The DNC Lands in Charlotte

Long time no see, ol’ blog. According to the count I see on my LinkedIn page, it’s been a little longer than 160 days.


It’s been a busy time for me.

I’m still trying to make JDW: The Charlotte Agency work, and it has been full of its ups and downs. We’re working on a sports & entertainment spinoff from the marketing component, so more details on that as it develops. I got certified as a U.S. soccer referee, still doing multiple Charlotte YMCA activities, as well as Sportslink, and all in the meantime continually falling for my girlfriend and raising a puppy.

Also, just came back from seeing a good friend marry his sweetheart (congrats again Jeff!)*

I’m still trying to figure out this whole “adult” thing.

And then, the DNC comes to Charlotte.

As I’m writing this, day one of the Democratic National Convention has just begun. Bill Clinton has yet to take the stage on Day 2, and Obama has not yet accepted the nomination on Day 3.

Rumor has it that he will.

I’ve been in Charlotte since late 2008. In this period of time, I have seen Charlotte attempt to figure out this whole “international city” thing. It has been pretty fun to watch.

It’s brought multiple professional sports teams to the area. It’s bolstering up its downtown/uptown area. The startup community is ripe with young, energetic and bright entrepreneurs. Not to mention Charlotte is luring other FORTUNE 500 companies away from other cities (welcome again, Chiquita) And the city people do not want to be the next Atlanta- they want to be better than Atlanta.

I see you, Charlotte.

Then boom: Charlotte beats out Denver, Cleveland and some other city to win the DNC bid.

And rumors for a potential Olympics bid have already started to float around.

Charlotte is growing up and its maturity, so far, is looking good. The city is making the right decisions, attracting the right people, and desiring the right things.

But is it ready for the international spotlight already? Is it prepared to host the convention where the first (half) black american president announces his re-election? Can Charlotte aptly prepare America to move “Forward?”

Like in business, and in life, only time will tell.

*He gets the shoutout because he tells me he reads the blog. See what happens?


Marketing in Charlotte is…

Panorama of Charlotte

Image via Wikipedia

Don’t get me wrong. There are a few good agencies here that do good work. But to generalize, the Charlotte marketing industry is, at best:


But to elaborate-

Bland: Overall, nothing very vibrant and fresh has hit the pavement and buildings of the Queen City. There’s no exciting viral campaign going on, no publicity stunts or news conferences. There is no agency dictating the perception of human behavior and perception.

Conservative: This tidbit overlaps with the previous one. Being in an over-built financial town, of course regulation (I’m looking at you FCC, SEC) will inhibit a lot of effort in communications. But there’s plenty more businesses in Charlotte that are able to loosen that white-collar, and do something flashy. It seems like we’ll be the ones that start it.

International: What is cool and blows at the same time is that the agencies that are based in Charlotte that we really like (BooneOakley, ok…so “agency”) do nothing but national and international work. Awesome. So, what about Charlotte? They must have seen what we’re seeing (maybe) and decided back then that they’re work has to go elsewhere.

Makes sense.

Social Media Focused: Charlotte if not anything else, is locked on to social media. I think the social media here rivals the likes in Silicon Valley, Denver, Atlanta, and is nipping the heels of Boston and New York City. I haven’t seen anything like it. But, when one talks about specialization, there’s the other side of the spectrum. Discussing market research, consumer behavior and other traditional marketing topics get thrown to the back-burner. Of course social media is here to stay, but discussing the integration of it shouldn’t (in my naive opinion) dominate the industry.

Young: Charlotte grew fast. Very fast. And with rapid growth some things lag behind. Urban development, for one (see my article “Making a City Sexy”), small business support, a solid and flourishing arts district (which is gaining traction), and of course- a thriving marketing industry. All the cities I’ve mentioned before has all of these. Charlotte is getting there, but its still an uphill battle.

Developing: Charlotte still has a strong “Good Ol’ Boy Network” where these groups of people (Board of County Commissioners, Center City Partners, Charlotte Regional Partnership, CCOG, Arts and Science Council) basically play musical chairs and keep power amongst themselves, and allow those who don’t threaten them to have a seat at the table.

That’s going to have to change. Charlotte deserves better.

