Parliament Flame by Richard McGuire

Government Relations for Small Enterprise

January 31st, 2017

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Government Relations for small enterprise can be a daunting situation. However, it need not be an impossible path to discover in your pursuit of being heard.

After 30 years in the corporate world, with the last half of my career in corporate affairs; I believe that I have a good handle on understanding government relations. It was close to 50% of my “accountability”, as a Chief Corporate Affairs Officer. My success was also grounded in the relationships that were built over time. Through relationships, you build an opportunity to better understand each other; your needs, your desires, the barriers and the opportunities for success.

Make it Local

The first premise for me is to make it local. Whatever your issue or opportunity beholds, you will gain the most traction if it is seen as local by your elected official. This is true for all levels of government. If you can strike an emotional local tie related to your issue or opportunity, you have a good place in the starting gate of government relations. If your issue or opportunity has little to do with the person you are reaching out to, they will have a difficult time finding time to review your matters. The fact is, all politics is local.

“Government Relations”

What I find fascinating about understanding government relations is the constant evolution of the practice. With a continued push for much-needed transparency and public accountability, the “relations” side of the game has come under pressure and increased scrutiny.

Across Canada, provincial and federal governments and their ethics commissioners challenge the established models of “pay for access and influence”. Lobbyists used to cozy up with clients at banquets, sporting events and fundraisers to enable a “meet and greet” with influencers. With new fundraising rules emerging, it now becomes more difficult to gain easy access to the ear of our elected officials.

Lobbyists and industry advocates will need to continue to build and maintain relationships with elected officials, their staff and the civil service. That is their business. Dialogue on issues is still required.

Many limitations have come into existence. There are now cooling off periods prevailing for the staff of Ministers. Watch dogs keep track of paid or volunteer work by lobbyists on campaigns. There continues to be cross party line squawking about who’s influencing whom.  Political donations (where still allowed) are scrutinized to the absolute penny. Understanding government relations has become a much more complex game.

Even some municipalities have invoked lobbying regulations and process. However, in the hierarchy of the three levels of government, municipalities continue to have the most open accessibility to elected officials. I continue to be very impressed with ward staff at the municipal level. I guess it makes sense, based on my earlier point, all politics is local.

Access

Access has become a challenge. With the explosion of social media, and so many channels flowing into an elected official’s office, it is no surprise that there need to be filters in place. Priorities need to be set. The tough part of this game is that “your priority” may not be “their priority”. Without access, you will lack influence. Even sadder is that correspondence may never even reach the eyes of your intended recipient. Given the volumes, it is likely that a staff member handles this for the member. Sad, but a practical reality, given the multitude of requests.

Breaking Through

It takes hard work and determination to break through with your message, cause, concern or business issue. It takes persistence and multiple fronts of communication to get your matter on the radar. Email, phone calls, tweets are all required. I also think that the constituency office might afford you more assured access. By taking the time to raise your issue at their home office in their constituency, you might get a better return on the time you invest. It is back to the first premise of getting local with your issue or opportunity.

The “contact information” submission tools on elected official websites provide a filter but do not appear to provide a quick response.

Where the Parties Fail

Do you receive emails from a political party or elected officials? In most instances, political parties sending out propaganda tend not even to allow the recipient to reply. Another fault of the party propaganda system. If a party is going to send information to the electorate, they might as well open up the opportunity for the electorate to respond to an email. If pushing messaging is intended to garner support. I can only imagine that a conversation and dialogue about the message will help lead to that result. One-way “non responsive messaging” fails on that front. One area of influence however is that party executives have the ear of the elected members. Sometimes this can provide you with an avenue of accessibility.

Persist in Social with Your Voice

There is an opportunity, in understanding government relations, to tell your story and engage through social networks. Your blog, your post in Facebook, your article in LinkedIn, your tweet; are all communication tools that may help to position your issue or cause on the radar of the elected official. The old model would have seen a stack of “clippings” from news media dropped on a communications staffer’s desk each morning. Today it is more likely to be a google alert or other social networking monitoring tools to catch the conversation in the moment. The key word most likely to get your attention is the name of that elected official in a post. Those mentions will be monitored closely in a context of issues management.

