A few months ago, the College was invited to speak at the annual Communicators Day Conference of the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO), before a group of communications professionals from 26 regulatory colleges across Ontario. It was a noteworthy request, one which we were honoured to receive. The FHRCO communicators were intrigued by our employer outreach campaign and wanted to know more about its strategy and execution.
We launched the campaign in October 2017 with the overall goal of increasing employer engagement with the College. We wanted to educate employers and potential employers about the regulatory role of the College, routes to registration as a social worker or social service worker, and the benefits that professional regulation offers to employers — including the protection that comes with hiring RSWs and RSSWs.
Our strategy included the creation of an employer communications vehicle called the Employer Communiqué, biannual Employer Roundtables, enhancements to our website’s employer section, a direct mail advertising campaign, social media marketing and online advertising. It was the digital component of the campaign that captivated FHRCO communicators as much for its regulatory innovation as for its measurable results.
Have you seen the online ads? Created with the College’s branded shades of green and red, they feature the College logo with messages such as “Hiring Registered Has Benefits – Find Out More,” “The New Employer Communiqué – Sign Up Today,” and “Check The Register.” Clicking on the ads takes visitors directly to our employer webpage, the Employer Communiqué and the Online Register respectively.
At the end of our presentation, we invited questions from the audience, many of which were focused on the role of stakeholder outreach within the regulatory framework of a college rather than a professional association. The discussion was robust, the questions excellent. Our position is that stakeholder outreach initiatives can support effective regulation, particularly within a title protection framework in which scopes of practice overlap. Engaging and informing stakeholders such as employers can maximize regulatory reach, maintain standards and sustain membership.
Outreach initiatives are not without their challenges. For a regulatory body, these may include: a wide and disparate range of members across the workforce; a large and diverse group of employers who can be difficult to reach and who may not be aware of the role of regulation or the value of registration; legacies of opposition to regulation within parts of the professions; and the dynamic, always evolving nature of government-stakeholder relationships. That said, such initiatives are essential regulatory activities in the service of public protection, which is the College’s mandate.
How have we done with the employer outreach campaign? Simply put, we’ve surpassed all expectations, in terms of measurable outcomes. Website traffic has doubled in two years, with the Online Register receiving more than 65,000 views alone in 2018. Social media engagement continues to climb on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The Employer Roundtables are very well-received and the Employer Communiqué has amassed roughly 600 subscribers in little more than a year.
We have opened the lines of communication with employers and are engaging with these important stakeholders on a direct and regular basis. That doesn’t mean we have fully solved ongoing issues or addressed every concern. It simply means that we are having important conversations and that dialogue is ongoing.
Stakeholder outreach is a core regulatory activity for any college as long as it’s informed by the regulatory mandate, aligned with the strategic plan and supported by Council. The invitation to speak at the FHRCO Communicators Day Conference told us that our strategy, effort and innovation have not gone unnoticed by other regulatory colleges.
That was just one of the reasons why we proceeded to launch the College’s first-ever online public awareness campaign in March of this year, under the campaign tagline, “What’s in a name?” We look forward to hearing your feedback on both campaigns and reporting to you on their progress.
Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO