Student Life on Canadian Campuses...time to choose

It's that time of year in Canada, when grade 12 students from coast to coast to coast are in receipt of their "offers" from post-secondary institutions of their choice.

It is a truly special time for families and for these students as they meet this milestone in the learning journey. Some will decide to take the increasingly popular "gap year", to travel, improve some marks or earn some money for the next adventure. Many will choose a college campus to focus on some very practical learning in pursuit of a career choice. Many will pursue a university, in pursuit of a bachelor of arts, commerce, engineering or towards a longer term in specialization, masters or doctoral goal. Many will choose an independent learning centre to focus on a special art or fulfillment of their career pursuits and dreams.

None the less, the experience is something that those of us all look  back upon with fond memories of some of the "best days of our lives". Campus experiences turn into life long memories and often involved the nurturing and foundation of life long friends.

I was particularly intrigued by the work of an entrepreneur Ali Badruddin, Schulich graduate, and the work that he and his team have done in developing Campus Vibez (pronounced Vibes...smiles). It serves to use video content curated by students and student organizations on campuses that highlight life on campus. They have done a terrific job on covering many of the colleges and universities across Canada. They are now in the process of sharing what they have built and building a broader community of engagement.

As families and students are making their final selections of the right "campus" to choose. This tool may be something that could be of assistance. It may also be a tool in the future for guidance counsellors providing insights into campus life, or for universities and student bodies who are in hot pursuit of selling their institutions to prospective students.

I'm sure that Ali would welcome any further questions via the web site. Cheers to this fascinating time of year in the lives of our graduating high school students. Best wishes for much success in fulfilling your dreams and continued education pursuits. @FergDevins


You and Your Brand In Social Media...Are You Sensitive ?

Since leaving Molson Coors at the end of December, I have had a lot of opportunity to take a look across a broader set of brands and community organizations reflecting on their social media activity. I am respectful that corporations have rules and filters and escalation protocols for what content gets posted etc. I am also respectful of the fact that issues can arise from careless tweets or customer complaints that have become much more public, given the power of social media. However, a fundamental and critical action that brands must (and that's a strong word folks) consider is their sensitive responsiveness to the customer in social networks.

What does sensitive responsiveness look like ? Let's start with what "social media" establishes. Social media establishes an opportunity for a brand or an individual or a not for profit or whatever entity to engage in dialogue about their product or issues and interests. It represents and opportunity to engage, debate, support, or opine; much like folks would have done in conversations in the past around the dinner table or at a community social event. The difference is that these conversations are now public and open for "one to one to many" conversations and shared multiple dialogues. Would you set up a call centre with multiple phone lines and just respond with a taped generic message, or let the phones ring and not answer them ?

In my opinion brands need to consider a few questions as they approach social media:

ONE - What is the purpose for you or your brand to be on social networks ? Really focus on this purpose. What is intended ? What is it suppose to drive...engagement, sales, sales leads, conversations, just being present ? Are you there because your competitor is there ? How is your competitor fairing ? What do you think their purpose if for being in that social network ? How have you assessed their success and what they are gaining ? Is your intent similar, different or not purposeful ? Don't make the mistake of just having a "profile" because you think you need to be there.

TWO - What is your brand and when is it most critical for you to be "on" in social media. When are people most likely to be in social conversations about your brand? In the beer business it likely means when the bars and retail are open and likely evenings and weekends when social occasions are happening. If it's the tuxedo business there will be peaks and valleys in the year where proms, weddings and formals are most prominent. If you are cereal, is it a morning blog update that flashes up during the breakfast hour when someone is likely having a bowl and checking the web. If you are a sports property it might be most relevant when your team is on the ice or the field or the court or the course. Or, perhaps you are big and ubiquitous enough to think that you need to be "on" 24/7 (Ha...don't we wish we were all that successful in what we are selling to have that need!)

THREE- Respect that "they" have an opinion out there. Respect that they have a voice. Respect that they might be ill informed, under informed or perhaps have more knowledge and be an expert in a subject matter. Repect, as difficult as it may be, that you might only get as far as agreeing to disagree. When this respect is established, you will be in the right context and state of mind. The mistake is made by those brands or individuals that become defensive or dismissive, remove posts, lash out or just "message" back. Respect in the conversation will raise conversation to a new level, and hopefully some meaningful dialogue. Oh yes...there needs to be mutual respect for this to work...smiles.

