How long will your digital “footprint” last?

March 21st, 2011   •   2 comments   



This last week, I couldn’t help but think…wow, I’m on a forced “Twitter break” due to lack of wi-fi and any cell service of merit on this remote peninsula called Ft. Morgan. Imagine me without a Twitter fix? So, I found myself totally void of any good cell service. I could tweet a few from a chair directly on the beach but that was certainly not ideal with sand, water, sunscreen and kids to juggle. Thank goodness I have capable staff who can help me in times of isolation. I could not function without them if I were out of service. That being said, we did have some big news break while I was out and managed to handle it just fine.  

Here’s what I learned about myself on my Twitter Break:

  • First and most important: My Twitter friends are REAL. When you are offline and off Twitter, you truly miss your friends (you know who you are)
  • Out of sight is sometimes out of mind: some missed me, some didn’t–true also in real life;
  • Slow down in tweets = slow down of followers….Tweeting daily leads to more activity;
  • Content continues and good tweets go by without you! Yes, Twitter can live without you! 
  • I’m not so hooked as I thought. It’s OK to not tweet for a few days or more. A break is good;
  • Others are there to take your place; Don’t drop out too long. I think the best twitter break duration is a week or so; 
  • it’s ok to “check-in” during a “break”. It helps you appreciate being off for a while;
  • You find out who really misses you:)  I had people saying “I miss Amy”–not a bad feeling;
  • Missing Twitter is like missing good, happy therapy! I am lifted daily by great friends and sweet thoughts (also good content of course) and I missed that. 
  • I believe Twitter makes you a happier, smarter, better person if you follow the best people and why would you ever wanna miss out on their tweets? Twitter is life-prolonging;
  • Tweeting for me nets great information. When I’m on a break, I miss that information;
  • My kids didn’t really say much about my break; I managed to spend lots of time with them but truly, they were off with friends so I had plenty of time–if I wanted–to tweet.  

When you’re gone from Twitter for long, you’re gone….I think Twitter is like “out of sight-out of mind” and that’s why it’s important to keep up–even if only to monitor.  I think our digital footprints are like footprints in the sand–the next big wave will wash them out.  It’s up to you to keep moving to create new paths in the sand and keep the gulf waves from washing you out! Stay fresh, stay fun and stay cool–even if the waves wash you away, create new impressions and stay the Twitter course! 

Thanks for reading this and I’d love to hear your stories about taking a Twitter break and what you learned! 

Best to you all, Amy!

Charlie Sheen’s Fall and Future Rise: Will He do it? Mennnn

March 8th, 2011   •   no comments   


OK, right. I know. NO way I would ever wish to be in the path to help him. But every good PR professional out there is talking about the very amazing story today of Charlie Sheen being fired from his $2 million per episode gig “Two and a Half Men.”  I have really never been a fan of that show because at it’s height, my kids were parallel with the half and, well, let’s just say, I’m a mom so I have never loved that show. What I can relate to is how Charlie handled himself after his wild ride of what we know has been over-reported.  And, yes, here I am writing about something I swore I didn’t care about. Until today. He got FIRED from one of the biggest networks, the most profitable show on TV. Wow. How fast you can fall. Like him or not, a significant event in today’s entertainment industry.

But wait–Charlie’s on Twitter…..AH ha! He’s there talking, gathering his “tribe” (which he should have done sooner).  And preparing his “next” gig.  Trust me, he will.  He will rally.  Why? Here is my take on how he failed and more importantly, why he’ll rise to be bigger and better:  (Disclaimer: I could be wrong. And although personally I don’t respect what he’s wasted, I admit he’s compelling–even in this state of denial, so I’m drawn to watching this. For PR, for human nature, as a Mom, wife, someone his age…–all that). 

Immediate mistakes Charlie Sheen Made:

1.  Being stupid. The best policy in viral media and social is simple: Don’t be so stupid. Surely Charlie could figure this out. He didn’t. The press ate his lunch. Did he have a PR person? I’m sure some of you have followed this closely but by today’s news, I’m not sure it mattered.

2. It’s not what happens to you as much as how you handle what happens to you. Everybody makes mistakes. Even big, public ones. How you handle them makes all the difference.  We see a pattern here..Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson..Hey guys with big egos: we know you will make a mistake. We love you most when you sincerely apologize and own up to it. That’s the beauty of social media. People really value authenticity and sincerity.  You can’t hide it if you are sincere.  If you make a mistake–even a huge one–owning up, manning up–is critical. Can you think of prominent people who have made big mistakes and owned up to them? Takes a strong person to do it. My Dad always said “Strong people often make big mistakes,” and that has really been true. I think about that all the time when I’m working in PR. 

