Guest post by David Taylor from the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner, in honour of Privacy Awareness Week: 3-9 May, 2009
In 2003, Privacy Victoria launched a sponsorship of the Platypus House at the Royal Melbourne Zoo. At the time the then-Privacy Commissioner, Walkley Award winner, and ex-journalist, Paul Chadwick, indicated, “Privacy Victoria sponsors the platypus at the Melbourne Zoo because these fascinating monotremes are a natural symbol for the idea of privacy. Platypuses are shy, discreet and wary, innately valuing their privacy. The sponsorship aimed at helping people think about privacy in a new and engaging way.”
How has a small, statutory authority—with a tiny budget—been able to effectively promote privacy compliance to its 250,000 plus civil servants in the state of Victoria, Australia? And how does Privacy Victoria communicate to its populace not only their privacy rights, but also the need for each citizen to work actively to protect his or her privacy?
Promoting privacy compliance is not the same as selling a new car (though these days it might actually be easier!). This means we really have to think carefully about identifying our publics, as well as what they need to hear. I would argue that, to a large extent, Privacy Victoria is successful in its privacy awareness efforts because it always places effective relationships with its publics at the centre.
In our communication role, we have to think outside the billabong and not be afraid to seek assistance, especially regarding community outreach strategies. And while resources limit our reach into cyberspace (with a website that is fairly static) over the coming year we are planning some improvements.
Partnerships with other government departments and agencies are essential in enabling a piggy-backing of infrastructure and networks. These efforts include participating in grassroots Indigenous and culturally specific community events, where staff are able to speak one-on-one to service providers or distribute a range of innovative promotional materials, including door-hangers along the lines of “do not disturb” hotel rooms or (when we had the budget) tubes of sunscreen with a “privacy—cover yourself” message. (See our Annual Reports, which describe this work in detail.)
Sponsorship proved a key tool; we used a set-up budget wisely, for a longer-term gain rather than throwing it all at a one-off advertising campaign. We looked at the various publics whose information needs were identified in the limited amount of local research. These included older Australians, women and young people. For example, to reach communities in every suburb and country town, we sponsored Victoria’s lawn bowls associations. While these Associations have an older membership, the sponsorship of Tennis Victoria was more directed to families and Victorians of all ages. In another strategy aimed at involving young people, we sponsored portable toilets at a Big Day Out, Think privacy isn’t important? Aren’t you glad this loo isn’t made of glass? Don’t think privacy is important? It’s amazing how long you’ll queue for some.
Both efforts were well received, helping to communicate our messages with engaged publics. People still talk about the sunscreen and toilet signs, while the door-hangers, rulers (Privacy: where do you draw the line?) and civil service training DVD, have been adopted by other privacy agencies around the world.
Even though money is tight, each year–for a small investment–we are able to reach thousands of Victorians from ethnically diverse communities by sponsoring the annual Celebrate Our Cultural Diversity Week. This sponsorship arose from the 2003 strategy that drew upon the services of a network of community ambassadors who were able to take key messages directly to their communities and who served as campaign spokespeople. This strategy was particularly successful in the more established migrant communities. These often had more resourced community leaders, who were motivated to develop longer-term relationships with the Victoria Privacy Office.
For the Victoria civil service, we established a Privacy Victoria Network and training program and summarised the legal language of 12 information privacy principles into a succinct and memorable statement:
The right information:
• to the right people
• for the right reason
• in the right way
• at the right time
Privacy Victoria also established an annual Privacy Awareness Week, now held in the Asia Pacific (including Canada).
How successful have our efforts been to date?
A late 2008 Stakeholder survey showed that, while there was room for improvement—particularly in engaging with senior executives—the Office was “felt to be doing a very good job with limited resources.” While resource constraints don’t provide for formal evaluative tools for our general public work, it is clear that there are two drivers for increased contact from the general public. These are:
1) advertising; and
2) media reports of data privacy breaches.
The first driver we can’t afford…and we have a love/hate relationship with the second one!
I understand the PR Conversations blog boasts an international readership, with thousands of visitors arriving each week through RSS feeds, linking from blogrolls from around the world or via targeted search queries. As someone who lives and works in a single-country continent, I’m delighted to have opportunity to tap into this conversational network and resource.
Here are some burning questions I’d appreciate getting answers to:
1. When it comes to privacy issues, what type and tone of communication messages do you find the most appealing? What is a total turn-off?
2. Does the Victorian Privacy Commission’s existing campaign resonate with non-Australians, or is it culturally specific?”
3. What would make you pause and think twice about your online privacy? For example, are you willing to trade your privacy for online social connections?
4. What tips can you give to (under-resourced) team of three, full-time staff on measuring the effectiveness of community engagement strategies?
Privacy Awareness Week is 3–9 May, 2009.