Creative Blog

Issues important to discern and creatively explore!

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!!!

Facebook “Star” Rating System Released –> GHS Life Center

Have you noticed the new five star Facebook rating system? It popped up on one of GHS’s Facebook pages  this week (GHS Life Center’s Page).

It looks like Facebook just released this new system and they are testing it out on certain pages. TechCrunch reported this new deal on November 7, 2013:

“Using a star system for place and page ratings isn’t entirely new; Facebook has been collecting star ratings from users on the desktop and via local search for quite a while now, and also seeking star ratings on content and apps via Timeline. What is new is making this information explicitly displayed on the social network itself, in a prominent place on a business or place Page.

This shift, if it moves from the testing phase to general adoption, has a couple major implications for Facebook users. First, for general members, it provides an increased degree of sentiment information surrounding places and content that goes well beyond the simple off/on attribute of the Like. “

For businesses, it’s not clear yet whether displaying this rating will be optional or mandatory, but if Facebook is making a play to compete with the Yelps, Foursquares and Angie’s Lists of the world when it comes to local discovery and service recommendations, it would make sense that they are required by default. That could mean a considerable shift in how businesses use FB, with more emphasis placed on customer service versus just maintaining a presence on the network. Likes are easy, after all, but getting users to fill up that star bar will require a lot more effort and interaction.”

Here is the comment from Facebook:
“We’re extending star ratings on Facebook from mobile to desktop – to make it easier for people to discover great businesses around them. This is beneficial for both businesses and consumers. Star ratings encourage more people to rate a business, making it eligible to appear in News Feed and help others discover a business they didn’t know about previously. For businesses themselves, this also leads to greater brand awareness.

As you may recall, star ratings launched in early 2012 with the introduction of Nearby on mobile. Now we’re bringing the visibility of star ratings to a more prominent spot at the top of Pages’ timeline on desktop and to the preview in News Feed.”

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.

Facebook is loosing steam with the Millennials and Generation Z

Image Credit: Mashable.com

I just read an OPED on Mashable.com today, it’s title: “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook”. Yep…things are changing. Let’s look at a few statements in the article that peaked my interest. This article is from the viewpoint of a 13 year old. Her name is Ruby Karp.

“Facebook is losing teens lately, and I think I know why.

Part of the reason Facebook is losing my generation’s attention is the fact that there are other networks now. When I was 10, I wasn’t old enough to have a Facebook. But a magical thing called Instagram had just come out … and our parents had no idea there was an age limit. Rapidly, all my friends got Instagrams.

Now, when we are old enough to get Facebook, we don’t want it. By the time we could have Facebooks, we were already obsessed with Instagram.”

Yes…and there are so many other reasons why teenagers are migrating away. None of their friends are using Facebook. Why? There is no community for this generation.

Ruby continues:  “This leads me into my next point: Although I do have a Facebook, none of my other friends do. My friends just thought it was a waste of time. I decided to get a Facebook just to see what it was all about. I soon discovered that Facebook is useless without friends. My only friend is, like, my grandma.”

Her next point peaks my interest. She beings to examine the idea of  surveillance. She explains parents spend so much time on Facebook, some of which to monitor what their children are doing. As a communication consultant, I remember having a Facebook training session for a group of hospital marketing/pr staff members. The main reason they attended, to figure out how to watch what their children were doing, with who, and where.

“Let’s say I get invited to a party, and there’s underage drinking. I’m not drinking, but someone pulls out a camera. Even if I’m not carrying a red Solo cup, I could be photographed behind a girl doing shots. Later that week, the dumb-dumb decides to post photos from that “amazing” party. If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn’t participating, I’d be dead. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but it happens there.”

So who is the average user on Facebook? Buffer’s blog shares some demographics“According to the research, it’s a young, 25 year-old woman, living in a big city, with a college degree and a household income of more than $75k a year.”

Above are some interesting statistics from Pew Research Center surrounding the Landscape of Social Media Users. Once again, look at the breakdown of social users and their choice of social media outlets.

With all this said, I think there is a unique separation between the Generation Z (born after 2000) and the Millennials (Generation Y). The Millennials look like they might be last generation of Facebook diehards. But…these diehards, the supporters of this social network that brought them together are slowly departing. They are tired of the “drama” and being overly exposed to the world.

Here is an interesting commentary on YouTube between a group of young professionals. They fall into the Millennial generation.

At :37 seconds into the video, the young man says, “There is always going to be something new.” And this is point of this blog post. We as communicators have to understand that Facebook taught us to adapt from our “traditional” mode of marketing/pr communication. And once again, it is going to teach us that we have to continue to evolve and stay true our goals as practitioners. We are communication practitioners and not technicians.

