Military Appreciation Day at Clemson – Col. Ben Skardon

This past weekend’s Clemson football game was Military Appreciation Day at Clemson. Clemson played the Citadel and how appropriate to honor those who have served with two schools playing on the gridiron representing such military heritage.

In the game program, Col. Ben Skardon was the featured story. Earlier this year, I produced a short documentary surrounding his story and how his Clemson ring saved his life. I thought it was awesome to see him honored, and to also see the pictures that I took of him during that interview appear in the program. It has been a pleasure getting to know Col. Skardon and his lasting legacy here at Clemson.

Here is his story, just incase you missed it earlier this year!

Big Win for SC Mission 2012 – #CHPRMS Fall Conference

Thursday night the SC Hospital Association Team was awarded three Wallie Awards and a Golden Tusk award at the 2013 Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing Society Fall Conference. By the way, the fall conference was held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville…such a nice place!

I was a part of the team that produced a short documentary about the SC Mission 2012 event in Columbia, SC. This production won a Silver Wallie Award and a Golden Tusk award.  Below is the video from the event. EXCITED!!!

Balancing business passions and life passions, keeping the focus!

Pure Joy!

What is your greatest passion…the one thing that drives you to get up in the morning and push harder and harder?

This is my greatest passion…my little rose!

Now I talk about my business passion: finding and telling great stories. yes…it is. But that is just one part of the bigger picture.

This little one makes me work harder, work smarter, and challenge myself to seek the balance in the work/life continuum.

A few months ago, I sat on a panel discussion where the audience were mothers of preschoolers (MOPS). They called it the man panel and the major part of the discussion was balancing work and home. I think there is a bigger balance for self-employed, small business, entrepreneurial individuals.

Each day, we balance so many pieces of this work/life pie:

  1. home (keeping the house running – the honey do’s)
  2. partner in life (keeping the one we love the most close)
  3. family (keeping our loved ones close to feel like family)
  4. children (being a good father with a profound presence)
  5. working in our business (executing the daily tasks to generate revenue)
  6. working on our business (planning and preparing for tomorrow)
  7. growing our business (thinking and preparing for opportunities beyond)
  8. keeping the focus on our passions (defining those passions in personal and business life)
  9. finding time for ourselves (time to recharge those batteries)

Now look at that list and you think, we can combine some of these points into categories, but i specifically left them separated. Each of these have become so important and it has even taken me years to bring language to all of those points. What do I mean? It is being able to have the wisdom to actually write each point down and recognize each of their relative importances.

I read a wonderful blog in the Harvard Business Review, here is an interesting quote:

“…according to one survey, 75 percent of male executives are married to homemakers.  It’s simply not possible to work 90 hours a week and see to your own basic needs – much less support someone else’s career. It works the other way, too: with only one salary to rely on, those husbands need all the wage premium they can get.”

It goes on to share this…

“Millennial men are beginning to do what women have done for decades: to work as consultants or start their own businesses that give them the flexibility for better work-family balance. A forthcoming study of New Models of Legal Practice by the Center for WorkLife Law documents lawyers in their prime who left large, prestigious law firms so they could practice law in ways that allow them to be more involved in children’s lives.”

Now I am a Gen X…so I miss this point by a few years. But…I can definitely relate. Sometimes I fell like I am a millennial. I did what all Gen X’s do. I attended a four year school and received a degree, got a job, and started working my way up the corporate ladder. BUT, a few years into my career…I realized that I was working too damn hard and not making enough money. Also…there was a cap on my long term opportunities.

So I started over…went back to graduate school to get a focused education. I was re-emerging in the business world in a post 911 era. A time when entrepreneurship was becoming common place in the tech world.

Realizing this path…working for myself, learning to start a family, and grow a business; the list above started emerging point by point.

This takes me back to my passion…my ultimate focus. Rose and Sarah are my passion and all things are wrapped around their lives sarah and the life we are building together.