3.  Worse and worse. I hope Charlie didn’t have a PR person.  If he did, I feel sorry for them as I’m sure they tried to give him advice.  Next time Charlie (and I think there will be), LISTEN with really BIG ears! And do what they tell you (or try to).

4. Don’t be so arrogant. If you are, the public won’t help you and that’s what I’m seeing now on the media outlets. I think it’s important to note that in today’s social media, internet, viral world–you can’t afford to be arrogant. Seems being “in touch” and “down to earth” earns more love. Just Sayin’

5. Twitter may help you but it won’t save you. You have to build your tribe “before” you need it. Charlie is late to the game. Experts say that you join Twitter before you need to use it. Sheen will find that while he has loyal fans who support and follow him, he might want to be careful for what he asks for. Twitter can be very powerful (either way). You can’t just broadcast. You must *engage*. Time will tell how this plays out on Twitter. Remember Charlie–you are what you Tweet (but you know that). 

6.  Charlie Sheen is going to have to decide what type of person he is. I’m the same age (exactly one year older). He needs to decide how he wants to spend the rest of his life. At this point in “our” lives, it’s more about the “time remaining” than our age.  GROW up Charlie. You ain’t 25 anymore!  If I were his PR person….


Why I think Charlie Sheen will make a comeback:

Let me clarify that I really don’t like him.  But, I only know him through his show and now his real life PR drama.  Can you really judge someone by what you hear in the media? on Twitter? on Facebook?  The cold, true fact about PR is that perceptions become reality and if you expect to thrive, you must survive.  In Hollywood AND in life, you must have a solid reputation to produce value and work.  Charlie? You up for the clean up act? If so, I believe you can make the best and biggest comeback ever. But here’s what you have to do.  If I were your PR agent, you would thrive if you embraced the following:

1.  Clean up the drugs.  They are illegal, distracting, unhealthy and demonstrate the absolute WORST role model you could be for your kids and kids everywhere.  Just do it for your kids. 

2. Do something for others. Nothing like helping other people to help find yourself. My deepest hours have been glorified because I found the ability to focus on helping other people. Once–at a low point (to me) a woman with no hair walked into my gym. Her cancer had returned. Suddenly, my problem (I thought I had) vanished. Makes really great sense and results in good stuff. 

3. You have real, raw, great talent. It’s your ego and this obsession that has you stumped.  Get back to coaches who can help bring out the “real” Charlie Sheen–it’s there. It’s great. And you have the resources to do it. Be grateful. Most people don’t.

4. Find yourself and create a better show. Create a show that helps foster the good and employs your great humor and skill. Why not put your genius to work for good. 

5. America loves the underdog as long as he/she says they’re sorry and uses that to start over. You–of all people–can do it.

That is all. Hope this gets to Sheen on #Twitter. I’m a sucker for the underdog. Are you? I want to hear your comments! Good, bad, ugly. Thanks for listening! 

HOW TO: Land an internship thru Twitter #PR #employment #PRSSA

February 28th, 2011   •   4 comments   


As a college student, it is sometimes hard for my peers and I to differentiate the uses and then ultimately decide how we want to use social media.  Sure, my generation has basically grown up with the social networking sites, but it is hard to grasp the capabilities and power of sites focused on engagement like Twitter, when so many of our friends are simply sharing random thoughts or chatting casually with one another about nothing in particular.   

 When I joined Twitter, I began to explore, followed a few of my friends and the usual celebrities, and eventually sent out my first tweet.  I soon got bored with the casual use approach and decided I would follow influential people from all over who related to my major, public relations.  Originally from the Memphis area, I had big dreams of landing an internship or job in the city I loved. I felt it would be a challenge being a Missouri State University student, 300 miles away in Springfield, MO.  Well, what better way to learn about the people and places I’d like to work with than to listen to what they really have to say?    

 When searching for influential Memphians, it was not long at all before I began following @HowellMarketing (Amy Howell) and her wonderful team @alysdrake ( (Alys Drake) and @LaceyWash (Lacey Washburn).  Their tweets instantly stood out to me and no one I had found thus far was doing Twitter like they were.  They were reaching out, sharing news, and having friendly, relevant conversations I was interested in with people across the world.  I knew I had to find out more, so I hopped on the Howell Marketing website and soon began scouring for internship opportunities. Nothing—I was deflated.  Then it hit me.  These women talk to practically thousands of people on Twitter every day, why not me?  That was it and I had made up my mind, I was going to send a tweet to Amy Howell.  I had already begun to take pages from the books of the tweeters I admired, sharing my own PR news and engaging with my PR peers.  One of my big influencers was the Howell team, so needless to say I was nervous. 

