Creative Blog

Issues important to discern and creatively explore!

There is something in these hills…Joe Sherman’s words brought to life.

There is something in these hills and for the past five months, I have been working with Clemson Alumni AssociationClemson Creative Services, and an amazing graphic artist/animator…Josh Stolz.

The video you see above is a 30 second advertisement being played in movie theaters across the region. But this is just a small portion of a bigger project enhancing the Clemson Ring Experience.

We produced a 3 minute video sharing stories of the Clemson Ring, all brought to life through illustrations and animation. I worked with a wonderful graphic artist/animator Josh Stolz bringing these stories to life.

The script came from Joe Sherman’s “There is Something in These Hills” written in the 1970’s. Mr. Sherman was the Executive Director of the Clemson Alumni Association and wrote this piece of prose based on his reflections of Clemson. We used this selection, altering just a bit to bring it into present day context, because we felt he accurately described the Clemson Experience and also painted a beautiful image of Clemson through his words. What better way to connect the stories of Clemson to the people that live this experience daily.

I hope you enjoy the video above and look forward to sharing more down the road. To learn more about the Clemson Ring Experience, visit the Clemson Alumni Website to watch and read more…or CLICK HERE.

To read the whole selection from Joe Sherman, CLICK HERE.

Content is KING: Leveraging 100% of your content for the 1%

Telling stories requires planning and focus!

Many times I get the call to consider working on a project that needs to be completed in less than a month…and the only focus for project is for an event. I always spend time meeting with the folks to listen to the project. We spend time thinking through the goals…but I have lots of questions and thoughts for everyone involved to consider.

Typically I like to work on projects that are more than just “emergent care”. What do I mean, the project has to have more than just the immediate “focus”. Many times I find the project only solves a small portion of what really needs to be communicated. I like to work on projects that have long-term thinking and provide long-term, residual value to the audience. More  than just one production that solves a short-term problem.

I am a business person and I am not-only try be a good steward of the resources provided to complete the project at-hand, but also be mindful of the content that is created beyond the production. I like to put together a comprehensive plan that leverage’s the stories that are captured.

Let’s Think Beyond:
I am a strategic communicator and the first thing I like to do is consider the overall communications plan from two perspectives: the campaign and the organization. I like to understand how this production fits into these plans. Why…because we are telling stories and we are capturing lots of content that *can be* used beyond the project. We probably use 15% of the content captured in the final production, that is 85% left over that is quality content…stories that can be used in other initiatives.

I like to think about the audience. There are many audiences within this particular project and across the organizations communication initiatives. I like to think…what audiences would connect with the different content we capture. What is the most compelling content from an interview we conduct and how can each response to a question fit into a bigger part of a communications plan.

I like to think delivery. We live in a digital communications era where sharing and consuming content has become a vital part of our daily lives. Let me share a few statistics:

From Edelman Digital:
“In 2012: 56% of consumer web traffic was video, YouTube users watched more than 36-billion hours of video and online video was the fastest growing ad format (up 55%).”

We are watching content  and consuming content through out the day. This content is helping us make decisions from the car we buy, to the physician we choose. But, also….this content cannot be consumed unless it is shared with a community. How about that 1%?

The 1% Concept:
This One Percenter concept is based on research from Jackie Huba’s book, Citizen Marketers. She discovered “that the most highly engaged particpants in a community make up a tiny percentage of the overall customer base but are vocal passionate evangelists who bring new customers into the fold through word of mouth.”

If you have wonderful content, wonderful stories to tell…why not leverage all 100% of that content to engage the most loyal fans…your 1%. This is why I believe that Content is KING. Yes…the stories we capture have more than a shelf life span…they are valuable stories to be told and used beyond on little event, one little campaign, one little production.

These stories are connections…emotions…words of advocacy. They do not deserve to be put on the shelf and used down the road when you think it might be appropriate. We should leverage all 100% of the content captured in a production to engage that 1%.

