A Sizzling Darlington Press Conference

It was another day to file underneath the “my job is so cool” file. This morning I set off with some of my University Marketing and Communication team members to Darlington Raceway.

We were heading to the race track for a car unveil and I was brought along to cover the event on social media. If you read this blog often, you are familiar with Brandon Brown, a NASCAR driver we have sponsored since his time as a CCU student. Now an alumnus of our University, we have continued our partnership with Brandon as he races fulltime in the Xfinity Series. Anyway, Brandon was unveiling his paint scheme today for the Darlington Throwback Weekend that takes place at the end of the month.

Brandon and I a couple years ago.

The unveil was done in grand fashion. Coastal Carolina University, Darlington Raceway, and Brandonbilt Motorsports (Brandon’s racing team) staged a press conference right at turn #3 on the track famously nicknamed Too Tough to Tame. With Coastal Carolina University track signage serving as the backdrop to the covered car, anticipation was high for the big reveal.

When we arrived, Darlington Raceway already had everything set up for the press conference.

Oh, wait one second please, there was another important piece I should mention.

Brandon Brown wasn’t the only NASCAR driver participating in the press conference. Joining him was NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte. To be 100% honest, I was a little unfamiliar with the legendary status of Labonte but I was made aware of my ignorance when I told my father-in-law who I was going to meet today. He let me know that Terry is kind of a big deal in the world of racing. This guy won at Darlington twice and is a household name in NASCAR circles.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte (far right) also had a seat at the press conference.

But why was Labonte there? Well, for Throwback Weekend the active drivers turn back the clock and use a paint scheme from a driver of the past. This year Darlington is paying homage to the 1990-94 era and Brandon liked the idea of using a design that reflected the one used by the Hall of Famer. Terry Labonte was honored to let Brandon run (or race) with it.

Brandon and Terry at the press conference (photo courtesy of Lindsi Glass).

When Brandon, Terry, and Martha Hunn, our chief communication officer, pulled back the cover, a sharp-looking Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 1993 design graced Brandon’s ZL1 Camaro.

A look at Brandon with his Terry Labonte throwback car.

The No. 86 car looked great with the black, white, and bronze color scheme. On the hood, our Chanticleer athletics logo took the spot of the traditional Corn Flakes rooster. The reaction from the people in attendance and those on social media made it clear that the scheme was a hit. It was another great accomplishment by our CCU design team.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Twitter account was pretty complimentary of our design.

After Brandon and Terry took time to scope out the car, they gave interviews to the media chomping at the bit to get reaction from both drivers.

I snapped this photo of Brandon and Terry.

Did I mention it was hot? Oh man it was a sizzling South Carolina August day. But the temperature doesn’t really matter when you are sweating it out with your fellow co-workers. Besides Martha, I was joined by these other talented individuals:
Lindsi Glass, assistant vice president for marketing and branding, set the press conference up and handled all of the logistics.
Geoff Insch, one of our production assistants, took footage and will be releasing one of his trademark quality videos tomorrow.
Scott Dean, assistant photographer, braved the heat and captured some spectacular images.
Daniel “Scoops” Mableton, graphic designer, could be considered the star of the show because he designed the scheme.

It was another one of those days where we felt like we were truly succeeding at promoting the University’s brand. We enjoyed lunch together at a local Darlington café before returning to campus to continue to market the  institution we work for. Best of luck to Brandon on Aug. 31! Don’t Blink.

A Half Decade at CCU

On May 1, 2014, I started a new stage in my life. That morning I reported to work at a different college campus, thousands of miles from my previous one. A half decade later, that “different” college campus isn’t so different anymore – it is home.

I took this photo the morning of May 1, 2014 — my first day at Coastal Carolina University.

As I celebrate my fifth anniversary at Coastal Carolina University, I can’t help but feel fortunate that I found #TEALnation. Wanting to manage the social media program of a university at the flagship level, I graciously accepted the opportunity given to me by CCU and said goodbye to the athletic department at the University of Montana.