I tweeted: “ @HowellMarketing, your website doesn’t mention a search for summer interns, are you accepting any applications? I would love to apply!” 

Much to my surprise, a short time later I got a reply: “Sure! We do have summer interns ~ send resume to @LaceyWash  @KABagley 

WOW!  I was ecstatic; I got in touch with Lacey via Twitter, she sent me her email address, then I sent my resume and cover letter onto her with high hopes and a few prayers. 

The morning Amy returned from her Christmas break, I got a phone call.  We set up a time to meet and that afternoon I was having coffee with Amy and Alys.  Now, I am proud to share that I will be interning and learning from the Howell team this summer and I could not be more eager!  This dream of an opportunity came about from simply reaching out and taking a chance on Twitter.  If you get to know the people you’re interested in and those with whom you share common interests, you are likely to not only gain new friends but so much more.


Guest Post by Kiersten Bagley

Summer 2011 Intern at Howell Marketing Strategies

Follow me on Twitter at @KABagley

#Memstorm Ignites Twitter taking Memphis by storm: Power of Twitter to Communicate in a Crisis

February 25th, 2011   •   7 comments   

 All the essentials  by @BrennanSomers


Fortunately the storm that brought The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore ( @jimcantore on twitter) to Memphis blew through with mainly straight line winds and thankfully no tornadoes.  Bad weather can strike in Memphis–sometimes without warning–and it’s always good to have a plan according to one of our favorite weather sources, Erik Proseus (aka @memphisweather1 on Twitter) who posts at and tweets his blog.  An important part of having a plan is communication and how information is shared.  Twitter is a great way to engage and share “real time” information.  Yesterday, approximately 7 hours before the storm was to hit, I received a “tweet” from a few Memphis folks on Twitter that they’d like to promote the hashtag (#) on Twitter for the storm as #memstorm.  What a great idea and something I have been talking to clients about in PR strategies and crisis communications–the importance of using hashtags to search specific information and promote a certain issue or event–like last night’s storm.   


Rachel Smith and Aaron Prather ( @rachgsmith @amprather on Twitter)–two Memphis Tweeters who I want to meet soon–suggested using this hashtag at an “Ignite Memphis II” presentation at Launch Memphis a few nights ago.  Here’s what they had to say: “The great thing about Twitter is that it gives you a platform for the exchange of ideas and information.  However, it can also be very noisy which makes it hard when you are looking for specific data–like going into a bookstore and seeing a bunch of books but not in any grouping.  For Twitter, hashtags allow these groupings to happen so we can cut through the noise and get the specific data we want and can add to it,” says Aaron.  “What made #memstorm so powerful was that you could find the data and also add to the conversation making it even richer,” he said.


This is the power of Twitter in a crisis.  If the community will accept 1 single hashtag to use, Twitter will automatically put all tweets using that exact tag into one stream.  Last night #memstorm literally took the Memphis community by storm.  With over 681 tweets last night, the statistics are there to prove this is a powerful way to communicate.  Thanks to the news media and to @MLGW who also joined using the tag which was important as getting immediate, reliable news from all sources is very important in a crisis where safety (not credit) is first.  Some tweets read: “the information in this stream is better than some of the news sites.”  As a PR person, I can tell you this is powerful stuff!  Even Jim Cantore himself didn’t have this kind of Twitter power!  But I guess he has real star power so he doesn’t need it.  Imagine if he had joined #memstorm (that would have been cool and smart of him by the way). 


Rachel Smith ( @rachgsmith on Twitter) has this observation: “The essential purpose of the hashtag is one most neglected to realize: to create one source of information for all aspects of a story or event.  Without this unity, there is no value.”  She said that at the Ignite Memphis II meeting, Aaron suggested Memphis use these tags for future events and I agree! #memtraffic (all traffic alerts) and #memstorm (for all weather alerts). 


Aaron and Rachel sent me a sampling of the stats from #memstorm on Twitter.  Using only 50 of the 675 tweets, 31,614 people were reached with 205,410 impressions.  WOW!  Powerful numbers and important information.


Rachel and Aaron believe that getting the community (government, media, civic, etc) behind this idea would help expand information shared during important events.  Without a unified single stream, these tweets just look like a bookstore without any categories or organization.


