You are a Brand

You are a Brand

Good provocation !? "You are a Brand", provokes a rather interesting and diverse response from those to whom I pose this question. My provocation is that You are a Brand.

In a world of social "media", I propose that individuals are brands. What do I mean by brand ? Well, I think of the individual as a persona, offering something to the world, bringing value to their community, providing a service or product, being a voice with opinion and their stance on issues. You are a brand.

Whether studying in college or university with an eye to your future, whether mid career, whether semi-retired or fully retired. You are a brand, and a brand worth paying attention to and developing. Brand reputation ? Got it ! Yes...you also have a reputation. Because you are a brand.

I am also convinced that through social networking and conversations, how people relate to you is in some ways similar to how people choose other brands of choice. With the risk of sounding somewhat static or cold I do think that people do people choose you. They choose to engage with you, buy from you, hang out with you, socialize and in many instance develop a relationship and friendship with you. Why ? The relationship is due to common thinking, shared interests, community like mindedness, perhaps a political or religious association or a connection through your kids school or walking a dog. But in all of this there is a brand essence of you in that relationship. You emote character and persona and that is the basis of your brand. You are a brand.

So..that said, you can do something with that foundation, or just let it be what it is in its most simplistic form. If left under developed your brand has a good base, but is not directed by you - it is more likely directed but what is going on around you. I propose that you can build a brand for you, whether in business within someone else's business or some other entity, in your own business or as a solopreneur. (I like that one). You are a brand.

Another thought is that you likely offer certain things to your community. You may be a leader or a follower or an observer. You likely have certain interests and thus show up with those interests emotionally. That could be as a hockey fan, a parent, a coach, a philanthropist, a care giver, an executive, a line worker. Whatever "you are doing" that is part of your brand.

If you work for a large company, medium business or for someone - that is also likely part of your brand. A good example of this was me at Molson Coors for 30 years. My twitter profile was @MolsonFerg (now @FergDevins). I transferred for Molson Coors attributes of their values, their business, their brands and their presence in community. After leaving Molson Coors I maintained a strong commitment to community, a desire to help others, and some industry involvement. So those brand attributes of Ferg Devins carry forward...but I continue to evolve and establish my own brand - communicator, collaborator, community leader, volunteer, conversationalist, lobbyist, marketer etc. But all of this is now as Ferg Devins and Devins Network...rather than an extension of brand Molson Coors.

Am I making sense ? If this triggers something for you great. I think that each of us has an opportunity to build our own brand, to connect with our community, to work our social networks to add value to our communities and to lead. You are a brand.

So what might you do on this little nudge to better develop your brand? Do your social networks have a common thread could they possibly look like four or five different people ? Is there synergy ? Is there alignment in imagery and what you stand for ? It's work in progress, but you are a brand.

What brand do you see in your mirror ? Have some fun with this. Hopefully "on brand" I've started a conversation for you. Cheers !
@FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Public Relations - Essential on Your Team

In recent years, it feels like public relations, community relations, social media have become a bit blurred. In fact I see that some organizations still tend to group these various "communications strategies" in different silos of their organization. Some choose to place public relations in a corporate affairs group, some pull it into overall marketing and communications. I've also seen public relations largely "out sourced" and more of a "crisis management" call when needed. I like keeping communications leadership and strategy inside where they are close and "on the ready" when needed. Living the culture and knowing the people is an essential part of effective responsiveness.

Frankly my perspective and stance on the matter is that public relations (which I would suggest included PR, social media, corporate reputation and community outreach) is a critical role that should have high profile and some influence within and organization. They need to be in the "know" to have the greatest benefit for your business.

In a world where the news is instantaneous and on "twitter" within seconds, organizations need to be nimble, responsive and open to engage in conversations quickly on line and in the media to manage the impact to reputation. The old days of calling back the reporter, assessing their context, asking them when their story would run, completing a fact check, digging in on the "real intent of the story", offering the "key message" have long since passed us by. However, the principles and protocols of that procedures are now accelerated to unfold in minutes. Thus, the role of the public relations or communications individual or department within the corporate or business structure is critical.

