Your Remote Office At the Lake

Hello out there Canada !

I'm re-issuing my "virtual office" blog post on working remotely at the lake - the remote office. I am also including a "video" produced last summer to help you think about how you might plan on working remotely this summer. Cheers to a great start to the month of July. Happy Canada Day long weekend.

VIDEO LINK HERE  

Ah summer...time to set up the virtual office.

A time when families plan to spend more time together with each other, extended families and friends. For many Canadians, it is a time to enjoy that special place known as the "cottage", "camp" or "cabin", depending on of course which part of this vast and magnificent land you might be headed to...the coast - lake - river - countryside - hills or mountains.

For me, that "camp" becomes my summer location and headquarters in Central Canada for the Devins Network. I get a smile on my face just writing that! It's the virtual office.

Even when I was still working full time at Molson Coors, I would make the weekly treck northwards to Kenora from Toronto late on a Thursday night and return on Monday.

Thankfully, I had the benefit of understanding and supportive colleagues and a CEO who knew that I was plugged in and accessible at all times, regardless of my physical location. Ground rules in that regard are critically important to make the model work. Establish that agreement early on so that the context is understood by your team and clients.

The remote or virtual office concept is being adapted and embraced by more and more individuals and businesses. I truly believe in this web-connected network society in which we live, if you've got access to the web, you are on the job; available and in touch.

Obviously, the truth is that virtual office or job locations are not for everyone. If you are an administration type, that requires physical files at your disposal, it's likely the case that you need to be next to those physical files. 

If you are on a production line or supervising production lines or operations, it is likely important that you are physically on the site in case troubleshooting is required.

However, if you can execute your responsibilities and fulfil on your accountabilities online, without requiring a physical presence - you can likely make the virtual office thing happen.

So what does a virtual office look like, feel like ?

DETERMINE THE WORKSPACE

Establishing your physical "workspace" is a critical consideration, in setting up your virtual office. A desk, chair, printer, filing space, office items, mouse, keyboard, clock are all important for your physical set up. Most important is an agreement with your family members of where you locate in their environment. You may have to take a call or examine something online at any point in the day. Having space that will allow for this and not cause friction with the rest of the family is key to happiness for those sharing your newly created office space.

A PHONE

Cell phones allow you to be in touch anywhere anytime as long as you have cell service. I find that more and more folks are leaving the landline behind and moving to cell phone only. Given that most families have plans for each member of the family - it has become the predominant device for contact...voice or text. As a solopreneur my cell phone is my phone for business and travels with me everywhere. Depending on how "remote" you are, you might need to do some research on network availability and service in your area. Most communities and service providers have figured out how to keep their permanent and summer residents connected.

COMPUTER

Hardwired to the net or Wifi will provide you with the connectedness you need to access your work team, clients, suppliers, colleagues, and prospects. If you don't have wifi you may actually have the benefit of a data plan and you can "hotspot" from your phone. Research most accessible and affordable options. Another critical consideration is your "back up". By this, I am referring to a  backup device. I stumbled upon a situation where my computer needed servicing. Having an Apple Mac Book it required being shipped away for several days. Thus, I needed to have a backup laptop, tablet or device.

WIFI

I have struggled year after year with just simply unacceptable wifi service from the local provider. I am now into my second summer with xplornet.com and find them to be outstanding. Currently, I have 20.7 MBPS down and  1.6 MBPS up. I have had better than than through the week.

DOCUMENTS 

Platforms such as dropbox, google drive, box, icloud and or various other clouds allow you to arrange your critical documents for access. You can also share and edit with teams via these platforms. It might take some getting used to but is really slick once you are operating in this space. This will also provide a safe back-up for you with access on any device if your primary computer or lap to go on the fritz.

FACE TO FACE

Facetime for Apple folks, SKYPE for just about anyone and many other video conference platforms like "Go To Meeting" allow you to conduct virtual meetings where you actually do have face to face ability through your computer, tablet or phone device. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and snap chat all have face to face capability as well.

VOICE TO VOICE OR SCREEN SHARING

Plenty of conference call platforms on phones and available today to ensure that you can remain connected and be engaged in meetings whenever that call might be on your calendar. I recommend securing a conference line so that you have it on the ready, rather than having to scramble if in need of convening a call with your team or clients. Join Me is a terrific service to share your screen with others via conference call. Webex or Zoom are also great services.