I want to work with people who want to do more than just one production…I want to work with people that want to treat their all their content as prized possessions, stories to be told beyond the one event, the one project, the one production. I want to help people capture and tell stories to create more than a movement…I want to work with people to create a series of movements over time…advocating using all the stories we capture.

Content is KING!

SCPRSA Awards – GHS Rocks The Show

SCPRSA Awards - GHS Rocks The Show

Congrats to Robin Stelling, Robyn Zimmerman, Sara Dereng, and Karen Potter for representing Greenville Health System during the 2013 SCPRSA Mercury Awards.

Here are the awards they won during Thursday night’s event at The Loft at Falls Park:

· Mercury Award of Merit: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Centennial Celebration”

· Silver Wing Award: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Report To The Community”

· Silver Wing Award of Merit: Greenville Health System (Greenville) for “Go. Hunt. Scan.”

Congrats friends! To see all the award winners, go to SCPRSA.org.

rest in peace coach…remembering clemson coach annie tribble

This past year, I completed a project for Clemson Letterwinner’s Association telling stories of the 2012 Hall of Fame inductees. One of the inductees was Karen Ann Jenkins who was recruited by Coach Tribble, but also played for Coach Jim Davis.

I think this is probably one of the last interviews captured on camera with Coach Tribble. It was such a treat to watch the interaction between Coach Tribble and Karen Ann Jenkins…Coach and Player.

I hope you enjoy this story and see the type of relationship Coach Tribble had with her players. Also…here is a great article by the Orange & White about Coach Tribble. CLICK HERE to read the story!

Own your media…from Television to YouTube

It is time…time to take ownership of our media. What do I mean…well, we have to take ownership of all our media properties and not allow outside forces to have control of our message.

A few weeks ago, Greenville Hospital System rebranded and became Greenville Health System. They put together a great strategic plan to “flip the switch” on March 18th. Literally the evening of March 17th, all websites owned and operated under their umbrella lost their individual identities and took on the new web look as Greenville Health System. All social media properties took on the same look across the whole system.

This took lots of preplanning, pre-creative design, and lots of code work…so over a six hour span…all became one. GHS went from a house of brands to a branded house in a one night switch.

This is taking ownership of media…except one little detail did not come together as “planned.” In all honesty, it was hard to foresee this small situation. On that Monday, the day of the switch, television stations across the region began playing their beautiful, new television spots sharing the new branded message.

Lots of time, effort, and resources were invested in the creation of these beautifully produced televisions spots. But…GHS was not the first to share these spots on the social space. A few days later, the video production company released these spots on their company YouTube and Facebook outlets.

As I watched the newsfeed…my heart sank. I asked myself, why were we (GHS) not the first to share these spots from our social outlets. How does this happen? Is it really a big deal? Is there someone to blame? I have no idea if we should get upset or even bothered over something like this? Or…do you get excited that the production group is proud to share your message. And guess what…they did a wonderful job on the production…here is a link to one of the spots and they are beautiful (btw they were shot with a Red Camera).

What Can We Learn?
In a perfect world, this is how I see this “should” have happened (this is based on my limited knowledge of planning behind the production of the television spots):

1. When the production company is contracted to help create and craft television spots, the contract should reflect ownership of media assets. Specifically, who owns the rights to the content and how this content can be shared publicly.

2. Companies/Organizations should require all production companies to provide final media assets to them for all electronic distribution. What do I mean, all television spots should be provided and ready for distribution on all media outlets from television to online at the same time.

3. Coordinated release schedule should be created and implemented. This plan stipulates the days and times when each outlet will release these elements from television to online. These should be a coordinated effort between the production company, agency, and organization. So if the television spot is scheduled to be released on YouTube the same day it is released on television, the “traffic” plan should detail this plan along with who needs to be involved in this distribution. Usually the organization is the only one who has access to their social outlets.

