Category Archives: Social Media

From Alaska, Why Naming Things Is Important

Alaska, map, Wasilla, Denali, McKinley, wildlife, beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, salmon, bear, moose, cabin, camera, Facebook, video, family, wolf

My sister Sammye out with the dogs, The Great One behind her

You’ve heard of Destiny’s Child – but how about Denali’s Child?

Read on about a whopper of a story involving an assassinated president, Native Alaskan lore, a long-brewing political fight over North America’s tallest peak, and even a lesson about the power of naming things.

This week, the Obama administration restored that mountain’s original name, which is Denali, a native Alaskan word for “the great one” or “the tall one.” It had been called Mount McKinley for a century or more.

I lived many years in the 49th state, off-and-on until I was 30. This week’s news kind of surprised me — I guess I thought the name had already been changed. (Just Denali National Park in 1980 — the mountain itself was left unchanged then.) My friends and family in Alaska are delighted by the news.

“Everybody up here has referred to it as Denali for years anyway and says it’s about time,” my brother-in-law Andy McGinnis told me.

“But we can still call Wayne Gretzky ‘the Great One,’” added my buddy Beth Bragg, sports editor at the Alaska Dispatch News (which used to be the Anchorage Daily News, where I worked after college).

A long time coming

President William McKinley, Mount McKinley, Denali, Alaska, mountains, naming, branding

President William McKinley

For more than 100 years, Denali was called Mount McKinley, for William McKinley, the nation’s 25th president, who never set foot in Alaska. (Read the full Dispatch story.)

Alaskans always resented the slight to the Native culture — and the big-footed arrogance of the Lower 48. And newcomers are quickly instructed, “Real Alaskans don’t call it that.” (Some Alaskans are so real they can’t even say the word “McKinley.”)

For decades, Alaskans on all sides of the political spectrum wanted “McKinley” replaced with “Denali.” But Ohio, home of the president McKinley, kept blocking the effort. This week, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is “deeply disappointed” by the change.

A lesson in branding

My friend Mike Vanausdeln lived in Anchorage for about 10 years before settling in North Carolina. He wrote this trenchant piece for his branding company.

“By calling the mountain Denali, Alaskans were re-affirming their self-reflecting brand that said we were more authentic than those peons who called it Mount McKinley. The power of Denali proves the power of naming.

“I can hear my Alaskan friends now: ‘Oh, big deal. We’ve been calling it Denali for years.’ Just by saying that, Alaskans (and former Alaskans like myself) are stating who we believe we are when we lived there.

“Authentic.”

Alaskan family values

Alaska, map, Wasilla, Denali, McKinley, wildlife, beautiful scenery, hunting, fishing, salmon, bear, moose, cabin, camera, Facebook, video, family, wolf

My brother-in-law Vince casts his line in one of Alaska’s countless rivers.

My favorite response came from another brother-in-law, Vince Pokryfki. He says the second-highest mountain in the Alaska Range is officially known as Mount Foraker, also named for an Ohio politician. The Native name is Menlale, meaning Denali’s Wife.

The third-highest is Mount Hunter, after a relative who paid for a climber’s expedition way back when. Its original name, Begguya, means Denali’s Child.

“Doesn’t get any better – the perfect family,” Vince says.

And that’s a story even John Boehner ought to love.


RELATED: The Alaskan governor I knew (from The Seattle Times)

RELATED: Family photos from The Great Land

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Little Girl’s Perfect Little Story Will Make You Smile

Bella Ortega, flowers, sunflowers, kid, child, girl, garden, gardening, happy, smile, story elements, perfect little story

Bella blossoms along with her flowers. Click to make bigger.

Here’s a short story that can help all writers in our search for content.

My friend Evelyn Amaya Ortega posted this photo of her 8-year-old, Bella, on Instagram and Facebook with the following caption.

She planted the seeds. She waited patiently all summer as the plants grew… And grew… Getting taller and taller. This week, the flowers bloomed. #Happy

More than 140 people liked the photo on Facebook, including writer Karen Rosen who astutely noted, “That is a perfect 24-word story with illustration. It should be in a magazine.”