These are some of the kind bosses/co-workers who greeted me with such open arms when I arrived at CCU in 2014.

I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to come into. Working out of the Office of University Communication, my bosses gave me the freedom to build CCU’s social media program according to the vision I presented during the interview process. When I arrived, my main objective was to establish a social brand (#CCUSocialMedia) that told the stories of #CCU. Because of the support I received, social media at CCU flourished. #CCUSocialMedia has won over a dozen national awards, earned recognition as one of the top higher education social media programs in the country, enjoyed exponential growth, and generated extensive media coverage.

Because of the freedom to take chances and because of the talented co-workers around me, #CCUSocialMedia has won over a dozen national awards in five years.

But this blog post isn’t about individual accomplishments. In fact, the accolades above were only possible because of the people I work with (more on them soon). Rather, the purpose of this post is to recognize how proud I am to be associated with this institution. In the five years I have been here, I have seen our University open up multiple academic buildings, roll out doctoral programs, produce Fulbright Scholars, set records for fundraising, undergo a complete website redesign, grow at a strategic pace, make the major athletic move to the FBS, and win a baseball national championship…just to name a few. To have a front row seat for all these defining moments has been a pleasure.

The day CCU announced plans to join the Sun Belt Conference was a lot of fun!.

These CCU triumphs over the past five years paved the way for a constant stream of excitement that rushed through this entire campus. I tried to grab hold of this energy and make my own CCU moments. During my time as a CCU staffer I have appeared in a Darius Rucker music video, attended national conferences, traveled with the men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament, hosted my own social media segment, wrote a cover story for our alumni magazine, followed our CCU-sponsored NASCAR driver to a few races, experienced an eclipse at complete totality, covered the baseball team’s national championship parade/stadium celebration, and much more.

I have had so many memorable times while working at CCU.

Again, just like with the industry accomplishments, I would have been deprived of the memorable moments without my bosses and co-workers. If not for Bill Plate, Martha Hunn, and Matt Hogue I would not be here at Coastal. Those three comprised the hiring committee that ended up granting me the opportunity of a lifetime. If not for my incredible supervisor, Lindsi Glass, I would not have been able to grow as a professional and feel so comfortable coming to work each day. If not for Kim Harper, the best administrative assistant to ever walk the planet, many of our fun social media promotions would be derailed by red tape. And, if not for my talented and selfless co-workers, the success of our #CCUSocialMedia program would be non-existent. Because of our graphic designers (Rob, Jeanne, Regis, Ron, Scoops, Jady), photographers (Judy, Scott, Tad), video wizards (David, Geoff, Richard, Dennis, Josh), web personnel (Brentley and Marty) and writers (Caroline, Mel, Doug, Mona), we have incredible content to share each day. They take our social media presence to the next level and make me look good. Even more importantly, they are all humble people and trusted friends.

I have had the pleasure of working with so many great people in the Office of University Communication at CCU.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the final joy of working on this campus: the students. In five years, I have had many motivated and savvy students work for me and I have met countless others who have participated in many of my wacky social media campaigns/promotions. It goes without saying that I am beyond appreciative – without students, I don’t have a job.

I have been blessed to be around some amazing students. This photo is of me with Eddie and Monica, two of my former student interns.

A lot has changed in five years. My title has changed, the name of our department has changed, and our top leader has changed. But one aspect has not: Coastal Carolina University is a great place to work. I am thankful to the CCU administration and the state of South Carolina for employing me. I look forward to the next five years. Don’t Blink.

How #TEALnation Determined the #CCU 2018 Holiday Video

Click here to watch the 2018 #CCU Holiday Video

It happened again.

A couple of my fellow University Communication staffers once again teamed up to create a Coastal Carolina University holiday video that delighted our campus and did our institution proud. And, like previous years, Lindsi Glass and Geoff Insch decided to offer something that was completely different from previous editions. However, I think they went out even more on a limb in 2018 than ever before.

In 2017, we gave our audience something they had never seen before with a holiday video by going sentimental. We took an even greater leap this year.

