This was tough. I knew I couldn’t close my chapter at Coastal Carolina University without reflecting on some of my favorite moments from the past five and a half years. But I realized I would have to exercise some restraint and limit my highlights to a number that was appropriate for a blog post. Naturally, I chose 10––but it just doesn’t seem like enough.
I smiled a lot while writing this. For nearly six years I have been spoiled with opportunities, support, and an outstanding team. These special advantages contributed to a memorable ride with defining moments. Today I would like to share them with you.
10. The Social Circle with Brent Reser: I would have embraced the role of anonymous social media dude who no one knew about, but my team had other plans. Shortly after I arrived at CCU we debuted Coastal Now, a television show that detailed the happenings of our University. Would you believe that I was given my own segment? Called the Social Circle with Brent Reser, I had a few minutes each show to tell #TEALnation the latest about #CCUSocialMedia. Given the freedom to write and present my own segment, I relished the creative control I was entrusted with. My favorite show will forever be when I made my debut.
9. In the Fast Lane with NASCAR: Because of the marketing genius of our former vice president, Bill Plate, we identified a student on our campus who was working his way up the NASCAR ranks. We signed a sponsorship deal with Brandon Brown and soon enough the CCU brand was zooming around the most famous racetracks in the nation. I had the opportunity to help leverage the sponsorship. I received all-access at places such as Bristol Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway to chronicle Brandon’s pursuits on social media. But my favorite instance of covering Brandon Brown didn’t take place on Facebook or Instagram. Rather, it occurred in print. I was tasked with writing a feature about CCU’s unique NASCAR marketing venture for our alumni publication, Coastal Magazine. Oh yeah, my story wasn’t just a regular feature––it turned out to be the COVER STORY!
8. The Hurricanes: I know it sounds insensitive that I would list hurricanes as a “favorite” moment but please let me explain. It took me a while to become accustomed to living in a hurricane-prone corner of the world. It was strange and scary at first. Having experienced this, I was able to bring a special kind of empathy to our #CCUSocialMedia audience when a hurricane threatened the area (which happened at least every year). Using a formula based on accuracy, compassion, and customer service, our team was able to deploy a social media strategy that made students and parents, many of whom were from out-of-state with no hurricane experience, feel comfortable and safe. Our Hurricane Florence social media plan won a Communicator Award for its effectiveness and creativity. This past fall during Hurricane Dorian I wasn’t just running our social media response––I also sat in the #1 spot for the communication division of our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). To literally sit shoulder-to-shoulder with our university president while we crafted communication messages was a big (and kind of intimidating) moment in my career. Being able to serve our CCU community during such vulnerable times was always a pleasure.
7. In Front of the Board: Even though I was petrified at the time, looking back on it, I still didn’t realize how big of a deal it was to address the Board of Trustees. But there I was, about a year into my tenure at CCU, standing in the Wall Ballroom in front of the trustees, the President, and every other important person at Coastal. Our department’s vice president had tasked me with delivering a 10-minute presentation on our social media program, specifically our digital success at that year’s men’s basketball NCAA Tournament. You better believe I prepared hard to properly represent our University Marketing and Communication department. But would it pay off? Fortunately on that day it did. Using analytics and humor, I won over at least one trustee who stood up at the end of my presentation and publicly commended our strategy, leading to rousing applause from everyone in the room.
6. Totality: In the summer of 2017, the nation was captivated as the Great American Eclipse swept over our country. Our social media program relied on faculty experts to teach our audience about the phenomenon leading up to the big event on August 21. When that day arrived, I jumped in a car with our vice president, Bill, and one of our videographers, Alexandra, and we drove 80 miles to a small South Carolina town called McClellansville (population 500). Why? It was one of the few places in the country that would experience the eclipse at complete totality. It was also the location where Louis Keiner, one of our physics professors, was observing and photographing the event. It was an incredible day listening to Dr. Keiner analyze what was going on and then to experience that special moment of totality was indescribable. Needless to say, our social media content on August 21 received heavy engagement.