I agree. Evelyn’s short tale contains all the elements of a narrative. Character, location, conflict, rising action, climax — even a sweet denouement.

The next time someone tells you they don’t have enough material or space to craft a story, show him this.

In business writing, the same holds true under the content-marketing definition of story. The image and text are compelling, engaging and emotional. They could hold the interest of customers looking to buy flowers, seeds, tickets to a summer camp or even in a Public Service Announcement about good parenting and spending time with your kids.

Look at that face! That smile!

That’s a story, by any definition.


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13 Easy Tips for Better Storytelling, Content Marketing

Ann Handley, Content Rising, content marketing, Skyword, Tom Gerace, Robert McKee, storytelling, brand journalism, everything the light touches is content, The Lion King

As I like to say, “Stories are everything, and everything is content.” Thanks to Ann Handley for this clever way of putting it, which she shared at Content Rising in Boston.

What’s the difference between a story and a narrative?

Between a story and information?

And what does it mean to run #LikeAGirl?

Such were the questions about 300 content marketers, storytellers and other media pros discussed last week at a conference I attended in Boston. Content Rising, put on by the Boston-based Skyword agency, focused on how to engage audiences with useful, compelling content — articles, video, photos, social media and more. It was one of those energizing experiences you hope for from a professional gathering, with lots of smart people, goodwill and creative energy bouncing around.

I love how events like this get covered now via Twitter. It’s like having a roomful of reporters sharing best quotes and reactions. Here are 13 tweets from the experience that give a pretty good overview of what’s being discussed about content marketing and storytelling these days.

Marketing Stats amid the Media Evolution

Tom Gerace, founder and CEO of Skyword, opened with stats that show brands need to stop interrupting what consumers want and instead become what they want. Take a look at these photos. Marketers believe their work has changed more in the last two years than since the dawn of television. On Facebook, 15 billion pieces of content are posted each month.

Storytelling Tips from a Master

Robert McKee, a screenwriting coach and author on storytelling, shared some thoughts on what  a story is and is not — and pointed out that young adults and teen-agers are too smart for traditional, B.S. marketing that’s little more than bragging.

I love a wise curmudgeon who calls people on their B.S.

Finding Your Voice

Author Ann Handley is always thoughtful, engaging and entertaining. Handley says finding the right tone and voice is the “secret sauce” of effective content marketing.

Look for little opportunities to enliven such traditionally dull, perfunctory spots as the “About Us” page with copy that can be fun and deliver your brand voice.

Finally, A Few Words on Innovation

Dan Pallotta, inventor of multi-day AIDS and breast cancer walks, closed with some inspiring thoughts on innovation.


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How to Link Your Love for Food and Travel

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers

Love the neon sign in the middle of the Curb Market

Everybody loves food and travel, right? Put them together and you have a dream vacation when you’re traveling, or a great itinerary when guests come.

Millions of Americans consider the availability of food (and drink) activities when making travel plans. That can mean going to Northern California for tours and tastings in wine country, or looking for cheap, local eats wherever you happen to be headed. The “culinary tourism” trend isn’t slowing down, according to foodie experts gathered to discuss it in Atlanta this week with PR and communications folks.

It was a great conversation, with interesting points about Georgia and metro Atlanta’s top spots and trends.

  • We have our own “wine country” in the North Georgia that can make for a fun day.
  • Ethnic “niche” marketing is growing.
  • Buford Highway remains the best location for endless “hole in the wall” ethnic spots.
  • West Midtown is still booming with fun restaurants and shops in a few walkable areas.
  • I’ve gotta get to Gun Show.

But for me, the most interesting aspect was the setting: the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in the original Municipal Market on Edgewood Avenue. I’m ashamed to say I’d never been, and I felt like a tourist in my own town browsing the food and produce of 24 businesses – including produce and meat shops, a bakery, bookstore and about a dozen great little spots to eat.

Here are a few reasons why I’ll be taking my next out-of-town guests. There’s probably something similar in your town. Check it out. Here are just a few reasons why. (Click pics to enlarge.)