4. YouTube and social share is just as important as the television release. This was proven with the Audi commercials from the 2012 SuperBowl. Audi released the 30 second spots on television and YouTube at the same time during the 2011 Super Bowl. This created the opportunity for social share…the television spot had a hashtag #solongvampires … so when people watched on television, they went to YouTube to find the video then tweeted it out using the hashtag. Within the first week after release, this created over a million views on YouTube and many million impressions on Twitter.

5. Production company’s social outlets (like YouTube) should not be the place where an organization’s television spot calls “home” and are first released. Why…because the production companies are not the owners of the branded message. The branded company/organization has the right to capitalize on the digital impact of the television spots, especially since it represents their branded message. The television spots should live on the organization’s branded video social outlet (like YouTube & Vimeo).

6. Production companies should make it standard practice in their agreements stipulating who owns the rights to this content, which includes (but not limited to) social media/digital media outlets.

7. Companies/Organizations should make sure their production agreement stipulates the branded organization reserves the first right of online distribution. The organization should be the first to share, then invite production company vendors to share (only after the organization has publicly released).

8. THIS IS IMPORTANT – the production company must share the video from the organization’s YouTube/Vimeo video outlet. SEO is important in this game of digital brand equity.

What can we learn from this? Owning our media is important. Now a little disclosure…I work with GHS. I do not look at this as a critique of GHS but more of a learning experience that should help us plan for the future. Who would have thought that the production company would be the first to share these spots online *and* would it be a big deal? We learned…this can happen and will happen again if we (as digital strategiest) do not plan accordingly.

I learned something from this experience. I must be more diligent when putting together social/digital distribution plans. I will also make sure I write better contracts/agreements with my production clients.

For GHS…they do not want others to leverage their brand, their message, their digital equity. It is important to applaud production companies for sharing the work they create. We want them to share…but it should not be at the expense of the organization’s digital message.

* Image from webaholic.com <- THANKS! 

What does electricity have to do with health?

Interview with Mr. Russell Robinson

I had the tremendous fortune to be a part of the interview process with The Duke Endowment, capturing the story from one of their Trustees. Mr. Russell Robinson is one of those Trustees and he has many stories to tell.

I walked away  with a new perspective surrounding the legacy of the Duke Endowment and Mr. James Buchanan Duke. Mr. Duke was in the tobacco business establishing the American Tobacco Company in 1890, which becomes the largest tobacco company in the world.

“James B. Duke and his brother, Ben, work together in business and in philanthropy. Their sister, Mary Duke Lyon, is an early partner in the family endeavors. With the family’s influence and support, Trinity College opens a Durham campus in 1892. In 1896, the Dukes establish a $100,000 endowment for the school with the requirement that women be admitted ‘on equal footing with men.’ Later, Trinity College became Duke University.”

Mr. Duke was later forced to close the business in the early 1900’s. But, he had a vision of how he wanted to create a legacy for years to come.

His vision was to harness the power from the Catawba River and turn it into electrical power, using the proceeds from this business to fund initiatives that support the spirit, the education, and the health of North and South Carolina.

“Duke Energy began in 1900 as the Catawba Power Company when Dr. Walker Gill Wylie and his brother financed the building of a hydroelectric power station at India Hook Shoals along the Catawba River. In need of additional funding to further his ambitious plan for construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants, Wylie convinced James Buchanan Duke to invest in the Southern Power Company, founded in 1905.”

“They felt the South’s heavy dependence on agriculture was prohibiting growth of other industries. By developing an integrated electric system of hydro-powered generating stations, they envisioned linking customers by transmission lines – and creating new opportunities for economic growth.”

Mr. Robinson shared the history of The Duke Endowment and how it’s legacy was created through the income from Duke Energy. For many years, The Duke Endowment owned majority of the shares in now Duke Energy. They have slowly divested their interest over time, re-investing in other area of the market.

