Why I quit my job to fight for Better Georgia

BetterGeorgia.comIn late October, I took one of the biggest leaps of faith of my life. I left Georgia’s best PR firm — Jackson Spalding — to create a start-up called Better Georgia.

This isn’t an ordinary start-up, either. I’ve worked with others to create Better Georgia from our passion to see Georgia better represent the people who call this state home.

So, why, exactly, did I leave a comfortable job?

For one, I simply grew tired of watching our state go in the wrong direction. And I really grew tired of listening to people who act as if the state belongs to lobbyists, big pocket corporations and partisan extremists.

It really disgusts me to see Georgia GOP Chairman Sue Everhart call Georgia “one of the reddest states in our great nation.” It bothers me because it’s simply not, true.

Georgian’s don’t care about Republicans or Democrats. They don’t care if this state is red or blue. Georgian’s are fed up with partisan politics. It’s time to look past the ‘R’ or ‘D’ that follows a candidate’s name and look to see how they care for our state.

The people I’ve met in Macon, Columbus, and pretty much every corner of the state, really just want our state to be great again. We all value a state that fosters better schools and better jobs.

In fact, I moved to Georgia more than a decade ago because the state offered good jobs, a creative atmosphere and a distinct contrast to some of the views that were popular in my home state of Alabama.

While I still love my hometown of Troy and will always root for my alma mater’s Crimson Tide, I don’t want Georgia lawmakers to use Alabama as a model for governance.

Sadly, that’s the direction we’ve been heading.

Today, Georgia faces historic levels of unemployment with nearly half a million workers looking for jobs. Georgia has the 3rd highest poverty rate in nation, with two cities ranked among our nation’s 10 poorest places to live. Georgia’s students are defaulting on student loans faster than the national average. Meanwhile, businesses refuse to open in Georgia because our representatives pass laws intended to please a small, extreme group.

These are startling facts. I refuse to sit in silence as we continue to fall further behind.

I’m hoping I don’t have call attention to these problems on my own. Please join me at Better Georgia. By working together, we can improve our state.

The right way to write: A guide for Georgia Tech

I’m excited to spend my lunch today with 50 of Georgia Tech’s brightest communications professionals. My friend and colleage, Katherine Strate, will help me lead a workshop on writing for the Web. As an Alabama grad, I’ll try my best not to be intimidated.

Google should kill ‘News Badges’ project

I’m a huge fan of Google. It’s not that I simply accept Google because the company’s products are unavoidable. I really love their innovations and the inter-connectivity.

But I was a little disturbed this morning when I clicked the tab for Google News and was greeted with this notice:

Google News Badges

Thanks, Google. I realize I read a lot of news articles about Gay Rights but I don’t need a Bronze badge to help me recognize that. Can anyone please explain what Google gains by revealing to me how closely they monitor what I read?

Coca-Cola 125: Jackson Spalding’s weekend to remember

This past weekend, Coca-Cola celebrated 125 years since the first Coca-Cola was enjoyed on May 8, 1886. I was fortunate enough to help Jackson Spalding coordinate portions of the event and to invite select media to Friday night’s illumination of the Coca-Cola Tower and Saturday’s 125th Anniversary Celebration Concert in Centennial Olympic Park.

What a weekend! [Read more…]

A little lesson about Glen Jackson

Glen Jackson, Maryville Retreat Talent ShowJackson Spalding has enjoyed a good run lately. We were named to the AJC’s Top Work Places in Atlanta and then the Holmes Report named us Best Small Agency to work for. (If you want to find out for yourself, we have nine jobs posted right now — send me your resume).

Needless to say there’s been some self-reflection on why we’re such a good place to work. The easy answers are healthy, realistic billable goals and a true focus on work-life balance. But there are a lot of intangibles.

One of those intangibles is the Glen factor. I found this nugget in my email from April 2008 and had to share it today:

To: Jackson Spalding
Subject: A little lesson about selling

Something I thought about today that I wanted to put down in writing about selling:

Instead of selling to people, connect with people.  There is a big difference between the two.

Just a little thought for us to remember.

This is typical of Glen. He finds a connection to everyone he meets. That connection starts as an small ember and he feeds it until it’s a raging fire.

