Story of Savannah Lakes is One of Authenticity
By Greg Deal
The new Savannah Lakes Village blog is called “Conversations,” and its goal is to highlight real conversations about the community – and find ways to be authentic in discussing the topics. I hope you follow this blog so you can keep up with the latest conversations.
In fact, authenticity is the focus of today’s post. It’s been the topic of conversation at the Village Office for a couple of months.
Let me take you back: I was a week away from starting my new job as communications manager at Savannah Lakes Village in June. Part of my role is marketing. The chief operating officer, Kirk Smith, asked me to come up with some phrases and short explanations as text to overlay on the rotating images on the front page of SavannahLakes.com.
I went straight to work polishing every adjective and superlative I could find. Surely, I thought, Kirk would be excited with the expanse of my vocabulary in finding 15 different ways to say “awesome” in those phrases.
I was met with an unexpected response.
“I want us to be authentic and not rely on superlatives,” Kirk said. I was heartbroken. How am I supposed to write something without fancy marketing adjectives? Writing is my life.
Kirk was being sincere. I was relying on well-worn marketing tactics. He was right. I was wrong. The problem was that everything within me knew I was wrong.
It was time to rethink my phrases – and also learn more from Kirk about how authentic he really was about being authentic in promoting the Village. I quickly learned he’s extraordinarily committed to being authentic. You see, I’ve been a part of a marketing staff, and I spent another 15 years writing professionally. I relied on facts as a newspaper reporter for many years, but my foray into marketing led me down a path open to the liberal use of superlatives. Mix a little fact with a few nifty adjectives, and, poof, magic happens, right?
Kirk knew – and I knew at heart – that promoting Savannah Lakes Village must be accomplished through authentic means. The words must be authentic. The stories must be authentic. The actions we take must be authentic. The service we provide must be authentic. Everything we do must be authentic. Why? People resent inauthenticity.
Have you ever seen a movie preview on TV and thought, “Wow! That’s going to be a great movie”? Then you spend $20 to see the flick only to realize the preview was the best part. The movie itself wasn’t worth your money. You were tricked by the flashy marketing, but the true product (the film itself) failed to deliver. Bet you told someone, didn’t you? You probably told 10 people not to waste their money on the movie. When people fail to live up to billed promises, those duped by the so-called promises will tell many people. It must be built into our survivalist mentality.
Everything we do in Savannah Lakes Village must “live up to the preview.”
If we say what we are, then we must deliver on that promise. If you know Kirk well, you probably know he’s as sincere as they come about ensuring SLV is authentic in delivering on its promises. He’s always asking staff questions about what we can do to translate authentic feelings into authentic behavior. And, as far as marketing, it’s about using facts as the foundation of your destination rather than using superlatives to prop up your destination on shaky ground.
With the text overlays on the pictures, I began to focus on who we are. Kirk says we should build on our unique destination. One of the things Kirk shared with me is that we must not run away from who we are, but instead embrace our uniqueness. Not everyone can live in a paradise-like suburb that’s just five minutes from a metro area. In fact, most people choose Savannah Lakes Village precisely because of the things it doesn’t have as much as what it does. They weigh the value of the uniqueness of this destination against other prospective destinations. If Savannah Lakes Village remains true to what it is, and doesn’t try to be what it’s not, it will win over many as the destination of choice. There are enough great things to say about SLV by simply listing the facts.
For some of the things to tout, my focus zoomed in on talking about nature. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, said, “The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” This is so true. It’s part of living a balanced life. There’s more than just physical health, and taking advantage of nature’s offerings here is something essential a healthy spirit. Kirk says you make use of your surroundings to make you the best person you can be – physically and mentally. It’s also been said that if you ever lose inspiration, just go outside. Nature is a playground for the soul. Savannah Lakes has plenty of inspiration because it offers plenty of nature.
In Savannah Lakes Village, it is perfectly authentic to say that hi-tech meets hi-nature.
We are practically living in a state park, as one resident said. We are surrounded by one of the South’s largest lakes, have hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, more than 50 miles of kayaking/canoeing trails, and two member-owned golf courses. There’s more shoreline to explore on Lake Thurmond than the entire coast of California. There are also plenty of recreation opportunities, and chances to get involved in various clubs and events.
But hi-nature here is balanced with high-tech. The fiber-optic technology to the doorstep of every home makes up the largest network of its kind in South Carolina. We are fortunate to have up to 100 MBs of download speed, which means you can stay connected to the world in a plethora of ways, all while staying in touch with nature. The technology allows you to create “smart homes,” if you wish, or simply remain in close contact with friends and family across the world through Skype or FaceTime. Whether it’s for work or for play, the technology is here to meet your needs. It doesn’t overwhelm nature. If anything, it enhances it. It gives residents here a wonderful platform to share their cherished experiences with others.
Authenticity extends well beyond promoting SLV through marketing. The staff must buy into authentic service excellence. People resent – or often simply ignore – the scripted greetings and actions within much of the service industry. Authenticity is about hardwiring service excellence into everything we do. It’s treating people the way you want to be treated – and setting others up for success, whether it’s other staff or residents. I often here, “Are you getting the wings today?” at the River Grille, and “How is your family?” at Monticello, while an iced tea is already being poured. That authenticity makes me feel special, and I’m sure many reading this have experienced the same thing.
SLV is fortunate to have leadership and everyday staff who make others feel special.
Our people – both residents and staff – make up one of our greatest assets.
You know the real people, don’t you? They know your favorite drink or meal, they truly care about you and your family, they feel the pains when you do, and they rejoice when you rejoice. SLV is all about creating a culture of service excellence that results in residents and prospective residents getting an authentic look behind the curtain of what makes this place special.
Kirk notes that people make towns and communities. It’s when we start looking at people as “leads” for sales – or consumers as members – that we lose sight of the value each individual brings to a community. People are people, not a membership number on a card or an account in a computer.
Everyone in SLV has a story to tell. This “Conversations” blog aims to capture the authenticity of what people are talking about and the positive steps we all take as a group of neighbors in advancing this community. It’s through conversations that we find the core of what makes SLV an authentic destination.
Greg Deal is a writer, graphic designer, author, and communications/IT manager at Savannah Lakes Village. His blog, “Conversations,” focuses on life in Savannah Lakes Village and the Little River Blueway Region of South Carolina and Georgia.