The goal was to provide the financial support to create a healthy, educated, spiritually connected community. You see this in the numerous benefitiaries that are supported by The Duke Endowment. From Duke University, Duke Medical, United Methodist Church to the three other institutions Johnson C. Smith, Davidson, and Furman along with numerous hospitals and other grantees carry out the vision Mr. Duke wrote in the initial Indenture of Trust.

Mr. Robinson spent hours sharing the vision and responsibility of the Board of Trustees, the burden to carry out Mr. Duke’s Legacy. Each year, the Board of Trustees reads Mr. Duke’s Indenture of Trust (his will) as a reminder of the vision they have been empowered to carry out.

Electricity has a lot to do with health. If you live in North or South Carolina, I would be willing to bet that your community hospital has been awarded or impacted by the financial support of Mr. Duke and The Duke Endowment. All this made possible by the first hydro-electric plant on the Catawba River. This flow of power has created a long term source of support that is invested in the future health of North and South Carolina.

Thanks to Mr. Robinson for sharing this story of legacy.

Here is a great video created a few years ago, the history of James B. Duke and The Duke Endowment.

*Sources: WikiPedia, Duke Energy, & The Duke Endowment

Ethos of Blogging – Building Credibility for Revenue

Why do we blog?
So what do I mean when I say the “ethos” of blogging? So ask yourself, why do you blog? Is it a platform to tell your story? Is it a place to journal? Is it a place to build awareness for your organization? Do you make money from your blog?

Ok…so let’s tackle the last question. More and more people I talk to…more and more people want to know how to make money from your blog. Many people place ads on their blog. Many people track clicks as they help direct traffic to products and services. I like to talk about how to build credibility.

Why is credibility important?
Credibility is one the biggest issues I think we should always bear in mind when it comes to representing our interests not only in the off-line business space but the online in the digital space.

A few years ago, I was working with an investment firm that had just created a new company with a new board a directors. Once of the biggest issues they faced…credibility. Great leadership running this group but lots of bad press online after the economic collapse, especially given the fact some of the individuals came from banking.

We needed to build some online credibility. Specifically, when people performed Google searches of these individuals, we needed to have links to articles that provided content beyond the bad press. We needed to take ownership of their online identity.

A simple plan to build credibility
The new website for this company was the typical postcard web presence. We added two things: a blog and a news section. We started writing blog posts from the leadership, content they created in their voice, and posted on a regular basis. We also started posting news releases consistently on the site detailing monthly items we wanted the public to know, positive content about the company that included the board’s names inside the copy.

The next thing we did was create a Twitter account for the company and a monthly email newsletter. With Twitter, we followed all the news outlets in the region along with local businesses, agencies, and organizations where the board had relationships. We were hoping they would follow us back. Then we started sharing our news and blogs, along with items from the life of the organization.

The email newsletter was a monthly email blast to investors and influential people in region where the board had relationships. This was just a simple newsletter repurposing content from the blog and news sections of the website. We only included the first part of the news item or blog with links back to the website to read more.

Over time with consistent writing, sharing, and directing people back to the website…we began building traction. We watched the hits increase each month and we also began to notice the blogs and news items rose in the Google Rankings, especially when people performed searches of the board of directors names.

Sharing our story
*We* were sharing *our* story, sharing the story from *our* perspective, and building online credibility. So, what does this have to do with making money? *We* did not have ads on the blog or news sections. *We* did not have a product or service we were directing our clicks for revenue. *We* were building credibility for the *sales* cycle. *We* were not talking about sales or investments in the blogs or newsletters…*we* were talking about leadership, entrepreneurship, and what it was like to build this type of company model during this financial climate. We were telling our story.

The Pay-Off
This past year, a potential investor met with one of the individuals on the executive team. He had attended few group meetings and wanted to have a one-on-one meeting with a person on the executive team. When the meeting began, this potential investor shared that he had learned a lot about this executive team member. He had been reading the blog, reading the newsletter, and had enjoyed getting to know him virtually. At the end of the meeting, the individual wrote a check for a large six figure amount. Let’s just say that this investment paid for blog and the digital media consulting services was paid back more than 20 times over.

