Ask Me How Great I Am . . . Please!
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
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Ask Me How Great I Am . . . Please!

By Andre van Heerden, Communications Director

What would you do if you had a great story to share but in doing so, you’d be seen as a braggart? In the world of public relations, it’s important to share good news stories—but it can sometimes leave people with a negative impression.

During the week of January 15, nearly 2,000 workers on the Fort Hills oilsands site, north of Fort McMurray, were told their work had to be halted for twenty-four hours while some safety maintenance was done. Unfortunately, due to complications in the procedure, work had to be delayed for another five days.

With no work, no pay, and no ability to go home, Local 63 members were left wanting something for their wasted time. Suncor’s initial plan to pay each worker for two hours per lost day was just not reasonable. CLAC’s Fort McMurray Regional Director, Jayson Bueckert, worked with Suncor to see what more could be done. Thankfully, Suncor announced that while the first day wouldn’t be paid, the other five days would be paid in full.

Members were appreciative for not only the compensation—which was above what they were contractually due—but also the many site visits and constant communication from Jayson and the other CLAC representatives. It was a great example of how CLAC’s progressive labour model can work under very difficult circumstances. 

The local media covered the Fort Hills story and we shared it on social media. Yet from a marketing and advertising perspective, it felt like we should be doing more. But how much could we say before it felt like we were bragging? Competing unions will often accuse CLAC of not being a real union and say we don’t stick up for our members. This was an example that showed the exact opposite is true.  

But with each news release draft, or possible new post on social media, it all felt too self-congratulatory. The members at the camp knew what CLAC had done. Given the sometimes negative perception of unions, anything more from us would feel conceited. Studies about self-promotion have consistently shown that people’s attempts to make themselves look good often backfire as the audience reacts negatively to bragging. 

There are a few strategies to overcome this. One is to distract the audience with other information while sharing the positive news. For example, saying “I’ve always been terrible at team sports, but I’m very good at individual competitions.”

It’s even better when someone else sings your praises. 

Recently on our CLAC Facebook page, someone wrote “fake union” in the comments section of a jobs post. Our social media team tries to respond to most posts and questions on our page, but it’s often clear when someone is just attacking us and not interested in hearing how CLAC serves its members. Before we could respond though, someone else responded to their comment and said: “And? You wanna work? Great. If not, move on. Stop trolling.”

Not willing to give up, the initial person responded: “Well I disagree and there is no grievance procedure under CLAC.” One of our long-time stewards then replied: “No grievance procedure? That’s a straight lie.”

Whatever we could have posted wouldn’t have been as strong or as impactful as our actual members setting the record straight. Even in answering a challenge, or making a relevant positive comment about CLAC, nothing carries as much weight as the support of an objective third party. 

I’m proud of how our representatives handled the situation at Fort Hills, and I’m constantly inspired by similar stories—across the country and across all sectors—of all the ways our representatives have stood up and stood by our members in all kinds of situations.  

But maybe I’m just bragging!

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