for Asian start-ups to use to get noticed by investors and reporters in the US and Canada.

창업자 또는 CEO로서 세계 최대 시장 인 미국에서 비즈니스 성장에 대해 생각하고 있습니다. 미국으로 확대하려면 올바른 투자자가 필요합니다. 대부분의 사람들은 그들의 유일한 선택이 실리콘 밸리라고 생각합니다. 사실, 미국에는 신생 기업에 친숙하고 투자자가 많은 도시가 많이 있습니다. 투자자의 관심을 끌기 위해서는 그들과 같이 생각하고 이야기해야합니다. 미국에서는 낭비 할 수없는 VC를 던질 기회가 하나 있습니다. 네이트 하버 마이어 (Nate Habermeyer)는 대기업 및 중소 기술 회사와 협력하여 비즈니스 목표를 달성하는 데 도움이되는 브랜드 및 언론 보도 자료를 작성하도록 지원했습니다. Nate는 미국과 캐나다의 투자자와 기자가 주목할 아시아 스타트 업을위한 브랜드 전략을 발표 할 예정입니다.

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Ontario Election 2018 #2 The PC's Path to Victory

The path to victory for Patrick Brown and the Ontario PC’s is relatively straight. They just have to avoid making mistakes and avoid shooting themselves in the foot.  There’s an old adage that elections aren’t won – they are lost and the Liberals are well on their way to losing.  Just get out of the way and let it happen … at least that’s the plan, but it’s also not the full story. 

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HOWE&WYE Helps Unlock Northern BC’s Post-Secondary Education Potential

The result of nearly a year’s work had HOWE&WYE leading stakeholder consultation and engagement as well as the development of the overall strategy and project management with the myriad vendors involved in the project. Aside from generating growth for the institutions, the campaign will promote and dispel myths about living, learning and loving Northern BC. The campaign elements included brand strategy, creative execution, multinational media buy, social media execution, website development and media relations, as well as broad stakeholder communication. 

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HOWE&WYE Supports MSTA Canada’s Brand Shift

HOWE&WYE President Steve Virtue has been supporting MSTA Canada’s Managing Director Ryan McEachern deliver on his commitment to his members to modernize the organization and improve service to members with an aggressive brand transformation.  

“We are changing more than just our name and logo. For more than 35 years, we have built a strong reputation of delivering quality service to our members,” said McEachern.  HOWE&WYE partnered with MSTA Canada to undertake extensive consultation with members, stakeholders and the broader mining industry.

“I want to thank the team at HOWE&WYE – who led our engagement and brand research and have provided me with strategic counsel and communications support throughout this process,” said McEachern. The result of nearly 18-months of work had HOWE&WYE leading stakeholder consultation and engagement, developing strategy and communications management as well as the development of the overall strategy and project management with the myriad vendors involved in the project who have provided an outstanding framework to grow and expand the service offerings of MSTA Canada.

Formerly known as the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export the organization has a proud legacy of more than 35 years, however as the needs of the sector and its members have evolved and the organization required some deep strategic thinking to move the organization forward. MSTA Canada has adjusted their approach to business to better reflect the needs of its members. “Our members told us we needed a more modern approach to ensure we consistently deliver value to them, and we’ve done that,” said McEachern.

Do you have a strategy?

HOWE&WYE is often brought in to help evaluate how the current execution is aligned with business objectives.  Far too often we see organizations that get buried in the busy work of communications but fail to take a step back to align resources, expectations and objectives. In our practice, we often encounter organizations that have no strategy, they simply keep busy with the work of being busy. The book ends of success in our view are strategy and measurement, and far too often we see firms languishing without either.

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HOWE&WYE Celebrates Two Years

It has been an intense and amazingly rewarding two years of operation for us at HOWE&WYE. Having begun with no clients, no investor cash but a substantial passion and a great idea, our small firm has grown into a practice of 11 professionals consultants supporting our clients from operations ranging from Toronto to Vancouver to Mexico City.

We have maintained numerous long-term clients who trust our counsel and deep insights across a broad spectrum of communications and public affairs needs. The value proposition we offer remains as valid as it did 24 months ago – and that includes providing senior counsel with a significant depth of experience and expertise to support your growth needs. We maintain competitive pricing as a virtual organization, so you will always pay for the brains, and never the bricks.

We have been fortunate enough to work with multi-billion dollar firms, international governments start-ups and national non-profits and numerous organizations in between. Our own experience and expertise has grown along with our client roster. We are proud to offer consistent, senior account leadership because we think our clients deserve the best we have to offer.  Our results first approach has earned the trust and confidence of countless organizations from around the world.