The Final Point

The final point to be made is that in understanding government relations, you must realize that getting the attention of government is a complex and multi-layered grid. If you are experiencing frustration in your efforts to break through, perhaps I can help with some counsel on getting your message heard.  Here’s to simplifying working with our governments. Have an awesome 2017.  @FergDevins

 

Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 23rd, 2016

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Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

The country was a buzz from St. John’s to Grouse
The stockings were hung by the chimneys with care
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there

Each province was covered with a blanket of snow
And ploughs ready with salt in their yards row on row
RIDE checks were in place for the high season drive

Telling folks to be safe being sure to arrive alive

When out on the lawns there arose such a clatter
The US election had caused quite a chatter
The New Year should bring more political debate
Hoping free trade continues, because it has been great

The moon on the crest of the new-fallen snow
Families gathering together by travelling to and fro
When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, pulled by Canadian reindeer

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
The goodwill he could bring was like a magical trick
He was dressed all in red like the flag of our nation

His whistle stops lined up including Union Station

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
In the west, through Ontario, across Quebec and Atlantic

His journey would begin and it would be quite frantic

From the east coast to west and then through the north

A big country to cover as he went to set forth
Near rivers and lakes over tree tops and valleys
Close to ten million square miles, with no dilly dallies

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
He’d made it to our place so soon on this night
He slid down the chimney with ease not too tight

He was dressed all in fur, red and white to the top
Said the snow on the prairies should yield a good crop
He was a weary old traveler with joy from inside
Said the country was glowing on his celestial ride

His eyes how they twinkled, his cheeks full of frost
Across provinces and territories his path quite criss crossed
He spoke of goodwill and joy across our great land
Encouraging young and old to just lend a hand

He toasted our country with so many people
And our cultural mosaic including mosques and church steeples
He said we are peace keepers with intent that is great
Bringing the world closer together is really at stake

He smiled ear to ear for Canada’s 150
Citing many celebrations and no doubt they’ll be nifty
From Cities to Towns whether urban or rural
Canada’s birthday celebrations will be sure to unfurl

He googled his route and loaded up his apps
With his mobile device positioned solidly on his lap
He was ready to tweet from his red glow in the sky
Pleasing those on the ground with a twinkle their eye

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim, as he flew east to west

Merry Christmas to Canada you’re truly the best


Happy Holidays and a Year in Review

December 19th, 2015

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#Happy Holidays

Wishing you and yours the very best for happy holidays this festive season. 2015 was quite a fascinating year for the Devins Network. Thanks to our “associates” for a great year of accomplishment. Your efforts are truly appreciated ! Merci tous. We are also mindful that many are experiencing difficulties, at this time of year. Let’s make an effort to comfort those in need, both physically and mentally.

Thanking Our Clients 

Molson Coors remains central to our business as we support the oldest continuously operating brewery in the America’s with a number of initiatives. It was also a milestone year for the founding Molson Family as seventh generation family member Geoff Molson assumed the gavel for the next two years as Chairman of the company. We wrapped up our coast to coast to coast National Tour #CenturyTour with Hockey Canada. It was truly an awesome experience and such an honour and pleasure to work with this magnetically powerful brand in our country. The team at Hockey Canada headquarters, the grassroots organization and those players that play for the @HockeyCanada brand are to be toasted for the wonderful past time they perpetuate as Canada’s Game. Into the summer months it was terrific to lend a hand to the folks at Casey’s in Kenora with their news of sale and new horizons. Wishing everyone there a terrific holiday season full of fine food and responsible drinking. Our friends at Trespass Canada continue to build their brand across Canada at retail. We were delighted to assist with their voice and profile in social networks through 2015. It was a pleasure continuing to work with the fine folks at InMarket on a number of initiatives throughout the year. No doubt their plans for NBA hospitality in the new year with MLSE will be a much talked about venue. @HealthHarmonies continues to grow at a frenetic pace as they provide care to those in need of pain relief and quick recovery. Jackie and Kim have a terrific studio happening in Newmarket and are building quite a following. It was a unique opportunity in Fort Frances to work with the Economic Development team in engaging conversation about all things “social networks” for Main Street and small town businesses. Main street businesses across this great land have great opportunities for their businesses by embracing what might be possible, through social network deployment. We worked with a few political campaigns through various elections this year. There are certainly a lot of untapped possibilities for elected officials to pursue through truly engaging in harvesting their social networks.