1. History

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers

The market, built in 1924, is located within the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District. From the market’s website:

Whereas blacks were permitted to shop inside of the market when its doors opened, they were relegated to vend outside along the curb. Transforming that segregated time in the market’s history, it is today affectionately called the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, a name that was adopted in the 1990s. The name also reflects the market’s proximity to Auburn Avenue, which in 1956 Fortune magazine called “the richest Negro Street in the world” and was dubbed “Sweet Auburn” in a nod to that prosperity.

2. Streetcar

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse BurgersThe market has its own stop on the new Atlanta Streetcar, which is free throughout 2015.

3. Miss D

Atlanta Curb Market, Municipal Market, soul food, Miss D's, praline, popcorn, soul food

Come in through the back door (where the parking lot is) and you’ll encounter delightful Miss D and her mouthwatering pralines, peanut brittle and gourmet popcorn.

4. Lunch

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers, soul food

Atlanta Curbside Market, curb market, Grindhouse burgers

Curb-Market-Boy

In Atlanta, ya gotta have your “meat and three.” The food court includes Metro Deli Soul Food, Grindhouse Burgers, Sweet Auburn BBQ, Tilapia Express, Awesome Juicery and more.

4. Produce

Atlanta Curbside Market, Municipal Market, produce, peppers, meat, poultry, MLK, soul food

Curb-Market-Peanuts

Fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms. (Peanuts, too.)

6. Meat

pigs, pork, butcher, Atlanta Curb Market, Municipal Market, 1924, MLK, Atlanta, buy your whole pigs here

Atlanta-Curb-Market-Butcher

prices

Because you never know when you’ll need a whole pig.

The food experts on the panel also gave some other suggestions for where to eat around town. I love how they weren’t focused on the most expensive spots. Good food is about more than white tablecloths.

  • Fred Castellucci, @fwc3, owner of The Iberian Pig, Cooks & Soldiers, and other restaurants:  “The new Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park is awesome. It’s a very cool spot and the guys who own it are super-nice. They do a great job.”
  • Kate Parham Kordsmeier, @KPKords, food writer: Depending on her mood, she loves Umi Sushi, Bocca Lupa, and Gun Show.
  • Lindsey Isaacs, @Explore Georgia, from the state Department of Economic Development: “If somebody says Six Feet Under by the Oakland Cemetery some time, I’m there in a heartbeat.”
  • Dale Gordon DeSena, @TasteofAtlanta, suggests people try something new, “a little out of your comfort zone,” at least once a week.

Great advice, Dale — whether you’re traveling or at home.

Thanks to the panelists and the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for putting the discussion together. 

One of Atlanta’s Most Exciting Chefs Takes It to the Streets

Westside Provisions, Atlanta, Westside, West Midtown, Hector Santiago, El Burro Pollo, Pura Vida, latin food, restaurant, latin restaurant, latin eatery, burrito, chicken burrito, Atlanta, street food, fair, market, Ponce City Market,

Chef Hector Santiago, of Pura Vida and Top Chef fame, serving his delicious burritos at the Westside Provisions District Farmers Market.

The Westside Provisions District Farmers Market, which just started for the season, was humming Sunday with sunny browsers picking up produce, handmade candles and kimchi. But the draw for me was Chef Hector Santiago, whose insanely missed Pura Vida tapas restaurant was my favorite spot in the city for years.

At the El Burro Pollo burrito stand, he rolled me up a  lunch so tasty it took me back to the orgiastic delights of Pura Vida — those flaky empanadas packed with juicy meat, the sweet and sticky pork puff pastries, the silky fresh seafood ceviche… and the avocado ice cream. Ah, yes and truly … the avocado ice cream.

Hector also had Pura Vida’s sister sandwich shop, Super Pan; appeared on “Top Chef;” and served as executive chef at Abattoir for a while. Lately, he’s been doing “pop-ups” like this one at fairs and markets around town. (You can keep up with his appearances on Facebook and Instagram.)

Hector Santiago, El Burro Pollo, Pura Vida, latin food, restaurant, latin restaurant, latin eatery, burrito, chicken burrito, Atlanta, street food, fair, market, Ponce City Market,

Santiago rolls up my lunch, El Burro Pollo.

