Two Special Students

This afternoon at around 3:30 p.m., our social media team at Coastal Carolina University will decrease by 66%. At that time, President DeCenzo will be telling the students gathered in the HTC Center to move their tassels from the right to the left. When Eddie Harris and Monica Trepiccione follow the President’s instructions, they will effectively conclude their time with #CCUSocialMedia. I am a little sad about that.

I was very lucky to have Eddie and Monica serve as my social media interns.

Although I am lucky to work with incredible content creators within our University Communication department at CCU, I only have two people working directly in the social media program with me. Eddie has served as my intern for two years and Monica for one. They have both contributed to our social media program immensely and their services will be sorely missed (click here to watch the tribute video we made for Monica and Eddie).

I am going to miss these two!

When I speak to classes, I always tell them my job is awesome. I brag that I have the privilege of interacting with thousands of people via their computer or smart device each day and that I get to represent a first class university in a very public/visible manner. However, I then add that while both of those job duties are cool, nothing is better than the opportunity I have to work with students. Working with Eddie and Monica has reinforced this incredible perk even more.

This is Eddie and I at a senior recognition event in April.

I don’t know where our social media program would be if not for Eddie and Monica; surely not one of the best in the country. Both of these young people brought creativity and perspective to the office each day and helped keep CCU current and fresh in the higher education social media world.

Monica and I (and Ethan) at a #CCUSocialMedia event in October.

Don’t think they hung out and tinkered around on Facebook for the duration of their internships. They did the dirty, grassroots work needed to keep a social media program afloat. I had them running around campus each day, recruiting students for campaigns, covering events where they stuck out like a sore thumb, stringing together lengthy Snapchat stories, perfecting content for me to post on our major channels, and much more. They worked non-business hours, they covered events that I couldn’t attend, and they even worked from home.

I wish both Eddie and Monica the best of luck.

But besides just excelling at their jobs, both were genuine and compassionate people. They asked me about Sloan, inquired about Sidney, patiently explained trends, joked around, and always asked what they could do to further assist. What more could I ask for?

Eddie and Monica didn’t just have an impact on #CCUSocialMedia, they had an impact on me. I can’t wait to watch them graduate today and then keep tabs on them as they find plenty of success in the future. I am extremely appreciative for all they have done and I will always remember them fondly. Don’t Blink.

Yet Another Great #CCU Holiday Video

To watch the 2017 #CCU Holiday Video, click here

A true test of talent can be found in versatility. Sure, we are all good at certain techniques and areas within our respective jobs. However, are we gifted enough to produce positive results when we decide to switch gears?

I pose this question to celebrate the success of the 2017 #CCU Holiday Video.

Today at noon, we released our latest annual installment of digital cheer. This year’s holiday video came after a string of successful predecessors, culminating in our 2016 hit that took our campus by storm and smashed view records.

The 2016 #CCU Holiday Video was a massive hit and left a lot to live up to this year.

The task to follow up last year’s viral sensation fell on the shoulders of the duo who created the monster in the first place. Our senior marketing director, Lindsi Glass, and our production manager, Geoff Insch, teamed up again to produce the 2017 version.

What would these two content creator geniuses come up with this time? Having built a successful reputation for creating catchy and creative videos that go outside the norm and push the envelope, did they have another idea up their sleeves that would once again include an original song, a well-known pop culture theme, and over 200 extras?

It is to relief of many that I only appear in the 2017 #CCU Holiday Video once. My cameo comes at the very end when I hold up the letter “H” in the word “Holidays.”

Not this year.

Instead of piggy-backing off of 2016, they pulled a 180. Rather than go for the funny bone, they went for the heart. To say the least, it worked.

This year’s video stars an 6-year-old girl named Lilly. A real life member of the emerging population of young people growing up with teal blood already circulating through their veins, Lilly writes a holiday letter to President DeCenzo. As he starts to read it, a voiceover by Lilly clues in the audience about what was written. Penning the letter in a very eloquent manner for someone just 6 years of age (with perhaps a little bit of help), she expresses what makes Coastal Carolina so special while exclaiming “there’s just so much to be proud of.”