In this model…building digital credibility was a huge part of their success. Ethos is everything in the world of blogging and it is more than just thinking about direct revenue from each blog post, click, or hit. Sometimes we have to think bigger for the big return.

The Story Behing Rescued By Love – A Portrait Fundraising Effort

A few months ago, Tiffiney Addis reached out to me to see I could help here with a little project. Tiffiney is a photojournalist and has been capturing Rose’s pictures before the day she was born. And now she has become the family photographer, capturing all the important moments in Rose’s life.

This week, she hosting a photo contest that is benefitting the Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. Her daughter was born at 21 weeks and experienced first hand the depth of experience and care in the Bryan NICU. After that day…she decided to give back.

The video above is just a small portion of her larger story and drive to make a difference. If you go to www.RescuedByLovePortraits.com, you can vote for our daughter Rose (contestant #22). Each vote is one dollar and her goal this year is $20,000, so she needs 20,000 votes.

All the money from the contest goes directly to Bryan NICU of GHS Children’s Hospital. I hope you take a few minutes and vote.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite & Melissa Mayer in Socially Responsible Messaging

So when I first watched this commercial…I was first taken in by the little chit chat conversation between a guy and girl. Here the girl has the new Kindle Paperwhite and the guy right beside her had an iPad trying to read in the sun. Any of you iPad owners know…that is nearly impossible with the glare. I have one and I know. But…I am not going to take a device to the beach.

But as the commercial moves along, the little surprise in this commercial is the fact that a new Kindle was just released. The commercial claims the Kindle Paperwhite is smaller and easier to use outside than the iPad, especially in the sun. Yep…we have seen many of these Amazon commercials comparing the Kindle to the iPad, so nothing real new.

But underneath it all, we thought there might be some little conversation that might spark where a guy was using technology to “hit on the girl” beside him. But, our conscience would not allow us to consider the reality of that thought… especially since Amazon is about pushing products.

Guess again. They not only addressed the issue of this seemingly weird conversation where a guy hits on a girl…it turns to an acceptance of the other’s relationship getting them a drink. Both with husbands.

I think this is the first time I have seen a large company like Amazon address an openly controversial topic with such ease and matter of fact. This ad leaves us knowing that both gay and straight individuals are the center point of this new product launch.

From the Inquisitr.com:
“It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos and his wife are strong allies in the fight for marriage equality. Last year, according to Reuters, they donated $2.5 million to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. Referendum 74 was approved by voters in Washington last November.”

“It’s a bold move for Amazon to take such a big risk when pitching its Kindle PaperWhite to potential buyers, but clearly Amazon thinks the cause of Marriage Equality is worthy of that risk.”

This ad is about business and the commitment to their social responsibility. Amazon is a worldwide brand that serves numerous different communities including those who are gay and support marriage equality. This ad just makes sense especially given the fact that companies like Amazon have an opportunity to become leaders in this multilayered conversation.

From Amazon to Yahoo…these brands are tackling issues right in front of us everyday. From marriage equality to gender equity in the workplace…the conversation is in the forefront and it is time get with the program.

From Harvard Business Review Blog:
“Marissa Mayer is no fool. She didn’t take over as Yahoo’s CEO because the company was doing well; she came on board because the stumbling Internet enterprise was an underperforming underachiever that had lost its way.

“So when Mayer decrees seven months into the job that she wants people to, you know, physically show up at work instead of telecommuting — or else — I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood, Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her own conclusions about who’s creating real value — and how — in her company. She knows who her best people are.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Amazon and Yahoo…the fact of the matter  is they are making a statement. And they are leveraging the digital times….because now people are not only talking about these decisions over coffee, they are sharing their thoughts online, in social outlets, and blogs like this.

