living by the sword

A little over two years ago, Morton’s steakhouse pulled off a promotional stunt that generated tons of publicity by meeting a rabid Morton’s fan (who is also a social media celebrity) at the airport with a steak dinner after he tweeted he was hungry. It was talked about on social media for weeks and the story got picked up by national traditional media outlets.

This past weekend, the Morton’s in Nashville threw a cancer patient out of the restaurant for wearing a cap to cover his hair loss from chemotherapy. They are getting destroyed across all social media platforms and are in major crisis management control mode.

If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword.

I’ve said several times that the underlying key to social media success is simple. Invest less in the social media message and invest more in your people who are on the ground providing customer service. Customers will post both the good and the bad experiences they have. (TIP: You want the good to outnumber the bad.)

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland

It’s a holiday tradition for many people in this area to head down I-65 for a day of Christmas shopping and fun in Nashville. For many, the day is capped by a visit to Gaylord Opryland for their Christmas light displays. And while that’s an enjoyable few hours, there’s more than enough going on at the mega-resort to make a full weekend getaway.

This is the 28th year for “A Country Christmas”. While perennial favorites like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes and Louise Mandrell’s Christmas Dinner return this year, there’s lots of other things going on throughout the entire holiday season from November 18 to January 3.

New this year is Holly Jolly Town Square, a step back to a nostalgic 1950s town square, complete with all the shops from main street, a holiday kids’ train, live entertainment and more. You can check people off your gift list by stopping by the Treasures for the Holidays craft and gift show which runs from Nov 18 to Dec 18. The craft show is a free event that features more than 40 merchants from across the country.

This Christmas is the kickoff of a long-term alliance between Gaylord Hotels and DreamWorks Animation. All four Gaylord hotels, including Opryland, now feature the DreamWorks Experience. Characters from such films as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar are now featured in interactive experiences that will continue even after Christmas is over.

However, the DreamWorks Experience does take a holiday turn from now to January with events such as ShrekFeast character meals, character meet and greets, Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating, Holiday Shrektacular – a street party with characters, music and dancing, and a DreamWorks themed Scavenger Hunt.

My family has enjoyed previous years’ ice displays from Charlie Brown and the Grinch. This year’s ICE! continues the connection to TV specials while bringing in the DreamWorks Experience with ‘Merry Madagascar’. The vividly colorful ice displays will depict scenes from the TV holiday special that featured Santa and his reindeer crash-landing on the island of Madagascar and being assisted by the animals from the movie.

While you’re staying busy with all these festivities and more at Gaylord Opryland, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy over 2 million Christmas lights across the property. And take a long pause at their impressive outdoor Nativity display to remember why this is a special time of year.

For more information about this year’s events at Gaylord Opryland, visit www.ChristmasatGaylordOpryland.com.

DISCLAIMER: Gaylord Opryland provided a room at the inn (Christmas joke!) for two nights and tickets for my family to attend many of these events. We were amazed and delighted at the level of service and hospitality that the Gaylord staff provided. A version of this review was printed and published in the Amplifier in Bowling Green, Ky.

barcamp nashville

There are lots of reasons that you should come to Barcamp Nashville.

Chris Houchens will be speaking at Barcamp NashvilleBut personally, I think you should come for me! I’ll be leading a session on how brands can tap into the online zeitgeist.

I really enjoyed speaking at the 1st Barcamp Nashville back in 2007. This 2010 event looks like it will be even more robust. You should come. You’ll learn something and meet some neat people. I’m looking forward to meeting some new folks in the Nashville digerati at the Cadillac Ranch on October 16th.

called it

Yesterday, in my post about the media and the Nashville floods, I suggested that maybe the lack of national media attention was due to the lag between the tuned-in minority  and the traditional media.

Turns out I was right. Today (Tuesday) after the pinnacle of the event (late Sat through Mon a.m.), Nashville has popped up on the national radar, taking equal staging with the arrest of the would-be Times Square bomber.

nashville cnn flood

It’s been suggested that the Nashville flood is not a national story because it doesn’t effect anyone outside of Middle TN.

Think about this:

How would the national media react if Hollywood was hit with a disaster (earthquake, flood, or locusts!) and disrupted the movie industry? A major portion of the U.S. music industry (and not just country) resides in Nashville.