5. Generating National Attention at the NCAA Tournament: In 2015, our men’s basketball team punched a ticket to the Big Dance. The Chanticleers earned a #16 seed and a game against top ranked Wisconsin in Omaha. Because our athletic department did not have anyone in its main marketing position at the time, I was sent to perform social media duties. Just like when I went with the University of Montana, the whole experience was amazing. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the best tournament in sports and became friends with several of the athletic department staffers. But the most memorable part of the week was engaging in a Twitter back-and-forth with the main University of Wisconsin account. We each were able to toss some playful jabs while maintaining a civil tone and proudly representing our universities. The exchange was picked up by numerous news organizations and generated a lot of positive exposure for our university.
4. Appearing in a Darius Rucker Music Video: The night before Darius Rucker rocked the HTC Center on the CCU campus, I went to bed thinking how rad it was that I would get to cover the concert. Little did I know that much more was in store. About 24 hours before the show, Rucker tweeted that they needed extras for a music video they were going to shoot a few hours prior to that Saturday’s show. I showed up to the shoot, which took place in a hallway of the arena, to document the excitement for #CCUSocialMedia. Apparently I looked more like a Darius Rucker die-hard than a social media professional because they chose me to stay through the entire shoot. I got to meet Darius, watch how a music video is made, and witness an epic concert later that night. The cherry on top came about a month and a half later when the music video for “Homegrown Honey” made its debut. Right at the 1:42 mark there is a goofy-looking blogger with a mile-wide grin across his face sharing the screen with Darius Rucker. I made the cut.
3. Working With My Team: While at CCU, I have had the honor of working with talented and dedicated marketing and communication professionals. It has been a pleasure collaborating with these individuals to reach and exceed the goals of our University. But while I am proud of the professional accomplishments, I cherish the fun we have had along the way. Whether it be Kentucky Derby parties, t-shirt exchanges, birthday lunches, karaoke nights, the infamous birthday cards, or a host of other quirky/fun things, I have been fortunate to become friends with so many great people. Thanks to Bill Plate for establishing a special MarComm culture that kicked butt in the office and had fun outside of it.
2. Representing #CCU on a National Stage: I feel like an exclamation mark was put at the end of my CCU tenure just a few months ago in Las Vegas. It was at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in Caesars Palace that I presented with Lindsi Glass, our former associate vice president for marketing and branding, in front of a standing room crowd. We earned a coveted speaker spot at our industry’s premiere conference by working together to submit a proposal about how #CCUSocialMedia was connecting with Gen Z on Instagram. After several months of preparation, we hit our presentation out of the park. The feedback we received from our counterparts at universities across the nation was sweet validation of our methods and creativity…it was the highlight of my career.
1. CCU Wins the College World Series: The summer of 2016 was like a dream. Fresh off getting married and returning from our Mexican honeymoon, the Coastal baseball team punched its ticket to the College World Series. That feat alone was enough to make our #CCUSocialMedia audience go bonkers but it was just the beginning. The Chants would land in Omaha and win…win…and win some more. When it was all said and done, our University had played on an ESPN network eight different times in 10 days and won a national championship. Back in Conway it was bedlam. Engagement on our social channels was through the roof and I told one local station that “Other than being in Omaha, I had the best seat in the house” for the magical ride. It was a surreal scene covering the team’s return to the Myrtle Beach Airport as the crowd and energy blew me away!!! The next day was even crazier as the student-athletes and coaches were celebrated with a parade through Conway followed by a ceremony inside Springs-Brooks Stadium. Not only did every piece of content we publish seem to stick but user generated content was out of this world as well. The title run by the baseball team was something every higher ed social media professional hopes for as it boosted #CCUSocialMedia to new heights. Nothing will ever compare.
Wow, it has been a ride. As I reflect on these great times at Coastal, I am so grateful that the institution empowered me to do my job and succeed. I will take these experiences with me throughout my professional career and always cherish the time I spent in #TEALnation. Thanks, CCU. Don’t Blink.