Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) hoped to receive a largely neutral reaction to the launch of its contentious Pension for Life program. We helped to make the announcement a success.
In November 2017, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) hired Stiff to deliver strategic communications advice and multiplatform content for a major policy announcement. Large amounts of technical information and research had to be presented to the Veteran community, media and Canadians.
The job wasn’t going to be easy. VAC’s Pension for Life (PFL) program enacted sweeping changes to a very public, very contentious compensation scheme for ill or injured Veterans, many of whom had stopped listening to messages from the federal government department. In the client’s mind, the ideal outcome was a neutral public reaction to the announcement. What’s more, timing was tight. We had just five weeks to execute.
Amy Meunier, Director, Veterans Affairs Canada
The Stiff team conducted wide-ranging research and analysis before making strategic recommendations. We interviewed key VAC departmental leaders and front-line staff to understand the ins and outs of the PFL program—warts and all. We then conducted off-the-record interviews with approximately 30 Veterans, still-serving Canadian Armed Forces members, military families, and Veteran support workers.
Based on this research, we reached an unexpected conclusion. Although a small, highly vocal group of Veterans was focused on a money issue, VAC’s lack of credibility with many ill or injured Veterans was actually due to frustrations over long processing wait times, inaccessible language, lack of transparency and hard-to-understand information.
Our course of action, to borrow a military phrase, was clear. VAC’s messaging required a dramatic change in style, tone and content. It was the only way to give the PFL policy its greatest chance of success. We executed by delivering clear, truthful and reasoned explanations of the new option—free of complicated jargon and insincere hyperbole—that also anticipated and addressed challenges with processing wait times. Straight-talking Veterans deserved nothing less.