Category Archives: memories

Four years of racing and social media

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Today four years ago, I wheeled my car into the parking lot at 1500 Highway 19/41 in Hampton not too long after I got a phone call gauging my interest in a job that entailed a growing trend of social media and implementing it at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Now, four years later, it’s so hard to believe how big social media has taken off. In 2009, most brand barely had a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. Now, they cannot afford not to, and more energy than ever before is being directed towards social media than before.

Any time you work within sports, chances are good that you’ll have some memorable experiences, and there have certainly been more than a few for me at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

1. You’re the brand advocate.

Thanks to mobile devices in part, more fans than every before reach out to brands with feedback and questions around the time of events. I’ll never forget then fan who was unhappy with a seat location on Friday of race weekend and let us know about it via social media. We were able to get their seating info and get them taken care of, and that fan went out of their way to make a post on our wall singling out our customer service efforts. That process began because of social media. There was also a Facebook wall post from a family member of a serviceman killed in Afghanistan, lamenting that the upcoming race would be their family’s first without them. We were able to do a few things for this family on race weekend – and fans in a campground put up a makeshift banner ensuring fans to sign it in memory.

You are the face of your brand on social media and if fans are excited about your brand, or displeased, you are the first one that they will turn to.

2. Social Media Is Two-Way

Yes, it is a valuable tool to sell tickets, but social media cannot only be about promotional elements. Do what you can to show your fans that you’re just like them…ask about their lives, find out what makes them tick. When you know your fans, you can produce better content.

3. Victory Lane

I’ll never forget being in victory lane during my first race weekend. It’s the place all drivers and crew members strive for, and being in the midst of it is surreal. The cool thing was that Richard Petty Motorsports was in victory lane…which meant seeing Richard Petty himself. I instantly thought of my grandad who died in 1998 who was a huge fan of “The King.”

4. Wear A Flak Jacket

You have to have thick skin in this deal. If fans on social media are unhappy with your brand, you may very well be the one feeling the biggest punch of that criticism. Don’t take it personal. I’ve been through two pretty heavy crisis events at AMS.

The first came in 2010 with the news that we would no longer have a spring race. Having to be the person to tell fans that the days of joining us for a March race weekend were over…was very sobering. Even though you knew the backlash was coming, that didn’t make it easy to face.

The second one was a year later with our Labor Day Weekend race being postponed from Sunday night to Tuesday morning due to rain. Obviously, many fans were not happy and they quickly took to social media to express their displeasure. In a situation like that, all you can do is keep your head up and make sure all response is aligned and to keep everything even-keeled. 

5. Laugh at yourself.

Accidentally playing “Crazy Train” instead of The National Anthem over the sound system at an event with 5,000 people is embarrassing at first, but becomes funnier as time goes on.

 

Memories of 120 Broadway

An era will end Wednesday morning here in Macon. It’ll be the first day for the news operations of one of my former employers, The Macon Telegraph, in their new home in the Mercer Village.

After some 51 years, they’ll anchor news operations out of somewhere besides the venerable offices on the edge of downtown Macon at 120 Broadway.

I can’t blame any current Telegraph staffers for being excited. I was very fortunate that when I started at the Red & Black at UGA, I started in its first semester in its brand new building atop Baxter Hill (I still miss that balcony view looking toward campus and downtown before lofts were built to obstruct the view).

So, anyway, since I am feeling all nostalgic, I figured, why not pull out top memories from my time at The Telegraph?

So, in no exact order…

– Roots

With both grandparents living in Macon, I usually pored over The Telegraph’s sports section when I visited them. I still have memories of the likes of Harley Bowers’ columns and wall-to-wall coverage of the Braves, Dawgs, Tech and others in an era before profit loss cut back the size of a product.

– Surprise appearance

In 2000, while still at Valdosta State, I spent the Friday night after Thanksgiving covering one of the smaller Valdosta area teams in the state playoffs – the game ended up being over at Thompson Stadium in Macon. After the game, needing a place to type my story turned into using The Telegraph offices and before I left, someone asking if they could run my story in the next morning’s paper since they couldn’t cover the game I was at. That person, Rick Nolte, would offer me a job six years later.

– The House of Pain

Although my primary job was page layout, I on occasion was slotted for game coverage. One of those came in the state football quarterfinals in Washington County, nicknamed the House of Pain. Being able to cover a game there was on my high school sports bucket list.

– Racing

When I arrived in Macon in 2006, there was an opening to provide limited auto racing coverage. Now if you know me, you know that’s something I am passionate about. It amounted to me covering races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and one round of the NASCAR Media Tour and Speedweeks. That February was quite memorable – I got to cover the entry of Toyota into NASCAR, experienced the circus of the media tour first-hand and got to cover the Daytona 500.

As time went by I took on local racing coverage as well. I have no doubt that that experience is a big reason that I currently work full-time in racing and remain thankful for The Telegraph giving me an opportunity to write about motorsports.

– ‘And then I became a columnist..’

Someone had the idea one day that since I knew so much about racing, why don’t I write a weekly column on racing? From there, it was quite an adventure. While some columns were mundane, few had the reaction from readers than one surrounding the All-Star Race and the then-driver of the No. 9 car who now drivers for Hendrick Motorsports. Let’s just say that if you were a Kasey Kahne fan then, you probably were not sending me any flowers.

– Newsroom nights

So what happens when you have a Clemson fan, Georgia fan, Tech fan and a few others mixed in working late nights with sports on TV? To put it mildly, some fun and memorable conversations, playful jabs, trips to Little Caesars, arguments over who has better fried chicken and so much more.

For so many who have passed through 120 Broadway through the years, there are many memories. Here’s to many more within the Mercer Village!

Remembering Fink

I have a lot of fond memories from my time at The University of Georgia. But out of all of them, the one standing out the most is being able to study under, even if it was for one semester, Conrad Fink at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Fink, as he was known, died last night. He was a living legend when it came to journalism, having Imagecovered news in South Asia during the 1960s/70s era, been the vice president of the Associated Press and also being in the room when Richard Nixon claimed ‘he was not a crook.’

But that wasn’t what set Fink apart. It was his drive to impress among many of us ‘unwashed’ of the importance of what we planned to do as aspiring journalists. Among the first things offered to us during the semester of which I had Fink for a class was something along the lines of journalist having more power than someone throwing a grenade into a crowd.

To this day, I still have memories of meekly reviewing that day’s Red & Black during his class, knowing that he’d find something to say about my writing at the time when I covered the football beat for the campus paper. Perhaps the most memorable one was “And now we have our very own Mr. Harrison, who made me so angry this morning that I nearly spit up my coffee!”

The red ink on your paper of article may not have been fun at the time, but within that ink was his passion to craft and shape you as a journalist and individual.

Since leaving UGA, I’ve moved into a line of work outside a full-time journalism career, but Fink’s lessons, that of the power of well-crafted writing and producing something that ‘will make people roll out of bed in the morning’ still lingers heavily.

I regret that I never was able to go back to visit Fink, that I never sent him any of my article clips during my stops in Lumberton or Macon.

My biggest regret, however, is that future aspiring journalists at Grady won’t have the same fortunate opportunity as I and many others to study the trade of journalism of which Fink loved so dearly.