Another value to a single stream is that people were reporting in real time what was happening in their area and neighborhoods.  Weather watchers were spotting tornadoes and tweeting where they were sometimes before the news could report it.  People were tweeting when the sirens stopped faster than the news reported it. I am sure the news channels will be reviewing how to integrate and use Twitter and a hashtags during the next storm event which could be as soon as Sunday night.  My advice to them would be to embrace this idea and to watch the tweets live to verify and compare information.  We’ll be using #memstorm again of course.  This is a good way for any community to become educated and understand the power or Twitter in a real crisis.  If all power goes out, Twitter works when your TV doesn’t and we need to be ready to use it. (Make sure your phones and iPads are charged)


Thanks to everyone who got involved as I often say more heads and tweets are better than one!  When Aaron and Rachel tweeted to me that #memstorm would be used, I sent a media alert to our weather media and they joined the conversation.  For more information on how it went, go to Twitter and type #memstorm in the search bar and you can see the tweets from last night and today (they are still coming in). 


** #memstorm photo courtesy of @BrennanSomers (we love this picture!)

PR Re-Invented: SocialSlam 2011 is COMING to Tennessee #SoSlam

February 1st, 2011   •   4 comments   


I am looking forward to attending and participating in Knoxville’s #SoSlam (Social Slam) event April 13th, 2011 and meeting Jay Baer ( @JayBaer ) and Bryan Winter ( @BrianWinter ).  I am fortunate to say that I know Christina “CK” Kerley ( @CKsays ) and Trey Pennington ( @treypennington ) in real life as many of these folks came to Memphis last May for @ChrisBrogan ‘s event.  This April event, organized by my good friend and master blogger @MarkWSchaefer–is shaping up to be one of the best yet.  Along with sponsor Pyxl and Knoxville’s Social Media Club, there will be additional sponsors as we get closer to the date! 

 It will be great seeing my good friend and collegue @AnneDGallaher–one of the sharpest PR minds out there and @GlenGilmore–my go to for everything social for some of my client projects.  I’m pleased that my client @Epperson_E will be joining us on a panel to discuss the need to embrace social media for business.  In addition to Mark, these are 3 people that I know well, work with regularly, and admire tremendously.  All of these people I have met and come to know because of Twitter and social media in general.  I continue to be amazed by the power of Twitter as a business network tool and this year’s Social Slam demonstrates that.

What I love about this “crew” is they are all entrepreneurs or business owners with tangible business experience.  Their backgrounds are deep and they are successful because while they “grew up” in the traditional marketing space, they have been able to embrace the new technology and tools to further enhance their client work.  With the exception of a few–I’m not sure about everyone’s ages–the ones I know here are at least 40 and maybe a bit over 40.  Like me, these speakers were working in the trenches before we had the internet and I was working in corporate marketing before the FAX machine!

So here’s what you get to learn if you regisiter for social slam 2011.  You can register online by going to this link: PRICE is $49 and includes a free copy of The Now Revolution AND a free copy of Mark Schaefer’s new book, The Tao of Twitter (both hot off the press!)

Keynote Speakers:

  • @JayBaer: Global Top 50 marketing blogger and author of The Now Revolution
  • @CKsays: Christina is America’s foremost authority on mobile marketing
  • @TreyPennington: author, professor and one of the best personalities on the social web
  • @BrianWinter: Former VP Sun Microsystems and CMO Carpathia Inc.

4 Amazing Panel discussions:

In addtion to learning and networking a lot, Mark assures me there’s a few parties that will take place around this event! And if Mark keeps telling people on Twitter to “catch a ride with Amy Howell” I will have to rent a bus to pick everyone up as I drive across the State.  I’ll be bringing @AlysDrake with me who handles a lot of our client social media work.  We can’t wait to see everyone! Thanks Mark for organizing such a power group and including me!

Are you attending?

Raising Children While you Work: Balance & Benefits

January 30th, 2011   •   10 comments   

I’m thankful that my children do not read my blog or log onto my website.  At this teen and pre-teen stage of their lives, they have zero interest in what I do professionally.  They do however think I have a “cool job” and they have mentioned on occasion that they appreciate my earning some extra bucks to fund the things they like to do. (Like keep the heat on and put food on the table, I often reply). I was looking through my photos on my laptop and discovered these here obviously taken while they were clowning around with my computer.  I could never take any pics that would better reflect their true personality as these do and I’m so pleased to have discovered them.  Priceless!