By the way, the Kindle Paperwhite video was published on YouTube on February 20, 2013 and on March 4, 2012 (12 days later) the video has over 583,000 views. They are not only making a product statement, they are making a social statement and people are consuming.

writing for the spoken word…chocolate chip cookie please!

writing for the spoken word

It sometimes takes a different viewpoint to write for the video and television medium. Many times translating our thoughts takes a different viewpoint. I sometimes have to get a coffee and cookie to work on a script.

I often find those I am working with on the project have a hard time seeing the words translate into the video medium. Specifically, each medium we use to communicate whether it be email, tweets, or video…the final written word is different for each medium.

I think and write as if I am writing for television, I write in the spoken word. I write as I imagine saying the words and find myself using the “…” as pauses or places for emphasis. Sometimes I use all lower cases to illustrate a soft tone, even not capitals for the word at the beginning of a paragraph for smoother spoken transitions. Then  ALL CAPS for emphasis of intensity or shouting.

I challenge those I am working with to sit back and read the whole script out loud. Speak it…say it…deliver it using your voice.

Listening to the script instead of saying it takes on a whole new medium. It is hard to write for the spoken word, we explain thing differently using our out loud voices. We pause for emphasis, we say words differently than in written format, we even omit words that are unnecessary.

Writing for the spoken word is like writing for a spoken conversation. You say a phrase and wait for a response, allowing your audience to adjust to your statement. You want the audience to not only hear your words but feel your words.

Writing for the spoken word still embodies the idea of telling stories. If you are writing a 30 second PSA for television, you do not want to share your closing thought in the middle of the script…unless that is the parenthetical design of delivery.

Or for that 30 second PSA or television spot…we do not want to cram 29 seconds of words into a 30 second final product…unless we do not want someone to breathe while listening. People need to breathe when listening, digest your creative thoughts, and store them in a way to remember your message.

I always encourage those who are writing for television or video to read the script out loud while recording yourself. Yes…then play it back and listen to the delivery. How about recording yourself with a video camera…reading the script to see the expressions in the lines of words, hear the pauses…feel the delivery. Many times…you will find the places to re-write and refine because now you see and her the script in the context of the audience.

Now it is time for a bite of that chocolate chip cookie!

Social Media Is Getting Boring…Yawning Again

Yep…I said it. It is getting so boring and overused. How is it overused…well, let me put it this way…it is overused as a marketing/pr strategy that we have forgotten the social core.

Social Media is all around us and has become such a common place that the innovation that pushed us to today’s technology is no longer pushing for something more. Yes, there are new technology spin offs from the current platforms emerging each day…but it is the same stuff on a different day.

I walk into more and more meetings and the idea of social has been lost in the social media. We are using Facebook as a pure marketing outlet, sometimes the only social media solution in the bag of tricks. We are designing cover photos like billboards with branded messages…no social messages.

What is social about a logo and a tagline on a cover photo, nothing. It is just the same ole thing moved from our interstate highways to our information highways and is probably just as equally effective, maybe…yawn. Time for some coffee.

We are putting together spiffier quarterly and annual reports, including metrics from our corporate social outlets. We include engagement numbers, clicks, traffic increase percentages, etc…and why…because we can and it makes us feel good. We have successfully transferred our marketing accountability efforts to tracking social outlets like websites. This is the same thing as trying to take the broadcast news industry and transfer it into a website, just the same thing in a different delivery method.

What is so fun about that? We have bought into the routine, the routine we had before these social technologies began to emerge and excite us. We were excited because it was a new way to engage in new conversations. Now it is just routine because we are trying to track, react, and code engagement so we can justify our resources.

Why can we not just look at the social of the media and just accept it for what it is…it is a place have online conversations. Why can we not just find new ways to have richer conversations whether public or private and not worry so much about accountability? Oh yeah…the bean counters again. Yeah…traditional bean counters. Yawn again.

