[Interview]: 3 Communication Tips for Big Brands from a Former C-Suite Executive

The number one marketing challenge of any big corporate brand is building a personable relationship with customers. With the rise of social networking, the internet has become the holy grail of communications to the masses. Never before has it been easier for brands to connect with customers all across the world.

1e23951I sat down with Ferg Devins to discuss how big brands can create meaningful conversations with customers. Ferg is PR and communications professional who spent 30 years working at Molson Coors, most recently as the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer in Canada. Today, he leads his own consulting firm called “The Devins Network” where he helps brands drive strategic tactical conversations.

From our interview I gathered three key learning points and highlighted them below:

1) Social networking is a two way conversation

Often time people make the mistake of siloing social networks like Facebook and Twitter as a platform to just push messages. In reality, this is entirely not the case. Push messages are actually seen more commonly as spam. A study recently conducted by Kahuna shows that a whopping 60% of smartphone users opt-out of push notifications.

“20 years ago, we would sit around a dinner table, have a conversation and that would be networking. Today, the dinner table conversation is taking place on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any number of social networks out there.”

Ferg reiterates how a good conversation involves a dialogue, much like something you would have at dinner. The challenge brands face is finding a way to be part of these intimate dinner conversations.

A simple way to spark a meaningful conversation is to write and send personable tweets. Whether it’s in reply to a customer complaint or giving someone a virtual high five, the opportunity to connect with customers around the world is endless. Companies who do this well will build strong loyalty and a rich brand.

2) Understand what the audience desires to hear

To deliver great content, one must figure out and understand what the audience wants to hear. Learning what is and isn’t important about your product will steer your communication positioning the correct way.

“As opposed to a regular tweet, you could ask a simple question, it will provoke a customer response.”

An easy way to do this is getting direct feedback from customers. Whether it is in the form of a survey, email reply-thread, or a tweet, asking your customers for answers will help shape your communication strategy. As always, a personalized message is king – no one wants to read something automated. Here’s a great post outlining how you can craft such messages.

3) Timely responses

Timeliness is an extremely important factor when building your brand. Moments of happiness lose their appeal over time. What would resonate with you more? A reply from your favorite coffee shop saying thanks for visiting 45 minutes after your morning tweet or 24 hours? The general rule of thumb is “sooner the better”.

“If you tweet me within the hour, that means something! But if you tweet me back in 3 days it has less meaning. Response time is so critical. Anything over 24 hours is less impactful”.

Given the popularity of social networks, customers today have high expectations of brands. A recent study concluded that a Twitter response within 1 hour is expected by 53% of people when asking a question and 72% when making a complaint. Not only is it important to be timely with positive interactions but even more so when dealing with negative interactions.


I would like to thank Ferg for agreeing to do this interview and for sharing his insightful thoughts. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and visit his consultancy, The Devins Network. To wrap up this up, we asked Ferg a few fun questions!

Unique Fact

I do great political impersonations. Check them out on Youtube!

Pet Peeve

The misuse of social networking in politics.

Book Recommendations

The Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol

Cups of Coffee a Day

Too many.

Favorite Saying/Quote

Life is not a dress rehearsal.

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