Can you guess what they did?…

Wait, hold off. I will answer that question in one minute. Let me start by telling you the premise of this year’s video. In an act of homage to the past 11.5 months at CCU, Lindsi, our senior director of marketing, and Geoff, one of our production managers, recapped the many accomplishments and milestones that transpired. They did this by incorporating significant Coastal Carolina moments from 2018 into a popular Christmas song – Jingle Bells! Lindsi wrote catchy CCU-inspired lyrics to the tune of the classic carol and Geoff did his magic with the camera. With a CCU student providing the vocals and a campus community eager to help us shoot the scenes, we had all the components of an awesome, memorable video.

The 2018 #CCU Holiday Video follows its predecessors as a real winner.

But, like I said, Lindsi and Geoff thought waaaaay outside the box this year. The duo wanted to let #TEALnation have an active voice in deciding what the video would look like and the story that would be told. They knew they could turn to a reliable “friend” for help: Social media.

We debuted our 2018 #CCU Holiday Video late this morning.

From the start of the project, Lindsi and Geoff wanted social media to play a major role in building the 2018 #CCU Holiday Video. Their vision was to allow our social audience to vote on the scenes they wanted to include in the production.

We used Instagram Story (IG: @ccuchanticleers) to allow our social media audience to decide which scenes they wanted to see included in the video.

They invited me to the brainstorming meetings to discuss how we could best accomplish this. We came to a consensus that utilizing Instagram Story, notably its “poll” option, would help us reach our goal. A byproduct of using Instagram Story was that it would help us “reach” something else – a very important audience at CCU…our students.

We used the poll feature on Instagram Story to gather precise results on what our social media audience wanted….yes, they wanted more cowbell.

Of course allowing our social media audience to vote on the scenes entailed twice the work. Lindsi and Geoff had to shoot scenes that would never make it into the video. For example, one day we asked our Instagram audience to decide whether they wanted to see CCU staffers hanging holiday lights in Wall Building or Academic Building II. Wall Building ended up winning, meaning that the scene that was shot in Academic Building II never made the video’s final cut.

This particular Instagram Story generated the most votes out of all the scene selections.

Quick explanation about how this worked on Instagram. Three times each week over the span of two weeks, we included video of two different scenes that were shot for the holiday video on our Instagram Story. Using the poll feature that allows users to vote between two choices, we offered the scenes for the day. The scene that generated the most votes after 24 hours was included in the video while the losing scene was left on the cutting room floor. My small contribution to this year’s holiday video was teaming with my intern, Katie, to build out these Instagram Stories and moderate the voting.

We showed all scenes in actual video in our Instagram Story, meaning that Geoff had to shoot scenes that he knew would eventually never make it in the final video.

After our last scene selection ran this past Monday, we had a video on our hands that was genuinely molded by the Coastal Carolina community. By casting thousands of votes, our social media audience decided SEVEN of the scenes that we incorporated into the final version. How about that for quality engagement?! Thanks to the work of another CCU staffer, Brentley Broughton, we have a website that documents the scenes that were selected by our social media users (and the ones that were not).

This year’s video turned out awesome…thanks to #TEALnation (and Lindsi and Geoff).

This year’s video has personality and spunk. Chauncey plays the saxophone, dancing is widespread, a central theme is evident, President DeCenzo is having fun, numerous campus groups are showcased, and the qualities that distinguish CCU are captured. Not to mention the beautiful drone footage and other campus beauty shots that really make the video stand out! Needless to say, the 2018 #CCU Holiday Video is a success.

A screenshot from the 2018 #CCU Holiday Video. President DeCenzo had a great time participating!

Although it is sometimes uncomfortable to take a chance and go outside the box, especially in higher ed, it can pay off in a big way. Much credit to Lindsi and Geoff for doing something that quite simply isn’t done in the industry that we work in. On a special note, I want to thank our #CCUSocialMedia audience for rising to the occasion and making some great scene decisions. Don’t Blink.

2017 #CCU Holiday Video Review
2016 #CCU Holiday Video Review

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.