Thursday, November 10, 2016

Communications Audit Assignment: Working with the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton

As a PR practitioner, dealing with individuals and groups is a vital part of the job. When working with clients, practitioners must have both the verbal and listening skills to discuss and provide assistance for the client’s communication needs. The communications audit assignment engaged everyone in the class to improve on those important skills, which is not only necessary in the PR industry, but also in one’s personal life in general.

The class was dispersed into groups and were each given a non-profit organization to work with. My group, which included Angela, Jasmine, Juliana and Nicole, was assigned to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton (BGCH). Throughout the assignment, Angela kept in contact with Glenn Harkness, the Executive Director of the BGCH and Blaze Forgie, the social media coordinator. Glenn wanted to meet with our group to show us around the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, which is the main location in Hamilton.

On September 22, our group headed down to Kiwanis and Glenn gave us a tour, while also providing us details about the services they offer. Some of these services include a creative room/craft room, games room, computer room/tech center (Raising the Grade), as well as an Ontario early years room, early learning and child care room, gymnasium and swimming pool. Some of their sponsors include Coca Cola, Rogers and the Government of Canada. Coca Cola donates to their active living and healthy eating programs, while the Government of Canada sponsors their Ontario early years center. For four years, Rogers has been sponsoring their Raising the Grade technology centres located in each participating Boys and Girls club, which provides youth with a designated room containing state-of-the-art computers, high-speed Internet access and cutting-edge open software to support their learning and interests.

After the tour, we sat down with Glenn and discussed communications and media experience that the BGCH had been through before. An instance of positive publicity they received was when Brian Melo, a BGCH alumn, won season 5 of Canadian Idol. The city of Hamilton held a ceremony at the Hamilton Place to celebrate his win. Children from the BGCH were given VIP seats in the first three rows of the venue because of Melo’s involvement in the BGCH program when he was a child. Melo credits the BGCH for helping him become the person he is today. An instance of negative publicity occurred when journalists questioned the donation from Coca Cola towards the BGCH’s active living and healthy eating programs. How can the company sponsor these programs when their products are considered unhealthy? The BGCH were ready to respond by saying that Coca Cola doesn’t just have soft drink products, but healthy products as well. Obviously children love the taste of coke, however, their goal is to promote healthy alternatives. They teach the children to choose apple juice or orange juice instead of coke.

            A week after, we met with Blaze Forgie, the social media coordinator for the BGCH. He was a BGCH member ever since he was a kid and is now a Brock University student. As a group, we asked him questions about some of the main social media platforms they use, how they communicate with their shareholders and stakeholders, as well as the times they received positive and negative feedback. He answered all the questions efficiently and gave us all the important information we needed. The BGCH use all the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They also use Snapchat, a growing social media platform with children and teens. Parents mostly use Facebook to obtain information, while children and teens use Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

            After meeting with both Glenn and Blaze, we came together as a group to analyze our notes and split the questions. We also created a six-question survey that Blaze posted on the BGCH Facebook page. Although it didn’t garner as many respondents as we hoped, we were still able to pull out viable information.

            The whole experience working with the BGCH is one that I will never forget. I asked my group members how they felt about the assignment as a whole and here’s what they had to say:

“I loved Glenn, he was super helpful and wonderful to talk to.  It was also great that he took the time to show us around the place and get us in contact with Blaze. Blaze was also so nice and super helpful. They were both fast to answer our emails which made very easy.” – Jasmine

“I really liked how doing this audit was a reflection of what we would be doing outside of the program and that it was so hands on. I loved collaborating and just seeing our hard work come together, and in the end, have something to show the BGCH that will help them.” – Angela

“I really enjoyed how Glenn was so willing to provide us with information about the club immediately! Right away we could see how passionate he is about the club. If a director has as much interest in technology and social media as Glenn does, the organization is going to be constantly evolving it’s presence in the community online, which will in turn, help them for offline purposes. My favourite thing about the experience is that we got to go out to an organization and see what it’s like to interview a client, which helped me with my internship greatly.” – Nicole

“I really enjoyed working with the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton. Glenn and Blaze were both very helpful in conducting our communications audit. Glenn was very involved in our audit and was excited about the opportunity to improve their overall communication practices. Blaze made himself available to meet us and was very knowledgeable on the organization’s social media platforms. My favourite thing about the whole experience was being able to put into practice what we have learned in class, which makes me feel confident in my skills as a future communications professional.” - Juliana

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