Saying Goodbye to AMC

To start, I should probably take you back about 20 years.

I think I was about 18 years old when I figured out that AMC was based in Kansas City. As a teenager, I couldn’t think of a job that sounded like more fun. Working for a movie theater chain? Sign me up.

It took me about ten years of my career, but in 2010, I finally made it to the company I’d set my sights on so long ago. At the end of this month, I will say goodbye to that company to embark on a brand new adventure. More on that in a bit…

A little reflection

The past five-plus years have been so much fun. I got to work on something I love (movies) for a company I respect (AMC) with a lot of really talented people (too many to list). I got to do fun things like help launch the company’s Twitter presence (which got some national recognition), redesign and rearchitect the company’s website and then got to take on a completely new challenge, leading the loyalty program for the past 2+ years. I got promoted. I got to manage people. I got to help craft the marketing strategy for one of the most respected brands in entertainment.

There are so many things that I’ve loved about my job. Sure, there have been things that have been difficult about it, but that comes with any position. I consider myself really really lucky to have been able to work at AMC for as long as I have.

But it’s time to move on.

Some of you might know that my wife and I have been running a photography business in Kansas City for the past several years. Starting August 1, we will officially be running Shane & Alli Photography as our primary business and sole source of income.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been working hard in corporate America. I’ve seen a lot of success bringing my skills and ideas to other people. Alli and I have had this business on the side that we’ve absolutely adored and wanted to do full time for a while. We’ve decided to take the leap and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Photography? But you’re in marketing.

Photography has been a passion of mine since I first picked up a camera as a kid. I remember a time in my life when I saw myself as an Associated Press photographer. What I’ve learned is that capturing people in real-life moments is so rewarding and affords me such great creativity that I don’t need to travel the world to tell stories with photos. We’ve got plenty right here in our backyard.

Not only that, but I’m planning to take my 15 years of corporate consumer and business marketing experience and applying it to creating new photography offerings that solve needs for businesses in their social media marketing practices.

Most importantly, I get to run a business with my best friend. Alli and I have really enjoyed every moment that we’ve been able to work together on this business. And who knows? Maybe we’ll turn it into even more cool things down the road. For now, we’re going to build out our studio and focus on capturing snapshots of the special moments in our clients’ lives. We think we are pretty good at it.

So here’s my pitch…

What’s that you say?

You need family photos or senior photos or professional portraits or engagement or wedding photos? We do it all. Our website is getting a refresh. You can find us on Facebook or on follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr. Or you can just shoot me an email. We’d be happy to help.

18 Months and a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.” So that’s going to change.

Pivot - Ross

I love what I do.

I really do. For the past 3 years, I have been doing web things that I am good at for a company I really enjoy working at in an industry that’s fun.

Earlier this year, I got to help launch a project that I’ve been working on for a long time at AMC — a complete redesign of our company’s website.

I hope there are AMC fans out there that have noticed the difference. If you have, you might be wondering, But WHY is he talking about this now? Sorry, but I’ve spent the last couple months exhaling…taking deep breaths and convincing myself that it’s really completed (and squashing bugs).

Coming off of a project that has been pretty much your sole focus for 18 months is a weird thing. I’ve got plenty of other responsibilities at AMC, but none of them was more important to me than improving the user experience to our guests and visitors to AMCTheatres.com.

A year ago, we completed a rewrite of our entire architecture, installing a new content management system and creating a whole bunch of new dynamic services to power a site that gets its information from sources across the United States. That was an accomplishment in itself and provided us with a platform to do what we did.

And then we redesigned it

I had the great pleasure to work with Greg Storey’s team at Happy Cog on the UX part of the project and that was a pleasure in and of itself. I’ve long been a fan of the Cog’s work and I’ve now worked with them on two separate projects at two separate companies. In the past, I didn’t get to see the project through to completion. I was determined not to let that happen.

It’s a strange experience when you become a client of a group of professionals whose work you have admired. Getting mired in the processes and the day-to-day can wear some of that internet shine off a little, but ultimately, I am extremely proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together. We provided AMC with a beautifully responsive web platform and design system that can now be built upon and extended. Thanks to the great concepting by Kevin Sharon and the technical execution by the talented Ryan Irelan and Stephen Caver, AMC now has a modern, functional site that can take us into the next several years.

I’m so proud of this work. After an 18-month engagement, it feels good to have something to finally show for it.