I have been thinking about some of the facebook posts I’ve seen lately from some of the working moms I know.  They have posted things like this:  “I wish I could stay home and do crafts or bake cookies with the little one today”…”It would be a great day to take my kids to the zoo but I’m working today,”  Trust me when I say: I GET IT!  It is very hard to strike the work/mom/home balance.  I’m all for equal rights and I know dads feel this way too some but I believe in maternal instincts and most of them are in the mom (I’m not going to argue they don’t exist in men and I’m not saying here that I’m right about it all but I’m writing this from my perspective). There have been many days–especially when mine were really little–that I wondered if working was a luxury, a necessity, or selfish on my part.  Probably a bit of each.  Looking back, I’m thankful I continued working full-time including launching and growing my own business.  Having children has actually helped advance my career.  It is easy? Heck no. There were–and still are–days when I thought I’d never get one minute of time for myself.  It does get easier in some ways as they get older and the guilt of not being there vanishes when you realize they get to the age when they’d rather NOT have you around all the time.  

Here’s a list of how I think having & raising children has directly impacted my career and PR:

  • Children teach you that you don’t know everything (even when you think you do)
  • Children act like children and sometimes so do co-workers & clients–great training!
  • Children have fresh eyes and the ability to think out of the box which helps me think that way
  • Children teach you not to take things so seriously and to laugh at your mistakes
  • Children teach you time management–gone are the days of doing what you want whenever you want
  • One of the best lessons from children: patience 
  • Children can view an issue from many perspectives giving us diverse thinking
  • Children can lobby for what they want even before they speak 
  • Children are creative; I sometimes get mine to help me brainstorm on creative ideas/campaigns
  • Children are tech savvy and they’ll teach me what I need to learn
  • Teenagers can find anything on You-Tube; My son is like a walking encyclopedia
  • Children teach humility and gratitude which I believe are keys to success in business
  • Children are resilient, forgiving and tolerant: qualities needed in business

I’d love to hear some of your own experiences. I think this list could go on indefinitely!  In closing, my hat is off to all you working moms (and dads) out there and especially to the single parents! Has raising children while you work had any impact on you?

Fun Feeding South Main Police Gumbo! Good Neighbors

January 27th, 2011   •   no comments   
Recently we had the rare and great opportunity to feed the South Main Police in our office last Friday.  We just thought it would be fun to get to know our neighborhood police and feed them steaming hot seafood gumbo on a cold winter day! We had lots of garlic bread and cheese to go along and we had a great time. Thanks to Automatic Slims for providing the most delicious seafoood gumbo!  We loved meeting our downtown police and we are glad to say, they all rock!   Here’s what I learned: 
  • Being a police officer is probably one of the most important jobs we have
  • Our City police are awesome.  In the midst of all they have to do, they are cool people. 
  • They run marathons; they use apps to calculate calories; they are family people;
  • The safest place in Memphis is downtown (they say so)
  • Our police work hard to keep our streets safe and they work together
  • The police know day-to-day where our problems are–TALK TO THEM!
  • They are smart people.  One officer in particular, has a PhD in Urban Planning. He moved from California (where he was a City Planner) to Memphis to chase bad guys.
  • They love my spaghetti, gumbo and cookies:))
  • We need more Memphians to “LOVE OUR PO PO”
  • The way to the PO PO heart? IS through the stomach
  • WE LOVE our S. Main Police–You are welcome in our office 24~7

You Are What You Tweet: Content & Company Define Us

January 22nd, 2011   •   11 comments   

As little as two or three years ago for most of us, we relied on information mainly from the mainstream media.  Today, the internet is content rich (and of course has been for longer than a few years) and with “everyday” folks like me joining Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, etc. the content available is incomprehensible.  I could go into all the stats available to support it, but since that’s not where I’m headed, I’ll skip that.  Where I am headed is this: you are defined, categorized, listed, judged and perceived by both the content you post AND the company you keep. Yes, I said that and—although I don’t have the metrics to prove it—I can tell you from my own personal experience online that it’s very true.  I have tweeted “You are what you Tweet” and what I mean by that is this: If you want to be recognized for a certain type of skill, industry, vocation, cause, etc, tweet 80% of content about or relevant to that subject(s). A new 80-20 rule:  I tell clients to post 80% about business related content and 20% other stuff.  What’s other stuff? I say reserve it for this: fun with other Twitter friends, hobbies, and family—but not too much.  I think this is a good formula in general for keeping your “stream” valuable and credible, yet interesting while simultaneously demonstrating that you are indeed a real person with a sense of humor and knack for attracting like-Tweeters.  Ah-ha!


Remember when you were in high school and your parents would cringe when you mentioned hanging out with someone who maybe fell into any of these categories: A. got into trouble with parents/authorities B. Used mean words, bullied people and generally was the class jerk; C. Got bad grades because they didn’t care; D. were always sneaking out and breaking rules to get ahead…you know the types. Well guess what? Those people are still out there on Twitter and in business and all over the world.  I tell my kids now that if the kids their ages (11 & 15) are brats and bullies, they will most likely manifest those characteristics in other ways as adults.  So, just like we learned to avoid those in high school, we should also avoid them online. Birds of a feather flock together!  Simply put, I believe we are judged and evaluated by the company we keep on Twitter as well as how we debate and treat other people.