The moment we put all our eggs into one communication basket, we will be taught once again that this communication paradigm is going to shift once again.

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!

An IVF Story – The Lineage of the Collaborative Production Process

I admit it…I was extremely close to this story. So close. I wonder if I could have been an effective journalist trying to tell this story for broadcast news. My path, our paths were somewhat similar…Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. Jeff and Amory struggled to have Payton.

When I wrote the original script, I planned for it to be approximately a 15-minute story in video format. I wrote this story and knew that it would have to be edited and condensed. I also knew that we were going to have to find the right voice-over artist.

The first script had many holes, yet sounded great on paper… but I was so close to the story that I’m glad I worked with a great writer at GHS. As we worked through the revisions, we knew we were going to have it voiced numerous times. Mainly, to listen to the story translated on the screen.

Many times, we producers get so caught up in the copy, we forget how the written word will translate into the spoken word. We forget that the words, when transcribed from the interviews, look and read differently than they actually originally sounded. Often, we even write ourselves into a hole visually. What do I mean? I’m referring to when what we write doesn’t translate visually to the screen. There is no visually compelling way to completely represent the spoken word.

There is an ethical implication behind telling stories that we have become very close to…we sometimes lose sight how it will truly impact the audience. What we see through the clouded, predisposed producer lens may not translate to the intended audience. Often times critical distance is necessary during the revision cycle.

Why did I want to share this experience? Well, I was very close the the first script…even a bit defensive when the idea of editing the words was suggested. This is an example of why collaborative writing and editing has become a crucial part of my business model. It’s crucial to work with the client and other experts to find the right path to tell the story.

We creative people sometimes think that it’s “our way or the highway”…but often, that outlook can be detrimental in the business world. I wanted to share the first script with you, to allow you to see the evolution of this video. I think it’s fascinating how these types of stories come to be…and the collaborative process that facilitates the end result.

——- SCRIPT 5/31/18 ———–

Video Nats: Open with video from the birthday celebration

Voice Over – There is something special about birthday’s

Amory – I know Payton will not remember any of it. As they say, the first birthday is for the mom

Voice Over –Especially that first birthday…

Jeff – It was a huge amount of prep from the food to the party theme, party favors, to the invitations..top to bottom.

Video Nats – People singing Happy Birthday

Amory – As soon as we put that little cake down in front of her…she dug right in. She mutilated that thing.

Voice Over – We want to create a time to always remember…

Jeff  – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Jeff and Amory met each other in college…

Amory – I knew he was the one because there was something about him. He was so different from me. But he had such a tender heart. You know…he was kind of a rough and tough guy. He drove the big truck.

Voice Over – Feel in love and started a life together…

Jeff – My wife and I both have gotten married a little bit later. Both kind of career oriented…delayed the ideas of family…having a family too late. Then we started trying, things did not work like a storybook.

Voice Over – But what they really wanted…was a family…

Jeff – Its such a commitment to start a family in today’s world.

Voice Over – They did not realize…how hard it was going to be to just to start the process…

Amory – You know, we just had a lot of difficulty getting pregnant. I found out I had endometriosis, which I didn’t know that it was a pretty severe case of it.

Jeff – There is always some fear…reluctance to bite the bullet. And then you think of going through fertility processing some of the costs you hear. It can really be…you want to try every avenue to make things happened naturally rather than medically.

Voice Over – Reluctance, Fear, and the reality of a long road ahead…

Amory – Yeah, I had a lot of breaking points. You always think…why me? Why is this happening to me? I think everybody that goes through this goes through their mind at some point. You just don’t think it’s fair. Here you have…I have a great husband, we have a good house, we are inviting to a child, we want one so bad. And to think…why is this happening? We are here, we are ready, we are financially stable, we are open arms and loving.

Voice – And then there was some hope…

Jeff – Dr. Lessey helped us…he was our initial contact. He had done a lot of research with endometriosis…he was really carried the ball as far as carrying us through the process.

Amory – I don’t know, I just prayed with it every night. I felt really good about things. And I felt I had more of a positive attitude. Dr. Lessey was the one who did the procedure and he was really adamant about being the one to do the procedure this time around. I just know that day when I went in there…I just knew it that it happened?

Voice Over – And then…it did happen…that one moment in time…

Amory – The day we found out we were pregnant, I was at work of course.

Amory – I went to do the blood test and drove into work. I knew it would take a couple of hours, so I figured I would get the phone call at 11am. I told them I was not going to answer the call at work. I said just leave me a message and I will check my voice mail. That is what they did, they left me a message…it was about 11am.