And now, a Pivot

Doing things on the web has been what my career has been about for a little over a decade. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I’m at the top of my game, a subject-matter-expert. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and I have a good idea about what’s happening on the web and where it’s headed (#humblebrag). This is bad because I’ve pigeonholed myself into being only about one thing. While this allows me an immense amount of trust and understanding in my position, I run the risk of forever being branded as “The Web Guy.”

So that’s going to change.

As soon as I have the chance to update my email signature and my LinkedIn profile, it will really be official: effective immediately, I will be AMC’s new Loyalty Marketing Manager.

Not sure what a Loyalty Marketing Manager does? I’m glad you asked. Essentially, I’ll be leading one of AMC’s most important programs – AMC Stubs. I’m extremely excited about the next phase of my career. I’m expanding my worldview to include an important aspect of marketing and I get to work on making an already solid program even better. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be transitioning away from my existing responsibilities and getting up to speed on AMC’s loyalty program and all of its many moving parts.

I’m somewhat sad about putting aside my web life, but I’m so happy to start this new phase of my career. It’s going to make me a more well-rounded marketer and I get to take on yet another huge project.

So there it is. What do you think? (Feel free to share your ideas about AMC Stubs in the comments. I’ll be sure to implement ALL* of them.)

* probably not all of them

Very Cool, Cookie

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

One brand that is just way beyond everyone else in terms of engagement and knowing their audience and their brand is Oreo. Not only are these cookies beloved and universally known throughout the world, they have a passionate audience to the tune of over 27 million Likes on Facebook. Part of the reason that they’ve got such great engagement is their Daily Twist campaign like the one below that they shared on Pride Day:

Daily Twist - Oreo Pride

One of the great things about having something as identifiable as a black-and-white cookie is that it can be modified to be so many different things, including items that are movie-related:

Oreo Daily Twist - TDKR

I’m a big fan of Oreo and what they’re doing. Yesterday, they tweeted:

 

Now, my company has a “No Outside Food and Beverage” policy (as do most theatres, concert venues and sporting arenas). Oreo knows that because they even used the #slicksnacker hash tag to indicate that outside Oreos are contraband in a theatre. So I decided to have a little fun.

 

8 minutes.

8 minutes was all it took for us to craft a 3-word response. No legal departments. No approvals. Our social media team has such a great amount of trust from our leadership that we can speak off the cuff through our brand voice and know that we have their support. It helps when we’re clever, too.

Shortly after we sent the tweet out, I left the office for the afternoon for a Kansas City tech conference. Now, I’ve got AMC’s Twitter account connected to my phone. I kept up with the feed during the conference and watched as our terrific followers began retweeting and retweeting and retweeting. By the end of the night, the tweet reached over 200 retweets, which translates to a WHOLE LOT of reach in the world of Twitter. I was pretty proud of what I had done. I shared it on Facebook and went to bed thinking that was the end of it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sometime between the time I woke up this morning and the time I got to work, it exploded. It made the front page of AdWeek, thanks to this AdWeek blog post and my Twitter feed began getting inundated with congratulations and kudos. The number of retweets was over 500 and climbing rapidly and Oreo even responded.

 

Not a #humblebrag, but a point

I promise this post isn’t meant to be one giant #humblebrag. I have a point to all this. The truth is that an interaction like this is why I believe so fervently in the power of social media professionals within brands. With the proper structure and governance (and a buttload of trust from your superiors), stuff like this can happen.

Trust is important.

I cannot emphasize this enough. As the AdWeek story circulated around the office, I wanted to make one thing clear to my superiors: successes like this are not purely the result of being clever. Being given the latitude to react and respond is critical for a social media group within a brand. Trust matters. The trust that we have been given is an invaluable asset in instances like this. And I will continue to live up to that trust…why wouldn’t I? I am a representative of the brand (a brand that I am proud of), so why would I do anything that would harm the brand?

That ownership in what we do better equips myself and my colleagues to do amazing things. It helps if you have a brand whose voice is defined as “fun and engaging.”

Now what?

The story continued throughout the day. More and more retweets of our “NOT COOL, COOKIE” post (it’s now over 1,000) and too many congratulations from people around the office. Still, we saw one more opportunity to engage with Oreo’s response.

What we came back with was pretty fun, I think (big hat tip to my colleague and AMC’s Social Media Manager Justin who had the idea).

 

Yes. Those are Oreos on my eyes.

If there’s anything to learn from my story, it’s this: if you are a brand representative in social spaces, be sure that you understand your brand voice. Fight for an amount of autonomy where it makes sense so you can be agile and respond not just to customer service-related questions, but to the pop culture zeitgeist as well.