CONFERENCE ROOMS

Most hotels, and many local businesses offer up their conference space for use by individuals or small businesses. You don't have to look too far before finding something that will suit your needs. This is particularly important if you are need in several hours on a "call". It could be a major inconvenience to your family if you are set up in common space in your abode. Often times there is idle space in summer months in cottage country, the establishment might appreciate a few tweets, Trip Advisor referral or Facebook like or recommendation from you in return.

CALENDAR AND ALARM

Don't fall into a trap of getting distracted with what is going on at your virtual location environment. Have a calendar plan with "notifications" when meetings, calls or assignments are due. Since you are remote, you might sometimes be slightly adrift. Make sure you have a good system in place to stick with your business schedule, when required.

PLAN YOUR WORK WINDOWS

Put a plan in place to lay out your work each day. Rob Hatch at Owner Media has a good process that he talks about in his "work like you're on vacation" course. His suggestion is to lay out your work the night before, plan it, plan the outcomes and schedule that time free of distractions.

MAIL

Canada Post will allow for personal mail being forwarded, or how about having home office send you your mail weekly in a ground courier envelope. Many cottage communities also have local post office box availability. Depending on whether you know your community, or are just renting for the summer - don't just assume that your standard courier will be able to get to you. Talk to locals first. Remember that most cottage country areas do have a day or two delay in reaching you.

BANKING

There are now so many options to bank and complete transactions online. All of the banks and credit unions seem to have set up online banking ease. You can also utilize PayPal as a transaction service to pay online.

FEELING REMOTE AND AWAY FROM INFORMATION

Google it ! YouTube it ! There is no reason for you to feel out of touch if you are connected to the web in your virtual office.

NETWORKING GAPS

Pick your pathway and engage with folks through platforms existing on LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and Google + (to just name a few...). If you are remote, you may feel that you are disconnected from people. You can stay in touch through your networks. As part of your plan, you might decide to reach out to a number of people through the week. Drop those into your calendar with a purpose in mind. Check out profiles with your cottage community in their profile. A great twitter search tool for this is Audiense.

DISCIPLINE

Getting your mindset established from the get-go is most critical. Know when you are at "work" and when you are at "leisure". Plan your day, work your plan. Schedule appropriate amount of time for calls, email, social networking. Routine calls or meetings will make for better planning over the longer term. Discipline and planning will make this work with ease. Those early morning sunrises might make for the perfect time to wipe off the morning dew, grab a nice hot coffee, cup of tea, iced drink or smoothie on your deck or dock to check incoming mail and plan your day.

JUST A CALL OR EMAIL AWAY!

The biggest hurdle with establishing a virtual office is you getting your head around the fact that nothing is impossible to get done when you are remote. The other hurdle is getting those that you work with and support comfortable with the fact that you are achieving your goals and accomplishing the work that needs to get done; even though you are not physically at a location. No need to rub it in, but acknowledging accomplishments from your place away is a good reinforcement that the work is getting done.

Get your virtual office established and...enjoy the summer !

VIDEO LINK ALSO HERE - smiles.

@FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Advent Calendar Traditions

Continuing on my seasonal posts of Holiday Awesome - inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome".

 

The Advent Calendar is one of those holiday season traditions that help us with the countdown to Christmas Day. The advent calendars have become a tradition that offers a token of joy during the 24 days leading up to the last "opening day" being December 25th. The origin is traced back to some point in the 19th century. It was originally a Protestant tradition when religious families would mark a line for every day in December until Christmas eve. Advent calendars were a countdown to the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.

 

On a more commercial front, it is always amazing each year, to see the new creativity that arrives on the shelves of gift shops and grocers as the advent approaches.

 

For a few years, I enjoyed sharing a tea with my daughter through mutually benefitting from gifting the David's Tea holiday collection. Naturally, if you search Google you'll find a wide and fascinating array of the "best of advent calendars for 2017"Chatelaine also offered up their choices for 2017 at "Best Advent Calendars".

 

This year my advent calendar is in tribute to our Toronto Maple Leafs. I arrived home from a business trip December 1st to find my advent calendar waiting for me on the kitchen table. It is a "limited edition" run full of assorted Lindt chocolate samples for the season. For every Toronto Maple Leafs advent calendar sold, the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Foundation will gain a $1.00 to invest in their community initiatives.