Or what if Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Gardens were flooded? Today in Nashville, an NFL stadium and an NHL rink are underwater.

What if the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was going to be shutdown for the next few months affecting national conferences, tradeshows, and meetings? The largest non-casino hotel in the world and the largest hotel in the United States outside Las Vegas is now shutdown indefinitely .

And these are just the three biggest examples. Nashville is an integral part of the U.S.

Nashville now provides a new twist on an old joke:
What do you get when you play a country song backwards? The water recedes. (original joke)
And speaking of jokes. Them poor Tennessee cows. They taste better.

UPDATE: Newsweek thinks I’m right as does CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

you missed it


If your only source of news is national media, you may not realize that a U.S. city was heavily damaged this weekend.

Yes, the Gulf oil disaster should be the top story and the Times Square car bomb attempt was news as it happened. However, the 38th largest MSA in the U.S. (and the capital of one of its states) was (is) being destroyed by flooding and the only place I was getting information about it was through Twitter.

I am a fan of Nashville for many personal and professional reasons. I have several clients and friends there. I consider it “my big city”. It’s where I fly from and where I go when I need resources that aren’t available locally.

WordPress guru @studionashvegas has a great post about how Nashville has been forgotten and makes some good points about how social media, the community, and traditional local media are the future of information…

National media is dead. Local media, and social media, are the blend of information services we need to survive.

If consumers can’t find the information they need, they will seek it out or create it themselves. We’ve already seen this happen with citizen journalism about in-depth topics. It’s now happening with the real time web for breaking news.

Sure. There can be a mob mentality in these situations where mis-information is disseminated exponentially. But that’s exactly the reason why credible news orgs should be participating in social media offering facts such as @tndotcom, @nashvillest, and @wkrn did during the Nashville event.

The lesson for (any) media is this: Consumers’ first concern is always with what’s happening NOW. They’ll mull the consequences later. Your worries need to lie with why you’re not offering immediate information in an immediate media environment instead of worrying about how to create the souvenir of the news the day after it happens.

Part of the lack of national response for Nashville may come from the lag between the real time web and when traditional media figures out there’s a story. I wrote a post about this phenomenon of the tuned-in minority back in 2008. More recently, I tweeted this on April 20th. I saw the story pop up in newspapers and on TV three or four days later. We’ll see if Nashville gets on the radar in the next few days.

UPDATE: I called it. It was an issue with the tuned-in minority. http://shotgunconcepts.com/2010/05/nashville2

[ btw — if you want to help people in Nashville, you can find info here:
http://nashvillest.com/2010/05/03/so-nashville-is-flooded-how-can-i-help ]

ICE and Rockettes at Opryland in Nashville

For years, many people in this area have made the short trip down to Nashville to enjoy the lights at the Opryland Hotel. For lots of those people, the holiday tradition may stretch back to the days of the Christmas in the Park events before the theme park was razed. But if you’re just going for the lights, you’re missing some of the entertainment that the mega-complex offers. On Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I had the opportunity to experience two events in “A Country Christmas”.

The first was ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz. This exhibit had previously featured the Grinch story from Dr. Seuss and this is the inaugural year for the Charlie Brown version. ICE! is impressive. You walk through familiar scenes from the perennial Christmas TV special that have been carved from over 2 million pounds of colored ice. And at about the halfway point, there are several ice slides to play on. And there’s a very pretty crystal ice version of the Nativity at the end.

Obviously, you would expect something called ICE! to be cold, but you have no idea how cold until you are in the Gaslight Theater. In order to keep the ice from melting, they keep the temperature at 9 degrees. The length of the display is exactly right. I was ready to exit and warm up when it was over. They provide a warm hooded parka when you enter, but I suggest you also bring your gloves and hat as well.

We also enjoyed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at the Opry House. I’ve never been a Broadway showtune kind of guy, but this is a very good performance for everyone. Santa serves as a sort of emcee through 11 exciting and diverse scenes ranging from a very clever stuffed animal version of the Nutcracker to a crisis at the North Pole.