I’ll give you an example without naming names.  In Memphis currently, we have a City School Charter up for grabs (we have 2 governments) and the issue is complex, involves legal issues, is highly political and emotional—we’re talking about education and kids. As this controversy unfolds, I have been amazed by what some high profile people—including some of our local media—have said on Twitter.  Healthy and constructive debate is good.  Bashing people on Twitter? Not so much.  Talking about drinking games while our city council holds its meeting?  Not smart in my opinion.  I have watched as people of influence who might have “joined this conversation” have done the opposite—left it or decided not to share the Twitter stage with people whom they wish NOT to be associated with.  I agree.  It’s like when a client is included in a story in the media. I always want to know—of course we don’t always know—who else will be included in the story.  Like it or not, I think we are judged by the company we keep. And it’s beginning to be clear to me on Twitter as well.


It’s been documented that being positive, helpful and generous on Twitter is THE way to earn followers and a good “Twitter Rapport.”  I understand and support that but that doesn’t mean there is not a time and a place stand up for an issue or point. Just be sure you do it with grace and dignity.  People are watching to see how we handle one another online.  I believe that history will continue to write this as Twitter grows.  Be sure your “chapters” are ones you will be proud of! 

 As I wrap this, I thought a few bullet points I use for my clients might be helpful to both individuals when developing their Twitter strategy:


  • Give people benefit of doubt; I have the 3-strike rule
  • Complain constructively, respectfully
  • Debate constructively and respectfully (be civil and polite)
  • Know when to take your debate off the public stream (use DMs)
  • Assumptions can be really dangerous on Twitter! Be open minded
  • If you are in the media ask yourself this: If my tweets were published in the newspaper would I care? If my boss is reading them, does it matter?
  • Your twitter stream tells a story of who you are & what you really  think  (you can’t fake it)
  • Your twitter stream documents your work, life, play
  • Who you talk to matters—if you hang out with jerks on Twitter who are always being negative, expect more of the same to follow you (birds of a feather)
  • If you tweet too much in the 20% category, you may not get many RTs
  • If you don’t like people, you may not like Twitter
  • Remember Tweeting is: global, permanent, discoverable (as in a court of law)
  • Smart people know how to tweet: follow, watch, learn, grow
  • When tragedy or controversy strikes, your public, digital footprint will be analyzed (I expect more of this in the future)


Can you add more to this list? Thanks for reading and happy tweeting!

Roadmap to MCS School Success: Clear Vision, Exceptional Strategy, Collective Effort

January 14th, 2011   •   4 comments   

Recently I began working with Senator Mark Norris—someone I have known for 25 years—on his position regarding the current Memphis City School Board’s actions and his duties as the Senate Majority Leader (R-Dist. 32).  For the past week, our office has been fielding media calls and collecting questions for clarification, setting up interviews and generally helping him keep up with what folks need and want to know.  As a parent with two children in the public school system (Shelby County) I am also personally interested in learning more about what we can do to collectively help our children in both the city and the county, do better.  The first question we had to answer was this: Why the rush?  This is complex and important and anything worth doing is worth doing right.  That to me—is the whole point of Senator Norris’ stand.  He has said repeatedly “Unification without unity is not unity at all.”  He calls for a “measured and considered approach” to this possible combination and has been on record this week in Memphis media saying this. 

Senator Norris believes this discussion warrants a clear vision, exceptional strategies and a collective effort by all.  This includes both Mayors, City and County elected officials, the media and every stakeholder in our community.  So we have received a lot of questions today and without further delay, here are the questions with some straight forward answers by Senator Norris:


An interview with Senator Mark Norris


Q:  Simply stated, what is at the heart of this “surrender” effort?

A: The largest school system in Tennessee wants to quit and go out of business.  What happens to our children when this happens suddenly, without a plan?

Q:  What is the real question we should be addressing at large?

A:  How does the City Schools’ action improve education? Period.

Q: Why is a surrender a bad idea?

A: It’s a bad idea for a number of reasons that starts with how a system of 47,000 (3,034 SCS teachers)  students outside the City absorbs 106,000 (6,991 MCS teachers) additional students inside the City;  It’s also a bad idea to rush something so vitally important not only to the children but to Memphis and the surrounding region.  Bigger is not better in this case and our objectives should be strategic, clear and we need to know—not guess or hope—that the solutions we end up with will work.  You can’t just push this through in a vote at a meeting. 