Would you turn that "twenty something" over to the business reporter calling in from the Globe and Mail or National Post ? I think I know your answer. So...let's make sure that your business in paying real attention to how well equipped and ready that "twenty something" is to respond to the conversations that will unfold in the social media channels. It sill requires a trained professional communicator that understands public relations and has the total backing of the c-suite to ensure that reputation of the business (small, medium or large) is protected.

Further...for public relations and communications folks...you must take the stand for your position and role. Playing the victim role of "they call me too late, I'm called in at the 11th hour, they leave it too late" are all excuses that your could have challenged and changed. Educate the leaders in your organization about the "new media". Help them to prepare for the possible conversations that could unfold in social channels. Like you would have prepared for various situations that might happen in the business, you can prepare potential responses so that they are ready when you need to respond within seconds to a conversations in social media channels.

Cheers to conversations and being part of them - it takes listening and a state of preparedness to respond. Public Relations - essential on your team. @FergDevins


A shout for service well deserved...U-HAUL

OK, if you are the on line "monitor" for posts about U-Haul, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this post is going to be nothing but kudos, cheers, a toast and a big hooray for your team !

What is service? To me, it is as simple as a promise or contract that is made between the service provider and the customer. That promise or contract would assume that at a very high level everything should go according to each others' "plan" or "assumptions".

Moving my daughter in Ottawa last weekend, I had the need to lease a U-Haul van for transportation. I booked on line, which was an easy peasy experience (still don't know why they don't require a deposit but not fussed). I booked on line, had it confirmed for downtown Ottawa, and then a few days before heading down, it showed as confirmed for Richmond Ontario. (30 minute drive from downtown).  I called the original location, pulled up the rez number and they passed me on to the dispatch, located in Montreal. The agent on line in Montreal advised that I wanted it for "two days" and that the only two day avail was Richmond. I exclaimed that this was crazy and that I would look at alternate times to make my vehicle pick up and drop off closer to downtown.

When we arrived in Ottawa Friday, I called dispatch again to be advised that they had left me a message on my voice mail (which being a social networker I hardly check, shame on me). However, the agent had worked to resolve my situation and find me something closer to downtown. We seemed to locate something downtown, as long as I didn't have to tie it up for two days. That was easy, four to six hours would fit the need. We locked in for the rental, thanks all around and we continued to do chores. THEN, I got an email notification Saturday morning that my vehicle was ready for pick up. Whoops ! I forgot to re-adjust the rez date and time to Sunday morning. Back to dispatch, and they were just outstanding in working with me. The original location was not going to be open Sunday, so I had to book with an agent in Gatineau. Bit of a long cab ride, but I needed the van.

Cab ride out, cab ride back but I had a great van. The agent in Gatineau was there at 8am sharp. I got into Ottawa, did the moves and got the van back to Gatineau on time. I'd asked the agent if he'd like a coffee. He said no thanks doesn't drink coffee after noon, just Diet Coke. You can imagine I landed him a Diet Coke !

So...I was likely a nightmare as a "client" but U-Haul was simply masterful in managing my foul ups and landing me what I needed to get the job done. Needless to say, I was happy to tweet my satisfaction and fill in the follow up survey. That was the other impressive follow up that I noted in their software, booking, confirmation, follow up, survey receipts etc. To cap it all off, and one thing that I'm a huge believer in, U-Haul has terrific "listening" on Twitter. They are quick to respond and direct in their follow up.  Just a truly smooth top rate customer experience. Thanks U-Haul !  @FergDevins


Let's Start Shouting out for PANAM 2015

If you are like me, after witnessing and living the Olympic and Paralympic fever over the past month, I am pumped for our athletes and inspired for what PanAmTO2015 can be for our city and the greater Toronto region and Golden Horseshoe. It's time to start shouting out for PanAm2015.

It's time to get beyond the "politics" of the games and leave that to the politicians and their banter. WE as a community and as communities can now embrace the games for what they will be for our youth and for our greater community for years to come. There will be more than 10,000 athletes and supporting team members descend on the Golden Horseshoe in the summer of 2015. That is pretty exciting, to say the least. It is to me, what about you ?

