This One Time at Brand Camp…

By Posted in - Professional Development on June 7th, 2012

This week I’m attending my first Summer Brand Camp, a conference hosted by People Report for people in marketing, operations and human relations, in the restaurant industry. Having worked with several national restaurant brands and franchised operations, it is really fun to be here and feel like I’m part of the inside circle of such a passionate group of people.

Here are some of my favorite things that have happened at Brand Camp so far:

  1. The first night, as a total newbie in this group, I went into a room with about 15 other people and wrote a song. As a collaboration exercise led by Banding People Together, this was the perfect icebreaker and a wonderful way to learn more about my fellow campers and the challenges they face in their daily jobs. In a short period of time our “band” named George Clay Michael and the Summer Brand Cramps created a hard-driving song with a lot of angst about the communications struggles that occur between departments and colleagues. Watch the video to see for yourself how the words “shut your big mouth,” a hug and meowing can all come together in one song.
  2. One of the absolute best stories came from two guys, Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt, who talked about how difficult it is to always be authentic during a time when the words authentic and authenticity  have turned to buzzwords. Jason and Joe encouraged campers to work hard at being original and for people and brands to shake their tail feathers and fly their freak flags. The story they told was about a doctor they both went to for vasectomies. (I’m telling you, these folks at Brand Camp REALLY share a lot.) Picture Dr. Sloan who comes in for the procedure with a “Surgery for Dummies” book under his arm as he asked the nurse (in front of the patient) “Was this the vasectomy or the sex change?” The point is, you might not think of a doctor as being funny and perhaps a tad inappropriate, but that’s who Dr. Sloan is. He’s authentic, and being his patient was a memorable experience. And Jason and Joe endorse him everywhere they go!
  3. Simon T. Bailey challenged the campers with defining their Vuja De moments. You know what deja vu is, right? Well Vuja De is when you say, “I haven’t seen it yet, but I intend to create it.” How do you know you are getting close to having a Vuja De moment? You start becoming uncomfortable with being comfortable. Wow! That gave me a flashback to the moment I decided I wanted to open a Raleigh PR agency. Simon offered some other interesting thoughts including this: A job is something you are paid to do. Creating a moment of brilliance is something you are made to do.
  4. William Tincup, Bryan Wempen and Craig Fisher talked about the importance of having a social framework versus a social strategy. The energetic and interactive discussion about how to let your audience influence your online engagement and asking the question of “what are you trying to do” before deciding which tools seemed like a page out of the Clairemont playbook. Such validation to hear these highly regarded experts in the HR industry — a different space than PR — reinforce the advice we give our PR clients about social media and overall communications.
  5. Christopher O’Donnell told an inspiring, funny and motivational story about becoming the CEO of Famous Dave’s. My favorite part was when he was in a company meeting and told the founder, the board and the franchisees, “I am the CEO. I’m Christopher O’Donnell, and I am the CEO. CEO’s are hired to be leaders, and that’s what I plan to do. I plan to lead.” Then he went to his office, locked the door, took a couple of deep breaths and said, “Oh, shit.” Great example of the responsibility you accept when you take on a leadership role.
  6. Marc Buehler, president of O’Charley’s, said the answer to the question of, “How do you turn a business around?” is simple…. go back to what made the company great. Why did people love it in the first place? I’m going to be honest, I’ve refused to eat at an O’Charley’s for a few years now. But knowing that Marc has been at the helm for a year and seeing his passion, I just might have to give it another try.
  7. Realizing that two shout-outs in the same post to William Tincup and Jason Lauritsen will likely fuel their already healthy egos (and you know I mean that in a loving way!), I have to share the link to their performance at last night’s talent show. LMFAO would be proud, don’t you think?

This has been a wonderful learning and networking experience, and I hope I am able to attend Summer Brand Camp next year! Fellow campers, what have been your favorite moments?

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