 

So, I'm counting down to Christmas with my Toronto Maple Leafs advent calendar and counting down to see if they will keep pushing for top of the league, to close out this calendar year. Go Leafs Go !

 

I hope you and your family are enjoying your own special choice of advent calendar as the countdown to Christmas this December has begun.

 

Ferg Devins

 

 


CEO Social Networking

CEO Social Networking

Your CEO Social Networking. Do you cringe? Do you embrace the thought? Do you hope the CEO won't read this headline? Or are you a CEO who is sitting there thinking "it is time and I need to get on with this"?

Do you cringe? Do you embrace the thought? Do you hope the CEO won't read this headline? Or are you perhaps a CEO who is sitting there thinking "it is time and I need to get on with this"? All worthy provocations.

I just read a Marketing Magazine article posted by Cision the following:

"this year’s Signal Social CEO Index revealed that only 53 per cent of Canada’s top CEOs are on even one social media platform, and only 16 percent use two or more networks. With 78 percent of Canadian journalists using social media for work purposes, an executive’s absence spells missed opportunities for brands."

Further information related to the Signal Leadership communications article can be seen in full here.

As a Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Molson Coors Canada, I had the early support of our CEO early in 2007; and the Chief Legal and Corporate Affairs Officer. They gave me permission to explore and engage in social networking for the business. I was leading corporate communications and the concept of social networking was starting to explode. In fact, we created a blog with initial counsel from Dr. Mary Donohue, given that traditional media wasn't necessarily carrying our message about all the good that was being done for multiple decades via the Molson Coors Donations Fund. I digress.

Two Factors for Success of C-Suite Social

For me, there are two critical factors at the C-Suite level when it comes to social media. First, the support by the C-Suite for the communications team to fully engage, explore and ignite social networking in a buisness. Second, for the CEO to actually take a role and play a part in that social networking activity. I think that the Signal PR report points out the gap that is most apparent in the second factor.

It is great to have C-suite support for your communications initiatives. It is even more powerful when that team of C-Suite executives actually take a role in the communications effort.

I would also want to dig deeper into the "53% of CEO's engaged in social" to truly find out who is managing their content. I applaud the CEO who decides to step into social. It takes courage and it is not a natural role to assume. I celebrate the CEO who steps into the space with their voice, their thoughts, positions and their actual participation and engagement in the network.

A strong and successful social networking strategy will be set up for success when the CEO and communications team work together, rather than independently, on the CEO social strategy and action plan.

Managed by Communications Folks

Don't worry communications teams, I am not suggesting that your CEO or C-Suite folks take on social networking in isolation from you and your team. In fact, the CEO should be as strategically relevant and "on message" as anyone else in the organization. Let's face it, they set the tone from the top for all the other aspects of communication and business strategies. Why would we change that here?  Better yet, why would they think any differently?  This should be a collaborative strategic extension of marketing communications if the CEO is actually speaking out from their position in the business.

CEO's directing their Communications

Building on working with the communications team, the CEO can powerfully add their voice and their humanness to the social networking for the business. Simply posting what marketing feeds them, or what PR approves is not truly authentic. A CEO that talks a bit about their education, interests, hobbies, family, weekend adventures, travel interests, passions for food, use of their business products; will help build engagement with the CEO social networking and a human side of the business that they are leading. The CEO as a champion and ambassador for their brand can be a valid, believable place on the team.

Respect for the Medium

A caution for all who consider taking a role in social networking for their business. From the CEO through to the delivery person, remember to have respect for the medium. Please understand that what you post is public. I liken social media to traditional media. How would you respond to a call from a reporter at the Globe and Mail? It is likely that the CEO would confer with their communications or PR counsel internally. If there is not internal support, it is likely that they would call their agency supporting them in PR and communications. Naturally, there would be an assessment of how that response to media and story told would show up in the press. Social media is no different. Social media is actually posting to a social media network. When it is posted and out there - it is in the world of media. Recall also that from the Signal PR report that 78 percent of journalists using social media for work purposes. You can follow relevant journalists and they can easily follow you. If they are interested in your business, they are likely already following or observing.