I sat back and thought about what bodies, channels and voices could start to amp up the shout for PanAmTO2015. My list is only a short list. I am sure that upon reading this others will have many more ideas for how we can bring the voice of the games to life with strong emotion and pride for what we will see in this - the largest sporting event ever to be hosted on Canadian soil. Let's join together and start creating the positive voice and legacy that these games will represent.

My list...feel free to add to this...and let's engage with our communities to lend a voice to the games. Together we can start shouting out.

COUNTRIES - there will be 41 countries participating in the games. With Toronto and the region being such a cultural mosaic, one has to believe that each of those countries is represented in Canada by an association, community organization or social club.

SPORTS - there will be 49 different sports taking place at venues across the region. These sports all have organizing bodies, sponsors, supporters and aspiring youth and retired alumni. Let's start talking up these games.

COMMUNITIES - The venues are spread across so many different geographic regions of the GTA. Let's bring this proud moment to life through our community of venues.

EMPLOYEES - All of those who are working for PanAm2015 (300 ?) have a special voice to bring to the games because you are living it day in day out. Bring your experience to life, talk to us about the joy, spread the news about the games and all that it will be

MUNICIPALITIES - Many cities, towns and burbs will be benefitting from various elements of the games whether a venue, athletes, training or random associations. Municipalities and your elected officials and staff...come to the party and speak out.

SUPPLIERS - Although the interest might be "commercial", suppliers to the games are also benefitting and have good reason to thank the games and shout out the benefits that these games are bringing to the region in economic activity leading up to, during and post the big event.

SPONSORS - Every brand, business or individual that has chosen to be a sponsor or partner of the games has a chance to build their brand association and bring voice to the games. With the opportunity to link your brand to the games you have an opportunity to support the passion of the games through your social and traditional media channels. It will be great to see you stepping up and out with your support.

TOURISM BODIES - 10,000 plus participants and how many spectators and visitors will be landing in our region?  Tourism bodies in the Golden Horseshoe have the power to build the experience of the region based on the excellence that these games will portray

PROVINCIAL MINISTRIES - How many provincial ministries are linked to the games in some obvious or behind the scenes role. You too can bring voice and promotion to the games in a powerful way through your social and traditional communications channels.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT - The Federal government has made a significant investmen in the games for PanAm2015. Let's move past the politics of the games and focus on the promotion of this once in a life time event. Let's bring the power and energy of our federal government to light it up in all your social and traditional channels.

ATHLETES - Oh my goodness...the heart of the games, our athletes. YOU are the bright light of these games, the participating athletes who can bring your voice to lighting up the social channels and seeding your stories with the press. Let's get those ambassadors actively engaged in telling their heart tugging stories.

GYM TEACHERS - What can be more exciting that to be a gym or physical education teacher having the opportunity to shine a light on these games for aspiring athletes in our school system whether, public, secondary or post secondary. If you embrace these games, they will be a legacy for our youth in creating passion for participation, motion and active lifestyles.

THE PRESS - Ok...I get that there is a great banter of politics related to the games. BUT, the games are on, the athletes will be arriving, the venues will be built, the village will be full...it's time to look at the games and the sport legacy that can be achieved. Where are those voices that respect that this is a competition at a level that drives futures for summer athletes in the Americas, including our Canadian athletes. When the press come on side we can start to build tremendous voice for these games.

ATTRACTIONS - Visitors mean traffic, traffic means chatter, chatter means great brand building. Attractions across the region can lend a voice in building momentum and interest for visiting delegation and spectators.

VOLUNTEERS - Although the recruitment of volunteers is still to come, let's hear from those that want to get involved, engaged and live the moment of these games. These games will truly be a wonderful experience for anyone that gets involved and our volunteers will help to be ambassadors for the region, our province and our country. Lend your voice...it is an important one.

LABOURERS - Across the region labourers, tradespeople and businesses are benefitting from the games. What a great opportunity to lend your voice on how this is impacting you and your life through the construction and building of the games.

OK...I know I've only covered a few avenues of what I feel are potential "voices for PanAm2015". Perhaps you have more to add. Or just take a few seconds to tweet or post this on Facebook or in Google+ or in your social network and enrol family, friends, neighbours colleagues and your community in what will be a wonderful legacy for our region - PanAm2015.

Cheers to the games...bring your voice to the games today...time to start shouting out! @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.