FOUR - Be SENSITIVE ! I'm sorry for the exclamation mark but what I've felt the past couple of months is a real lack of brands who get this. Lots of brands are in a social network but they are not "on". Either they are too shy to respond, (I respect that there are comfort stages of embracing and using social...listen - listen - listen - plan - be sensitive - prepare your response - engage in responding - respond to them...not from you...but to them in a sensitive way - then when you get comfortable start to lead conversations but based on their needs in how they interact with you or your brand) or they haven't figured out that the real power in social media is the conversation. If someone is tweeting you or commenting on Facebook or commenting on a blog or media post...be there. Get into the conversation. At the very least if someone is shouting at you with a complaint, please acknowledge them for their interest in your brand. They bought your product, they chose you. Please show them that you at least care enough to acknowledge them. Maybe you need to buy time to respond. Tell them that. Being sensitive is a way of listening. It's more than just punching back a response.It's much better than ignoring the issue because you don't want to deal with it publicly. It's actually listening to your consumer and understanding what they love about you or what their complaint is. You have a chance to be sensitive to their emotion and their thinking and then respond.

I do have a few favourites that I see being very responsive. I won't get into the "list" now. Perhaps I will create a top ten and bottom ten from my own personal experience. Why ? Because social media provides the opportunity for just that. A brand can get personal with the consumer. The brand can build loyalty in a one to one way. That one to one will spread, because people talk about their experiences with brands, good - bad or ugly. People have lots of choices. The brands or the individuals or the not for profits or the community projects that choose to be sensitive and to engage will, in my opinion, be the brands and individuals that will build loyalty and long term support for themselves. Your thoughts  always welcome. Are you "on" ?  @FergDevins


What is an ideal response time...

Have you ever thought of what might be the ideal response time to a consumer inquiry ? If you call on a 1-800 service one would expect that the phone would be answered and you would speak with an agent. Or, at the very least be given the option to leave a message with a response within 24 hours or next business day. If you took the time to write via snail mail, one would expect to receive a response within two weeks, or a phone call to follow up with you. If you were to walk in and speak face to face with a customer service department, one would expect service on the spot and likely the best level of "service" face to face. So what have we come to expect in the world of social media ? For me, I expect that a brand, service, charity or community will be "on" listening and responding in their network. To help me out with this, they might post on their social profile "when" they are actually on...to help condition and meet my expectations. I just think that with social media today, my expectation has become the position that if you are "on" you are "on"...at least in what one would assume when that brand or service is open for business. I was impressed by the TTC in Toronto last week when I took a bus along a route that signalled a "stop" and then had the bus driver breeze past the stop. He advised that the bus hadn't stopped there in six months. I advised that a bus I rode on last week (with my wife as a witness) stopped there ! I then tweeted TTC to advise that the stop should be removed form the bus "notification recording". Within minutes @TTChelps responded. Now that is "service response". Smiles...I'll keep an eye on that "recorded notification" and be sure to not count on the stop ! The point is that they responded...and in fact exceeded my expectations (Thank you Toronto TTC). I felt good and feel good about their customer responsiveness. @AirCanada is also very prompt, in my experience. I give them full marks for social engagement and in both cases, it is truly while I am enjoying their services. Like TTC, this isn't necessarily a 9-5 situation. Kudos to being "on" when the customer is "on". So what should the norm be ? My suggestion is that the community manager for a brand or service should be on to meet or exceed expectaions of the customer. That is what will ultimately drive customer loyalty. You are showing the customer that you are there for them. That today is likely a 24/7 commitment...at least something that is broader than a 9-5 Monday through Friday existence on line. I look forward to tweeting and posting more examples in the coming weeks. I'm waiting for a couple of responses right now. Cheers! @FergDevins @DevinsNewtork.


Listening to the Customer

It sounds so practical, so reasonable, so doable..."listening to the customer". But I challenge each one of us that has "customers" whether we are listening as openly and keenly as we can, given the multiple ears that we have to listen with. With the explosion of social media channels we can now hear from the customer what might have been their conversation on a bus or subway. We can now listen like we are sitting at the table with an employee over dinner by being socially engaged with our employees through internal social networks such as Yammer. We can now listen to the opinion of those who cast perspective and comment on our brands or offerings. Social media opens us to the straight forward non political banter that is the conversation of the masses. If we have nothing but "facts and truth" to put into play...let's listen and respond. In fact...let's get the truth and facts into the conversation if it is missing. But first let's learn how to listen. I've always tried to listen with respect of the other's perspective, rather than defensively from where I sit. Is that customer speaking from being totally informed, or are they speaking emotionally from what they've experienced ? There are so many channels open to us today. Through a simple google search you can take a look at what's being said. Check out Twitter, search blog content, check out comments on a newspaper post, use any of the aggregators that search social networks such as addictomatic. Through listening to the customer we will become better champions of our brands and services and through listening we can respond.However, genuine dialogue starts with just listening. Are you truly "listening" to what's being said about your business or service ? You might find that you've got a few advocates out there as well.  Give a try. Cheers ! @FergDevins


Corporate Blogging...to blog or not to blog ?

