By Kristy Dixon

Gold Quill Awards Logo      City of Calgary logo

We’re profiling a number of local Gold Quill winners and this blog features Julian Neumann, Ethnic Marketing Strategy Project Leader & Channel Planner at The City of Calgary. The City’s entry in the Communications Research category won a 2017 Gold Quill Award of Excellence. Congratulations to everyone involved!

1. Tell us about your project and its objective
Calgary boasts a diverse and multicultural city:

  • More than 26% of its population speak a non-official language
  • It has the fourth highest number of immigrants from all cities across Canada, and
  • By 2020 it is expected one third of Calgarians will claim English is not their first language.

Diversity brings many benefits though it also brings communication challenges. It’s well known that, within the immigrant community, a lack of information undermines the municipal service experience. Although The City has occasionally employed some ethnic media channels in the past, there was no formal strategy to help us reach the growing immigrant population.

In the summer of 2015 we created an Ethnic Marketing Strategy to enable The City to identify, understand and reach the most representative ethnic groups in Calgary in a more effective and efficient way. This work also aligned with policies and City Council priorities.

The marketing communications objective was to create a foundation (via a new marketing toolbox for staff) to integrate ethnic marketing into our processes and, by 2018, improve efficiency and effectiveness of campaigns targeted to East Indian, Chinese, Filipino and Latino communities.

The overall goal of the Ethnic Marketing Strategy is to make The City of Calgary communications and services more accessible and inclusive and to enhance the quality of life of all Calgarians, including people with a different ethnic origin.

2. What did you feel most proud of in this project? 

Marketing communications is a fast-moving field where we need to constantly innovate campaigns and our approach to them. There is always a challenge to be relevant in a market saturated with messages and the way brands and corporations engage people is getting more sophisticated.

Market segmentation is an essential tool for The City to create campaigns, as well as address budgetary restrictions. We all have different needs, habits and priorities and multicultural communities are part of that mosaic. By understanding how people communicate, what is important to people, and which media channels are preferred we can optimize our budgets and be more relevant with our messaging.

I feel proud The City of Calgary took an important step to reach ethnocultural groups through innovative marketing communications tools. In the long term this allows all communities to have a better service experience.

3. What was a key challenge you faced?
One of the most important challenges was working with limited resources. The Ethnic Marketing Strategy was created without a budget—using only the time of people involved. We managed the research internally and avoided significant expense by using secondary sources, academic papers, articles and reports and validating and expanding those findings with techniques such as in depth interviews and focus groups.

In view of the financial limitations, from the beginning it was critical to manage expectations about the marketing tools we’d be able to create from the research findings. Clear objectives helped focus the work as well as finding support from other areas in the corporation.

4. Was there anything particularly creative or innovative you can share?
Considering we’re a municipality analyzing audiences to identify ethnocultural market segments to improve communication channels and messages, I believe the entire strategy is innovative.

Additionally, there was innovation in the way we structured our strategy and research process—allowing us to obtain reasonably useful information without hiring a research agency—keeping costs to almost zero.

5. If you had to use one word to describe this project what would it be?

We obtained relevant insights that were transformed into a useful toolbox without a budget. Today we have a formal framework and methodology to continue our audience analysis work with more ethnic groups in Calgary, as well as other interest groups from the general population.

6. Why is winning a Gold Quill important/significant for your communications career?
Personally, it’s important because this is an award with a strong reputation and international recognition. I’m thrilled we won and being new to Canada this award has an even more special significance. However, I believe the most significant impact is that a highly qualified external body of professionals assessed our project and it’s an invaluable opportunity to receive high quality feedback and recommendations.

As a team, the award helped us confirm we created something useful and structured to meet its objectives. The Gold Quill Award of Excellence definitely lends strength to the project’s credibility, which is valuable for an internal process that involves changing part of The City’s channel management model.

Thank you to Julian and the team at The City of Calgary for their time responding to our questions!

To learn more about Gold Quill click here.

The project team: Jacob George (Manager, Business Operations and Web & Digital Services), Jeny Mathews-Thusoo (Issue Strategist, Immigrant Inclusion), Julian Neumann (Ethnic Marketing Strategy Project Leader & Channel Planner), Aisha Sinclair (Manager, Public and Employee Communications)
The project team: Jacob George (Manager, Business Operations and Web & Digital Services), Jeny Mathews-Thusoo (Issue Strategist, Immigrant Inclusion), Julian Neumann (Ethnic Marketing Strategy Project Leader & Channel Planner), Aisha Sinclair (Manager, Public and Employee Communications)

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