Looking at a two-page, aren’t-we-nice advertisement for Bell Canada in the Toronto Star yesterday, it brought memories of a friend who passed away some dozen years ago. When I first met Max, he was a reporter covering the National Assembly in Quebec City for the now defunct Montreal Star. He had great stories to tell and many insights into Quebec politics. We renewed our acquaintance after the Montreal Star folded in 1979 and Max moved his family to Toronto where he had been hired as an editorial writer by the Toronto Star.
It came as a surprise, after a year or so, when he said he was moving to Ottawa to work on public relations for Bell Canada. It did not strike me as a great career move.
After Max and his family were settled in Ottawa and I was there on business with the government, Max invited me to tour his workplace at Bell. What I saw was a public relations operation that was larger than most public relations firms in Canada. And this was just the part dealing with the federal government. I would swear the staff promoting Bell Canada outnumbered Canada’s members of parliament.
It could hardly be said but it was obvious to me that Max did not see the operation as a collegial newsroom-type environment. This was a factory.
For a company that had always been respected as a stock for widows and orphans, Bell Canada has fallen into disrepute with Canadians. They see the company as immodest, greedy and uncaring. More people seem to hate the company than respect it. Maybe that is the reason it has so many people working at trying to win friends for it.
But putting all those people to work on its image does not seem to solve Bell’s problems. Maybe if it learned to treat its customers with more respect, the company bosses would learn something about customer relations. It does little good to have all those people telling members of parliament how important the company might be when the MPs go home to their ridings and hear what Canadian telecoms are now doing to reap more money from their voters.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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