By Sandy Gough

We’re profiling Calgary’s inspiring 2018 Gold Quill winners! Today, Anne-Marie Bruzga-Luchak and Jason Yule from CREB® (Calgary Real Estate Board) share details of their project, Shifting Gears: Transforming from Tactical Order-takers to Strategic Thought Partners, which won an Award of Merit in the Change Communications category.

Jason Yule and Anne-Marie Bruzga-Luchak

Can you share an overview of your winning project?

Jason: The Shifting Gears campaign went to the core of what a lot of organizations face – the communications team was trying to find its place as a strategic function, offering advice to other departments.

In the past, the communications process was very request oriented with the departments making decisions about what channel and product to use. We changed the process and started to view internal business units as clients and requests as opportunities to solve their problems.

Anne-Marie: The goal was to make a shift to introduce a new strategic communication business model and garner support for the shift among the various target groups, primarily business unit managers.

We wanted to not only launch the new process, but also show that the work was having a positive impact on the organization along the way. In turn, this would reinforce the value of the model.

What did you feel most proud of in this project?

Jason: The level of buy-in from senior management gave us a ton of bandwidth to get creative. They believed in the model. We needed senior buy in to get buy in from business unit managers. It was really fun to be part of this project. We created archetypes of communications preferences so we didn’t single anybody out, for example, Charles the Change Champion and Amy the Apprehensive Ambassador.

Anne-Marie: I feel most proud of how our team worked together to be change ambassadors and adhered to a strategic communications model. I was thrilled to see the metrics as they rolled in, showing that our team was helping business units achieve their goals. Today, even the way managers talk about our work has changed. They use phrases like “discovery meeting” in every day speech. It shows that the change has been impactful and lasting.

Sharing success through a Gold Quill Award of Merit

What was a key challenge you faced with the project?

Jason: Some people have a go to: “I just want a website,” “I need postcards to tuck on the chairs at an event.” How do our advisors unpackage that? How can they say, “I hear what you’re saying, but is that going to influence the audience you want to influence”? We needed to do the heavy lifting and find the “why.” Training and re-education involved not over sharing with the clients, they didn’t care about the communications details, most folks were happy to embrace the process so long as it produced results.

Anne-Marie: Getting this change right was mission critical. It meant we had to make sure our communicators could deliver what we had promised: better results through a strategic communications model. While we didn’t have a lot of resources, we did have a budget for training our staff.

I’d like to give a shout out to Glenna Cross of Cross Wise Communications, as the training she provided was invaluable. It allowed us as communicators to really get in touch with the process and ensure we were all on the same page when it came to strategic communications.

Click on the infographic to view it in full

What advice can you give to other communicators dealing with your specific objective?

Jason: The way we incorporated simple key messaging and visuals to explain the relationship between communications and clients and what happens in internal communications. We created an infographic – what we do, what you do, and what we do together. We have a videographer on the team, so we produced a video of the communications team. We kept it light because we have a relaxed corporate culture, and we used a paper airplane to fly from one communications team member to another to explain what we do.

Anne-Marie: The video was loosely based on the television show, “The Office.” Making the video was a great team-building opportunity for the communications team. We threw a paper airplane to each other, opened it, said why strategic communications is amazing, and then flew it onto the next person.

Humour is a great way to make a point. Not having a big budget forces you to be more creative. The video got a very positive reaction from the adjudicators and of course, the staff at CREB®.

Why is winning a Gold Quill important to you and your team?

Jason: It is definitely a career milestone. I felt proud of the changes we made even without the award. It validates that our project (our particular brand of crazy) and hard work was in line with best practices. From a development point of view, it validates that we’re doing good quality work and that we’re a high quality team able to recruit talented people. 

Anne-Marie: It’s such a huge thrill because it is a career-changing moment. It illustrates that we understand what the work is and that we excel at it. It’s the hallmark of success in our industry. It means more because it’s adjudicated by experts who come together to review what you’ve done. I was also impressed by the quality of the feedback we received. We’re already thinking of ways to implement some of the feedback going forward.

I’d like to add one more thing: Jason is attending the awards gala at the 2018 IABC World Conference in Montreal. He’s made a pact with the team to try to livestream it so we can all see it and be there with him.

Congratulations to this winning team that included Anne-Marie Bruzga-Luchak, Jason Yule, Michelle Seto, Lauren Thorson, Colin Brandt, Kevin Brown, Claire Lyness and Bobby Ogston.

Finally, a huge thanks to Anne-Marie and Jason for their time responding to our questions!

To learn more about Gold Quill click here.

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