The video centers on Lilly, a natural star.

During the voiceover, our beautiful campus is showcased and some of the people who make it such a great place are featured. But between the beauty shots of #TEALnation and the images of President DeCenzo and Mrs. DeCenzo gushing over the note, there is a heartwarming dynamic that plays out between Lilly and the person who sticks close to her side throughout the video.

Caroline Smith is our university editor and Lilly’s mom. She was nice enough to stand in for a crucial supporting role in the production. The mother-daughter relationship is hinted at throughout the entire video but it isn’t fully revealed until the very end. When the connection is finally disclosed, it is done in the sweetest way; a way in which has made our #CCU community tear up all day long, a way in which makes it mandatory that you watch it, a way in which will truly make you appreciate what Lindsi and Geoff accomplished.

Lilly and Caroline work together to provide a classic and touching performance.

It was no simple task following up last year’s video, especially with a completely different concept. But our University Communication staff pulled it off and once again made our entire CCU community proud. To Lindsi, Geoff, Caroline and, last but not least, Lilly – great work! Don’t Blink.

Beyond Blogging: Writing A Cover Story

Something came to reality this past week that I would count as a career highlight. Interestingly enough, it had nothing to do with social media or even digital marketing. Rather, it had to do with another skill I am passionate about.

On Wednesday, I was delivered a copy of Coastal Magazine, the biannual alumni publication at Coastal Carolina University. For those of us who have any knowledge of colleges, we know that the alumni magazine at any university is one of that institution’s premiere showcases, a major periodical that is the result of hard work, extensive planning, and the efforts of many.

When I was delivered the latest issue, I held it in my hands and took a long look at it, staring at the intense-looking NASCAR driver on the cover. It became apparent that soon thousands of people would open the magazine and learn his story, reading the words of a grateful CCU staffer who was given the opportunity to tell it.

This is the Fall 2017/Winter 2018 Coastal Magazine issue.

It was my honor to write the cover story for the Fall 2017/Winter 2018 issue of Coastal Magazine.

It was cool to see my name underneath the title of the cover story.

I accepted my position at Coastal Carolina because it gave me an opportunity to primarily focus on and manage the social media program of an entire university. However, I also made the best decision of my life because I knew I would be able to nurture other pursuits as well.

I had the honor of writing the cover story of the latest Coastal Magazine issue.

I serve on the magazine committee at CCU. I have the pleasure of contributing a regular social media section to the publication and I have written shorter features for it over the past few years as well. However, this was my first time undertaking the task of writing the cover story.

A look at the first several pages of the story.

I was asked to write it on Brandon Brown, a student at CCU who happens to be a NASCAR driver. I have become familiar with Brandon as I have traveled to a couple of his races and reported on his accomplishments via our social media channels. Additionally, this summer, he worked in my office once a week, learning about what it takes to run a social media program at an institution of higher learning. Because of my familiarity with Brandon, I was a good candidate to write the story. When our magazine editor asked me to take on the project, I enthusiastically accepted.

I have become familiar with Brandon over the past couple of years.

After significant research, two in-depth interviews with Brandon, and hours composing the piece, I submitted the story. Our talented University Communication team took it from there. Doug Bell, the magazine editor I have mentioned (he also serves as the director of media relations), polished my piece and made it better. Our photographers contributed incredible images, including the cover photo, to bring the story to life. Our graphics team came up with the layout of the piece and created an outstanding infographic to explain Brandon’s successful career. Our video production personnel put together content that allows the Coastal Magazine digital audience to cruise around in the passenger seat with Brandon.

A look at some of the photogaphy and graphics our talented team produced.

What resulted from the teamwork is a beautiful 10-page spread smack dab middle in the latest issue of Coastal Magazine. If not for the talents of my co-workers, the story of Brandon Brown would just be 1,000 words of text and no one would read it. To Doug, Rob, Regis, Scott, Judy, Jady, Ron, Caroline, Mona, Geoff, and others – THANK YOU!

Thanks to all involved for making the story look so good.

I realize I have a reputation as a blogger. I put together crappy top five lists and Thursday Rundowns. But underneath that blogging façade is a soul that enjoys the challenge of composing quality writing. I am thankful that I have an outlet to do that at CCU. Don’t Blink.

