StoryConnect 2022 is set for March 30 to April 1 in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee!


Is StoryConnect the right conference for you?

This annual gathering of marketing professionals from electric and broadband companies has become a favorite conference among attendees. Why? For starters, they learn from each other through a collaborative framework in a relaxing setting where attendance is kept low to preserve an intimate learning experience. Sessions are focused on inspiring ideas among utility communicators. And expert speakers from outside the utility industries share insights that can be applied when attendees return to work.

What is StoryConnect?

StoryConnect is designed to help communicators at rural broadband providers discover and refine their corporate storytelling skills.

This year’s conference will take a close look at how the people bringing broadband to Rural and Smalltown America are telling stories to build their brand, educate their audience, and market their services. We’ll also look at what stories your data can tell you, and what story your customers’ experience may be inadvertently telling people about your company.


New speakers announced:

Gary Bolton
President and CEO
Fiber Broadband Association

Gary Bolton serves as president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association — the largest trade association in the Americas dedicated to all-fiber-optic broadband. With more than three decades in the telecom industry, Bolton joined the Fiber Broadband Association as president and CEO in 2020 after serving on the association’s board as vice chairman, treasurer and vice chairs of public policy and marketing committees.

Prior to taking the leadership role at the Fiber Broadband Association, Gary spent 11 years at ADTRAN serving as vice president of global marketing and government affairs. ADTRAN is a top three global provider of broadband infrastructure solutions. At ADTRAN, Gary was responsible for all aspects of marketing for the company worldwide as well as regulatory and government affairs.


J. Robert Hall
Chief Executive Officer
Ole Smoky Distillery

Robert Hall is CEO of Ole Smoky Distillery, the leading craft distiller in the U.S. and home of the world’s most visited distillery. Since 2016, he has lead the company’s efforts to significantly grow their business, which have been recognized by the company being presented with the IMPACT Hot Brand Awards for spirits brands for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020, as well as numerous Growth Brand and product quality awards and being included on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing private companies in 2020.

Additionally, Robert currently serves on the Boards of Glatfelter, a $1b NYSE Specialty Paper Company, the Distilled Spirits Council of the US, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, as well as being a member of the Legislative Committee of the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild. Mr. Hall was also President of Lenox Brands and he received his BA in physics and mathematics from Oxford University in England and his MBA in marketing and finance from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.


Carrie Huckeby
Director of Strategy and Training

Carrie joined WordSouth’s team in November 2018 as director of strategy and training. She says this is her “encore career” after spending 30 years in the cooperative telecom environment. Carrie says her time in customer service and sales better prepared her for the marketing role since there is no better place to learn the products and services and get the customer feedback.

Carrie has two beehives and is trying to learn the science of beekeeping. She earned her MBA from Bethel University in 2016, and in 2018, Carrie and a few of her friends kicked off The Power of 100 Warren County. The organization currently has 130 ladies as members and donates funds to a local charity each quarter.


Jim Keiffer

As a consultant, Jim brings decades of experience in the energy industry to WordSouth. As the former vice president of marketing for TVA and president of Keiffer Energy and Management Consulting, he focuses on strategic planning, marketing and customer service, energy efficiency programs, and overall management consulting. At TVA, he was responsible for growing the Energy Right program and TVA’s Energy Services Co. He also served as general manager of the Middle Tennessee Customer Service District and general manager of customer strategy and support for TVA.


Andy Johns
Director of Marketing
WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources

Andy is the director of marketing and business development at WordSouth. An innovative storyteller and communicator, Andy has been featured as a presenter and moderator on various broadband and marketing topics at more than 35 industry conferences around the United States. Prior to joining the WordSouth team, Andy was an award-winning reporter at newspapers in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. He studied communications at Berry College and earned his MBA with a marketing focus from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In 2019, he also earned a certification in Marketing Automation.


Melissa Gilliam Shaw
Director of Social Media Content & Operations
ARC Media / Pioneer Utility Resources

Melissa has been with #TeamARC since the early days; first as a contractor, then a partner, and now as Director of Social Media Content & Operations. She is an American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer (PCM®) who holds a M.A.M. from Carnegie Mellon University and both a B.A. (in English) and a B.M. from Northwestern State University of Louisiana.

Born and raised in small-town Southeast Missouri, Melissa’s cowboy boots once trended on Twitter (hashtag: #MilliGFunksBoots) and she’s run more than a dozen half marathons and one full marathon.


Josh Loebner
Director of Strategy

Josh is a blind disability advocate, 20+ year marketing professional and PhD candidate at Clemson University focusing on advertising and disability. As disability and marketing subject expert and director of strategy for Designsensory he collaborates on global projects with Airbnb, state-level efforts with Explore Georgia and regional and community-based brand initiatives across the country. He serves on boards including the Adweek DEI Council, American Advertising Federation Mosaic Council, TravelAbility and Dollywood’s disability advisory panel. He lectures at the University of Tennessee and mentors disabled students. Josh co-created and co-hosts Explorable, a travel brand podcast centering on disability inclusion and accessible tourism, where guests include Walt Disney World, Alaska Airlines, the National Park Service, I LOVE New York, Expedia, Amazon and more.