And Charlotte will get better once this latest trend/shift of young talent and brain power starts to take hold of certain establishments in Charlotte.

And we’re itching to break off a piece.

Another Post about PRSA

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and I have a love/hate relationship.

I love the fact that there is an organization out there that believes in advocating the importance and principles of public relations and communications.

I love that PRSA is trying to stay relevant…especially with groups like the Young Pros and social media trainings and the like.

However, there is still other things that I just can’t ignore. It’s disappointing attempt of diversity (leadership-wise and as a whole society), it’s new-found aversion with PRSSA/PRSA meet and greets (maybe not as a whole, but an overwhelming sample size) and the benefit/cost imbalance…which may be an internal argument I need to deal with.

What is cool though, is that I am not the only one with a problem with some of PRSA’s regulations. What’s even better, is that this professional, who I think is a rockstar, is in the process of doing something to change it!

Richard Edelman wrote in his blog about the PRSA requirement that you must have an APR (accredited in PR) certification before you even think of holding a leadership position. He was asked to sign a petition to eliminate the requirement.


Now I understand what the Society was trying to do. Any organization wants those in leadership to know the ins and outs of an industry. But the APR isn’t even sought out by many of the leaders in the PR industry! If it was a hot item, and “everyone who’s anyone” got their APR certification, it wouldn’t even be in conversation. Edelman has the statistics in his blog about those getting the certification, so I won’t repeat them.

I hope this succeeds. For PRSA’s hope, at least. Opening the leadership for national office to the masses will only do good things and bring more attention and eager folks to an organization that is struggling to stay in the limelight.

May this requirement be struck down with the greatest of prejudice.



Don’t Hold Charlotte Back: Erase the Good Ol’ Boy Network

As an outside observer, I have been watching Charlotte’s economy for a while. From the banking industry, to construction, to consulting, and to politics, Charlotte’s economic community is as diverse as it is difficult, and as dynamic as it is comedic. Let me explain further.

“It’s not what you know but who know” as the old adage goes. Like I said, I am an outsider, and never have I seen such a “Good Ol’ Boy” (G.o.B.) network. For one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, does it really matter who is related to who, what the last name of that person is, and what their grand daddy did for a living? So one of Charlotte’s sons has a business, other businesses are going to be shunned out because the owner’s roots aren’t kin? Now, in few situations, that doesn’t bother me. What I think is appalling is that a majority of Charlotte’s economic community is like that, and NO ONE says anything. Sure, some people might whisper it during lunch, or IM it to each other across the office, but really? I thought that kind of network was dead and gone. Not yet.

Charlotte is experiencing growing pains, that much is clear. What isn’t clear is how much of that pain is self-induced.

For example, if the political powers-that-be finally realize that green technology is not only better for the environment, but better for the city, jobs will grow and Charlotte could be the green technology hub in the southeast. If those same powers agreed that the light rail is actually a huge success, it can lay down the foundation of a highly efficient public transportation system; and Charlotte could pass Atlanta in as little as three years as one of the South’s best cities.

And what about Charlotte’s nightlife? The G.o.B. network is holding that back from growing as well. If those responsible for bringing in musicians, artists, comedians, etc. treated the talent with any sense of decency, those performers would come by the hordes to the Queen City. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of supporting the lesser known performers, but you have to bring headliners for those lesser known to be discovered. Let some events be held later in the evening. Allow a few nightclubs to stay open later. I’m not saying that Charlotte has to stay up all night, but she should be allowed that option. Give Charlotte some breathing room; don’t strap a strangling electric collar around her neck. Don’t act like it is a privilege for performers to come and visit Charlotte; we should be thanking them for helping our city grow.

I am not bashing cliques. In many cases, cliques are good- they establish a sense of identity and those within the group create roles and a little society. But for a city like Charlotte to grow, I recommend that we abandon the G.o.B. clique and create a New Charlotte clique; a clique that recognizes that growth and innovation, the acceptance of non-conventional ideas and the willingness to get out of this “old south” comfort zone will make the city more prosperous than we can imagine.

If not, we can just carry on with this good ol’ boy nonsense, and those with big ideas and big hopes will leave the city and Charlotte will be that “city-that-could-have-been.”

And who is to say that those Good Ol’ Boys don’t want that? Actions speak louder than words.