Now he’s planning a one-night return on June 25 to Pura Vida, with a pop-up at the old spot, 656 N. Highland Ave., now home to Sweet Auburn BBQ.

Any of that avocado ice cream planned?

“Oh, man,” he said. “You know, I could do that as one of the desserts for the pop-up.”

And he says he’s about ready to share details of his upcoming spot, which could be El Burro Pollo or Super Pan. He didn’t want to talk about the location on Sunday, but media outlets have reported it will likely be in Ponce City Market.

That’s almost as close to my home as the old Pura Vida. I’ll take it.

Here are some pics from Sunday’s market. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday through September, at Howell Mill Road and 14th Street. Click a picture to make it bigger; mouse over to see the captions.

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Love for Atlanta’s New Icon Looks Like a Good Sign: PHOTOS

(Click the pics above to enlarge; mouse over for captions.)

Ponce City Market, PCM, Atlanta, Ponce de Leon, Sears, old Sears building, Borders, Dancing Goats, apartments, retail, restaurants, new, cool, big project, redevelopment

It pops above Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The sign for Ponce City Market went up Sunday, and Atlanta’s newest icon was met with spontaneous applause from onlookers on the BeltLine.

Seriously. People had stopped to watch the crews work and to take selfies and other pics. And when the last piece of the sign — with the ‘PO’ —  was attached, they clapped and cheered.

That’s a lot of goodwill no one can buy.

And I took it as a sign for the positive buzz about Ponce City Market, the old Sears building on Ponce de Leon Avenue that’s being famously renovated into new office, retail and restaurant space. It’s a centerpiece and symbol for positive urban renewal, and we have a lot of that going on here in Atlanta. People are proud about it — the BeltLine, too. And Krog Street Market and more.

I was out riding my bike when I came upon the scene Sunday. I stopped to take a few pics, which I shared on social media. Within 24 hours, my Facebook and Instagram feeds had plenty of examples from other folks, too.

On Monday, I walked around the site a bit, as office workers were taking a King of Pops break. PCM has drawn Twitter, Mail Chimp, athenahealth and, possibly, Google. Inside, the Food Court is shaping up for an opening around the end of summer. Some of the shops and restaurants coming soon include:

  • Holman & Finch Burger
  • Anthropologie
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Honeysuckle Gelato
  • West End
  • Simply Seoul Kitchen

Binders and Dancing Goats coffee have been open for a while.

Here are some more shots from the ongoing development. Mouse over to read a caption, and click to make them bigger. (And here are photos from more than a year ago. It’s fun to see the progress.)

More info on Ponce City Market’s website.

Bringing Men Easy Tips, Fashion Advice from Online to Real Life

Aaron Marino, StyleCon, Atlanta, fashion, men's style, grooming, expert

Aaron Marino

Aaron Marino likes to tell a story about a friend named Steve.

“He had a hot date coming up,” Marino recalls. “And, not knowing what to wear, he asked me for some suggestions. I said, ‘Why don’t I swing by your place, check out what you have, and if you need something we can go shopping? While we’re out and about, we should visit my hair stylist for a new cut. And by the way… you have got to do something about those nose hairs!’ ”

With that initial make-over a few years ago, Marino not only proved himself a good friend, but he unknowingly started his Atlanta-based business as a men’s style consultant.

That tale also leads to an interesting example of taking online relationships into the real world, and of building your brand through social media.

Online branding

Marino started blogging at iamalpham.com and built a multi-channel social media presence that includes more than 2,000 YouTube videos.

Antonio Centeno, Aaron Marino, StyleCon, Atlanta ,men's style, fashion, grooming

Antonio Centeno

And now he’s promoting a men’s conference on style this Friday-Sunday (May 1-3) in Atlanta, called StyleCon2015. His partner on the project is ex-Marine Antonio Centeno, founder of the Real Men Real Style site The friends have invited other bloggers and Internet coaches to meet and counsel their readers and others men who are looking for help in bumping up their style and confidence.

