A month ago I had the rare and exciting opportunity to help plan the announcement of Pinnacle Airlines’ corporate headquarter decision to move to downtown Memphis. It’s not a daily or regular run of the mill thing to work on something as big as this was–and still is–for Pinnacle and downtown. A double challenge was that we had to keep the decision quiet and out of the press until the recommendation was approved by the Board of Directors and the employees were notified. Bound by confidentiality agreements and sworn to secrecy, the team began putting the pieces together. In my career in PR and media relations, this announcement was probably one of the largest “newsmakers” ever! Looking back, the only way to handle breaking the news was to do it all at once and quickly. Not a day went by that I wasn’t asked about Pinnacle’s pending decision. In hindsight, the Memphis media was diligent but also respectful. The coverage of the decision, the event, the impact to downtown was expansive and good for everyone involved.
Once we had the communication pieces in play, our team moved on to plan the big event. With less than 48 hours to go, we focused on how to execute the best “pep rally” for Pinnacle’s employees at the new HQ site, One Commerce Square. The team consisted of Pinnacle’s Eric Epperson and Joe Williams, Resource Entertainment’s Paul Chandler, Center City Commission’s Paul Morris and Leslie Gower. If you can find a better team than this, you can print money. Paul Chandler–a good friend and colleague–is one of the best professional event directors ever. It takes a certain type of person that can pull off a massive event in less than 48 hours complete with the Memphis “Flippers,” Ruby Wilson and the band, food, a red carpet, goodie bags for Pinnacle’s employees, a stage & sound system and banners hung the size of Texas! If you are going to have a big event, corporate or private, don’t do it without Paul and his amazing team at REG.
Leslie Gower and Paul Morris of the Center City Commission are also rock stars in my book. In addition to the Herculean work CCC did leading up to the event, the day of the event they pulled together the downtown business community to welcome Pinnacle and helped with the logistics like blocking off part of Monroe so the buses could get thru, etc. It’s not easy to bus 500 Pinnacle employees to a single location at a certain time–with a police escort! How cool is that! Destination King handled that monumental task and they are awesome too. The Memphis Chamber’s top boss, John Moore called and offered to help with the media and thanks to Amy Daniels for her awesome support the day of the event.
I had the honor of coordinating everything for Pinnacle with this incredible team including the agenda for the event which included a stage of politicians, VIPs and the Governor of TN. Each person on the stage had 3 minutes to speak and I only had to flash the flashlight at one speaker for talking too long (but you know there’s always one). It’s like herding cats trying to get that many politicians, CEO types and the Governor to one place for one agenda. The Governor (Bredesen at the time) had his own State Trooper as his escort and driver who kept calling my cell phone to check in which I certainly appreciated. The challenge I knew I had was to get everybody on the stage, stay on time and manage the media. I was also worried the fire marshal would count heads as we probably exceeded the maximum capacity for the lobby of the building but thankfully, we were all good there. So, the event went off as planned, Phil Trenary–CEO of Pinnacle Airlines–gave his talk to the Pinnacle team of employees about the decision to relocate downtown and the significance of the decision. AutoZone employees (who relocated downtown years ago) clapped, held up signs of welcome–a signal and promise to Pinnacle that they’ll love working downtown. As the event drew to an end, I deliberately stopped and looked hard at everyone who helped make it successful. Smiles all around and big sighs of relief that such an important milestone went even better than we planned and imagined.
The team is what made it work and the only agenda was success for Pinnacle, it’s employees and our downtown community. The team worked together in a seamless fashion as if we’d done it all a million times. I think the collective experience of the team members as well as their positive and passionate attitudes made it awesome. It was a monumental day in the history of downtown and in my 20+ years of working and I will never forget the energy in that historic lobby that day. I will also never underestimate the value of an incredible team–including my own (thanks Lacey, Alys, Marc) and the importance of a good, high-beam flashlight!