[Read more…]

iPhone tracks my every move. Is that OK?

iPhone location data

When I learned that Apple enabled every iPhone and iPad to track location data, I was curious more than concerned. I really wanted to see what my personal travel map looked like. It turns out to be pretty cool.

Naturally, I spend a lot of time in Midtown Atlanta. My office and home are both on Peachtree Street. I made a few trips out to the suburbs, have spent some time in Athens and recently drove over to Columbus. The iPhone data correctly logs my trips to Birmingham, Montgomery, Troy and Opp, Alabama. The iPhone logged my vacations to the Florida panhandle, Virginia and upstate New York. The device recorded my stop in Miami before I turned the iPhone off and boarded a cruise ship. [Read more…]

Register for AIDS Walk Atlanta 2011 on May 1

Jon Santos has already started planning for AIDS Walk Atlanta 2011 with a flash mob at the Dogwood Festival’s main stage in Piedmont Park today. I joined a handful of videographers to capture footage that will soon be transformed into a promotional video to promote registration beginning May 1. Fortunately, there were a couple of professional photographers on hand, too. I was assigned to capture the back of the crowd and the table dancers. (Yes, table dancers).

I pulled together this quick and dirty clip but the footage is shaky and the editing isn’t very tight. Despite all this, I enjoyed spending time in the park with AID Atlanta’s AIDS Walk team. And I know the final product will be more polished and help raise a record amount of money for AID Atlanta.

Candi’s for Breakfast offers late night option

Candi's for BreakfastMmmm. Late night breakfast. Candi’s for Breakfast in the Old Fourth Ward has kindly offered to help the neighborhood sober up or wind down after this weekend’s Atlanta Dogwood Festival and Sweetwater 420 Fest. The breakfast spot has extended its hours from the typical 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. to also include 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

How cool is that?

Candi’s for Breakfast will be open late-night Friday and Saturday.

A little birdy told me that if the new hours draw enough traffic, they may come back for a few more weekends. Maybe even permanently.  Eat up, Old Fourth Ward!

Ice Cream Friday: Jake’s Ice Cream visits Jackson Spalding

Ice Cream Sundae via http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/Today will be an interesting day. I’m excited to host a focus group for Jake Rothschild, the serial entrepreneur and owner of Jake’s Ice Cream. A group of Jackson Spalding colleagues will walk-through the challenges of opening a retail concept on Peachtree Street in Midtown.

While we’re all marketers and communicators, today we’re volunteering our time and opinions as consumers and lovers of Midtown, Atlanta. [Read more…]

Market research transforms luxury clubs into lifestyle brand

The Luxury Club Makeover

It’s amazing what a little market research can do. Boston-based Millennium Partners Sports Club Management watched at the beginning of the recession as clients at Sports Club/LA and the Reebok Sports Club/NY drifted away. Attrition rates steadily rose from 30 percent up to 37 percent. On top of that, ancillary revenue from existing members declined as members cut back on private trainers and other programs.

CEO Smaiyra Million decided to get to the root of the problem instead of simply watching revenue decline by 10 percent in 2010 alone. Her solution? Well, it was partly based on market research.

After listening to customers and potential customers, Sports Club/LA stopped referring to its brands as luxury clubs. It turns out that “luxury” is perceived as being excessive. And excess hasn’t been selling well the past few years.

The company also stopped calling its brands “urban country clubs.”

Today, you’ll hear Millennium discuss the lifestyle associated with the club. In the minds of company management, their clubs are an essential lifestyle for those who can afford it. The company’s current ad campaign, The Essentials of Life, features health and fitness as an essential part of life that should not be put on hold. (Oddly, the company still uses the word luxury on its corporate website).

Here’s how Million described the shift in marketing focus to ClubIndustry.com:

We don’t try to downplay the fact that we do have extras and that we do pay attention to the individual needs of our very discerning customers, but we just don’t talk about it as a luxury because a luxury is something that most people think they should be doing without.

Million projects revenue will increase in 2011 by 5 percent over 2010. Attrition rates are improving and revenue is rebounding. Millennium is now ready for the growth, with Atlanta potentially in the mix.

If Millennium is successful, this will serve as a powerful example of the power of using marketing research. Every company should consider research a necessary investment and a first step with any new marketing campaign.

NOTE: This article is cross posted at Jackson Spalding’s blog, JS Thinkstand.com.