Q:  What are your objectives in this?

A:  To protect the best of what our schools have to offer…to create new opportunities to improve education for every child in our region;  To make education effective and affordable.  To embrace this opportunity for a community-wide effort to find what works best.  To minimize disruption and to give EVERYONE an opportunity to participate but we must UNDERSTAND first.

Q: How do we do what you are advocating we do?

A:  Formulate a crystal clear, measurable strategy for restructuring that would include smaller schools, neighborhood schools, charter schools. 

Q:  What are the impediments?

A:  Confusion, ignorance, fear, lack of time to understand, lack of facts, misstatements of the law, media bias, haste (which makes waste), City of Memphis’ effort to eliminate funding schools, Avoidance of a $57 million judgment, political agendas to name just a few.

Q: Does the current TN law on consolidation of schools allow both Memphis and those outside to vote?


Q: Can you clarify SB25?

A:  SB25 clarifies that if there is to be consolidation, the planning and voting process set forth in the Education Code applies under a section 502 transfer like any other.  It also provides for orderly planning and provision of information to cast an educated vote. 

Q: Why are you involved?

A:  It’s part of my responsibility…not only as Senate Majority Leader and a senator in Shelby County, but as a citizen.  I encourage everyone to constructively engage.  I previously served on the Shelby County Commission.  I chaired the County’s education committee.  I have chaired the County Commission and was heavily involved in funding of both City and County schools.  I nominated and appointed the first African American Superintendent of the Shelby County Schools.  I think it’s important for perspective for people to understand that I’m not just picking this issue for political reasons.  It’s part of who I am and what I feel I have contributed and still want to contribute. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d want people to know?

A:  Yes. We have a “teachable moment” in time and we must take the time to learn.  All of us—not just those in charge of policy.  This outcome directly impacts every person who lives and works and learns in our region.  We have never been at such an important crossroad and we must not rush through it.


Thank you Senator Norris.  Feedback welcome!

Pinnacle Flying to New Heights with Social: A Business Case Study

December 17th, 2010   •   1 comment   

An interview with Eric Epperson, V.P. Culture and Communications by Amy D. Howell

A few years ago, I began my journey on the social media path and ultimately began helping Pinnacle Airlines Corp. develop a strategy, policy and monitoring platform for the company.  Fast forward and we’ve come a long way although I believe this is a journey that never ends.  Social media, digital “story telling” is an evolving, dynamic and quite frankly, exciting way for companies to communicate both internally as well as externally. 


Last June, Pinnacle hired Eric Epperson to help establish the kind of positive workplace culture that many world-class companies have built their reputations around. (Eric’s bio can be found at the end of this post);  Recently Eric and I sat down to talk more about how we are integrating social into the communication strategy and here’s what he had to say:


Q:  What do you think social media means in general to a corporation in general terms–the high level view?


A:  The main thing it means is dialogue, which had never been available through traditional corporate channels. We’ve gotten really good with television spots, brochures, newsletters, web sites, video-on-demand, etc. But all of those are primarily one-way “push” channels, which limit their effectiveness.


Remember in high school when you learned about the communications model? Several different versions have come out through the years, but they all involve a sender, a receiver, and a message. And most importantly they all include a feedback loop from the receiver to acknowledge they got the message (literally and figuratively). That closing of the communications loop with real-time, authentic feedback was never available to corporations (at least not effectively).


It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to reach your customers, investors, or employees; genuine, two-way dialogue was out of reach for companies before social media.



Q:  Tell us what social media means at Pinnacle right now


A:  Pinnacle Airlines Corp. is different from a lot of companies, because we really don’t have a visible external brand. We are three airlines (Pinnacle, Colgan and Mesaba) flying as partner carriers for Delta, Continental, United and US Airways. As such we’re stewards of their brands every day – in the skies and at the airport terminal. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own brand and our own culture – it just means our 7,700 employees are the single most important face of our brand (even more so than at most companies).


That’s why we’ve focused most of our social media efforts on enhancing the fifth “P” of Marketing – our People.


This is particularly important at this stage in our history. We acquired Mesaba this past July, so as we work to build a unified culture that reflects the history, spirit and values of our combined airlines, social media is a central channel.


Q:  One of the most difficult challenges for companies like Pinnacle is to get buy in from top management for understanding and integrating social into communications.  Has that been the case here?