“This is so much more than just style,” Centeno says. “This is lifestyle – fitness, relationships, career, life…”

Marino says the goal is to give men a place to talk comfortably about issues like accessorizing and manscaping – without having to defend their masculinity or listen to a bunch of lame “metrosexual” cracks. (If it matters to you, Marino and Centeno are straight, and the StyleCon agenda includes advice on impressing women.)

Looking Good as a Competitive Advantage

“It’s a competitive world, and there is nothing wrong with trying to put your best foot forward at all times,” Marino says.

Seminar titles include:

  • Modern Manliness: How to ‘Man Up’ in Your Daily life
  • 10 Masculine Style Essentials
  • Art of Charm: Going from Ordinary to Extraordinary in 7 Steps

Marino and Centeno promise tailors and hairstylists onsite at StyleCon, along with whisky and wine tastings. And the list of bloggers on the schedule includes:

Keeping It Real – and Social

I’m no style expert, but I love the idea of Internet entrepreneurs (in any line of work) taking their online personas out into the real world, meeting their readers and sharing tips and camaraderie.

It keeps the focus on “social” in social media.

And while I’m not a slob by any means, I have been in poor Steve’s worn-out shoes a few times. Maybe I’ll go and see if I can pick up some pointers.

You can get more details on the StyleCon site. Mention this blog and you’ll get a deal – three days admission for the price of one. 


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How a History of Computers Will Make You a Better Communicator

innovatorsWalter Isaacson tried something different as he was finishing his newest book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

In the acknowledgements, Isaacson says he turned to crowdsourcing for suggestions and corrections on many of the chapters.

“By using the Internet, I could solicit comments and corrections from thousands of people I didn’t know,” Isaacson writes. “This seemed fitting, because facilitating the collaborative process was one reason the Internet was created.”

“The Innovators” offers other key lessons for today’s digital communicators — content marketers, brand journalists and corporate writers, among them.

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators, Atlanta, CNN, Time magazine, computers

Walter Isaacson

Isaacson has been both chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time magazine. His best-selling biographies include “Steve Jobs,” which came out shortly after the Apple genius died in 2011.

“The Innovators” dovetails beautifully with the Jobs bio — and both are beautiful examples of journalistic reporting and writing at its best.

Isaacson says one excerpt was read by 18,200 people the first week he posted it. He received scores of comments and hundreds of emails. And he used them to make changes and additions to his manuscript.

Outsourcing isn’t a new idea, of course, as Isaacson acknowledges. It’s part of the useful fun of social media, and I’ve enjoyed doing it for this blog, for free-lance articles, and on internal communications projects at large corporations. After I spent 20 years in newsrooms, with their constant swirls of collaboration, I still value reaching out to others as part of my communications process.

Ada Lovelace, Turing, Jobs, Gates, Isaacson, Atlanta, CNN

Ada Lovelace, computer pioneer

Validation from a master is nice. And here are seven more great lessons for all communicators from “The Innovators,” which tells the history of how today’s digital innovations came into being, from programming pioneer Ada Lovelace to more familiar names like Alan Turing, Jobs, Bill Gates and more. It’s a fascinating tale, with each chronologically ordered chapter so rich you could write a separate book on individual players (which, of course, many people have, including Isaacson).

By tracing the history and innovators, Isaacson shows us:

1. Creativity is a collaborative process. “As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork.”

2. Collaboration can go from one generation to the next, and on and on. “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding the ideas handed down from previous generations.”

3. Physical proximity is beneficial. “There is something special … about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally,” Isaacson writes. He cites Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer discouraging the idea of working from home, and others who designed workspaces to encourage random encounters.

Franklin, Isaacson, Innovators

“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

4. The best leadership teams combine people with complementary styles. Here, Isaacson cites the varying strengths of our country’s Founding Fathers — including Benjamin Franklin, the subject of one of his earlier books.

5. A great team pairs visionaries, who generate ideas, and operating managers, who carry them out. “Visions with execution are hallucinations.” Isaacson cites “lingering historical debate over who most deserves” credit for inventing the electronic digital computer — a lone professor whose machine never fully worked, or a team of three who were able to get their machine operating.