Bringing stories to life with time-lapse! #GoTigers

This past summer, I worked on a project with Clemson’s creative services to create a simple television spot for the South Carolina region. Our goal…share the beauty of campus along with the idea the potential student could find the “Total Package” at Clemson.

We sat down and begin thinking through some ideas and we kept coming back to the idea of time-lapse photography. We wanted to translate this medium into video.

I was able to work with a great team to pull together a wonderful concept. The Creative Director of Clemson Dave Dryden along with Josh Stolz, an extremely talented graphic artist and animator, put a plan together. We wanted to bring a different look to Clemson.

This project began in the summer, so we were limited with the number of students on campus…mainly so the campus did not seem “dead.”

Photo Courtesy: Josh Stolz

Also…we were faced with one the heaviest rain seasons in ten years. Each time we tried to shoot, it would pour rain. There is a lot of equipment to set-up for these types of shoots, so quickly setting up and breaking down was not an option.

But when the rain cleared, Josh was able to capture the right moments on campus. These images allowed us to capture recognizable areas of campus that reinforce the Clemson brand.

Each scene in the video above probably has 400 individual shots captured in RAW format. This image acquisition process translated beautifully into After Effects for final editing.

Telling stories can be more than just capturing a person’s thoughts or comments. Stories can be told through images, providing context and opportunity for the audience to connect visually. And sometimes…we can even remove the voice over.

Visual storytelling is so much fun!

Stories of Impact: Driving Data to improve EMS Care

This past summer, I had the privilege of meeting Tony Fernandez in Chapel Hill, NC. His story has many layers and his research impacts anyone who has or will have to use EMS to transport them to a SC/NC hospital.

Tony is a former EMT. He took his knowledge and experience into a graduate fellowship where he earned his PhD. His passion comes from his father, a fire fighter who lost his life from the prolonged exposure to the toxic dust from 911. Tony’s father was a first responder to the twin towers spending months combing through twisted debris, holding out hope for survivors.

As he shared his father’s story, we could see the passion in his eyes. He wanted to use his skills and education to make access to quality care better for the people in NC and SC.

He is the research director for the EMS Performance Center in Chapel Hill, NC. His research impacts improved response times and puts life-saving equipment where it’s most needed.

Bottom-line, his research collects the data from all the EMS response times across NC and SC. He crunches the data and helps EMS all across the two states improve efficiency. Why, because seconds matter.

Remember the story I share with you last year? His name was Mr. John Fields of Seneca, SC. (Click Here to See His Story). He had a heart attack in a rural area of Oconee County. He traveled over 60 plus miles by land and air to receive life saving care in 63 minutes…the time from the moment he called 911 until the cardiologist performed the procedure to save his life at GHS.

Each minute, each second counts…making Tony Fernandez’s work that much more important. Between 2007 and 2012, The Duke Endowment distributed more than $6 million in grants to strengthen emergency medical services in North Carolina and South Carolina. This funding has helped Tony reach some amazing goals.

To read more about Tony’s story, CLICK HERE.

The Storytelling Narrative – Sounds Like An Oxymoron

The storytelling narrative…sounds like an oxymoron? Well…there is a narrative in the content marketing space, and the primary focus for these marketers –> who is going to own the storytelling digital narrative. Hmm…

Since digital content marketing has become a buzz word, mission statement, and a service to provide…more and more “expert” storytellers are emerging. I am finding more and more organizations touting the ability to leverage audiences using this practice of storytelling. Just do a Google search and Twitter search for the word “Storytelling”.

Yes…we all can tell a story…but to what degree do people really care? And what do we view as a story. As a former journalist, stories were and still are my life. For so many years…I thought I could tell a great story using a camera, microphone, and a computer.

This was my ethic until I met Bob Dotson…who I think is one of the best storytellers in broadcast journalism. He shared something with me that changed the way I approach every project I produce. He shared with me his philosophy during dinner one evening.

Stories are like an onion, and it is up to us to help the audience peel back the layers. He went on to explain that many people can tell a story, but is it really a story when only layer  is revealed? True storytellers find stories with layers, ones that have deep meaning, deeper impacts, layers upon layers of little micro stories.