A: Not like you might expect. Our senior leadership team is very savvy, and pays attention to trends in the marketplace. They understand the huge potential of social media, and the power of two-way communications. In fact, Pinnacle launched a Twitter handle long before I arrived, and Phil made it clear when I was hired that one of my responsibilities was to drive more purpose and integration into our social media strategy. These guys get it.


e=”font-family: Arial;”>Q: What resources have you committed to the social media program?


A: We have a team of internal and external people like you Amy, Glen Gilmore, Alex Cox, Joe Williams, Cara Sievers and me working on this daily. But social media touches recruiting, IT, HR, etc., so we have other areas of the business also involved. Right now we’re making sure we set up the channels correctly, and that we build on what we know works. It’s truly an across-all-divisions type of adoption. You can’t just put social media or digital marketing in a separate department. It involves communications and coordination with everyone. Ultimately it’s my job to coordinate all the moving parts and I think our strategy of focusing on internal uses first will serve us well.


Q:  How are you using social internally?


A:  We recently created a Facebook Community (Pinnacle People) that will ultimately become the centerpiece to our strategy. This is where we showcase video stories of our people in action – themed around our Purpose (community involvement and volunteer stories), Personalities (our unique hobbies and activities) and Performance (behind-the scenes stories of our people from all areas of the airline who keep us operating safely and on time). It’s also a place to share news about our company. And perhaps the most popular feature has become the growing number of photo galleries from across our airlines. People love to make a connection with their peers and feel like they’re part of something bigger, and Facebook is tailor-made for that.


Q:  Externally?


A:  Our Facebook community, while geared toward connecting our people, is attracting a growing following from the general public – folks interested in learning more about our airline and our culture. And we welcome that.


We also have a YouTube channel to showcase and share those people-focused video stories that are cross-promoted on Facebook. And we’re very involved in LinkedIn for recruiting as well as virtual collaboration.


But our primary external channel is our Twitter feed (@pinnacleairline). We use this to provide travel tips and promote vacation ideas (true to our business model). For instance, when the TSA screening procedures story started to trend so furiously, we provided information to help the traveling public separate myth from fact, and get through airport security more smoothly. But it’s also our first PR channel when things happen – from announcing our new headquarters decision to giving updates when a major terminal in ATL was temporarily closed due to a power outage. And of course we work closely with our mainline airline partners to re-tweet relevant information posted by their teams.


Q:  What benchmarks will you use to determine the much touted “ROI” of social media?


A:  We are already realizing the impact of our plan. Our monitoring alone has been huge for us.  We’ve found things we didn’t know we could find.


In the days leading up to announcing the Mesaba acquisition, we got a kick out of all the “verified rumors” circulating about who was buying them. Ironically, for all the speculation not one person suggested that it would be Pinnacle buying Mesaba so we never had to go to our leak plan. We used social media extensively to listen to the chatter during the recent FAA reauthorization legislative hearings, and their regulatory changes regarding pilot fatigue and additional minimum flight hours. As a result, we didn’t get one media call that we weren’t prepared for because we knew what the hot topics were.


We have internal goals set for our Facebook fan page and believe that will be a great repository for employees to ultimately share their own Pinnacle stories. User-generated content is a great way to deliver that dialogue I talked about earlier.


Q: This last question is one we hear all the time: What if someone posts something bad on your page or talks badly about the airline online?


A:  They will anyway whether we are there or not – it’s just the nature of the business. We’d rather know, address it and correct it. That’s the spirit of our management team and ultimately what got everybody to the table to embrace this.


One of the great things about social media is it gives a voice to the more moderate points-of-view, which almost always represents the vast majority but traditionally has been drowned out
by the extremes on either side of an issue. Not surprisingly, if one member of the community goes online to post something negative, we usually have another member step in to clarify or refute it before we have time to. 


Thank you Eric, for this great interview!  There’s a comment section on this blog we’ll watch and respond to if we get any feedback.  Before we close, here’s an example of an internal video we made now on facebook and You Tube which speaks to the “People Matter” value in our mission at Pinnacle.  Watch as Pinnacle soars to new heights in social. Thanks for reading and we look forward to your feedback and sharing.

Pinnacle People Video

About Eric Epperson: Joined Pinnacle Airlines Corp. 7/10. Previously at FedEx Corp. for past 9 years as Director of Workforce Communications responsible for planning and organizing strategic employee communications covering 290,000 FedEx team members. Recognized for his contributions, Eric was awarded the FedEx “Five Star Award”—the company’s highest honor for personal performance.  Prior to FedEx, Eric served as Director of Communications for AutoZone.  A native of Slidell, LA, Eric earned his BA in journalism and advertising from the University of Mississippi.  He is married with two children and enjoys sports, the outdoors and aviation.

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