Where is the new innovative, executive leadership?

We are stagnant…we have become boring…and we are not giving our communities any other reason to engage in conversations other than getting our updates based on a daily metric.

Even the communities, the people truly using these outlets are getting used to the proliferation of marketing messages on these social outlets. We do not fuss as much anymore when we see sponsored messages come across our timelines. We just scroll by them like they did not exist. Why…because we are tired of fussing about it. Maybe we do not see them anymore. Or maybe they are working and we are actually clicking on them.

The social media innovators are stagnant as well…they now have to make money and focus less on the innovation that drove the social adoption. I meet more and more people either dropping their social outlets *or* they accepting the fact that this where they get their news and information. Is that social? Is it social just because it provides news updates that we now depend on?

It is time to take off our marketing hats, our pr hats, our community manager hats, and remind ourselves why we used social outlets in the first place. Because we wanted to connect with new people, find new ideas, engage in new conversations…not just market our widget or share our latest news item.

Time to break away from our new reality. Time to be social again and not marketers and pr professionals.

*Image from ADW.org’s blog: http://bbr.tw/13J20Mb 

Chief Justice Finney – A Story of Black History in South Carolina

Chief Justice Finney - "Proud To Be A SC Lawyer"

I had the pleasure to meet Chief Justice Finney a few months ago while working with the South Carolina Bar Association and Melanie Lux on video project. Ernest A. Finney, Jr. was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice appointed to the South Carolina Supreme Court since the Reconstruction Era.

Mr. Finney is one the attorneys featured in the “Proud to be a South Carolina Lawyer” video series by the South Carolina Bar. The series is designed to promote a true representation of South Carolina lawyers and their commitment to their clients and the community.

From the moment I walked in the door…I felt like I was walking into a history book, a walk back in time as we heard his personal testimony where he earned the right to lead the highest court in South Carolina.

But we knew his story was powerful, but more powerful was the love and respect that he and his wife shared over the years. As they sat side by side during the interview, they shared those special moments in time…time that has been written in the history books of South Carolina. They shared the first time they met and the numerous years they advocated together for “civil rights.”

Mr Finney earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Claflin College in 1952 then enrolled in South Carolina State College’s School of Law, from which he graduated in 1954. In the beginning, he was unable to find work as a lawyer, so he followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a teacher. In 1960, he moved to Sumter and began a full-time law practice.

In 1961, Mr. Finney represented the Friendship 9, a group of black junior college students arrested and charged when trying to desegregate McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In 1963, he served as chairman of the South Carolina Commission on Civil Rights. Mr. Finney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1972. He was subsequently appointed a member of the House Judiciary Committee, making him the first African-American to serve on that key committee in modern times.

In May 1994, the state’s general assembly elected Mr. Finney to the position of Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, effective December 1994, making him the first African-American Chief Justice of South Carolina since Reconstruction.

Here is his short story that was produced for South Carolina Bar’s “Proud to be a South Carolina Lawyer” video series.

*Reference information for this post came from the SC Bar Association and Wikipedia.

Black History Month – Call Me MISTER Book Released

A few years ago…I had the privilege of working with the Call Me MISTER program to document and tell their story. It was the 10th Anniversary and they wanted to bring 10 years of progress to their supporters during this celebration.

I met Dr. Jones as the Executive Director of Call Me MISTER and as we embarked on a journey to document the progress…I grew to truly see the struggle beyond the classroom.

The goal of the Call Me MISTER program is to educate and empower young black men to become elementary school teachers here in SC. Why? To provide role models for young children…to help elementary children see black men in this leadership role. What a BIG idea…especially for South Carolina.

During this production process…I dug deep into my soul and was challenged to see whether I was truly open to this movement. As a white male, I do not think we can truly feel, see, hear, and comprehend the struggles of the black community. We think we are not “prejudice” but what I learned to realize is prejudice has nothing to do with this movement.

