THE BLOG

The Campaign Big Telecom Employees Are Forced to Join

08/14/2013 12:29 EDT | Updated 10/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada's Big Three telecom giants are sounding increasingly desperate as their expensive ad campaign fails to connect with Canadians -- and now it looks like they're taking that desperation out on their employees.

The Big Three have been spending millions on a flashy and misleading ad campaign that's triggered widespreadmockery from creative Canadians speaking out online.

The Big Telecom ad campaign has also been widely derided by marketingexperts - one of whom accurately summed the whole thing up by saying "it touches a nerve with Canadians, rather than strikes a chord". Meanwhile, market research experts have demolished the "misleading claims" and "blatant errors" contained in Big Telecom' ads.

So it's disappointing, although not surprising, that Big Telecom is resorting to strong-arming its employees into participating in their floundering campaign. They're putting their workers under intense pressure to send a pre-written email to their MP - an email chock-full of misleading talking points about how Canadians don't need more wireless choice.

Ramping up the pressure, Big Telecom has even threatened massive job losses if they don't get their way - despite the fact that they've been making huge profits for years by price-gouging Canadian cell phone users.

Reddit user and Bell Mobility employee throweraway3 describes exactly what it's like to be at the receiving end of this intense pressure:

I work for Bell Mobility, and I feel the daily pressure from management and our executive office to send the pre-written email to complain about Verizon coming it. If I remember correctly they are calling it "close the loop".

Every day, I get an email reminding us that the government is treating Canadians unfairly by allowing Verizon to come in. They are sending our stats saying "So far, 22,000 employees have sent the form, that's over 4000 employees in the last day!". Then we get emails from our direct managers and directors reminding us of the importance of sending this letter, and reminding us to read the open letter from George Cope about the issue.

Ending a team meeting, my boss reminds those on our team that we should send the form because "It's our jobs we're talking about here". I mentioned to my boss that the pressure is a bit much, and I asked if they are tracking who is submitting or not, and he/she said (rough quote) "I think they can track who is sending them or not"

Impressively, throweraway3 stood firm, saying: "For the record, I haven't signed. I'm not going to either. I'm a consumer just like you. My integrity comes first." Well said, throweraway3!

Reddit user and Telus employee truthinessforall also spoke out, saying: "I get the same s*** from TELUS. I work there... Can you imagine if corporations showed THIS level of interest/motivation in solving serious social/economic issues?"

Public relations professionals call Big Telecom's tactics "astro-turfing" because it creates an illusion of grassroots support rather than the real thing. By contrast, here at OpenMedia.ca we know exactly what genuine grassroots support looks like -- for years we've worked with Canadians on the front line of the fight for choice and affordability in Canada's broken cell phone market.

Nearly 60,000 Canadians have supported our campaign for choice and affordability and, unlike Big Telecom, not a single one of them was strong-armed into anything. We know how powerful it is when thousands of Canadians genuinely speak up for change --decision-makers really do sit up and take notice -- and Canadians have won some remarkable victories as a result.

What Big Telecom's floundering big-wigs fail to realize is that any decision-maker worth her or his salt can tell the difference between a genuine grassroots campaign, and the kind of fake astro-turf campaign being conducted by the Big Three.

Decision-makers know employees are under enormous pressure to send these emails and these kind of strong-arm tactics are more likely to alienate politicians than win them over. These employees are, after all, their voters.

That's why it looks like decision-makers are finally starting to listen, with the Prime Minister making clear his government won't change the rules to allow Big Telecom to deny Canadians the choice and lower prices they deserve.

It's more important than ever to keep up the pressure to ensure the government doesn't change its mind and back down in the face of Big Telecom pressure -- you can do your bit by signing the petition at DemandChoice.ca, by sending your MP a copy of our crowd-sourced road map for Canada's wireless market, and, most effective of all, by using our easy-to-use online tool to send a letter to your local newspaper.

Keep speaking up Canada!