Amory – I went out to the car and I told myself it was not going to be the end of the world if I have bad news. I remember hearing the voice mail…I have good news for you

Amory – I just could not even believe it. I just remember crying and it was awesome.

Amory – I remember calling Jeff and I couldn’t wait. I had to call him right away. I think he was just stunned. he was almost speechless. he was like….you are kidding me.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Birthday’s are special, especially first birthday’s…they help you remember. It was just one year earlier before little Payton blew out these candles that Jeff’s remembers when his dream became a reality.

Jeff – I guess i knew it was real about 2 o’clock in the morning on November 29th last year when my wife came to me and woke me up to tell me it was time to go to the hospital. Then it became real.

Voice Over – And for Amory, reality was before even way before Payton even arrived.

Amory – I would say we knew it was real when we went to have our first ultrasound and hear the heart beat. That was only seven weeks…but yet you could still see on the ultrasound. You heard the ba bump ba bump ba bump and it was just amazing.

Voice Over – Now this little reality is everyday life.


Voice Over – Famly time at the end of a day brings the normalcy of a routine.

Amory – Usually we come home and feed her…then we have a little bit of play time. Then we try to spend as much time as we can with her during that small amount of time we have with her. We then usually bring her upstairs, try to start winding her down. Give her a bath, she loves her bath…

Voice Over – There is something about bath time and winding up the day. For working parents, those hours in the evening are ever more important.

Amory – Well…when we come home, it is hectic. Both parents working…trying to keep Payton on a schedule of eating but yet we want to spend as much time as we can with her because our time is limited during the week.

Voice Over – This reality, this everyday life, brings lots of reflection…

Jeff – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real. It seems to good to be true to have a beautiful little girl, crawling soon to be walking, one year old…it just seems unbelievable.

Voice Over – Reflection that has empowered Jeff and Amory to share their story…

Jeff – Initially there is stigma until you get out and meet people and find out the condition of infertility…it is out there…it is spread around. When you are able to talk about it…you find out other people’s stories. And in my opinion, there is no reason to hang your head low…it is just a problem you need to work through.

Amory – It is ok to have issues like this…you are not weird or different…or to be shunned on because you have fertility issues. And if you continue to get the right help and get people involved…you can take something that is the hardest thing in your life and make it the best thing in your life!

Voice Over – That this picture perfect story, even with the long road, has become their everyday dream come true…

Jeff – I can remember leading up…it was a long road…it is probably good not to forget it because it makes it that much more valuable how hard you had to work to get the family you have now.

Amory – I understand what people say now…how awesome it is to be a mom. I did not really understand that before. But she has made us whole. She has just completed our lives.

Stories of Infertility: Many times – having a child is just hard.

Last year, I began working on a series of special stories for Greenville Health System…stories that shared the human element for the tagline “Advancing Health Care for Generations.” Each one of these stories has impacted me on some level. But I didn’t imagine that this story would have such an impact on my personal life.

When I met Amory and Jeff, I knew their story was going to be tough — tough to tell as well as investigate. From the first time I met Jeff, he presented himself as a husband who was willing to do just about anything to put a smile on Amory’s face. Jeff felt that “their” IVF story was all about Amory, specifically telling me that he felt she would tell “their story” best. From that moment, I knew this reserved gentleman had something to share. I just think he wasn’t ready to be in the forefront of his (their) story.

Amory and Jeff are just regular people. They look just like you and me. Both have successful careers, are hardworking, and love life. When it was time to start a family, they experienced what many face today…the long, difficult path of having a child. The word “infertility” is such a touchy subject for many couples; this untold story is normally not shared at the dinner table. It is just hard to bring words to this path many are traveling.

I know this path all too well. Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. It took us nearly three years for Rose to become a reality. If you take a walk through our backyard, you will see three small memorials to the three miscarriages we experienced. We even have ultrasounds from those three little ones. This past experience was that major reason we never named Rose until we knew she was going to be real, living, healthy baby. Her name for the first two trimesters was Z4.

Z4 stood for Zygote Number 4. Yes, it sounds harsh, removed, distant, and even somewhat pessimistic…but it was our reality. Zygote is a term used when signifying the first stage of the development of an organism. Sounds kind of like being in high school biology again. That distance brought comfort and provided the ability to find humor during a tense time.

It was January 2, 2011 and Z4 abruptly became a reality when Sarah just happened to pee on a stick in an Atlanta McDonalds bathroom. We were on the way back from our Christmas vacation and stopped at McD’s for a bathroom break. I was sitting in the car waiting for Sarah. I was wondering what the heck was taking so long. She hopped back in the car and the flood gates opened. She cried, “I’m pregnant…what are we going to do?”