Supporting our Community

On the philanthropic front I had some wonderful conversations with young aspiring professionals through Ten Thousand Coffees. I enjoyed these mentoring conversations in assisting youth in pursuing their dreams. It was a pleasure to have served on the Vimy Foundation dinner committee – particularly as we get closer to the major celebrations at Vimy in 2017. Karen and Jerry at KIM continue to have a winning fundraising model – congrats ! I have been proud to continue to serve on the Greenwood College School Board of Directors. The new building under construction will be transformational for the school as they continue to build character through their staff and students. I led the Bladder Cancer Awareness Walk in Kenora again this year, with thanks to my  network coast to coast to coast raising almost $100,000 through the Kenora Walk cumulatively the past two years – supporting an overall accomplishment of over $505,000 nationally this year. As a member of the Board of Directors of Bladder Cancer Canada – I have accepted the task of National Walk Lead heading into 2016. I look forward to keeping up the momentum established by previous Lead Ken Bagshaw.I also have the pleasure of serving on the Communications Committee for Bladder Cancer Canada and appreciate the fine work carried out by suppliers at Raisin for the Walk site, Re-Shift Media for Facebook tools, Volterra for ongoing community management and LMA Communications for website oversight and development. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful volunteers at Bladder Cancer Canada. A team that I am proud to be part of.

The Seventh “Maybe Annual” Coney Island Music Festival was another smashing hit. Bill and Deb Wallace, Michael and Cheryl O’Flaherty and our team of volunteers look forward to the eighth “Maybe Annual” Sunday July 24th, 2016. I had the pleasure of presenting at Kenora Rotary in September acknowledging what it takes to create and sustain a volunteer based free event that draws 1600 people to Coney Island on Lake of the Woods each summer.

Coaching, Counsel and Giving

I enjoyed meeting with the leadership at Food for the Poor and lending a few hours of counsel as they build their board for the future. Apathy Is Boring can take a bow for helping to get the youth vote out in 2015. They’ve got a terrific proposition and no doubt they will continue with great momentum with elections to follow. I enjoyed speaking with Ottawa U Alumni on “social networking” in autumn 2015. As an “alumni parent” it was a pleasure to engage with the Dean of the Telfer School and guests. Jack.org continues to ply an important path in engaging youth and raising awareness for those facing mental health issues. Hats off to Eric Windeler – Sandra Hanington and team for your efforts, in memory of Jack. It is also a pleasure to lend support to the Making Waves Ottawa team. Helena Devins continues her volunteerism with this organization and we are proud to support these efforts in helping challenged youth learn how to swim.

Supporting Social Cast of Characters

I so appreciate the work of Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch and all that they do through their work at Owner Media. I also enjoy keeping updated on all things “communications” through the inspiring works of Jay Baer, Christopher Penn, Ryan Deiss, Ian Cleary, Tod Maffin, Jamie Turner, Josh Turner, John Nemo, Amber Ludwig-Vilhauer and James Altucher. Some good reading amongst that crew ! Lou Clements, a true friend and a pro at career counselling. If you’re at that stage, be sure to check his services out. Thanks also to David and Cornelius at JIB for our site re-design this year…simpler – better…smiles. Last, not least – Rob Campbell and his SEO expertise.

Towards 2016

What will 2016 bring !? We can all work hard to play a part for greater #peace in our world. We are so fortunate to live in Canada, with our tolerance for differences and acceptance of such magnificent diversity. The Devins Network looks forward to working with our existing clients and on new opportunities that will come our way in the new year. We will continue to foster goodwill and strong sense of community. Wishing you and yours the very best. Happy Holidays ! @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork 

 

Apathy Boring

July 12th, 2015

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What a revelation – Apathy Boring. I had a wonderfully inspiring conversation with a young leader amongst us. Caro Loutfi is one of the inspiring leaders and executive director at “Apathy is Boring”. The group is committed to getting youth involved in their community. One of the fundamental mandates is to get the vote out.

Voter Turn Out “the numbers”

I was struck by how apathetic we have become as Canadians when you look at the voting statistics at the federal level the past few elections. From Confedertation in 1867 at 73.1% voter turn out, to an all time high in 1958 at 79.4% to 61.1% in May of 2011. Sadly amazing is the 18-24 year old voter turn out in 2011 at 38.8%. The 25-34 age group is a little better, but still disappointing at 45.1%.

I was further informed by Caro that a disappointing reality is that if we don’t get youth to vote that “first time”, we may never see them vote again. We need to let them know that apathy is boring. We need to engage our youth in exercising their democratic right. More importantly, it is not just about the ballot box – it is about getting active, taking on making a difference, motivating their age group to get involved in shaping public policy and community.