I love this idea of the onion and the storyteller’s burden to seek and find the truth in those layers. The true narrative lies in the connection of those layers as they are weaved together in a larger enterprise.

If you apply this idea of layers with content marketing, it is a perfect match. As content marketers, we know that it is not advantageous to only deliver the whole story at one time. If we can reveal each layer of a story, one link at a time, one picture at a time, one video at a time, one blog post at a time, one tweet at a time, etc…we can share a larger narrative that builds a larger digital brand.

We have the opportunity to expose a larger documentary, providing a path through this narrative (these micro-stories) revealing the thesis at the right time…the right moment.

So I thought I would share four things that I feel are a part of this larger storytelling narrative:

1) Finding the Story:
The act of finding a story that you can see, hear, feel, and relate. This is the vital. We not only have to find the first layer, we have to dig deep. We have to search for the onion. The goal is to find that story that can not only reveal itself in layers, but also provide digital accessibility for the audience. We want to sprinkle the digital space…one layer at a time.

2) Telling the story:
This is a part of the narrative where we bring the story to life. The art of articulating using words, visuals, sounds…elements that reach the audience in the fashion where they can see, hear, and feel the layers reveal themselves.

3) Seeking the Story:
As storytellers, we seek to tell, yet consumers seek to find a story. There is the part of the narrative where consumers use language to search for the story. Whether listening in a conversation or typing words into google, we must articulate what we want consumers to find. We have to give consumers language to use to find our stories! So as marketers of this larger narrative, we have to digitally brand our stories. How can we find and share the proper keywords, revealing them to the audience so that they find our story at the right moment in time.

4) Sharing the Story:
This is the part where pitching the story is important. Once we tell…we have to make the story repeatable in an efficient, expedient fashion. So articulating a status update, tweet, or sharing at the dinner table is a part of the sharing narrative. From word-of-mouth (WOM) to digital WOM, sharing is a strategy. How can we trickle each layer of the story so that we give the audiences reason to continually come back for more.

#SCMission2013 Photoessay – Faces of the Unisured

So many faces…so many people in need…I was completely overwhelmed. It was 5am and as I pulled into the Charleston Coliseum parking lot, it was not immediately noticeable if there was a sizable turnout for the SCMission2103 Lowcountry Free Clinic.

As I parked, pulled my gear together and made my way to the coliseum…the line appeared. The line wrapped around the coliseum, people waiting in-line all night for a chance to receive care.

I met Bill Plank (pictured directly above), and he drove from Anderson to Charleston to see a doctor. Anderson is my home town, like him, I drove 3.5 hours to Charleston. Yet, he drove the night before, spent the night in the car so that he could be close to the front of the line. His goal: to be seen by a physician as soon as possible. I was thankful he spent a few minutes with me to share his story.

The photos in the slideshow at the top of this page are a part of a photo essay I captured on Friday. I knew I could spend time capturing stories from individuals and volunteers…most importantly, I wanted to capture the faces or the uninsured. I wanted to capture their expressions, their context, their story.

These are the faces of the uninsured, right here in South Carolina. They are a part of the 250 thousand uninsured individuals that could benefit from access to quality medical care. They look like you and I, they have families, bills to pay, children to feed…they are human. These are their faces.

So here is a little information about SC Mission 2013 Lowcountry. South Carolina Hospital Association and Access Health SC partnered with many community organizations in Charleston in an effort to organize and execute a two day free clinic for those in need. From free medical, dental, and vision care…hundreds and hundreds of people waited to be seen this Friday morning.

Are people remembering then searching for your story?


Image credit: DailyGalaxy.com

I was looking around for the perfect billboard image and I thought this fit so well. I just read and article from SearchEngineLand.com surrounding the idea of attribution in the world of marketing.

What is attribution?
Attribution is the process of identifying a set of user actions (“events”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events.Marketing attribution provides a level of understanding of what combination of events influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, typically referred to as a conversion. (from wikipedia.com)

As I was thinking through this article, I began pondering some of my larger clients. I was thinking about how they spread their marketing mix (spend) across the spectrum and how it relates to the related online search.

