Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hunger is the mother of all invention.

Last night, a cucumber gazpacho at The National revealed my culinary destiny to me. I guzzled it like a thirsty off-road vehicle at the foot of a muddy hill, hungry for grit in its grille. This summer soup must be the reason I’d received a blender for my birthday last year!

The waitress, framed in red hair and red glasses, had lilted out the names of the local farms where each ingredient originated. The Athens area is rich with many local farms, so many fresh ingredients; this must have been why the culinary gods helped me relocate to Athens.

After two months on a demanding client project, I have some time to cook again. My culinary destiny is ripe, and Athens is good for the picking. I’ll keep you posted on my Classic City gazpacho adventures as they come this summer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No kidding

The Onion wins a Peabody. Even on April Fools Day, this seems somewhat unbelievable. The full list of Peabody Award winners from UGA's Grady College can be found here. For those who are unaware, the Peabody Awards are a gem of a program that is the "Oscar" of the media industry. One of UGA's most prominent national outreach efforts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Congrats to Hugh Acheson

Hugh Acheson, the shining star of the Athens culinary scene, is a finalist for the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Award (southeastern region). The Beard Award is one of the food industry's most prestigious awards.

Locally, you can sample Acheson's cuisine at Five & 10 and The National. The food is always good, and unlike many Athens establishments, the service is consistently top notch as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Classic Twitty

As a recent Facebook convert, I've extended the boundaries of my social media sphere by starting a Twitter account. If you're not familiar with Twitter, it's also been called microblogging and gives users 140 characters to answer the question "What are you doing?" Inboxer Brian blogged about the growing popularity of the application back in January.

Among those I follow on Twitter are friends, co-workers, PR gurus and media outlets. Being relatively new to Twitter, I sometimes find the conversations hard to follow and never know whether anyone could actually be interested in the fact that I'm writing a press release at the moment. But there are those who've gotten the hang of it. In fact, Twitter Grader has a list of the Twitter Elite in Athens. Among them are UGA professor and social media maven Karen Russell and former Jackson Spalding interns Katherine Strate and Lizzie Azzolino. If you want to be tweeting with the who's who in Athens, check out the list and follow their lead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting Creative

I love it when an uber-traditional brand gets outside the box. While consumer brands have gotten somewhat comfortable with this, real estate and resort destinations have been less inclined to take marketing risks.

That could be changing. One of the most hallowed destinations of the South, the Grove Park Inn, has apparently decided to step beyond classical music, slow panning video, old-couples-smiling-at-each-other-in-pool-pictures and obligatory sunset shots. I say good for Grove Park. While I'm not sure this approach totally fits with their brand (try reconciling the corporate site here with the microsite listed below, for example), it is sure to get attention and drive page views in an era of stodgy resort advertising. Throw in the neat story and microsite, and it is sure to get a little new- and old-media attention as well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Winterville Native Up for German Ambassadorship?

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Winterville native Tom Harrold is being considered by the Obama administration for the ambassadorship to Germany.

Harrold, a quarterback for Athens High School in his youth and an Athens Y Camp alumnus, is known as one of the state's top international and economic development attorneys. He began his career at Fortston, Bentley & Griffin before moving to Atlanta (there he practices with Miller & Martin) and has been politically active for years.

Harrold, who characterized his candidacy as a "long shot" in an interview with the Chronicle, would join Mercer Reynolds and UGA Law Professor Don Johnson as the only individuals with strong local ties in recent years to serve as ambassadors that the Inbox is aware of.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Could Local Cable Get Worse?

Apparently, in the wake of confusing my Tivo and ruining my plans to see the entire Duke-UNC game last night, Charter has decided to file bankruptcy. Obviously forcing thousands of Charter subscribers to watch the game on Raycom rather than ESPN was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wonder if they will give the judge a five hour window of time when they may or may not appear to actually file.

In all seriousness, Charter is the cable provider in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, so it will be interesting to see if their operations are impacted, or if other cable companies will try to grab a piece of that monopoly. The company also provides high speed internet services to a number of households in the region.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Higher Education Funding

Just a quick note, but if you have time, check out President Adams' testimony to the house higher education subcommittee from yesterday. It offers a fascinating summary of the challenges faced by institutions of higher education and the steps they are taking to deal with them. It is amazing how much money UGA has to raise on its own to run our flagship university.

Inbox Goes Nuts

Ever since the peanut butter-salmonella scandal broke, I have been waiting for someone from the Peanut Corp. of America to step forward and 1) take the blame and 2) provide a resolution that the media can latch onto and provide an opportunity for forgiveness (and eventually, forgetfulness).

Apparently, this family-owned business is getting some conflicting legal advice, or just isn't getting good advice at all. Their relative inaction has probably doomed their company and is putting one of Georgia's largest agricultural industries at risk. The deaths and illnesses attributed to the contaminated peanut butter are tragic, but there are some concrete steps the company and industry need to take in order to help these families recover and the public to regain confidence in peanut butter.