So, from Nate and I, and all of us here at HOWE&WYE to our clients, friends and families, we want to thank you for investing your trust, faith and support over the past two years and we look forward to what lies ahead.  

Municipal Government Communications

A communications plan is the backbone of any government. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Government of Canada or a small municipality, the need for an effective communications plan can’t be overstated, especially during a crisis.  It sounds simple and straight forward, but without a plan the process of communicating in the midst of a crisis can often be paralyzing.     

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Failing to plan, planning to fail Pt. 2

Jan O'Driscoll, Senior Counsel
Crisis and Reputation Management 

After establishing that you have a crisis plan, the most important question is a simple one - are you confident that it will work? With virtually everyone plugged in and with access to social media and the fact that media cycles are 24/7, the potential for crisis is everywhere, making an effective Crisis Management Plan (CMP)  vital to organizations of all sorts - private and public sector, government agencies, charities, associations, etc. Even the biggest, most popular brands have disastrous failures. Lululemon's Chip Wilson's public apology is a perfect case study for what not to do. 

Sadly though, most organizations are woefully ill-equipped to deal with crisis.  Some will say that they have a communications plan or business continuity plan that covers crisis or that they have experienced professionals at the leadership levels who have dealt with and managed any and all types of crisis.  Some will even say that they are immune to crisis and that even if one arose, they would deal with it once it happens.  

What most people don't realize is that a CMP is all about execution.  My advice would be to bring in a third party to conduct an audit or of the organization's communications/crisis plan and apply a pressure test to determine if these plans will actually work as well as their ability to respond to crisis. A third party helps overcome the possibility of group think, while bringing in a broader range of expertise.  After a fulsome review, the establishment of a Crisis Response Team (CRT) is crucial.  This team should be made up of a combination of senior leadership, policy experts, communications and public affairs, as well as in-house legal counsel. Once the team is in place, anticipating and predicting crisis is the next step.  This will requires team members must be completely honest with themselves as to what exactly their company is potentially exposed to. 

From past experience, I have seen first-hand how egos have gotten in the way and have led to less than stellar team meetings and derailed any progress that had been made. This is yet another example of where an outside third party is necessary as they are not as impacted by internal office politics and egos.  Once there is an established list of possible crises, establishing holding lines and statements that can be used for each potential crisis identified is a must. These holding lines or statements are one of the most necessary parts of the entire CMP.  It has been estimated that a company has no more than 2-3 hours to make your initial response to any media reports or inquiries surrounding a crisis.  If that window of opportunity is missed, you face the unpleasant situation wherein your side of the story has been established by someone else - you're either the good guy or the bad guy or a neutral party to a bigger problem.  And even worse, you are now in reactive mode in the eyes of your stakeholders and media which make you look on the defensive.  Never a good place to be. 

Deciding who speaks on behalf of the company can be tricky.  Most will say the President or CEO, which is fine should the situation warrant their response.  Sometimes its better to have someone else respond first and should things escalate then the CEO should be the main spokesperson.  This step involves the CRT assessing the crisis and making their determination as to who will be the lead spokesperson.  In many cases there will be multiple spokespeople depending on the severity of the crisis and what stage is it at. For all designated spokespeople, monthly or quarterly media training should be done to give your company the greatest chance at successfully implementing a CMP should the need arise. When the inevitable happens and a crisis arises, a holding statement should be issued by the media relations department.  


Failing to plan, planning to fail Pt. 1

Jan O'Driscoll, Senior Counsel
Crisis And Reputation Management 

It has been over a month since the world was shocked to see a bloodied passenger being physically removed from United Airlines flight #3411. Last week, appearing before the House Transportation Committee, United's CEO Oscar Munoz rightly called the incident a "…mistake of epic proportions."

It doesn't take a PR expert to realize that this entire incident was bungled from the get go and ranks as one of the biggest crisis management failures in modern history. In this day and age, how on earth does something like this even happen?  You certainly don't need a PR firm to tell you that physically assaulting someone is a bad company policy and is terrible for your brand's image. 

One would think that this is just common sense. How else could brutalizing a customer and dragging him from the plane get any worse?  Logic would dictate that United’s best course of action would have been to have a spokesperson own the events, apologize and detail what steps would be taken to ensure this never happens again.  Maybe a three or four-day cycle of negative media and life will go on, right?