6. Man is a social animal, as Aristotle first noted.

 Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose. Even the personal computer, which was originally embraced as a tool for individual creativity, inevitably led to the rise of modems, online services, and eventually Facebook, Flickr, and Foursquare.

7. Creativity matters most. Isaacson opens the book with the story of Lovelace (1815-1852), who wrote the first algorithm meant to be carried out by a machine. He brings it back around to her at the end. “As she pointed out, in our symbiosis with machines we humans have brought one crucial element to the partnership: creativity.”

Isaacson castigates people who might scoff at engineers lacking an appreciation the arts, while blithely admitting they don’t know a mole from a molecule. The next round of innovation will rely on those who can link the two — “beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors,” Isaacson writes.

It’s good advice and maybe a warning.

What’s His Story: From Atlanta to Uganda in the Fight Against AIDS

Erik Friedly, former spokesman for the Atlanta Opera and the Fulton County district attorney, has taken his communications skills as far from home as possible: to Africa. He moved to Uganda in January 2012 as a health communications specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against AIDS. He’s also openly gay and married to a man from Kenya, in a country known around the globe for its homophobia. The images above are from his social media accounts.

1. Where are we in the story of HIV in Africa?

Erik Friedly, CDC, Uganda, AIDS, HIV, gay, Africa, Kenya, Atlanta, communications, Americans in Africa,

Erik Friedly

The HIV epidemic in Africa is still real and still a terrible burden. But programs like PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for which I am privileged to work) have made a huge difference. AIDS was once a death sentence for millions here — simple as that. We have turned that tide. There remains much to be done in terms of expanding treatment access and in preventing new infections across this continent, but there is real hope that we could one day see the end of AIDS here.

Almost anyone you speak to in Uganda over a certain age can tell you about someone they lost to AIDS — family or friends or teachers or neighbors. AIDS has been a shared nightmare here, which is a bit different than it has been in other parts of the world.

2. How comfortable are you as a gay man there? What about for your husband?

Erik Friedly, CDC, gay, wedding, Atlanta, San Franicisco, AIDS, HIV, Centers for Disease Control

Erik Friedly with Festus in San Francisco for their wedding last fall.

Uganda prides itself on being a conservative, “traditional” society, yes. Homosexuality is not widely accepted here. But my position is probably not a good barometer, since I am a white man, an American and a diplomat. I do sometimes feel uncomfortable, of course, and one cannot be truly open. But for the most part, on a day-to-day basis, there really are no significant issues.

My husband is Kenyan and so lives with very different family and cultural pressures than I do. But he is remarkably comfortable in his own skin and with his own life, and I think he would agree with my characterization of our life here.

3. It’s a long way from Atlanta to Kampala. Tell me how you got there.

Erik Friedly, CDC, HIV, AIDS, Uganda, Atlanta

CDC fact box. Click to enlarge.

When I first came to CDC in 2006, I joined the communication team within the office of the director. From there, I moved into CDC’s tobacco control office, but then made the jump to CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS. In July 2011, I accepted this assignment to CDC’s Uganda office and deployed here in January 2012. I have at least one more year here.

4. What’s the job about? What kind of communications are you doing?

The job is an interesting hybrid of public affairs, health diplomacy and health communication.  Part of CDC’s work in global HIV is, of course, to encourage and promote risk-reduction behaviors among targeted populations — things like condom use, male circumcision and so on.

But working in the environment of the U.S. Embassy also requires communicating back to U.S. stakeholders about the tremendous investments in health the American people are making, while also promoting that same commitment to the people of Uganda. I can also act as a resource for CDC Headquarters by helping them tell CDC’s global health story better.

5. What’s been the biggest shock, and the biggest joy, of living in Uganda?

Erik Friedly, AJC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AJC, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, Paul Howard, Fulton County, district attorney, courts, Africa, Uganda, AIDS, HIV

I wrote this article at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when I covered the courts and Erik Friedly was the spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Prior to being permanently assigned here, I had worked brief assignments in Cameroon, Mali and Haiti, so I had some limited experience in the developing world. But I suppose the biggest shock here is the fact that so many things simply don’t work. Things like electricity. The ability to provide potable water even in the capital city. The roads, which are more pothole than pavement. There is such an overwhelming lack of the basic infrastructure and capacity to provide a basis for people to make the most of their lives.