The story so far: poor cleaning and inspection practices at a plant in South Georgia allowed salmonella to contaminate peanut butter that was used in more than 1,800 products nationwide. The FDA has said that PCA knowingly shipped peanut butter that was contaminated. Today, the headquarters of the company in Virginia was raided, and another plant in Texas was shut down. To date, 8 deaths and at least 550 cases of illness have been linked to contaminated peanut butter.

In looking at PCA's website, it is apparent that they are trying to get their message out. But their web page is archaic, with no background on the company or multi-media elements. The news page is simply a series of statements, etc. And the statements are too long and not attributed to an individual. There appears to be no proactive outreach. In short, this is crisis response circa 1988, and not surprisingly, the company's message is not getting through. If comments from PCA are used in any of the escalating and increasingly shrill coverage, they are buried.

This is not a time to sit back and issue statements about the past. The peanut industry needs to take dramatic action to show it has a commitment to a safe product and demonstrate concern for those impacted before an entire product's reputation is ruined.

Taking a page from Tylenol, it would behoove the industry to do the following: immediately close all PCA plants until they are inspected and certified as safe. Recall all peanut butter products aside from jars of peanut butter. Pay for healthcare for all those affected. Adapt safety standards and develop an icon that highlights that peanut butter used in a product passed a "quality test" of some sort. Proactively encourage and welcome government inspectors at all peanut butter factories on a weekly basis, and support legislation for stronger inspections. And when things have calmed down, implement an aggressive advertising and multi-media campaign to educate consumers about the facts around the issue and to convince them that peanut butter is safe once again.

Georgia grows nearly half of the nation's peanut crop. I would imagine that Georgia's peanut industry, major candy and snack food organizations, along with JIF and everyone else are ready for a resolution to this story (recognizing that part of this will be driven by various federal and state investigations).

At this point, it is probably too late to save PCA. Who, after all, will be buying from them in the future? But for the good of those who enjoy peanut butter, the entire industry and our state, let's hope peanut plants are cleaned up and the narrative begins to change -- and quickly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Official: Med School Partnership Formalized

According to today's Atlanta Business Chronicle, the UGA-MCG medical school partnership is now formalized. Not sure what exactly this means, but it sure seems like good news for medical education in Georgia.

As MCG and the Regents continue to add more medical programs in other areas of the state, we at the Athens Inbox hope that the Athens expansion (and plans to add more graduates and a dental school in Augusta) can be a winning template for Georgia to grow more of its own doctors in the future, which is of critical importance to keeping our best and brightest home, and luring a few of the best and brightest from other states as well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Putting Twitter to Work

A lot of business owners and corporate communications pros are wondering how to put new media to work for their organizations. Blogs, Wikis, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter.... It seems to be a never ending list. Business owners wonder whether social media is just a big time suck or a way to truly boost productivity and make money. Should employees be allowed to become true brand ambassadors as they communicate with customers publicly or do I need to continue to control the message on a corporate level? These are fair questions at this point, although with a cohesive plan and strategy it is possible for a company to become a part of the communities new media creates, and utilize the flexibility and interactivity of social media to better tell your story.

At Jackson Spalding, we are advising a lot of clients on new media strategy, and part of the challenge is that the applications and potential solutions are diverse, and vary with the business. So every solution has to be custom built and resources have to be dedicated to implementing new media, and keeping the content fresh.

Earlier today, a colleague pointed me to a great example of a company utilizing new media. Believe it or not it is cable provider Comcast, which has improved customer service and generated buzz -- and a sense of community -- in an industry known for disappointing consumers. All it took was an enterprising customer service manager -- get the story here. Pretty cool idea that could be applicable to organizations with a lot of Gen Y constituents. A certain institution adjacent to downtown Athens comes to mind....

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Day On, Not a Day Off

Next Monday, the country observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - the day before the historic inauguration of the nation's first African American president. For many of us, that means a day off from work. Let me challenge you to make it a day of service instead.

Hands on Northeast Georgia's MLK Day of Service includes more than 20 service projects around town from clean-ups in historically African American cemeteries to beautification projects at schools and in area greenspaces. Service projects start at 9 a.m. and run to noon, at which time all participants are invited to the Lyndon House for lunch and commemorative celebrations.

As part of the MLK Day of Service, SingleServe will launch with its first project, clearing the nature trails behind Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School for use by the students and the general public. Other projects offer opportunities for families to serve together or for you to support important causes like AIDS outreach and services for the homeless.

The day is about serving side by side and making our "beloved community" the best it can be for all who live here. Hands on Northeast Georgia expects more than 600 people to volunteer.

Click here to view the list of projects and decide which one inspires you to make it a day on and not a day off.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My first poetry publication

My poem “Were I a Tourist” has just been published by Wazee Journal, based in Denver: This poem took six years, two poetry workshops, and several editors and listeners to complete. We –I mean humankind “we,” not poets “we” - cannot create anything in a vacuum! Poets have perpetuated the “poetry is a solitary art” myth for hundreds of years. In truth, even the most reclusive poets bring books by other poets, which is as solitary as bringing a private tutor or best friend along to boot camp.

Basically, I need to meet writers in Athens. Can someone help a poet out?