I must say that I have enjoyed the journey of blogging, since our first blog days at Molson Coors in Canada. That blog for Molson Coors was established as one way of getting our story out to the public through our own owned media channel. That was its initial strategic purpose. They were early days but those first posts delivered on our strategy to get more connected with community stakeholders and thought leaders. Relevant too that the early posts related to "Raising the Roof". They can still use our support as we hear their campaign ads today. I reflected back on those early blog days as I worked with @StaceyHood on this site and the new frontier that this represents for me. On the topic of corporate blogging I'm still a fan. I still believe that for large companies, that may sometimes feel distant from their "consumers", that blogging can bring forth the real human touch of a corporation's people and human element. The blog can and will show the human side of your business, if in fact there is one worth exposing and people internally are willing to support it.

Taking a quick peek around at some of my favourite brands the blogosphere is well populated. Air Canada has a very personal approach to blogging at "Go Far - Stories that Fly". When I personally think back to the chatter about customer service at Air Canada over many years, I'm truly impressed with how they have turned it around and are so responsive to the flyer. They are also very quick on the tweets and retweets @AirCanada.

WestJet has a really cool interactive blog site with tips and clips from destinations and a wide range of posts from "meet the veeps" to technical questions. Nicely done ! What's really great is that it's personal, engaging, relevant not too "selly". It's a connection with the flying public. They are also terrific in responding to tweets @WestJet.

The Home Depot corporate blog has a fascinating approach. It's a home design, renovation, design (my words now remember) context with great tips and tricks for home decor. I was particularly taken by the blog on painting a "lattice design" on a wall. These blog posts could stimulate some interesting options for home or cottage. For the college crowd out there you might check out the cool laundry basket design featured recently. What's really impressive here is the constant feed of fresh content. Would love to know their calendar plan on content.

Always a fan of everything Disney. Too many fond memories of growing up with the movies and a few visits to DisneyWorld. Disney Parks Blog content seem to lean on the "behind the scenes" context. Who wouldn't like to get a glimpse of a bit of how the magic is created and maintained ! It's also very basic and obviously straight from the author's pen, rather than spun with all the glitz that one might expect from a Disney production. Humble, basic, human...

My last example (and not for lack of there being many more to look through) is Petro Canada's "Pump Talk". It is a truly friendly conversational blog that speaks to matters that are relevant to the consuming public. It is a nice balance between petrol policy and tips to keep the family and community comfortable and safe.

So what's my take on the "blog or not" question ? In a word...blog !

I state five key factors to consider when diving into the blogosphere.

1. Know the purpose of your blog. Entertain, inform, feed facts, dispel, rumour, advocacy, voice of employee. Have a strategic purpose.

2. Be authentic. The best advocates are the people from within your organization. Let them tell their stories from the heart.

3. Build advocates in the community. It's totally fine and wise to build advocates and bloggers that shout out your message and their opinion of you.

4. Reach out to other corporates and their bloggers. It's a community that needs to share and engage to spread good news and good will.

5. Plan. Whether by special occasion, industry event, theme of your business your content needs an overall plan that ties back to purpose.

If you haven't yet read Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel...it is basic training required reading for new bloggers. Like a favourite novel you might return to on occasion, the lessons learned through this work are timeless.

Be sure to let me know when you've got your blog up and running so that I can comment, share and tweet about it. Cheers @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork.

 


First Week...Connecting a Network

First week in this new career stage and lovin it ! What's particularly gratifying is the wonderful community in which I live, work and play. It has been tremendous to re-connect with friends, former colleagues and advisors from years gone by, as well as new introductions to people that have reached out to TheDevinsNetwork Inc.

Some observations I think are worth sharing as it relates to my "social networking". While at Molson Coors I had used linkedin as a place to keep abreast of colleagues, university and college contacts and a link to the broader world of communicators, busines and community leaders. I am somewhat overwhelmed with how relevant and constant LinkedIn has become in my day to day. It's a tremendous place to connect and get informed with people and their ongoing projects and needs. Thus I've created a Devins Network group in LinkedIn as a placeholder in that channel.

Facebook has been a "personal network" for years. It's a place for private close and long term friends and colleagues to share more personal stories and experiences. However, I've been surprised at how much interest has showed up in Facebook, thus I've created a DevinsNetwork page in Facebook, in addition the ConeyMusicFest page that I manage in there as well.