Before Christmas, we had already scheduled a visit with a fertility specialist during the first week of January to chart our next plan of attack. The day we discovered that we were pregnant (again), it was a Sunday. We immediately called and left a message on the office answering service. We quickly received a call back from the nurse and they wanted us to come into the office Monday to chat. After numerous ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, and many medications, we began realizing that maybe this time was for real. Maybe it was time to start thinking of Z4 as an actual person instead of a project. Yet to me, Z4 was still Z4 until Z4 was born…and that day, our project became Rose.

Now Rose is turning two years old, and it’s a distant memory that she was once known as Z4.

We are surrounded by people whose stories are so different, yet similar. What have I learned? It ‘s ok to talk about it, to share, to offer support, and sometimes to offer advice. The only way to tackle these issues is to share our stories so that others can learn and find their path to a family.

iStock.com asks… “What is craft?” <-- I think they have an answer!

I love this video…I love the email they just sent. I agree with the video above…and I agree with their thought process.

Here is the quote from the email:

Your seeds of creativity
Craft is the root of our artistic passion and surgical attention to detail. It’s the beat of our creative drum. Watch and rediscover how our love of craft got us all into this creative racket to begin with.

Well…once again, I agree!

And one last time…I agree with this image in the email:

I am getting back to my roots. More to come!

Thanks iStock.com for confirming my direction and intuition!

Taking Ownership of the Message & Crisis Communication – The Thank You Video from the Cleveland Kidnappings

It just came across this morning. I first noticed it on CNN’s Facebook page, then a local television stations Facebook page (WYFF-TV)….then people started sharing.

CNN recorded the YouTube video from the computer screen, then wrote and produced their own story to fit their news commentary. Many other news outlets just shared links to the YouTube video. But what really happened here…the three girls and their families took control of their message and how they delivered it to the world.

News outlets, journalists, bloggers, and many others have been trying to capture an interview with these three girls after being found in a home, victims of a kidnapping. From the very beginning…the families have contended that they wanted their privacy and have stuck with that strategy.

If you look at the description below the YouTube video released, you will gain more context:

Published on Jul 8, 2013
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would like to say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world who have offered support to them. They are extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of kindness they have received and wished to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages with this video.

The women still maintain a strong desire for privacy and ask that everyone continue to respect their wishes in that regard going forward. Thank you.

The video was filmed on July 2, 2013 at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio. Visible in the background of the video is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The male off-camera voice heard in the video is that of Howard Fencl (pronounced FEHN-sill), vice president of Hennes Paynter Communications. The attorneys, public relations firm, social media strategist and videographer involved in the production of this video are all working pro bono on behalf of the three women.

This was not a price gauging event to leverage this story for the immediate monetary benefit of a law practice, pr firm, and video production company. This was done all pro bono. Now I am sure people will be contacting these businesses and even hire them since they effectively executed a strategy to share this story. But…I want to quickly look at the heart of this matter.

These three girls and their families chose not to be subjected to a press conference, which would lead to a feeding frenzy of who would get the next on-camera interview. They chose not to hold a press conference so they would be subjected to some of the most ridiculous questioning from both seasoned journalists and bloggers. They chose to control the message and share it in a way that made since for their lives and fulfill their desire to maintain their privacy.

Now I am sure the feeding frenzy has escalated since this release. But…the video was shot on July 2, 2013…7 days ago.

  • They were able to share the statement they wanted to share.
  • They were able to edit the video to meet the expectations of not only the legal team, pr firm, but ultimately the family.

We have the ability to control our message. Admittedly, there is a need to involve the main stream media for many awareness campaigns; but sometimes it is just best to bypass this process.

As a former journalist…I know first hand how the process happens, especially when we interview people that have experience this type of event. We have time constraints. Whether it is an immediate deadline or the length of the story…time creates a lens by which journalists create and distribute content. Sometimes that lens can minimize the context of a story. Sometimes, the competitive nature of being “the first” to report do alter the message even more.

I have worked with SO MANY large organizations that are consistently challenged by many mainstream media outlets…tired of their story/comments taken out of context. They/We know it best…news outlets chopping interviews into soundbites that meet the needs of their business model and/or deadline constraints. Yes…if you just chop two more words out of that interview…we won’t make the executive producer mad for going 2 seconds over the time limit of their newscast. A 2 second cut can mean the world to these three ladies.

Kudos to Hennes Paynter Communications, law offices of Jones Day, and the video production staff…they put the best interests of these three girls and their families first.