Plan the Journey

As with marketing, media relations, sales, business development, strategy, logistics - the social networking strategy takes planning. Let's face it, your CEO social networking is a pretty sensitive concept - right ? Setting up the profile and entering the network takes minutes. Actually doing it strategically takes some planning. What to post? When to post? Why to post? Who to follow? How to respond? How to monitor? How quickly to respond? All of these are good questions. The answers are not necessarily standard. Much of it may depend on the personality of the CEO. Some of it may depend on the business and some of the regulatory peculiarities of that business. Best practices? It is up to you to create what is the best practice for your business and the personality of your CEO. An integration into the overall communications for the company will need to be reviewed. This is so that the CEO is not just some isolated, independent extension of all else going on with the business. There does need to be a plan.

CEO's in social networking can be a powerful asset for the business. Your CEO social networking can truly position your business for leadership in your sector or category. Your CEO social networking can also be a disaster if there is not a well thought out plan in place. At the Devins Network, I'd be pleased to engage further with any CEO who might be interested, or with any communications team that might be entertaining the thought. I have passion and commitment for your success. Let's start that conversation.

Thanks to Marketing Magazine, Cision and Signal PR for raising the matter. A gap worth closing in the corporate communications mix. @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Call To Action by 365 Sports Inc

Words come to mind...slip, slide, run, mud, jump, skip, crawl, roll, dive, climb, dodge, stretch, lift, manoeuver, fun, foam…

It is all part of the action packed agenda of 365 Sports. If you’re following their vision and efforts, you know that they are delivering action packed events coast to coast for all ages to enjoy. The details, on how to literally jump into this action are on their web site at the 365 Group.

I will declare up front that 365 Sports is a client, and one that we are delighted to be supporting in corporate storytelling and promoting a number of their upcoming 2016 events. These folks mean business and their business is fun through action sports in a community near you. What a great way to get all ages of Canadians moving.

They are a rather interesting collection of characters too! Former head of marketing and communications at Sony Canada, Tony Smith (Big T) moved to the shores of Georgian Bay after leaving the corporate world. In an unconventional pairing, he went into business with his polar opposite, Jesse Fulton (Fultron), a young former professional snowboarder and Olympic coach. Together they have a passion to get Canadians active through a series of action-packed events.

When you visit Tony and Jesse at their headquarters in Meaford Ontario, it is an explosion of energy in their personalities and in what they have created. Their team matches their business outlook and is just as dedicated to getting you off the couch to have a good time. Just look at their office with table tennis and a motorcycle to blow off steam or to get creative juices flowing.

TonySmith Anncouncement

Along with some truly exciting events in 2016, including 5K FOAMFEST and THE URBAN SLIDE CANADA, 365 Sports has secured the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships to be hosted and run (literally) at the Blue Mountain Resort in October of 2016. It’s a great weekend to host this world class event with over 5000 athletes from more than 30 countries descending on the Blue Mountains. Being held on the weekend following Canadian Thanksgiving, the colours of the Bruce-Grey-Simcoe region are surely to be a welcome hue for participants from around the globe.

So, choose your event! Get active and join the movement! At 365 Sports they live it, they love it, and they want you to join them. We'll be shouting their story from the hilltops and trenches coast to coast to coast. @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork

 


Employees On Social Media Networks

I'm often asked about how companies and employees work together in "social networks". There is a wide range from restrictive, to total trust. Some companies may still feel that social networks are not a place for their employees to be a voice for their business. I actually think that this approach is one that misses real opportunity for business. Employees can be ambassadors, envoys, supporters, promoters of business through their social networks. Moving from a constrained and restrictive policy driven approach, one moves to the other end of the scale where the business expectation is that employees will just "be smart". By being smart they converse and participate in social networks by being polite, factual, friendly, neighbourly and helpful. An employee speaking about their employer, business, brand or not for profit in this context; can only help build a positive reputation for the business. I know that the folks at Molson Coors (former employer) have also adopted the use of Post Beyond . It is a wonderful platform that is based on encouraging employee advocacy for one's business. A series of social posts are created to amplify through employee social networks. Employees are also encouraged to create their own posts. Now that's progressive !

As employees and employers consider collaborating through social networks, I offer up these ten tips to help you generate corporate and community goodwill through these emerging channels.

Top 10 Social Media Tips for Employees

Transparency

  1. Be aware of your association with your company in social networks. Is it evident ? Are you actually using your business in your profile...@AndyorAmyBusiness ?