This Is My Thursday Rundown for 5-11-17

Welcome back to Don’t Blink. Wherever you are, I hope you are getting some decent spring weather. Here we go with my latest Thursday Rundown…

Date Nights – Sidney and I spent part of a couple evenings this past week enjoying time together. On Saturday night we attended an Alice In Wonderland-themed Kentucky Derby party where we watched Always Dreaming gallop to victory. Then, last night, we attended a Coastal Carolina baseball game. The evening was absolutely gorgeous as we chomped down on ballpark food and relaxed in the friendly confines of Springs Brooks Stadium. Although the Chants ended up falling to the College of Charleston, 6-5, it was a pleasant experience. Thanks to Sidney’s family for watching over Sloan in both instances!

Sidney and I enjoyed our date nights at the Kentucky Derby party (left) and the Coastal Carolina baseball game (right).

So Much Energy – It was revealed yesterday that LSU’S head football coach, Ed Orgeron, drinks 8-10 energy drinks PER DAY. If I just drink ONE energy drink per day my head is spinning and my heart is pounding. To think about a 55-year-old man downing 10 Rock Stars in eight hours makes my body want to explode for him.

How can a person drink 10 energy drinks in a day?

New Great Value Ice Cream Flavors – Last summer, the world was stunned when the Walmart brand of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was judged superior by Sidney over such powerhouses as Ben & Jerry’s and Blue Bunny. Empowered by the results of the blind taste test, I no longer felt embarrassed buying the Great Value brand. Last weekend, I noticed that more flavors are now available. Great Value has stepped up its game by offering more creative options such as an I Love Peanut Butter flavor and a Smores flavor. But what captured my taste buds was the Banana Puddin’ flavor. A banana flavored ice cream infused with a whipped cream ribbon and loads of vanilla wafer pieces, you might find yourself going back for another bowl. In my opinion, it is a perfect selection for the upcoming summer season. Next time you are at the ice cream aisle in Walmart, make sure to buy generic!

Banana Puddin’ ice cream by Great Value is something that both Sloan and I really like.

The Latest of Sloan – Each day, Sloan seems to get cuter. Likewise, each day I seem to grow as a dad. It is the perfect combination! Life is good and there is no greater joy than coming home at the end of the day and seeing my wife and daughter. Here is the latest photo collage of Sloan.

The latest photos of Sloan Anne Reser

Still Enjoying Southern Fast Food – Three years ago on this date, I ate at both a Waffle House and Bojangles for the first time…talk about a calorie binge! Both restaurants offered a tasty dining experience and 1,095 days later I still enjoy both places. However, I definitely eat at Bojangles more than Waffle House. There is a location right next to our house as I am quite fond of the Cajun filet biscuits for breakfast and the chicken rice bowls for lunch/dinner. A day later on May 12, 2014, after my arteries became unclogged, I blogged about the epic day of Southern fast food cuisine.

Three years ago on this date, I ate at Bojangles (left side of collage) and Waffle House (right side of collage) for the first time in my life.

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Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend and most of all make sure to have a very happy Mother’s Day. Don’t Blink.

A Very Fulfilling Final Four Year

Never before have I enjoyed a Final Four so much. In fact, never before have I enjoyed TWO Final Fours so much.

The storylines were thick for me this past weekend.
1. I had my hometown team going up against the team of the state I now live in.
2. I had my favorite college basketball team going up against my father-in-law’s favorite college basketball team.
3. The chance for another major state university in South Carolina to join Coastal Carolina (school I work at) and Clemson as national champions was on the table…twice.

In the end, it all seemed to work out perfectly. Well, I should probably wait until later tonight to say that. But as of right now, things are about as good as they can be.

Gonzaga defeated South Carolina in the men’s basketball national semifinal round on Saturday night. To be honest, I was cheering for the Bulldogs all the way. I have roots with Gonzaga and I have cheered for the Zags my whole life so I couldn’t help it. However, if the Bulldogs did stumble, it wouldn’t have completely destroyed my life. I would have taken solace in the fact that my wife (who openly cheered for the Gamecocks during the game) and my father-in-law would be happy campers. I also would have delighted in the fact that it would set up South Carolina to win a national championship and make our state look really good. If you remember, CCU won the baseball title in June and Clemson took home the football trophy in January. For the University of South Carolina to complete the trifecta with a basketball title would have been huge.

Turns out that even though the Gamecock men ended up losing, a basketball national championship for the state was still won. The women’s basketball team at the University of South Carolina cruised through the women’s Final Four to achieve glory. The Gamecock ladies defeated giant slayer Mississippi State to bring the third major NCAA sanctioned national championship to the Palmetto State in nine months.

Don’t think the Chanticleers and Tigers wanted to see the Gamecocks falter on the national title stage. Both fan bases of CCU and Clemson enthusiastically cheered for the University of South Carolina, a sentiment that was shared on social media by both schools. I had the pleasure of working with Robbie Fitzwater, Clemson’s social media director, to engage in a good natured Twitter dialogue that left no doubt that our schools stood behind our rival in Columbia. The conversation was a huge success as it was heavily retweeted and picked up by the media.

We ended the dialogue with GIFs wishing South Carolina good luck. The GIF rotated between a CCU baseball national championship graphic, a Clemson football national championship graphic, and a South Carolina Final Four graphic.

So with Gonzaga advancing to the national championship and with the state of South Carolina already capturing its third national title in nine months, there remains just one thing left to do: The Bulldogs need to win!!

It would be a huge deal if the little Jesuit school in eastern Washington pulled off the win tonight against North Carolina. It would make me extremely happy and it would cap the most memorable Final Four year of my life. Let’s see how it all plays out. Go Gonzaga! Don’t Blink.

An Original and Impactful Holiday Video

To watch the 2016 #CCU Holiday Video, click here.

Today, we released an annual piece of content here at Coastal Carolina University. At noon, the 2016 #CCU Holiday Video premiered on our social media channels and our website. Although it has only been live for roughly seven hours, analytics and reaction from our social media users seem to prove that the video is already a smashing success.

The #CCU holiday video is outstanding. (This is a screenshot from the video).

The #CCU holiday video is outstanding. (This is a screenshot from the video).

Although a holiday video at Coastal is an annual tradition, this year’s edition is anything but traditional. That was by design. Our senior marketing director, Lindsi Glass, and our production manager, Geoff Insch, set out to create something that was completely original. The duo worked extremely hard to put something together that was not only creative but also embodied the Coastal Carolina University #TEALnation spirit. To say they succeeded is an understatement.

The premise of the video is this: the President of our University observes the performance of a traditional choir singing a traditional song. He steps in and suggests that the group might benefit by adding “more cowbell.” From there, the video takes off…

The video starts with a subdued choir scene but then takes off. (This is a screenshot of the video).

The video starts with a subdued choir scene but then takes off. (This is a screenshot from the video).

Using the talents of both students and faculty, a rocking track begins that includes witty rap lyrics, powerful vocals, and killer guitar playing. While the song is performed, different groups on campus are captured jamming out. A wide variety of Coastal entities from our national champion baseball team to our financial aid office to our housing staff to our deans to even our CCU NASCAR driver are all showcased getting their rock on. In the end, well over 200 Chanticleers were featured.

A scene from the video. This took place on Prince Lawn. Can you spot a "Don't Blink" author trying to dance?

A scene from the video. This took place on Prince Lawn. Can you spot a “Don’t Blink” author trying to dance? (This is a screenshot from the video).

But I will stop there and just let you watch it. Seriously, it is worth three minutes of your time. Lindsi and Geoff took a big chance with creating this type of holiday video and I think the risk paid off immensely. As people have already echoed on social media and elsewhere, this production makes you proud to be associated with Coastal Carolina University. In my opinion, it does an outstanding job at showing that we are a close knit, creative, and big time institution.

What makes this year's holiday video so unique is that actual students performed the vocals to the original song that was written.

What makes this year’s holiday video so unique is that actual students performed the vocals to the original song that was written (this is a screenshot from the video).

Once again, great work to Lindsi, Geoff, and everyone else who helped out on creating something that represents Coastal Carolina so well. Also, awesome job to the Coastal community for coming together to make this work. The bar is set high for next year. Don’t Blink.

The Special Ornaments on our Tree

Last week, I mentioned that Sidney and I had to start from the ground up when it came to stockpiling Christmas decorations. We took our first step toward this goal by purchasing a bunch of Christmas tree ornaments from Target.

However, not all of the ornaments that adorn our tree are of the major box store variety. Believe it or not, we have some items that hang on our tree that bring more of a sentimental value with them. Don’t get me wrong, Target ornaments still outnumber more personal ornaments by at least 5:1, but over the years this ratio will start to close.

Today I want to share five of the more unique and personal ornaments on our tree. I hope you enjoy.

5. CCU Ornament – Coastal Carolina University holds a special place in the hearts of both Sidney and I. As my employer and as Sid’s alma mater, our Coastal Carolina ornament is very much valued. Making it extra special is that it once belonged to Sidney’s grandma.

It is a no-brainer that we have included a Coastal Caorlina University ornament on our tree.

It is a no-brainer that we have included a Coastal Caorlina University ornament on our tree.

4. Toddler Sidney – This ornament just tugs at my heart. It is of Sid as a little girl over 22 years ago in 1994. Such a sweet decoration to put on the tree. My mom asked me if I wanted her to send a similar ornament of me from my early years to hang right by Sidney’s but I told her to hold off for the time being.

I love looking at this ornament that depicts a young Sid.

I love looking at this ornament that depicts a young Sid.

3. First Tree Stump – Sidney saw this brilliant idea somewhere (probably Pinterest) and wanted to make sure to replicate it for us. When we purchased our tree, we had the guy cut off the bottom of the stump for us. Sidney then wrote on it and converted it into a creative ornament. You know, as a kid I always felt a bit sad when we would throw out our Christmas trees. The bonding, the joy, and the fun we had with the tree seemed to go with it to the dumpster. For the two of us, I am thrilled that we will always have a piece of our first tree together.

This was a brilliant idea by Sid to make this ornament using the stump of our tree.

This was a brilliant idea by Sid to make this ornament using the stump of our tree.

2. Wedding Ornament – As part of the wedding gift that our sponsor couple gave us, they included this special ornament. It has two figures that look like Sidney and I along with our names and the date of our wedding. After our special day in June, we had been waiting to finally hang this up on our tree.

Our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick, gave us this ornament as part of the wedding gift they graciously gave us.

Our sponsor couple, Tim and Kathy McCormick, gave us this ornament as part of the wedding gift they graciously gave us.

1. We Are Expecting Snow People Family – Sidney and I saw this at our local mall and couldn’t resist but have it customized. The woman snow person with the “snow bump” stole our hearts. We had the bump customized with the name of what we will call our daughter but for the sake of this blog post I am “white washing” it.

Needless to say, this is a very precious ornament and it will be a treasured part of our tree for years and years to come.

Needless to say, this is a very precious ornament and it will be a treasured part of our tree for years and years to come.

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There is a quick look at some of the finer ornaments on our tree. This is a big weekend for purchasing and decorating trees, so if you are on this bandwagon, I hope you picked a good one and have lots of special/pretty ornaments to hang on it. Don’t Blink.

An Exciting Opportunity to Get Better

This afternoon I traveled up north to the great American city of Boston. I am here to attend the Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Education. The conference will take place over Wednesday and Thursday. I will return home on Friday. To put it bluntly, I am stoked to be here!

Why am I so excited? Well, let me translate for you what the SMSS Higher Ed exactly is. Basically, it is two days of workshops, meetings, and networking geared specifically to social media professionals working at colleges and universities. Over the next 48 hours I will be in company with fellow social media coordinators and directors at higher education institutions across the nation. I will be with my true counterparts, men and women who run their university’s primary social media accounts and head up the social media programs on their respective campuses. Although I have connected with some of the people who will attend this conference before, I have never met any of them in person.

As social media is still a relatively new profession, there aren’t a lot of conferences dedicated solely to the subject, especially pertaining directly to the higher education level. This conference in Boston is basically the sole opportunity for people like me to learn and discuss strategies with others who are in the exact same position that I am.

I am incredibly grateful to Coastal Carolina University for allowing me this opportunity. I plan to get as much out of this conference as possible. It is my hope that this will allow me to improve both #CCUSocialMedia and my own professional skills. Don’t Blink.

Interviewing An Olympian

Today at Coastal Carolina University we kicked off a social media event called #CCU Facebook Live Week. It all started this morning when our social media team interviewed a three-time Olympian. The event will continue throughout the week as we interview a different person on each of the next four days.

This week is our #CCU Facebook Live Week.

This week is our #CCU Facebook Live Week (graphic is from Facebook page and is accessible to all).

Wanting to take advantage of Facebook Live, I lined up interviews with some big shot Chanticleers for this last week in September. Who are these prominent Chants we will be interviewing over the next four days? You will have to wait and follow our Facebook page to find out. However, I have no problem chatting about the all-star I met today…

Leading off our #CCU Facebook Live Week was track and field superstar Amber Campbell. This past month she finished sixth in the hammer throw at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the highest finish ever for an American woman in the event. But Rio wasn’t her first rodeo. Amber also competed at the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) games. She has a laundry list of other accomplishments at the national and world level as well.

As you might guess, Amber Campbell is a Coastal Carolina University alumna. Our #TEALnation community is extremely proud of her so it made sense to ask if she would want to participate in our #CCU Facebook Live Week. Despite a hectic schedule, Amber graciously accepted our invite and traveled down to our studio for today’s interview. She brought a lot of energy and a glowing smile to campus.

Our social media team with three-time Olympian Amber Campbell today (from l-r: Me, Amber Campbell, Eddie, Lauren).

Our social media team with three-time Olympian Amber Campbell today (from l-r: Me, Amber Campbell, Eddie, Lauren).

The interview went well as I had my two hardworking interns, Eddie and Lauren, helping out. Our assistant director of Media Services, David, filmed the interview with equipment just a tad bit nicer than my iPhone. We all enjoyed the opportunity to be around Amber and share her thoughts/insight with our large #CCUSocialMedia audience.

A little behind the scenes action for you. I asked the questions and Lauren filmed the interview. Eddie covered the interview on Snapchat and Instagram Stories. David was behind us all.

A little behind the scenes action for you. I asked the questions and Lauren filmed the interview. Eddie covered the interview on Snapchat and Instagram Stories. David was behind us all.

I hope you drop in on one of our Facebook Live broadcasts this week. Thanks so much to Amber Campbell for starting us off in grand fashion. Don’t Blink.

Working In Tennessee

This evening I find myself in the lovely state of Tennessee. Specifically, I am in the town of Johnson City. This is ironic because four years ago I found myself here when I was working for the University of Montana. I was part of the travel advance unit for our football team and we spent the night in Johnson City as we waited for the players and coaches to arrive the next day. We then made the trip to Boone, North Carolina, for a game against Appalachian State.

To be honest, I never thought I would see Johnson City again.

But I thought wrong. I am once again in Johnson City and I couldn’t be more excited as I am here to represent Coastal Carolina University. Earlier today I drove over from South Carolina with our Vice President for University Communication and one of our production managers. We made the trip to cover and support the driver of the NASCAR Truck Series that our university sponsors. But he isn’t just any driver, he is an actual student at Coastal Carolina. Tomorrow we will get in the car again and drive to Bristol, Tennessee, where we will watch and cover Brandon Brown as he competes in the UNOH 200 Camping World Truck Series Race. If the weather cooperates, and it should, it will be my first ever NASCAR race (I went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in late May but the race was rained out). I am ready for this experience!

As we will be at the track all day tomorrow leading up to the evening’s race, I won’t be publishing a Wednesday blog post. Don’t get sad though because Sidney will. Yes, my wife has gracefully accepted to fill in during my absence and provide a special middle of the week guest blog post. Look for that tomorrow night.

So from Johnson City, Tennessee, I wish all of you a great night. Thanks for your support of this blog. Don’t Blink.