Community Loses

Caro also pointed out to me that this voting apathy also transfers to apathy in our communities. In fact youth are volunteering less than other generations. Volunteerism is considered very active in Canada. This could be a troubling decline in community engagement for future generations, if we let this trend continue. One of the factors is that youth are not being asked to volunteer, and therefore are not engaging. Let’s help turn that around by asking more youth to get involved in community projects.

Posssible Solutions

After speaking with Caro my mind turned to possible solutions. I was left with two fundamental questions. How can we convince our Canadian youth that it is important to “vote”?  How can we improve our levels of engagement and encourage more youth to volunteer in their community?

Encouraging Youth To “Get Involved”

A solution, and there are likely hundreds if not thousands, is to encourage youth to come together in a movement of involvement in the political process in Canada. If people in general, not just youth, feel that they are getting value for their participation – they will likely continue to stay involved. I truly believe that our governments have become more distant. It is harder to get a return phone call, they are swamped with email requests, politics sometimes replaces pure community needs. However, one of the most engaging ways of reaching an elected official continues to be through their constituency office. This is also the most practical and locally relevant place for youth to engage. If they want to a difference in their community, tackle an issue in their home town or neighbourhood – the local elected official’s office, whether town or city councillor, provincial member or federal member is a great place to visit. Chat with the staff or volunteer and see how there might be an opportunity to become active.

Through these local constituency offices youth will quickly find that the often perceived cold, confusing and nonsensical political environment is not the whole picture. There are warm hearted, hard working staff and volunteers at the foundation of our political system. These people have chosen to get involved and welcome new folks to the fold.

I would say that the “rule” for elected officials is to post their “constituency office” contact information. Seek out a local member or elected official and give them a call. The current Federal Members of Parliament can be found right here. Their constituency office information is easily accessed. With an upcoming federal election there will be ample opportunity to get involved.

Network

I would also challenge youth to take action on something that they feel strongly about. This could be strongly in favour of something, an issue, a cause or a belief. Similarly, this could be strongly in opposition to something. Rather than feeling like you are simply a lost voice in the gusts of a hurricane, step into the conversation. Follow someone who’s beliefs you admire. If you like what they are saying – reach out to them. They would likely cherish hearing from you. Join a group in LinkedIN on a matter of importance to you. Follow an issue or movement on Twitter and engage in that conversation. Search a topic out on Facebook and like it. If you have a leaning towards a political philosophy – pick a  party and get involved…so much to learn as we head to the October election date.

Leaders of Tomorrow

Our youth are our leaders of tomorrow. We must convince them that apathy is boring so that they will step up, step in, get involved, become active and help keep our communities and activity in our political systems strong. With social networking allowing us to be socially active, and giving us the ability to have “voice” on issues – there are no excuses for anyone being apathetic in today’s society. We need to openly engaged, involve and respect our youth and their opinions. Let’s do a better job at getting them involved in all that we offer as a community.

Apathy Boring

I applaud Caro and her team at Apathy is Boring for all that they are doing to get youth involved. Let’s also ensure that the rest of us stay involved as well. Let’s not let the system drive us to becoming less involved. Let’s be active in the system and make it be robust and full of engaged citizens coast to coast to coast. Speak up, be heard, stay involved.  @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork

New look Devins Network

April 20th, 2015

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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

March 8th, 2015

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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

toward a new year

December 28th, 2014

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December 28th and, amidst attending a few World Hockey Junior games here in Toronto I thought, “I can’t pass up writing a blog before the end of the new year”.

“Toward a new year” is an interesting theme. As much as my thoughts turn to things like re-start re-fresh, re-energize, prioritize, plan, systematize, organize, reach out, connect and network; I also look back at the past twelve months and give thanks for an awesome year. Toward a new year, is in many respects, a beginning; but it is also is a continuation of what has been accomplished, “or not”, in the previous year. I suggest one celebrates the highs, acknowledges the lows, learns from it and puts a plan in place toward a new year.