State your role

  1. Identify yourself—if you and your employer have agreed that you are going to be an ambassador in social media, let people know your real relationship to the business. This will help establish what information you can share, within your knowledge and scope of your role in the business.

Content Context

  1. If you are posting something that is not in the voice of, or on behalf of the company, let people know. It may not be necessary to state "opinions here are my own and not representative of my employer"...but that is essentially the context that you will want to establish. Remember, you may be seen as speaking for the company. Setting the record straight is important.

Fact Based

  1. Use good judgment and strive for accuracy and fact based information. Social networks often turn up the noise on debate and opinion. You are best to engage from a place of fact, rather than subjectivity and personal opinion. Detractors can shoot holes in opinion but it is difficult to dispute the facts.

Legal

  1. Obey the law. Don’t post any information or conduct any online activity that may violate applicable provincial or federal laws or regulations, including copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws. Make sure your brand folks or internal counsel are ok with the way you represent images or assets.

Confidentiality

  1. Be sure that what you are posting is not commercially sensitive material. That new brand launch or organizational announcement in a few weeks is likely something that your communications team should lead. Hey...when it is public...they'd likely love to have you share it for them...when it is public.

Be respectful

  1. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in your workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion. If you show respect, you will likely be shown respect in return.

Inform, Don't attack

  1. Avoid personal attacks, online fights, and hostile personalities - there is simply nothing to be gained by entrenching with "trolls" on issues. Social ping pong has little added value on an issue, for either party.

Interesting Stuff

  1. Add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective in your social posts. No doubt your business, community cause, or not for profit has some interesting news or information to share that is of value to your audience. Share it !

When to call support

  1. If your social engagement turns to something more "official", involving members of the media, competition or industry affairs - you are likely best to quickly engage the official spokesperson in your business for a response. Keep your social networking light and lively and relevant to what you are truly confident and authorized to speak about.

I hope this helps ease the way for you and your employer to be more active in social networks. If you'd like to chat further about tips and thoughts feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @FergDevins or @DevinsNetwork. Cheers !


Main Street Social Networking

Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario - Kenora - I recall such wonderful experiences of "Main Street". I used to love just driving into small towns across Canada and the USA and enjoying the sites, sounds, flavours, aromas and unique bits of each Main Street in each community. Heck, Disney made a feature out of "Main Street USA" - and what a great stroll down memory lane that is at Disney World.

Main streets not only existed in small towns, but also within neighbourhoods in major urban centres. Each urban centre tends to have it's old fashioned "Main Street" nestled somewhere in their community.

Main Street Hubs Eroding

I would suggest that "Main Street" has eroded in its impact as a true hub for community. With the emergence and continued evolution of strip malls, Big Box and major retail - Main Street has taken a significant hit as the merchant destination in smaller centres. Even major centres like Toronto that used to be speckled with hardware stores in every community now witness the larger footprint stores as the destination for all. One would be hard pressed to find any long standing independent hardware stores in major urban centres. 

This offers a challenge and opportunity for the remaining Main Street businesses to rally for their cause and their collective organization in getting more active in Main Street Social Networking. Grab some real estate for your brand in social networks and work with your business improvement group or association to draw people to your Main Street or downtown. 

Survivors on Main Street

Many "Main Street" businesses (I'm generalizing Main Street now as smaller entrepreneurial independent businesses) have survived and carved out their particular niche and clientele in spite of the consolidation and larger store formats.

I would propher to say that many of these stores have maintained a unique offering and a connectedness with their clientele. They really sweat their data based, their relationships, their customer loyalty. They keep in touch with their client base.

I would also suggest that for those to continue to succeed, there will be a natural migration to great use of social media applications for Main Street Social Networking as an impactful approach to raising awareness, generating trial and interest in their products or services and connections to work on building loyalty.

Social Media Networking a Critical Tool

By ensuring that they are deploying Main Street Social Networking by engaging in social media, connecting with their customers, placing features in social networks, liking, being liked and keeping up on all things relevant to their core customers - the Main Street business can be relevant and top of mind by Main Street Social Networking.

Critical in being social on Main Street is letting people know that you are up and active in social networks. Be sure to highlight your social networks on shelf, at the cash register, on your door or window. Let people know that you are connected and they can connect with you. Main Street businesses that are maintaining relationships with their network will naturally engage in conversation.