The Rockettes do what they do best. They dance. You can’t help but be impressed by their talent especially in the precision they demonstrate during the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and their unique dance interpretation of the 12 Days of Christmas. The two hour show ends with a very moving and heartfelt Living Nativity with extravagant costumes and actual live camels, sheep, and other animals.

Other events at A Country Christmas include Louise Mandrell’s ‘Joy to the World’ Christmas Dinner & Show as well as a cruise on the General Jackson showboat. And don’t forget to look at the lights. Most of the shows run until the end of December. And if you can go during the week, there’s a slight discount in ticket prices. For information and tickets, call 1-888-999-OPRY or visit www.ChristmasatGaylordOpryland.com.

****

DISCLAIMER: Gaylord Resorts provided free tickets to me and my family to attend these two events. This review was also posted and printed in the Amplifier in Bowling Green, Ky.

Reflections on Barcamp Nashville

After taking some time to absorb the experience and decompress, here are a few scattered thoughts on Barcamp Nashville.

There’s been a healthy discussion going on (like here and here) about how it wasn’t a “real barcamp”. While I tend to agree that it wasn’t necessarily an “unconference”, it was a pretty good conference. I benefited from most speakers and most of the conversations. There were times I wished the speaker had been given more than 20 minutes. (There were also times I wished they had been given only 10)

The entire day had the trappings of a Nashville entertainment event right down to the venue. Each city’s barcamp needs to have its own flavor. And there was an unmistakable Nash-Vegas flavor at this one.

As several have said, it was a good first step for Nashville. Sure, it wasn’t the freeform open source event that some had expected. But are most people ready for that? While you can argue the point of the wisdom of crowds philosophy that all of us are smarter than one of us — you have to remember the mob mentality of all of us are dumber than one of us. People are comfortable with the “powerpont-a-rama” delivery from a high stage and a spotlight. Since I make a decent buck by doing just that, I (and many others) liked the day.

I was a bit leery about being the first speaker since I was used to the normal one-to-many delivery and I wasn’t sure if the crowd was expecting the freeform style or not. But I’m glad the organizers had me kick it off. There was a good crowd and everyone was receptive. There’s been some good talk in the b-sphere about my presentation. I appreciate all the comments.

I do wish that I had been able to roam a bit more while speaking. Normally when I speak, I like to walk around and get down with the audience. The stage setup with the screen, corded mic, and R2 made it impossible to do so. I felt a bit tied to the podium. It’s one of the few times I’ve delivered an entire talk standing behind a lectern.

Another suggestion for the future — since everyone was twittering, that would have been the best way for people to ask questions/discuss at the end of each presentation instead of the awkward floating mic setup. The presenters could just glance at the questions at the end and answer them.

And two quick final observations —
–Even though there were lots of people there who are on the cutting edge much more than I am, I think I introduced many people to a new web app (Slideshare)!

–Reading through other’s posts on barcamp, I notice this alot — “I really enjoyed meeting Blogger X andBlogger Y for real and in-person instead of just having an online relationship.” It just goes to show that for all the progress and connectivity of “web 2.0” — people still want a personal connection.

Tedchnorati: BarcampNashville

Barcamp Nashville

Barcamp Nashville has been interesting…..with neat speakers, great people, and a warm room (in more ways than one).

I had planned to liveblog while I was here, but I’ve had some wi-fi trouble. 60 has been posting and the twitter page offers a good snapshot.

Update: Gavin fucntioned as somwhat of the nashville barcamp scribe and said some nice things about me and Mitch Joel.

My photos (and everyone else’s) can now be found using the flickr barcampnashville tag.

I’ve had several people come up and tell me they enjoyed my presentation. For anyone who wants to see them, my slides are at: http://www.slideshare.net/shotgunconcepts

Technorati tag:

Speaking at BarCamp Nashville

chris houchens speaker at barcamp nashville

I’m very excited to be speaking at BarCamp Nashville. I will be giving my “Social Media and Blogs in Corporate Marketing” presentation at 12:20pm on August 18th in Nashville.

As you can see from the barcamp schedule, the organizers have broken the day up into specific focus areas and I will be a part of the Business and New Media timeslots.

If you’re a blogger in Middle Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, or Northern Alabama, you need to attend all or part of the day. Find more info here.