Sadly, United decided to at first defend what happened and followed that by a tepid apology that was completely tone deaf.  

I have tried to stay away from writing about this as many of my colleagues in the PR world have already provided their expert opinions on this matter and frankly I didn't see a need to add my two cents echoing what others have already written. That said, I would be remiss if I didn't point out a couple of observations that have jumped out at me over the past month as I've watched this saga unfold.  

Primarily, did United have a Crisis Management Plan (CMP) and if so, why didn't it work?  As a major international airline, let's assume they had a CMP and that they had basic issues management protocols in place for these types of situations. Which leads to the obvious question - how did their plan skid so terribly off the runway? The easy answer is to blame the leadership at United.  Let's face it, they failed their stakeholders and their brand in every way imaginable, and given my aforementioned fear of occupying the echo chamber, I'll just leave it at that.  

Which brings me to my other observation. In the days following this PR nightmare, I can assure you that communications professionals around the world were sharing this story within their organizations as a "what not to do in an emergency" and assuring their colleagues that they could rest easy as their respective organizations had a plan in place. Which is great and to be applauded, but there is a tried and true expression from the boxing world that "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the nose."  So the two questions every organization needs to ask: 1) do you have a crisis plan and 2) will it work? 



Media interviews can be a critical vehicle to get your messaging out. It has become quite common for the media to use Skype and other technologies to perform interviews. Skype can provide a stable and positive platform for interviews, provided you keep a few things in mind.

The best results often occur when the camera you are using is elevated and you look up into the camera. Place your laptop on a stack of books to get the camera at eye-level or even a bit higher for a more flattering angle. Your surroundings are equally important. Set up a clean background with the best lighting you can manage. We recommend you avoid noisy, chaotic public spaces such as coffee shops.  

Skype your mom or your buddy in Grand Rapids. Make a few test calls well before your interview to make sure your setup is working properly. Ask them how you sound, what it looks like and if they can see you clearly, etc.

You're being asked to provide comment because your an expert or have some unique knowledge, so we recommend you know what youre going to say in advance. If you’re acting as a spokesperson and need key messages or specific facts, tape them securely to the monitor or beside the camera for reference. However don’t read them verbatim.   

It’s hard to do an interview staring at your computer. And while it can be awkward to stare at your webcam, you will give a better interview if you do. Looking into the camera will make you seem all the more authentic and genuine. It will also ensure your eyes don’t stray to the video of yourself, or the email notifications or other distractions.

For those who work remotely or in a home office, or even for those who work in office environments that don’t maintain strict corporate dress codes, we always recommend you think about your interview similar to a job interview. Dress the part. Always good to keep a suit or change of clothes in the office for such an occasion.

Think very carefully if you want that 10+ year-old username to be public.  If your handle resembles 1awesomedude, UnicornDreams85 or HarryPotter79, perhaps it’s time create a ‘business’ account. It’s ok for it to be your actual name or company name.

No question, image is important and while it may look a bit goofy if you have one of those over the head, McDonald's drive-through configurations, what you say is as important as how you look. The purpose is for the audience to hear what you’re saying clearly.  The mic on your computer will likely pick up a lot of background noise and using a headset can help to mitigate that.

To the point about coffee shops above, try and be in control of your environment. Tell your office colleagues not to burst into your office by sticking a sign on the door “INTERVIEW IN PROGRESS”. Turning off your phone or mute your ringer and any notifications on your computer. Silencing your phone. Closing your email, Facebook and anything else that may pop up during the interview.

One thing to remember, while interviews are relatively short, they are often delayed and don’t start on time. We recommend you ensure you’ve used the washroom before going live. Nothing like someone fidgeting through an interview.

While this can be difficult, for the best of us, try your best to relax. You don’t want to come across as stiff, or over prepared, but comfortable. This can take some getting used to, and we recommend practicing and getting some professional media training as part of your own professional development.

And while we can all laugh at it now but recognize what happens in this video can happen to any of us. 



HOWE&WYE Grows Team of Senior Advisors for 2017

HOWE&WYE is very pleased to announce the addition two new members of the team. Jan O'Driscoll and Nick Kohlmann will bring specific expertise and deliver superior results for clients in the areas of crisis and reputation management, and Investor Relations. "We are thrilled to be able to add this depth of talent and experience to the team," says Steve Virtue, HOWE&WYE President and CEO. Their experience and insights will add tremendous value to our clients"

Jan O’Driscoll 
Senior Counsel, Crisis and Reputation Management
Jan is an accomplished, bilingual public affairs professional with extensive experience in crisis communications and media relations. He has an established track record of providing strategic communications and public policy advice at the highest levels. He has an extensive network of business media contacts at outlets such as Bloomberg, Globe & Mail, BNN, CBC, BBC, CTV and more. 

