Case Study

Veterans Affairs Canada

No jargon. No BS. Just clear thinking and straight talking.

No jargon. No BS. Just clear thinking and straight talking.

The challenge

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) needed to launch its highly anticipated Pension for Life program. We helped to make the announcement a success.

SITREP: A major announcement; a disconnected audience

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) enacted sweeping changes to an important compensation program for ill or injured Veterans, many of whom had stopped listening to messages from the federal government department. What’s more, timing was tight. We had just five weeks to execute.

“I cannot overstate how valuable Stiff’s contributions have been. You pushed our thinking and really helped us to break our pattern of communicating.”

Amy Meunier, Director at VAC

Interview, interpret, analyze

The Stiff team conducted wide-ranging research and analysis before making strategic recommendations.

We interviewed key VAC leaders and frontline staff to understand the ins and outs of the PFL program. 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. While some Veterans focused on the monetary aspect, 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.

No bells. No whistles. Just honest talk.

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 PFL 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.

After action review


Media coverage, and digital and sentiment metrics exceeded expectations

Mainstream media coverage was balanced and fact-based

Post-announcement unique webpage views jumped by 2,364%

Average time on the website session grew from 2 minutes to 8 minutes and 48 seconds

Social Media

8,421 social media referrals to microsite between December 19 and 31, 2017

23 Twitter posts garnered 86,540 impressions

Facebook accounts posted 32 times and reached a total of 852,869 people

Facebook had 22% negative reactions, 5% neutral reactions and 73% positive reactions

The Facebook Live event drew 78,037 live viewers (positive reaction of 50.5%), which grew to 356,728 viewers in the first 14 days (positive reaction of 71%)