I did not see this until I met Mr. Harvey Gantt. Mr. Gantt was the first black male to be admitted to Clemson University. I worked wit his daughter Sonya Gantt at WCNC-TV in Charlotte.

It was a Saturday during the Summer of 2010. We were about to embark on the production of this project when I was asked to attend a weekend summit. All the “MISTER’s” from around the state were coming to Clemson University’s Tillman Hall to listen to Mr. Harvey Gantt speak.

As I walked into the auditorium in Tillman, I noticed I was the only white individual attending this packed house event. Not wanting to bring attention to my minority status…I found a seat in the back. As I sat and listened to the first black man to attend Clemson…I began to see his viewpoint. As the only white person in the room…his words felt like they were darts shooting across the room for only me to feel. And after his powerful remarks…something happened that brought context to the day.

Dr. Jones stood up and announced our documentary project. He shared the vision to tell this story and that it would be shared in a few months during the 10th Anniversary Summit at BMW in September 2010. Then he asked the team to stand-up to be recognized. As he called out each name…applause followed. Then my name was announced as the person who would help lead this initiative. Since I was sitting in the back…it took a second for Dr. Jones to find me amongst 800 plus in the room.

Then…he spotted me. For the first time, I felt the true meaning of the work *minority*. Dr. Jones told everyone to clap for me…the only white male in the room who has agreed to help produce this story. I think Dr. Jones knew that my perspective was crucial to help truly capture and share this story, especially given my minority status and viewpoint.

Almost three years later…I still do not think I truly grasp the core of the struggle. But I do think I see this movement through an ever shifting lens. Now, they have released their book call “Call Me MISTER.” Dr. Jones gave me a signed copy, one that I will cherish for a lifetime. I was in the meeting when they first talked about writing this book.

I hope you watch the interview above. It was great to catch-up with Dr. Jones…as a reminder of their story, their progress, and their continuing struggle to bring voice to their mission. We need more black males as role models. From the public school system to collegiate and professional coaching…we need more black males in the public as leaders…as role models. To watch the videos we produced that summer, here is a link to read more: www.callmemister.clemson.edu.

*Images from SCETV website and Amazon.com.  

our story…our connectivity…our passion…our entrepreneurial spirit

What story do we share on regular basis? Have you noticed over time your story is changing, evolving…but are those passions an evolution? Or are those passions just part of our long-term focus. I remember coming into this year, my path has come closer and closer into a clear path…a clear focus.

I received an email today asking for help with a complex digital communication concept…it was way out of my league. Well, let’s just say this concept is not where I like to focus my business. So I made a few phone calls trying to connect a colleague to the right group with the right solution. As I called around, I reconnected with an old friend. Joe was on the other end of the phone call…an entrepreneur that took a lot of chances with some cool ideas…just the timing was not right.

We talked on the phone for over 45 minutes, reconnecting, sharing our updated stories. Even though he jumped back into the corporate game, leaving behind his entrepreneurial start-ups…I know he will swing the bat again.  His focus was smart, hunker down during the recession by leveraging a fulltime job to support his family. But he will try again, and he will use his experiences from the previous entrepreneurial endeavors to guide his next venture.

As we talked…I shared with him my vision for my future and my family’s future. Why do I share this? Entrepreneurs are constantly searching for focus, pitching our ideas, our stories, our passions. I shared my passions and how I want to convert those passions into my real life story:

1) Get into better health as a whole person.
2) Complete the business transition from service provider to curator of my craft.
3) Continue build my company for long term success.
4) Advocate for the initiatives that represent my ethic (both personal and business).
5) Embrace my core family.
6) Serve the community in public office.

My story is changing…yet coming more and more into focus. The more I focus, the more important my connections become a richer experience. Our passions are shared, even during a phone call. Yes…*we* should share our story, share our passions, and embrace our connectivity! Why…because we embrace our entrepreneurial spirit.