2014 was, in many respects, a new beginning for me. In “semi retirement” I was delighted to continue to have an opportunity to work with my client Molson Coors through The Devins Network, on projects related to their business. It was also a great year to “pass the torch” to the new corporate affairs leadership and team at Molson Coors and to provide coaching where necessary and, given that I am out of the business, just simply “stay clear” when I should stay clear. After 30 years in the beer business it was really refreshing (sorry for the pun) to strike up new relationships with several new clients and their pursuits and goals. I also had terrific networking moments with folks from such a wide spectrum of interests and dreams. It was also very kind of the folks at National Public Relations and Capital Hill to offer up “real estate” if and when required. In “year one” I never expected to have an employee at the Devins Network, however…our client at Hockey Canada put together an awesome #CenturyTour caravan to criss cross the country and I needed a “Communications Lead” on the road. Charlotte Coulson joined the team and has networked her way from coast to coast and back again with the InMarket team and #CenturyTour for Hockey Canada. I also give thanks to several “associates” that helped with the achievements of the Devins Network in year one. Your attention to detail and delivering excellence is much appreciated James, JP, Beth, Bradley, Helena, Clark and Dea. Via a long time friend, I truly enjoyed seeing and experiencing the life and times of “the entrepreneur” through a few projects with Michael Smith at Integram Marketing. What a passion for client service and accomplishment ! I have had the honour and pleasure of assisting with the Vimy Foundation dinner(s) – a great cause recognizing a milestone in history that we should ensure that current and future generations of Canadians never forget. The Coney Island “Maybe Annual” Music festival drew more of my attention, and in spite of the high water on Lake of the Woods, we had an awesome Sixth “Maybe Annual” festival. The success is due in large part to my fellow founders, the Lake of the Woods Arts Community, our partners, patrons, talent, fans and families supporting the festival. In meeting my personal challenge of Bladder Cancer, I took on creating a walk in Kenora Ontario. Thanks to family, friends, volunteers, supporters and a great little community with a big heart; we were able to raise over $50,000 in support of Bladder Cancer Canada. It was also a year of transition personally with both kids now off to school and Kathy and I becoming empty nesters, a fun stage of life to be sure !

Toward a new year, I look forward to continuing to serve my clients through the Devins Network. I look forward to possibilities of new opportunities to modestly expand my work in communications and community through the Devins Network. I continue to have a strong passion and bias for actions that ensure clients have a strong voice for their cause, campaign or business. If you think the Devins Network might answer your call to action – give us a call. Toward a new year we will stage the Seventh “Maybe Annual” Coney Island Music Festival and continue to grow this great little festival at the north end of Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario. Toward a new year I will take on a more active role in the challenge of raising awareness for Bladder Cancer Canada and assist the organization with communications and outreach. Toward a new year I will continue to provide support and counsel where required for those who, similar to me, believe in networking and fostering good will and relationships so that we can work at improving our communities by working together, like the Vimy Foundation. Toward a new year, I will have work / life “alignment”…because, as my friends Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch would suggest, the balance thing is less important than alignment (my paraphrasing).

So bring on 2015. I wish you and yours the very best for a happy, healthy and exciting year for your family, business, cause or campaign.

Toward a new year…cheers !

@FergDevins @DevinsNetwork

#CenturyTour #TournéeduCentenaire Hockey Canada

June 26th, 2014

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At 11am this morning, at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence Hockey Canada’s 100th birthday celebrations were announced with the launch of the #CenturyTour Caravan. The caravan is a spectacular tribute to 100 years of Hockey Canada and the heritage of the game in this country coast to coast to coast. It is full of interactive fun for the whole family. The Devins Network Team is proud to be supporting the tour by providing support in the areas of government relations outreach, community engagement, public relations and social media. With the tour management team from InMarket and the Team and Hockey Canada, we look forward to working with communities and festivals across Canada to raise awareness of #CanadasGame as the #CenturyTour trecks across this great land. We look forward to engaging with those who have plenty of stories and experience with the game, as well as reaching out and bringing newcomers to Hockey Canada to take in #CanadasGame during the #CenturyTour. You can follow all of the action via @HockeyCanada and @DevinsNetwork will be connecting with communities as the tour gets rolling. What’s your hockey story ? Who might you introduce to #CanadasGame ? See you on the road #Canada !  A big shout out to our National Sponsors of the #CenturyTour – CANADA and Canadian Heritage, Canadian Tire, Respect Group, Samsung and TELUS. We will look forward to connecting with you coast to coast to coast @FergDevins @CharCoulson and @JPRochette @DevinsNetwork.