Real Life Example on Eglinton

Walking on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto last week I was impressed by the work that Sense of Independence Boutique has done to bring their social networks to street level. They have posted their active social network platforms in the front window. They also have their social networks in a prominent placement on their website. It is somewhat reminiscent of days gone by, when businesses posted "phone numbers" on their signs on store fronts. Today's approach is as easy as posting a website or social network. The business can then be searched and found.

IMG_1220

Remember to connect in a dialogic way with your audience. You might just want to talk about that new winter wear that has arrived. But think more contextually about that message. Refer to the school yard play, the Christmas pageant, the first taboggan run. Share photo and video where appropriate - create a stronger connection with your audience through visual representations of you and your shop. Get into the lifestyle conversation with your audience - rather than just talking about you.

Get Social

I look forward to seeing more Main Street Social Networking in the coming weeks and months. I'll tweet about what and where I see it. If you're interested in having a conversation about how you might do a better job at your Main Street Social Networking, just comment below or contact me. Cheers !  FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Confront Confrontation

Arising Confrontation

Have you been nagged by a follower? 

Has someone posted something that you disagree with?

Is there a comment posted in a journalist's article that is just not factually correct?

Has someone spread something in social networks that is just not true?

Opportunities for Confronting Confrontation

Ok...this happens each and every day - particularly given the wide open gates of social media when everyone can express themselves where and when they choose. Personal opinion once expressed over dinner, at a bar or during a coffee break are now literally surfacing in "posts" all across the social networks.

This new reality does not mean that people have license to spread untruths. The reality is that these posts are surfacing everywhere. Being aware of this is an opening to ensure that there is lively debate, that the truth gets told, and that those who are not stating facts can be scrutinized and reigned in.

I'm not referring to differing perspectives and debate...let those colourful conversations continue. I am referring to posts by people that are just opinion and in many cases are not fact based or true. I am also referring to the angry customer that posts some scathing remark about a  brand or service, and is left unchecked.

Why should someone making a negative statement about you, your brand or your cause go unchecked ?

Get into the Conversation

In these situations I highly recommend that you confront the confrontation. What have you got to lose?  What you have to lose is that, if you do not confront the confrontation or "mistruths", these perceptions and opinions become the new reality and the misperceived truth...replacing fact. Remember the old cliche that perception is reality. Who's leading the perception ? The non factualy story tellers or the defenders of truth?

Don't be shy. In a world of social media the truth should stand out above and beyond all emotional opinion because it is fact based and not just a stance that someone with an opposing view decides to place in social media. Get into the conversation.

In my experience I have found that in most instances when you confront the confrontation you are most likely to see a negative comment move towards neutral - a neutral comment become more favourable - and a positive comment become even more positive.

Let's also remember that "social media" is stronger when there is actually dialogue and conversation. It's not just a broadcast network, it offers dialogue.

I have had many new opportunities for dialogue to arise when I have stepped into the conversation where I have taken a position to confront the confrontation.

Give it a try and let me know how you make out.

Cheers !  FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Reporting Structure

In the wonderful evolving world of communications, I continue to bump into the question of "Where do PR and Social Media report to?".

Is there an ideal reporting structure ? Hmmm...

It is obvious to me that there are many sides to this question or debate. Marketers will tend to think that PR should be reporting into Marketing, given that it so tightly connected to all that is marketing. Communications folks tend to believe that PR is worthy of its own department and oversight. Corporate Affairs or Public Affairs folk tend to believe that communications is something that is best housed in their groups.  CEO's tend to take guidance from those of influence within their organizations at the management team table. In that regard the communicators may even been affected by a strong Human Resources lead that sees communications as a critical plank in communicating with employees internally.

Marketing ?

If the company is one that is heavily brand oriented with little or no corporate work, I might be convinced of having PR and communications report into Marketing. However - beware of the often overlooked crisis or corporate communications situation that must be managed from a corporate voice and perspective rather than a marketer's thinking. I have also seen companies who have chosen to put PR and Social Media into the marketing structure - while maintaining a separate group or individual to look after the strictly corporate mandate of corporate reputation, annual general meetings, support for investor relations on quarterly reporting, support for employee communications. What's nice about PR and Social being "marketing public relations" is that it sits next to the decision makers in brand and has access to the marketing budgets. When sitting over in Corporate Affairs, there is a constant pitch scenario to be included in the brand's brainstorming and plan development. Sitting inside marketing creates stronger brand alignment.