Obviously MolsonFerg on twitter is no longer active and I was surprised at how easy I was able to convert to @FergDevins and maintain a solid following and dialogue. I still really enjoy the engagement and channel that Twitterville represents in my social networks. I have felt compelled to create @DevinsNetwork alongside @FergDevins. I'm not sure if that will continue but at this stage, I will keep them both alive and see how the Network brand unfolds. I recall my counsel to folks over the years...be careful not to create too many "phone lines" in your house because it will be impossible to answer them all !

I'm still learning and experimenting with google plus but have booted up there as well.

And right here at thedevinsnetwork.ca it has been an interesting experience of setting up a web profile, determining what services I might provide and being "open for business". I still think that I'm likely more open for conversation and opportunity than open for business at this stage. In time I would think that I'll find a "sweet spot" to focus on in communications but at this point it's just a great feeling to be wide open to whatever opportunities or possibilities might arise. It is really great to have a home base to point people towards when they are inquiring about "what's up".

Acknowledgements...Thanks to Kevin at Paper Ideas for the logo work. If you need a person knowledgeable in wordpress to help get your site set up, I suggest you check out Stacey Hood. Good ideas, easy access and a great sense of humour and straight talk.  Thanks to Richard Binhammer for the referal to Stacey. I'm also really looking forward to checking into the Human Business Works seminar on Mastering the Digital Channel later this month. I'll find out exactly how much I don't know about the wonderful world of social networks. Cheers ! ...now...what conversation should you and I be having? Cheers ! @FergDevins (Photo credit to Clark Devins Photography)


Day One Happy New Year

Day one in the new frontier that lays ahead for TheDevinsNetwork. Am I excited ? You bet I am. After three decades of rich experiences and learning with the iconic beer brand Molson Coors, I'm looking forward to reaching out to those with opportunities for me to assist them with resolving their needs and discovering possibilities in their business, charity or community. On this first day of the New Year 2014, I want to wish friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances and those who will become new friends and business partners over the course of the year the very best to you and your families. I look forward to tackling "strategically tactical conversations" with many of you to determine how the Devins Network can be of service to you. Cheers to 2014. Let's connect. @FergDevins


Fresh Start...following an awesome journey at Molson Coors Canada

Ferg Devins (I) will be leaving Molson Coors as of December 31st and I'm looking forward to having Molson Coors as my first client as I start up TheDevinsNetwork Inc. So...apologies for the "long blog" but I've got some ground to cover...smiles.

In Kenora Ontario in 1981 I had the most wonderful break as a young lad going to Queen's University that one might every want. The local Molson sales representative, Dennis Olson, had met me during the previous Christmas break to see if I might take on the role of "summer representative" in northwestern Ontario. At the time I had been working for the MNR fighting fires in the spring and acting as a junior ranger foreman in the summer. Dennis suggested that I consider getting involved with Molson, as a career move with a great iconic Canadian company. He then arranged that I meet with this district Manager, Paul Raino, in Thunder Bay and the regional manager, Mike Murphy, who was in from Toronto for the World Cup Ski Jump event...sponsored by Molson. Well friends, nearly 32 years later it seems like just yesterday to look back at those summers at ball diamonds, tourist camps and the Jeux Canada Games in Thunder Bay that summer. While at Queen's I served as a campus rep, and had the best job in the company in 1983 and 1984 as a captain aboard the Molson Marine Patrol "Accommodation Two" named after one of John Molson's famous St. Lawrence Steamships ! The sales team of Zuk, Mekilok, Littleford, Kozak, Olson and Bell in Thunder Bay gave me a strong foundation of community relations and selling skills that first summer of '81. Thirty plus years later still friends with Craig and Linda Prentice who were all part of team Molson in those early days.

I still recall meeting with former Toronto Maple Leaf great, turned district manager, Gaye Stewart for an interview for a Hamilton territory and then finding out from Mike Murphy and Paul Raino that I'd be taking on the challenges of a Toronto territory. That was quite a hill to climb for this kid from Kenora ! Chuck Seager and the Toronto sales team welcomed me with open arms. And I was fortunate enough to see a lot more of Jack Quinn in his role as Toronto East Manager. He had been my "mentor" in Kingston while I was at Queen's. Norm Webb, Les Yates, Scott Ellis and Dennis Riggin where characters unto themselves as managers !