John McDermott
Director of Government & Industry Affairs
Bush Brothers & Company

John McDermott has over 30 years within the consumer packaged goods industry. John has extensive experience in numerous disciplines, including Sales, Marketing, Trade Marketing and Category Management.

After 12 years with Scott Paper Company, John began his career with Bush Brothers & Company in the fall of 1995 as the Director of Business Development. In this role, he led the development and implementation of trade marketing and category management strategies. Following this role, in January 1998 John assumed the role Director of Marketing, leading the Company’s consumer and new product efforts for Bush’s Baked Beans, the leading brand of baked beans.


Steve Savell
Director of External Affairs & Sustainability
Bush Brothers & Company

Steve Savell is the new . Steve has over 30 years in the manufacturing and consumer goods industries. His career has been primarily focused on information technology and systems management. Steve joined Bush Brothers in the early 90’s after 10 years working with both International Paper and Sara Lee in the Dallas – Ft. Worth area. Since the mid 2000’s, he has been responsible for leading Bush’s overall technology environment. During that time his teams have been aligned on delivering technology solutions that support and advance the company’s strategic intent, including a focus on risk management, specifically security and privacy initiatives.


Sessions will include:

Telling Stories to People Who Aren’t Like You
Planning your communication and marketing efforts to include a diverse audience is more than just PR — it can help your bottom line. Disability advocate Josh Loebner will discuss how accommodating and including people of different abilities, races, cultural backgrounds and languages is essential for maximizing your effectiveness as a communicator.

Bean Branding: Telling Your Story Across Multiple Platforms
In order for Bush Brothers & Company to tell the story of their beans and brand across all channels, it takes more than just a talking dog from the commercials. The Bush team carefully coordinates across all platforms to reinforce the story at the core of its brand.

Distilling Your Brand Story
As Tennessee’s first legal moonshine distiller, Ole Smoky Moonshine has leveraged the mystique of infamous bootleggers into a fast-growing, nationally-recognized brand.

Find the Story Hiding in the Data
A panel of industry experts will look at what data points you have access to and how they can tell your customers’ story.

Idea Exchange IV
Back by popular demand, the Idea Exchange gives nine selected attendees three minutes each to share their awesome marketing and communication ideas from the past year.

Say What?
Attendees will break into small groups for this party-game style session that allows attendees to share, empathize and celebrate with other communicators.

Spooky Social Media Stories II: It Came from the Comments Section
Like a 1980s movie villain, Spooky Social Media Stories comes back for a sequel. The WordSouth team will lead a group discussion sharing scary social media moments and how attendees saved the day — and we’re making s’mores!

Telling the Co-op Story
Not only is REI the nation’s largest retailer of outdoor gear, they are also a cooperative and experts at using content to tell their story.

Regional Telco Magazine User Group
The WordSouth team will lead a group discussion on story idea generation and offer tips to improve your magazine and editorial process.

StoryConnect: The Podcast Live
In each of its 160+ episodes, StoryConnect: The Podcast has shared ideas from leaders, trendsetters and thinkers in the telecom and electric industries. In this popular returning session, WordSouth staff will interview three guests to share insights and experiences with the live audience.

Creating a Customer Experience Mindset
For every employee, the ability to see your company through the eyes of a customer is essential. This session will look at methods, examples and benefits of removing the barriers along the customer’s journey.


Special sessions for electric providers launching a broadband brand:

How to talk about Broadband
Panelists from the telco industry will discuss the basics of educating your staff and your customers about the features, functions and benefits of your new broadband service.

Building a Broadband Brand
WordSouth’s team will work through the importance of a clear brand identity, along with how to use consistent visuals and text in your marketing channels to reinforce and leverage that brand.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting New Customers
A new service means a new type of customer. A panel of industry experts will share global statistics from network data, demographics, billing and other sources to paint a picture of what your new customers expect and how they will use your service.

The conference will begin at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, and conclude by noon on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

About the Venue

Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is everything a mountain resort should be. The casual-luxe atmosphere and gracious service transport you to an island state of mind, nature’s backdrop renews your mind and spirit, and breath-taking adventures call you to try something new and push your boundaries. As the home base for StoryConnect 2020, the resort is minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and within walking distance to the attractions, shops and, restaurants in Gatlinburg.

Networking Dinner on March 30, 2022

StoryConnect’s opening night Networking Dinner has become an annual tradition for catching up with industry friends — or making new ones. This year’s dinner will be held at Anakeesta, a unique outdoor experience that immerses guests in the beauty of the great outdoors. Anakeesta features spectacular views of downtown Gatlinburg and Mt. LeConte, one of the tallest mountains in the eastern United States.

Before dinner, guests will be able to enjoy drinks or stroll along the more than 800-feet of connected sky bridges in the Treetop Skywalk. After dinner, walk-off your meal in the interactive Vista Gardens botanical walk that features lush gardens filled with a variety of flowers, plants, and sculptures. ​For the bold, guests can choose to ride the Chondola lift or zip down the Alpine Coaster.

The cost of the dinner is included in your registration, and additional guests can join for $60 each.

Thanks to our Sponsors!





Davis Direct

Davis Direct



DeSoto Printing, Mailing, & Signs

DeSoto Printing, Mailing, & Signs

Freeport Press

Freeport Press

Telecom Insurance Group

Telecom Insurance Group