Public Affairs ?

I do strong believe in public affairs or corporate affairs as a department or function within a consumer or packaged goods company. There will always be corporate reputation to be handled and managed. There will be "situations" (not to call them crisis...but stuff will happen) that needs to be managed from a trained corporate perspective. There will even be those situations that arise over in marketing that actually will require the "corporate perspective" on how to deal with communications. It will be over and above what the marketing PR lead might have built for the purer marketing story.

Management Table ?

Another persisting challenge for the communications and PR folks in an organization is to have access to the most senior influencers in the organization. This can be complicated by reporting structure. How many times have you heard about PR being called at the eleventh hour?  How many times have PR folks complained that "if I 0nly had been brought in at concept...I would have been able to have done a much more thorough job". I was fortunate in my career at Molson Coors to have sat at the management table. I was also fortunate over the years to have had terrific CEO's that "got" PR and would ensure that I had been engaged on issues and opportunities that were arising. My point here is, the actually "seat" at the table is less important. The real need is access to the most senior folks. This access allows you to be briefed, be respected and to provide the support to the organization that communicators are trained to provide. Don't sweat the politics of having the seat or not...make sure that you have the access and respect to be called upon and engaged when you as a communicator know you need to be involved.

Securing Budget ?

Every business is constrained today. What was traditional business continues to be challenged by on line platforms and competition and the "buy local" movement continues to grow. Social media and word of mouth marketing help get brands closer to consumers. Resources for communicators need to be allocated and protected to ensure that this high touch with consumers and stakeholders can be maintained. Set aside budget for managing and building corporate reputation. It is important for your business to be conducting media relations, social media monitoring, and stakeholder outreach. PR for brand initiatives needs to be budgeted accordingly...do not scrimp ! Flag a contingency for situations that may arise and be willing to fund your social and PR teams appropriately in the moment to mitigate reputational damage.

In summary...

So...where do PR and Social Media report to ? Reporting structure will depend on needs of the organization. Have communicators report where they will have the most benefit "in the moment" for the organization. Support your communicators with appropriate budget. Give them access to the senior most decision makers so that they are aware of issues and opportunities that are the horizon so that they can support the organization and brand in it's critical time of need.

A communications team that knows it is respected, valued, supported and resourced in an organization will truly make a difference. Reporting structure won't get in the way of making things happen. @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork


New look Devins Network

The Devins Network will be showing up with a new look from today forward, but we are still in pursuit of the same conversations. After conferring with a couple of friends, I felt that it was time to do a bit of a refresh on design and utility of thedevinsnetwork.ca. I do want to thank Stacey Hood who was there with me from day one, in December 2013, on creating my first site. I'm now working with the terrific creative team and friends at JIB who have been great counsel on this new site. Nothing like a great "back of the house" support team.

Getting in the groove...

The basis of this site is really to be in communication, conversations and dialogue on a number of areas that are of interest to me and my clients and prospective clients. Thus the "blog like" feel of the front page.

After 30 years in the beer business in roles of PR, Marketing, Sales, Employee Communications, Crisis Communications, Government Relations, Social Media, Community Relations, Industry Affairs I have found it challenging to "choose one area of focus" and trod forward. I have been delighted with the inquiries and the work that my associates and I have worked on over the past sixteen months. It has been a truly varied bucket of opportunity, challenges, learning and experience.

Strategically Tactical Conversations...

I've met with CEO's and CMO's on social strategy, small businesses on the importance of a social media presence, Kenora Rotary on "social networking", prospective clients in "strategically tactical conversations" related to their issues, brand teams on PR / social integration, transformational work related to a national supply chain, fresh out of school graduates on their future pursuits, individual entrepreneurs on how to build their own brand presence, elected officials on managing the diverse mix of comms in their world, major brands on possible tools in their communications tool kit, on line educators, start ups seeking opportunities with business, Re-Shift media and their unique "Social Brand Amplifier" model for Facebook, Trespass Apparel and their adventures in Canada, industry associations in navigating government affairs, the @ConeyMusicFest now in its seventh "maybe annual year", Bladder Cancer Canada, Integram Marketing, Filmmaker Billie Mintz @Imagin8r, and even Hockey Canada and the team at "InMarket" and their spectacular #CenturyTour #TourneeDuCentenaire caravan that has criss crossed the country the past eleven months.