À 11:00 ce matin au Centre pour l’Excellence au Hockey Mastercard, les célébrations du 100e anniversaire de Hockey Canada ont été annoncées avec le lancement de la caravane du #TourDuCentenaire.  Cette caravane est une façon spectaculaire d’honorer les 100 ans de Hockey Canada ainsi que l’héritage de ce sport sur notre pays d’un océan à l’autre. L’équipe de Devins Network est fière de s’associer à cette tournée en offrant son expertise au niveau des relations gouvernementales et communautaires, en plus de s’impliquer au niveau des relations publiques et des médias sociaux. Avec l’équipe de tournée InMarket ainsi que celle de Hockey Canada, nous avons très hâte de travailler avec les communautés et les festivals partout au pays pour célébrer #LeSportduCanada alors que le de la #TournéeDuCentenaire parcourra ce beau grand pays. C’est avec plaisir que nous communiquerons avec ceux et celles qui auront de nombreuses histoires à raconter au sujet de notre sport national, en plus d’initier de nouvelles recrues et de leur faire découvrir #LeSportduCanada grâce au #Tour du Centenaire.  Suivez toute l’action via @HockeyCanada_fr et @DevinsNetwork puisqu’ils seront en contact avec les diverses communautés durant la tournée. Quelle est votre histoire de hockey? #LeSportduCanada pourrait-t-il être introduit à quelqu’un que vous connaissez? À bientôt #Canada, on se voit sur la route! Nous en profitons pour remercier nos commanditaires pour la #tourneeducentenaire: Canada et Héritage Canada, Canadian Tire, Respect Group, Samsung et TELUS. Nous avons hâte de discuter avec vous d’un océan à l’autre! @FergDevins, @CharCoulson et  @jPRochette  @DevinsNetwork

 

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Ontario Campaigns – Did Social Media Work ?

June 18th, 2014

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I’ve had many conversations with many people since the results rolled in on the Ontario election last week. One of the conversations have been a number of different questions about whether “social media” worked for the various campaigns. Frankly I don’t think it is a yes or no answer at all. I do believe that each of the campaigns, at the centre and in the ridings, worked hard to deploy messaging through social media channels. However, from my perspective I think that the bulk of activity by the central campaigns, and to some degree in the trenches was really a modified “push media approach”. By “push” I am referring to a message that was carefully crafted, an image that was created, a hashtag or two and then someone who had it approved as a campaign message broadcast it out on the social channel.  I did experiment with the parties on a few tweets from myself, either @ or DM and found that the response rates were really disappointing. As a self proclaimed “conversationalist” I would expect that when utilizing social media channels that one would expect that there would be respect for these channels as an opportunity to engage in a conversation. Too often I saw these messages pushed out through the social media channels in an effort to use them as mini media channels. The other reflection I have is related to the #onpoli hashtag. I think that a lot of time was wasted by a lot of people shouting from various positions at each other, rather than figuring out how to converse with the electorate and try and sway them one way or another through a meaningful conversation or debate. Those that know me will not be surprised by my observation. I do believe that social media channels can be an effective medium, when engagement is viewed as a conversation. In some instances it may be a “debate”, but at least it is a two way conversation. The other thought is that when utilizing “live streaming”, make sure that the “question” from the audience is heard, or repeated by the speaker before giving the answer. It’s a small technical catch but an important one for the listening audience. On checking out a few candidate twitter profiles and Facebook pagers I was impressed more by the grassroots efforts of candidates for all there parties. There were some good examples of where these candidates actually engaged in real conversations with the voting public (or advocates for one cause or another). I am a big believer in answering a tweet or a post, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. I think that is the respect that campaigns should have for this dialogic media. I would love to hear others opinions. Other campaigns can learn from these pioneers. Cut the messaging and start the conversation. What is your perspective on social media and political campaigns ?  Cheers @FergDevins   @DevinsNetwork

Ontario Election Called…step up and get involved

May 3rd, 2014

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With the election in Ontario called, it is fascinating to see how conversations now shift to who we want to lead this province into the future. At coffee shops, bar tables, cocktail lounges, athletic clubs, buses, subways, urban or rural trails, on the waterways or a walk in your community – you will no doubt start to muse with family, friends and acquaintances about the unfolding campaign.

Many will choose to comment, remark and complain about the past and the present and stop there. The opportunity, truly, is for people to pick up the phone, or check out a campaign social network and call step up to get involved. Each and every party (links here) whether Progressive Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Green will gladly welcome a new volunteer to their campaign. OR, perhaps you would like to work for Elections Ontario in a roll during the election. They have a site as well.

So this mini “post” is really just to provide you with a quick link to those party web sites so that you might think about how you can engage in this June 12 election. I guarantee you will learn much and more importantly, you will have had an active impact on the decision to elect the next provincial government to lead our province forward.  Cheers @FergDevins