One of the take aways: “The biggest conversion rate (90%) is the person that uses a single click or with the same keyword typed.”

So, how do I apply this to a large organization’s marketing/pr efforts…especially as it involves our social/digital efforts. Heck, let’s narrow the field to a large hospital system.

First…it is all about the search! On all media mixes, it is more important to make our searchable keywords (that drive traffic to our conversion rates) extremely apparent. From billboards, television, to digital ads; we have to consider visually displaying the keywords we want people to use to search Google/Yahoo/etc.

Basically, this is a typography/visual design exercise. When designing any media, the words that we want people to use to search for our final digital destinations must be most visible, most readable, and most apparent.

So this is a shift in thinking a bit, especially for me.

What is our digital keyword brand?
Think about a billboard on the interstate. As we drive by, which keywords do we remember from that billboard. Which keywords catch our attention? Are the keywords people remember the ones that match our branded message? Does our audience type those branded keywords correctly into the search engine to find our services.

Think about that television ad. Which keywords are used in the ad? Are the displayed words in the ad the same keywords we want people to use to search for that service? What will they remember?

Social Media/digital ads are different…we should be already giving links with updates as we point people to final destinations.

I would love to hear your thoughts as you read through this article. Maybe you are implementing this strategy, and I am wasting your time. But, I found this research interesting as it relates to large organizations (especially hospitals) that use a multi-channel media mix.

Asking the right questions…storytelling

It was just yesterday I was working on a project for a group in Portland, Maine. An upstate portrait artist has been commissioned for a project and it was important to capture his story during the process. The artist’s name is Jerry and he grew up in Spartanburg.

The client for this project is actually an old friend of mine, Mike Redding. He is not old, we just worked together close to ten years ago.

He sent me a note with some of the questions for the interview and I could immediately recognize his thought process. One of the questions was buried in the midst of all the questions…and I wondered. It was a personal question that seemed to need a little extra attention.

I know Mike…there is a reason for this question. It was just not a throw away…it was important. Later, he sent me a note warning me Jerry might get annoyed with answering these personal questions and he actually might get mad. That immediately told me this topic was not only important to the story, but also a series of questions that needed to be asked.

People want to talk. People want to share their story. We just have to ask the right questions. When people like Jerry agree to an interview, they subconsciously agree to share the deepest part of their lives. We just have to be willing to ask the right questions at the right time. Most importantly…we have to remember the interview process is about trust.

I have learned not to dive right into the most controversial question at the beginning, unless I am working on a documentary or investigative story that requires me to capture that question immediately. We have to slowly work our way into the important questions. We have to learn to build trust.

I am asked so many times, “What do you do?” I tell people I am a storyteller. I find, capture, tell, and share stories for people to enjoy. But what I really do is ask the right questions.

Passion can be found in someone’s story!

Meet Dot…she is amazing and has a powerful story to tell. Many people camp out all night for iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets. She camped out all night to be the first in-line to receive free medical care. Why? She needed it and was willing to just about anything for the opportunity. To me…that is about as entrepreneurial as it gets!

From TheState.com
There were more than 1,300 patient interactions at the SC Mission 2013 this past Friday and Saturday in Columbia, SC at the State Fairgrounds.

Patients received healthcare, eye care, prescriptions and women’s care, including pap smears and mammograms.

The SC Mission aims to meet the needs of residents who are underserved an uninsured. There were about 1,000 clinical and non-clinical volunteers including about 500 healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and optometrists.

These individuals, those 1300 people that came through the doors have passion. Their story surrounds us here in South Carolina with over 250,000 people who are uninsured.

Many times we have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Or we are not motivated to get the day started. Sometimes it is hard to make that first step on a project or we have been procrastinating with that todo list.

I took note this past Friday. People like Dot and the 1300 individuals that waited inline to receive medical care. Many of them made sure they were first in line, waiting all night.

Passion…very entrepreneurial to me!