My Parkdale sales territory got me grounded in some solid street smarts. And I had the jewel in the crown in sales with Exhibition Place and Ontario Place properties. Moving into a marketing coordinator position I had great moments in sports and entertainment while playing key liaison for Molson on such important partnership properties as the Toronto Maple Leafs - Ontario Place - Exhibition Place - the Ontario Hockey League - Motion Show - Harbourfront and the Molson Canadian Rocks Music program and our 25 year jewel in our crown - the Molson Indy. Brian Luftspring and I still have lots of laughs of the great times in "promotions". In Chain Accounts,  I had a tremendous mentor in Vic Stieben, as we created and built some of the early marketing and sales programs with our larger group customers.

As the Molson Carling merger took place I had the opportunity to move into the District Sales Manager role under the leadership of Jim Crawford. It was truly a transformational time for both companies as we brought two fierce competing cultures together. However, allies soon emerged between some of the best personalities in the beer business. Molson and Carling's best drove the distinction that defined relationships in the beer business.

I was fortunate to gain experience in brand promotions, in many respects overseeing some of those properties that I had managed at the ground level. It was fascinating to connect the strategic brand positioning to the street marketing and selling aspects of the properties. Brent Scrimshaw was a great captain of our team.

As a national brand manager I was exposed to all aspects of marketing, advertising, promotion, research and all of the fascinating elements that make up brand management. When we decentralized I moved back to Ontario as a Sr. Brand Manager and then into the position of Director - Field Marketing...which I look back on as some of the most successful times for the team. The team was a total team with a passion for winning and under Dave Perkins - Dave Minnett and Roy Hryn were truly making a run for success in the business in Ontario West. Ray Douin had a similar formula happening in Quebec Atlantic.

After Field Marketing I moved to Sales Director for half of Ontario and had a superb team of great passionate sales people. We had breadth and depth in our portfolio and our selling tools.

The past fifteen years I've had the opportunity to lead various iterations of our corporate affairs portfolio, first for Ontario West, under the leadership of Michael Downey and then in Government Relations and PR with Scott Ewart and Kevin Boyce and since 2009 as Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Molson Coors in Canada with Dave Perkins at the helm at Stewart Glendinning this past year. I have had the opportunity to work coast to coast to coast, building a network with the press, community stakeholders, political leaders, governmental civil servants, corporate responsibility thought leaders, industry colleagues and the hospitality sector from independents to national chains. In 2007 I was given the opportunity to jump into "social media" feet first when Kevin and Scott gave us the ability to pioneer, explore, converse and be open and authentic in the social networks. We built credibility on open honest communications between the company and the voices in and about our business. Authentic, genuine direct to drinker interactions...many friends of whom I still have today as followers @FergDevins. It has also broadened my experience by working with our global enterprise team in Corporate Affairs Dan, Bart, Jill, Colin, Scott, Jonty and Debbie...you guys rock !

I've been honoured to represent Molson Coors to our broader community. They have remained firmly committed to "Our Beer Print" and the company's heritage of support for the broader community will be forever engrained in me. I was truly humbled to receive the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. I was but an ambassador for the great work that Molson Coors carries out across Canada.

In 30 years I've been so fortunate to be able to represent Molson Coors and to have met so many interesting people and have lived through so many exciting events in our times. Characters like Dave Nichol and Don Cherry come to mind. The opportunity to work with community leaders like Paul Godfrey and our Molson Indy Foundation board is a highlight for sure. Events like the 1981 Canada Games, The Molson Canadian Rocks Toronto SARS concert, and the 2010 Olympic games were experiences that were just simply once in a lifetime. To have been able to get to know our founding families just a little bit has been wonderful. The Molson and Coors families have truly built a culture of family and heritage in their business, something that has brought me immense pride in being an ambassador of this iconic company. The chance to open a new brewery after 50 years in Moncton was a monumental occasion and done with class.

The people that I have met have brought me the most joy. My team in Canada has been best in class. Thanks to all who have been colleagues of mine over these many years. You've been a great team and I know that the next generation will keep this 227 year iconic business moving forward. To those with whom I have worked in the community, government, media, our partners, our customers, the industry and hospitality and tourism sectors and of course the thousands of beer drinkers with whom I have interacted...I can't thank you enough for the wonderful journey that I have had with you.

Kathy has been there from day one through to the 30th year. Heck...I was a Molson campus rep living downstairs when we were at Queen's University in Kingston! And Helena and Clark have been great supporters of a busy dad with lots going on in our lives.

And now...The Devins Network Inc. begins a journey into the future and I look forward to seeing how we will keep these conversations alive. A toast to great possibilities ,as we embrace the future together. This Molson Coors journey has been spectacular...thanks to everyone who has helped to make it such a great experience. Cheers ! @FergDevins

@DevinsNetwork