Lifting Off to Little Rock

by Sally Cameron
Bristol Community College
Fall River, MA

It was a step into tradition and history to stay in the storied Peabody Hotel for the District 4 conference. (The PEA-body. Not, as I said and was corrected, the pea-ba-dee, which is how we say it in New England.) I didn’t know that we would have livestock in the indoor fountain or ducks, which march in daily from their luxury Duck House at 11 a.m. and march out at 5 p.m. to the strains of John Philip Sousa’s “King Cotton March.” Where else would you see a duck in an elegant hotel fountain? Or, even better, in a glass elevator?

In an accidental keeping with the duck theme, we spent some time focusing on ducks and other livestock when District Director Christy Keirn arranged for a social media preconference intensive at the world headquarters of Heifer International. This incredibly impressive organization has a simple mission –to end world hunger and care for the Earth. (Whew!)

Rather than merely a relief mission, the organization actually works to provide a sustainable living for people who live in poverty in Asia, Europe, South America and, sadly, the United States. They work with a community to create a livelihood by training them and then giving them a flock of chickens, a pair of water buffalo, cows or whatever will work best for them. The community makes a commitment to pass on the gift, sharing the firstborn of the first gift. The awesome marketing and social media team showed us how they leverage social media to keep their name and mission in front of the world. It was a privilege to be there.

From that robust beginning we sped through a range of breakouts with Southern charm when the Arkansas Department of Higher Education shared its right-on-point nontraditional student campaign, demonstrating how the message was crafted and targeted through careful research (and the research is pointing them toward mobile ads on free games).

Another great presentation with a practical takeaway: The folks from Northwest Arkansas shared their project management system. They use Basecamp, and while at my college we’re working on developing an online project management system using Sharepoint, I learned all sorts of good tips for keeping multiple projects on time and on task.

The final keynote by Gretchen Hall, CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, was chock-full of information about how the city has changed and rebranded itself after the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Located right down the street from the Peabody and next door to Heifer International, the library has brought 600,000 visitors to Little Rock. Gretchen showed us how, with careful planning and positioning, the library enabled the city to become a surprising destination and no longer a best-kept secret.

The parallels to our colleges are everywhere!

Now, time to go home for a little bit. Tired, yes. But rejuvenated, too – with a whole new bag of opportunity to engineer into my own shop.

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