Jan O’Driscoll has held leadership roles with several federal cabinet ministers and was the lead spokesman for a variety of high-profile files including the Lac Megantic rail disaster, the Attawapiskat First Nation housing crisis and the Idle No More protests, all of which received national and international media coverage. Jan is able to tell your story where it matters most. Jan takes a client first approach and throughout his career has developed a reputation as a straight shooter who is available 24/7, and can be counted on to get the job done.
Contact Jan



Nick Kohlmann M.Sc.
Senior Counsel, Investor Relations

Nick is a trained geologist, brings more than ten years experience developing and implementing Investor Relations programs for exploration and mining companies. Nick brings extensive investment and industry networks in North America, Europe and Asia.

Nick has represented numerous companies including Monument Mining, East Asia Minerals, CHF Investor Relations, Wallbridge and Tyhee.  Nick’s services include analyst, broker & investor outreach, networks & databases, presentations, investor communications, press releases, road-shows, marketing materials, conferences, site visits, trade shows and websites. Contact Nick


Advocacy and Engagement

By Cailey Murphy
Managing Director, Western Canada

I recently spoke on a communications panel at the Association for Mineral Exploration’s Roundup Conference in Vancouver.  Topics ranged from online presence to community engagement, public communications and crisis communications. I was there to speak about government relations and while, at first glance, the topic might seem to some a little out of place on a marketing and communications panel, there were no more important topics to be bookended by.  

Government relations is increasingly requiring proactive public awareness and community engagement building exercises alongside traditional dealings with policy and decision makers.  This is particularly true for resource industries.  In resource development there is a lot of talk about ‘social license’, a term which is often misunderstood, misconstrued or overused but refers, generally, to the level of acceptance or approval at the community level for resource development projects.  

We have heard the decades-long debate between the environment and the economy and, in Canada, parties on all sides of the political spectrum seem to be coalescing around consensus for a balanced approach.  The current federal government is using the following language around the need to “protect our environment, fight against climate change, and grow our economy.”  

These are certainly not new ideas, however, as the concept of social license and its role have evolved over the years and, as communities become more engaged and governments more responsive, we are seeing a general trend towards a demand for robust multi-stakeholder engagement.  

How has this manifested itself? I think if we look at the events leading up to the federal government’s pipeline plan, we can see this trend, at a high level, in action.

On November 8th, Prime Minister Trudeau came to Vancouver to re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.  During that same visit the PM announced a $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan which included the following tenets:

  • Create a world-leading marine safety system
  • Restore and protect our marine ecosystems
  • Strengthening partnerships with indigenous communities
  • Invest in evidence-based oil spill response methods

    Less than a month later (November 29), the government announced its pipeline plan which included the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, a rejection of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Project application and a new Tanker Moratorium on the North Coast.

While these pieces were announced separately and in isolation of each other, they create a compelling case when viewed as part of a whole.  There is no doubt that there was a considerable amount of engagement, consultation and lobbying by parties on all sides in the lead up to both the Ocean Protection and Pipeline Plan and the outcome seems to indicate the government trending towards a holistic approach to policy development that takes into consideration a diversity of interests; they do not just want to engage with proponents or opponents, but seek to hear from broad multi-stakeholder groups, weigh the challenges and balance the interests.

So, what does this all signal?  You need to have a total plan.  You need to know all sides of an issue and your plan must be responsive.  No, you are not going to please everyone, but you have to demonstrate that you have taken the concerns raised into consideration and your plan must address them with a balanced approach.

We have seen this approach in action in BC for a number of years.  An example is the Code Review, the government led review of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines.  In this case the BC government brought together representatives from industry, labour and First Nations to provide input in the review process - bringing all parties to the table on the best way forward.

What does this mean for you in the context of public relations and communications?  External communications can be an absolutely critical tool in government relations.  Ultimately governments are responsive to the public, to the voter, and the more you invest in public relations, the more you will help your cause.  If you can get public buy-in, you will have a much easier go of getting government buy-in.

As such, it means you should not and cannot just reach out to your allies, you must reach out to all interested stakeholder groups.  Not engaging is not an option and as governments turn to communities as a measure of the merits of a project, so too must industry increasingly engage with broad communities of interest.