Community...

I have also maintained involvement in a few "charities and not for profit" organizations where I strive to provide strategic counsel and support and learn lots through my participation with them and the wonderful array of community leaders who have chosen to make a difference. Proud to support our associate Helena Devins and the work that she has done with Making Waves Ottawa.

With thanks to...

A shout out and thanks to the folks at NATIONAL Public Relations and Capital Hill Group for their kind offer of "office space and facilities" as I have settled into the virtual office world. I have also had the pleasure of enrolling in a number of the programs, webinars, workshops and discussion forums hosted and led by @ChrisBrogan and @RobHatch. These guys just sing from a similar song sheet and have been an inspiration and provided many provoking thoughts on my journey as an entrepreneur.

Special thanks to the team of associates that have delivered such a great first year for the Devins Network. You are awesome Charlotte, JP, Helena, Clark, Bradley, Dea, James and Beth.

Let's start a conversation...

The Devins Network Inc. continues to take on communications challenges that you might be facing for your business, brand, organization, community or not for profit. Our client range is wide, from complex multi national marketers to the entrepreneur or a student looking to pursue a first rung of a career ladder. The Devins Network looks forward to engaging with you in a strategically tactical conversation that is focused on reaching your goals and aspirations. Cheers ! I look forward to our conversation. @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


When to call PR to the table

Ah the public relations folks. They are the ones who get the name in the paper, the story balanced with the press, a brand launched with great fanfare and "ultimately", the messaging out to the public. Sounds pretty easy peasy pickings doesn't it !? Work out some messaging, pick a spokesperson - hello world.

From where I sit, and admittedly after many years in the corporate communications world, I see it as a little more complex than these few idle observations and statements.

I actually see "PR" as a valuable pillar in the overall marketing strategy, toward managing, building and maintaining corporate, brand or personal reputation. This "public relations" is all about how you or the brand or the company relates to the various publics. How are you seen by the various audiences ? How are you interpreted ? What is being said and felt by what you are putting out there representing your brand, business or self ? What is the "reality" that they are seeing about you. Remember the age old rule - perception is reality, don't fool yourself into thinking that what you are putting out there is necessarily being interpreted in the context you desire.

If you are a CEO of a major company, a medium sized company or a small business I think that the situation is similar for when to call PR to the table.

In each and every situation, when to call PR to the table is answered in one word - EARLY.

Ok, you might think that when to call PR to the table is when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan. You are right. And the earlier you call them to the table in that instance, the better for you then too.

In a broader context, I am referring to situations where you are designing or strategizing about something that will ultimately be seen by the public or press. The earlier you have your PR lead or team at the table, the more rewarding the outcome will be for you and your business. By having your PR team informed, engaged, thinking about the business plan - the more value that they will bring to your business. They are usually pretty good in a crisis, but they can be really powerful with advance planning.

In these times of instant news and citizen journalists having the power to "push a story", it is even more critical for your communications team (Public Relations, Government Relations, Social Media, Employee Communications, Investor Relations, Industry Relations, Consumer Relations) to be plugged in to "what's coming" from the company. The PR team is, in fact, your first contact when something goes viral or public. Your communications team effectively monitoring traditional networks and social channels will have a pulse for you, in the moment. They need to be prepared, planned and on the ready to respond professionally in the moment, or that proverbial brown stuff will hit the fan.

So, from this, I hope you you find two answers to the question of when to have PR at the table. In the first instance I answered it for you - EARLY. On a regular basis I would supplement that response with - ONGOING. You can ensure that those charged with the responsibility of managing your reputation and face and voice with the outside world are properly prepared to do their job.

By keeping them informed, engaged, briefed and allowing them to also challenge your strategic planning the simple approach is EARLY/ONGOING. Ongoing will ensure that the communications team is aware of potential risks and opportunities through a filter of communications. They are trained for it. Unleash their power - they will bring great return on your investment in them.

When to call PR to the table ? EARLY & ONGOING.

If I've sparked something for you here, feel free to call and we can chart further about where you are at and where you might be in your communications planning.

Cheers !  @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork