Reflections on My First Year at Coastal Carolina University

It is funny. Often times you can look back on a period of time and not quite know if it flew by or seemed to last. If you are like me, sometimes you end up deciding it was a little of both. Today I celebrate my one year anniversary at Coastal Carolina University. For the most part, the last 365 days passed quickly. But then I realize that next week I will cover my fourth commencement and it makes me feel like I have been around campus for a little longer.

This is my one year anniversary photo!

This is my one year anniversary photo!

On May 1, 2014, I reported for my first day at Coastal Carolina. I spent that Thursday in new employee orientation learning about policies and procedures. It was an uneventful and low key day. That would be the last one of those. From the end of that initial day on out I had the opportunity to go full speed ahead and that is exactly what I did. I arrived on campus just before the start of graduation week and went right into covering the craziness of it. I covered a lot of events and met a lot of people. Those first ten or so days really helped set the tone for my first year.

My rookie debut at CCU was a good one. Yes, it was successful. Our social channels grew exponentially, #CCUSocialMedia became a brand, we won an award, and we received far more media coverage than I could ever imagine. But that is all I want to say about job performance. My one year reflection blog post is much more than that.

What I want to really hit on is what a good fit this position has been. I came from a job where I wore a ton of different hats and had little free time. For the past year I have showed up for work at a place where my focus is much more defined and my time out of the office much more adequate.

From the start I said I took this job because I could concentrate on social media. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t grown in other areas. Although I might not have 15 different responsibilities to tend to on a given day like at Montana, I have been able to embrace a diverse set of opportunities that improved me as a professional. Encouraged to create my own news show segment, assigned to write for our alumni magazine, requested to serve on working groups, and asked to help out on search committees, I was enabled to expand my reach. Aside from running our social media program, I relished these additional roles.

Another part of the fit has been the energy and culture at CCU. Our university is growing, both in terms of physical structures and student enrollment. We are an institution on the rise and I wanted to be a piece of that. Additionally, and I truly mean it when I say this, Coastal is just different. We are built on customer service and this attitude is reflected from the top down. There is a pride and a vibe here that is special, one that I relate to and embrace. Our “Feel the Teal” mission motivates me at work each day.

Most importantly, this arrangement has worked because of the people. It all starts out with our Vice President of University Communication who had the guts to hire me. Bill Plate brought me from Missoula to Myrtle Beach and I am so glad he did. He had the vision and rationality to know that a social media position was needed at CCU and he made it a reality. So many other people helped me (and continue to help me) after Bill and I wish I could recognize them all. Although this is not possible I do want to thank a few people really quickly. Thanks to our administrative assistant Kim Harper for helping me with pretty much every office task and organizational logistic you could think of. Thanks to April Betsch for reaching out to me at one of the first events I worked and taking me around to meet many of the key people I would end up working closely with. Thanks to Eileen Soisson for teaching me what it means to Feel the Teal and for going out of her way to support me. Thanks to Matt Hogue, Seth Horton, and Kevin Olivett from athletics for treating me so well and for genuinely caring about my ideas and input.

Year #1 is in the books and it was great. I am appreciative of the opportunity Coastal Carolina University has afforded me and I can’t wait to improve. Don’t Blink.

It Is Thursday Again

Sorry to everyone who was expecting my Wednesday blog post. I got home last night and fell asleep. I apologize and will do better next time. But that is in the past and today is THURSDAY. Time to hit you with my traditional five topic rundown. Here we go…

Early Mornings Just Got Less Enjoyable: This morning my favorite student-worker at the campus gym, Hannah Watkins, informed me that she is transferring to Clemson at semester. This girl brightened my day every Tuesday and Thursday that she would work the early morning shift. Always cheerful and positive, I looked forward to our 5:59 a.m. little chats as I entered the gym. I had the pleasure of profiling her for #CCUfamily and will miss her a lot.

I said goodbye to Hannah this morning. She is transferring to Clemson.

I said goodbye to Hannah this morning. She is transferring to Clemson.

So Long, Kevin: Speaking about farewells at Coastal, another person who I respected a lot recently left the institution. Kevin Olivett, our Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Social Media, headed even further south for a corporate sales position at Stetson University. Besides the people in my own office, no one reached out to me more than Kevin did when I arrived at CCU. He sat in on one of my interviews when I visited the campus so I guess that was a good start for us to get acquainted. The first week I was here he generously took me out to lunch and made me feel so welcome. He graciously asked me for my opinions and ideas, respecting that I came from a sports marketing background when he never really even had to bother. He served on my social media committee and was always willing to help. Best of luck, Kevin.

O’ Christmas Tree: I am no longer a Grinch! I have never had a Christmas tree in an apartment of mine until this year. Last week Sidney hauled over to my place a small, artificial tree. It is just the perfect size for my place! To make it totally fit the bill, she decorated it in Coastal Carolina colors. At night when I get home from work I plug the tree in and really feel the Christmas spirit. The only thing missing is that warm Christmas tree smell but what I got is pretty cool. Thanks, Sidney!

Me kneeling next to my Christmas tree.

Me kneeling next to my Christmas tree.

The Killer Dog: On Saturday night, Sidney and I went out to a popular restaurant in Myrtle Beach called Carolina Roadhouse. We were celebrating the birthday of one of Sidney’s friends. Anyway, I decided to order the one item on the menu that any guy would order: The Killer Dog. The menu described it as a gigantic hot dog covered in chili, onions, and French fries. It also said that you would need a knife and fork to eat it. When I told my server what I wanted he warned “get ready.” The dog came out and it was indeed huge and it was necessary that I use a fork and knife but it still paled in comparison to that one hot dog I ate two summers ago. Please, check out my blog post from a couple years ago that includes photos of the monster I ate.

This was the Killer Dog I had at Carolina Roadhouse on Saturday.

This was the Killer Dog I had at Carolina Roadhouse on Saturday.

FCS Playoffs: The Football Championship Subdivision is down to the “Elite 8” and I am stoked that Coastal is still in it. The Chants crushed a good Richmond team last Saturday, 36-15, to advance. The good guys just barely missed out on playing the quarterfinal game at home. South Dakota State had a lead over North Dakota State with under two minutes to go but couldn’t hold it. So instead of the Chants hosting the unseeded Jackrabbits, they must travel to Fargo for a rematch against the three-time champion Bison. Although it would have been preferable to play in the friendly confines of Brooks Stadium, you got to beat the best to be the best. North Dakota State is not invincible this year and I have a good feeling that Coastal will put an end to the phenomenal championship streak of NDSU.

On the other side of the bracket, Eastern Washington defeated my other favorite, Montana. The Eagles now have my backing to make it to the championship game. Having grown up right next to the EWU campus I attended numerous games and was an EAG fan as a youngster so it is no mystery that I am rooting for them now. A CCU-EWU title game in Frisco sounds awesome to me with the Chants holding the championship trophy at the end.


Have a great weekend! I am looking forward to a holiday party on Friday and then football on Saturday. Hope you are all getting excited for this special time of the year. Don’t Blink.

#CCU Yik Yak Takeover

One month ago I questioned aloud on this blog how I could utilize Yik Yak effectively in our Coastal Carolina University social media strategy. At the time I didn’t have a concrete game plan. Well, after thinking about it a lot and reading about how other universities are handling this hot social media app, I realized two things: 1. I wanted to do something about Yik Yak. 2. I didn’t want to do what the other universities were doing.

This Thursday, October 30, #CCUSocialMedia will host a #CCU Yik Yak Takeover. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the whole campus community within the 1.5 mile set radius is encouraged to send out positive yaks throughout the day. While many universities are attempting to block it, Coastal Carolina University is taking a big step to embrace it. This is a completely original idea, one that will catapult Coastal Carolina into the discussion of universities who came up with a plan to maximize the possibilities of Yik Yak as opposed to those who wanted nothing to do with it.

The #CCU Yik Yak Takeover will take place this Thursday, October 30.

The #CCU Yik Yak Takeover will take place this Thursday, October 30.

The #CCU Yik Tak Takeover is the brainchild of our “Social Media Dream Team” on campus. I have the privilege of working with a group of six other fellow staff members* who in addition to their university jobs are also social media leaders on campus. We have meetings and we talk often. At last week’s meeting we all committed to taking this on. Come Thursday, we will do what we can to generate positive yaks. Students will have the opportunity to find us on Prince Lawn (our campus gathering place) and send out an inspirational yak in our presence. If they do, they will receive a Coastal prize.

But make no mistake about it, the #CCU Yik Yak Takeover is not about, nor dependent on, the seven of us staffers. It is entirely a deal that will be driven and executed by our students. We could “Yak” until our thumbs turn blue but we would still be outnumbered 10,000 to 7. If our students buy-in, this will be one of the most successful social media feats seen on a college campus. So will they?

The #CCU Yik Yak Takeover caused a lot of buzz on Yik Yak today. As you can see, some of it was positive and some of it was in a mocking nature. The portions of text that are blocked out contained bad language.

The #CCU Yik Yak Takeover caused a lot of buzz on Yik Yak today. As you can see, some of it was positive and some of it was in a mocking nature. The portions of text that are blocked out contained bad language.

I bet they will.

When we announced our Takeover at 4 p.m. today, we had a lot of excited students. Many voiced on social media how much they love their school for doing something like this. Don’t get me wrong though, we also have some students who are going to oppose it as well. Just minutes after the announcement, the Coastal Yik Yak stream was buzzing about October 30. Lots of users voiced support, while other completely mocked the idea. Going in we knew that we would have people who would fight what we are trying to do. However, our plan come Thursday is simple…overwhelm the negative with the positive.

Some of the positive response we received on our #CCU Yik Yak Takeover.

Some of the positive response we received on our #CCU Yik Yak Takeover.

Wait one second though and throw strategy out the window. Sure we plan to outnumber bad yaks with good yaks. However, one thing is forever on our side: Pride. The students here at Coastal Carolina University are passionate and protective of their school. They know a big opportunity exists on Thursday to let that passion shine through for the social media world to see. The majority of students that make this campus great will show up on the day before Halloween and make the #CCU Yik Yak Takeover an epic success. Trust me, those of you outside of the CCU radius will want to “peak” on our community beacause we are about to do something pretty cool. Don’t Blink.


* Thanks to the Social Media Dream Team of April Betsch, Erika Pomerantz, Jeff Stone, Jennifer Sellers, Kevin Olivett, and Travis Overton for making the #CCU Yik Yak Takeover possible. Thanks to the #CCU student body in advance for making it successful.

Best Sports Marketing Promotion

Having once been in the business myself, I love sports marketing. I still follow trends and I especially love watching how it plays out on gamedays in stadiums and arenas worldwide. However, for the recent cool promo I really like, I had to look no further than the athletic department at the school I work for.

Chanticleer Athletics has partnered with a local Bojangles restaurant on a very engaging and interactive halftime promotion. Once the halftime presentations and acts are through the public address announcer directs the attention of the crowd to the video screen. A message then comes up and fans are told to tweet it as fast as they can. The PA guy notifies the crowd that the first person to tweet out the text will win a $100 gift card while the second place person will receive a $50 gift card. Of course the message is a Bojangles advertisement that includes the local Bojangles Twitter handle (@GSBojangles).

This was the message that you had to tweet out at yesterday's game.

This was the message that you had to tweet out at yesterday’s game.

Once that message appears, you can pretty much hear the entire stadium deep in thought tapping on their phones. I participate and put myself under great pressure to tweet it out as soon as possible. Any little type of error while I type that impedes my progress causes me great frustration. When the message disappears from the video board, you can hear a collective groan from the crowd.

You bet I participate in the promotion! Sadly, even having a great vantage point on the sidelines didn't help me to win. (Thanks to Kevin Olivett for taking the sneaky  photo).

You bet I participate in the promotion! Sadly, even having a great vantage point on the sidelines didn’t help me to win. (Thanks to Kevin Olivett for taking the sneaky photo).

The winners are announced over the public address system…both real name and Twitter handle, a big deal for people who are obsessed over building their followers. At the first game where this promotion was ran, the winners were even recognized in an on-field presentation with the Bojangles mascot. The social media leverage for Bojangles increased even more as the winners sent out Tweets and photos saying how cool the experience was.

At the Chant football game on September 27, the Bojangles promotion had its debut. This is the winner of the $100 gift card.

At the Chant football game on September 27, the Bojangles promotion had its debut. This is the winner of the $100 gift card.

If I was a business owner, what the Grand Strand Bojangles is doing right now is exactly how I would be spending my money. I would partner with a sports team or another entity that draws big crowds and do whatever I could to promote my social media networks. The fact that Bojangles is getting word out on their #1 social channel in such a creative and high profile way makes their investment even more impactful.

Seth Horton (left), Bojangles representative (center), and the Bojangles chicken (right) look on as tweets start to pour in at the September 27 game.

Seth Horton (left), Bojangles representative (center), and the Bojangles chicken (right) look on as tweets start to pour in at the September 27 game.

I tip my hat to Seth Horton and Kevin Olivett of Chanticleer Athletics and the Grand Strand Bojangles team for thinking up and executing such a great promotion. I love seeing this type of stuff. By the way, the Chanticleer football team won again yesterday and now boast a record of 8-0. When the polls come out tomorrow, the Chants will be the #2 team in the country (FCS). Purchase your tickets now for the next home game (11/15 vs. Monmouth) and not only watch some great football but also participate in the @GSBojangles Tweet-Off. Don’t Blink.

Five Reasons Why My Work Week Rocked

The first 100 days of my new job have passed by quickly. However, the feeling of excitement and thankfulness that I had at the beginning has not passed quickly. It is as strong as ever. This week has been great. Staying true to my Thursday rapid-fire topic theme I will once again jump from subject to subject but it will all relate to this week at Coastal Carolina University.

Social Media Dream Team Meeting – One of my tasks in my position is to meet with my fellow social media leaders on campus. After sending out twice-a-month e-mail updates to this group we call the “Dream Team,” we finally had our first face-to-face meeting on Monday morning. I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the major social media players at CCU including: our athletics marketing director, our dean of students, our celebrity dining services director, the leader of CCU’s student customer service program, and our assistant alumni director. We talked for almost 90 minutes about social media (and some other issues) at Coastal Carolina. Although I was running the meeting I probably spoke the least but learned the most. It was awesome.

CCUSA on WMBF – On Tuesday I was humbled when WMBF reporter Mandy Noell called me up and asked if she could do a story on our CCUSA campaign. Absolutely! It didn’t take long for Mandy to get to campus, take the footage she needed inside our offices, and then interview me outside of the Singleton Building. While I thought that my terrible news interviews ended in Montana they unfortunately carried over to South Carolina as well. No matter, Mandy was a true professional and pretty much washed away my awkwardness on camera with an awesome report, one that was praised by our own media legend, Martha Hunn. I was very thankful for the coverage that WMBF gave us. Click here to view the story.

Mandy Noell from WMBF interviews me about CCU Social Media.

Mandy Noell from WMBF interviews me about CCU Social Media (Thanks to Mona Prufer for the photo).

On Camera Again – On Wednesday, Kevin Olivett of Chanticleer Athletics invited me to go around and help cover a pretty cool deal. Athletic Director Matt Hogue and Chauncey were presenting Big South Conference football championship rings to staff members who were season ticket holders. Along with the video guy from athletics I would take video/photos when we would enter the offices. Well, I was given quite the surprise when the camera was turned in my direction. Before I knew it, Matt was presenting me with two rings. You see, I had recently become a Chant football season ticket holder. However, I thought the ring promotion was just for people who had season tickets during the actual 2013 championship season. Nope! Click here to see my reaction.

My surprised face as I stand between Coastal Carolina University Athletic Director Matt Hogue and Chauncey.

My surprised face as I stand between Coastal Carolina University Athletic Director Matt Hogue and Chauncey.

Board of Trustees Meeting – Today I was invited by my boss, Associate Vice President Bill Plate, to attend his presentation to the Board of Trustees. He told me that he wanted to introduce me to these extremely important individuals. Only he did a little more than just that. After he asked me to stand for the formal introduction he proceeded to build me up incredibly in front of the Board. He explained the whole CCUSA campaign, talked about some of the other things I am doing, and mentioned the increases our social media program has seen in the past few months. I felt so honored! It made my whole week and made me walk out of work with a huge smile on my face.

A photo from today's Board of Trustees meeting.

A photo from today’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Graduation on Saturday – This Saturday morning Coastal will hold its summer commencement. When I started working at CCU at the beginning of May I arrived just in time for spring commencement. I had such a fun time working that event and although the summer graduation is much smaller I am looking forward to the occasion. It will put an exclamation point on a magnificent week for me.

Myself at the CCU spring graduation in May.

Myself at the CCU spring graduation in May.


I hope many of you out there like your job as much as me. I am truly blessed. Have a great evening! Don’t Blink.

Still Connected to Interollegiate Athletics

When people in Missoula found out that I accepted a position at Coastal Carolina they reacted in a few different ways. Some saw it as a total out of the blue move. Some wanted to know if it had anything to do with the Montana vs. Coastal Carolina football game in December. Some questioned me on whether I could handle a job outside athletics.

Let me briefly answer the first two thoughts. If it seemed like it came out of the blue then that is no coincidence. Why someone would want to let anyone else besides your current employer know about possible job prospects is beyond me. The “making moves” or “big interview tomorrow” statuses on social media disrespect both your current and potential employers and I think it jinxes your aspirations. And no, me taking the position at Coastal Carolina had 0% to do with the football game in December.

Now to the question that I felt carried the most weight: Could I fully embrace a job not directly affiliated with athletics? While I feel like the question was the most legitimate out of the three for others to ask it never really made me think twice. I love sports with all my heart but I wasn’t opposed to a change. After four and a half years of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. days, non-existent weekends, and a laundry list of responsibilities it started to wear on me a bit. Add that to the amazing opportunity presented to me by Coastal Carolina and I knew my next career move was set.

But you see, I have the best of both worlds. While I am no longer toiling working inside an athletic department I still get the opportunity to experience intercollegiate athletics. In my job now I cover all happenings and events on campus so I get to take the time and share the good news of Chanticleer Athletics. Luckily for me this part of the new gig is fun and easy because the CCU athletics department has welcomed me with open arms.

Chauncey welcomed me with open arms too.

Chauncey welcomed me with open arms too.

It is kind of interesting because even before I moved to Myrtle Beach I already kind of had my foot in the door with the athletics staff. When I went to the CCU campus in March for my in-person interview Matt Hogue, the Associate Vice President of Marketing/Licensing, was on the hiring committee. About a week after my interview he was named the interim Athletic Director. Also during my in-person interview I had a session where I interviewed with three people who play big roles in the CCU social media landscape around campus. One of those people happened to be Kevin Olivett, the marketing director for Chanticleer Athletics. Even though he was in the middle of running two conference basketball tournaments at the time he still managed to sit in for my interview.

Fast forward to the end of April and Kevin kept in touch with me. He followed my journey across the country and wasted no time reaching out to me and setting up a lunch date. Just my fourth day on the job he took me to downtown Conway where we ate at a place called the Crafty Rooster. Joining us was a play-by-play announcer for the department and a Myrtle Beach sports talk radio host, Aaron Marks. Later that day I sat in a meeting with Kevin, his assistant, and the department’s ticket guy to brainstorm social media ideas. How cool and nice of them to involve me in their social media efforts and value my opinion!

The hospitality didn’t stop there though. I received an all-access pass for the Big South Conference softball tournament. I had a nice time covering and watching the tourney from the brand new softball facility on campus. As the Chants made it to the championship game I got to meet more athletics staff including the videographers and the sponsorship director. All were so gracious and welcoming. It was refreshing to see how another athletic department goes about business and I came out of the weekend just that much more pumped to be a Chanticleer.

I had a great time attending the softball tournament and seeing how another athletic department does things.

I had a great time attending the softball tournament and seeing how another athletic department does things.

So please don’t worry about me if you think I am not getting my athletics fix in. I definitely am! Things are just much more balanced now. I am seeing a much wider perspective of university life while still getting to focus a little bit in the area where I got my start in. Don’t Blink.