The biggest joy (in addition to the amazing weather, the beauty of the landscape, etc.) might be the special way people live their lives. I don’t just mean the poverty or basic cultural differences. I mean the things people are prepared to accept, endure and make the most of. The ability to live a full and happy life without all of the things we come to expect are necessary. There is an abiding acceptance of life, which in turn breeds a quiet and abiding strength. There is a southern African concept of Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” It’s a wonderful concept of shared humanness, and it informs the spirit of sub-Saharan Africa.

social-icons-01Click here to tweet: “I am because you are.” — Southern African concept of Ubuntu

6. What are the big challenges of your communications job there?

Education levels tend to be relatively low, so one must try to keep messages simple and straightforward. This isn’t always easy when communicating complex scientific and health information. Ugandan media can sometimes lack professional acumen and that makes delivering a message difficult. Frank and open and fact-based discussions around sexual behaviors and realities can meet with resistance. This is not unlike the American attitude in the past, but in Uganda, with an HIV prevalence of around 7 percent, the stakes are higher and the need for honest discussion even more critical.

7. What are you reading these days? Print or digital?

I love books and magazines, always have. But day-to-day, digital is just easier. Bookshops here tend to be filled with religious or inspirational or self-help titles and magazines are imported and incredibly expensive. I am fortunate to be able to receive mail through the embassy, so I get magazines like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair with consistency — albeit a bit late.


For more on HIV/AIDS in Uganda, visit the Centers for Disease Control.


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6 Content Marketing Conferences to Learn from the Best

I went to Cleveland for a few days last September, and let me tell you, it was one of the best things I did all year.

(Go ahead. Insert Cleveland joke here.)

I decided to attend a conference, Content Marketing World, in a flash of inspiration. I had mulled going earlier, and when a new online friend and industry leader suggested I go, I snagged a cheap flight and a room at the venue hotel, and, before I could say “Get off of my blue suede shoes,” I was in the land of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As a former journalist working in traditional corporate communications, I was jazzed to see so many examples of how to creatively, purposefully blend the two disciplines and others. With top authors, brands and social media represented, the conference has grown in attendance annually.

Business communicators of all kinds have been turning more and more to storytelling techniques, brand journalism and content marketing, and conferences like this are a great chance to learn from the best and mingle with peers. I stole ideas and made connections in Cleveland — with good, smart people in a supportive environment.

Similar events cover some of the same ground, and maybe this year I’ll plan ahead with one or more of these:

  1. Social Media Marketing World. March 25-27, San Diego. “Discover the best social media marketing techniques from the world’s top experts. Join 2,500 fellow marketers at the mega-conference designed to inspire and empower you with social media marketing ideas—brought to you by Social Media Examiner.”
  2. Create an award-winning newsroom: Boost influence, SEO and media coverage. This PR Daily Webinar is set for April 2. From the link: “The press, public and search engines will give your news massive reach — if your online newsroom features frequent updates and multimedia. Is yours up to speed?”

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Supremes, Diana Ross

    No trip to Cleveland is complete without a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and seeing what the original Dreamgirls (Diana, Mary and Flo of the Supremes) wore back in the day.

  3. Marketing United. April 29-May 1, Nashville. “The must-attend conference for modern marketers” features authors Ann Handley and Jay Baer, along with many more in Music City, home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Take that, Cleveland!)
  4. Creativity, Technology and the Future of Storytelling. “How do you tell amazing stories that are not just good, but inspire your audience, make life more interesting, and turn passive consumers into brand advocates?” May 14 in New York.
  5. Digital Summit Atlanta. May 19-20. “Join Digital Summit Atlanta for two days of leading-edge digital media and marketing content, mixed alongside top-flight networking with Internet execs, online marketers, entrepreneurs and digital strategists.”
  6. Content Marketing World 2015. Sept. 8-11. Cleveland. Yes, I might go back to see Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose and the rest from the Content Marketing Institute. And not just because I had to race through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to make my flight back home…

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