Senior Program Manager, Social Media | Knoxville, Tenn.
For Travis Brickey, the news never stops. He’s the lead of social media for TVA, and much like the company itself, he goes 24/7/365, telling the story of how your power gets made and—more importantly—by whom.
“The online point we generate is, ‘Here’s who we are; here’s what we’re doing,’” he says. “We want TVA to be your neighbor, not this big utility. Our mission is to promote energy, environmental stewardship and economic development. But we humanize that brand—bring it down to your neighbor or a new industry coming to town or a great place on one of our lakes to go fishing. That approach has really resonated with social media audiences.”
During the summer, he’s busy getting the word out about recreation. “We have 49 dams and reservoirs all over the Valley, and that’s a lot of potential for recreation,” he says. “Not only is the Tennessee Valley a great place to live and work, it’s a great place to get outside and enjoy life. What better place than around TVA lakes, whether you’re on a boat or taking a hike or having a picnic with your family.”
To that end, he manages the #TVAfun campaign, which lets users take photos of their outdoor adventures and enter them into a photo contest to win cool prizes. “We want people to get out and have fun and share their experiences with us,” Brickey says.
This year, he focused on a vacation theme—appropriately called #TVAcation. “Not everyone can afford to take their family on a big vacation or go to the beach or Disneyworld,” he says. “But people can take their families to one of our dams and have a great summer for low or no cost—go camping, go on a hike, hit the lake and really enjoy what’s in their back yard.”
TVA promotes recreation as part of its mission of service, and does a great job according to Brickey: “The fact that our recreation on the lakes is bringing in $11.9 billion annually is an indication that we’re doing it right.”
Another aspect of Brickey’s job is representing TVA’s Land and River Management for public relations, both in the social and traditional media. He runs an anticipated River Tour each spring throughout the Valley to introduce TVA river forecasters to local power companies, mayors and media and to provide an update on the state of the river system and forecast for the year in terms of rainfall, lake levels and more.
“The public identifies TVA with its lakes, dams, rivers and recreation,” Brickey says. “We’re constantly talking to the public about that, whether we’re in a flood control operation or just doing the day-in, day-out work to provide all the benefits the river offers, which include recreation, low-cost power, water quality, supply and navigation.”
He grew up in Tennessee learning about the important work of TVA, and seeing it firsthand, he’s lost none of his appreciation for it. “I truly believe we do this better than anybody,” Brickey says. “It was really one of the first core missions of TVA to tame the river because of the devastating floods that occurred annually. Now we’re a model for the nation and around the world.”
As fun as his job is, it’s challenging, too. PR is never a cakewalk, especially when you’re representing a large public power company that actively seeks public opinion. “We’re in a tough business,” he says. “Any time you’re splitting atoms, burning coal, holding back water there will be people out there with opinions on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.”
Brickey has worked in PR at TVA for eight years, having come from a background in TV news. He’s seen a lot of action in his day. But ask about his proudest work-related moment, and he doesn’t hesitate to answer: “The Norris 80th Anniversary. We had thought that maybe 10,000 people might show up; we think between 30,000 and 40,000 came. I saw an older lady there rubbing concrete walls with tears were running down her face. She explained that her dad had helped to build Norris, and she felt like he was a part of the concrete—she was reconnecting with her dad!
“It was really a moment when you think we work for somewhere that’s more than just meetings and reports and emails, it’s something that has changed people’s lives—generations of people’s lives.”
Though work is important, it isn’t Brickey’s primary interest. That would be his family: wife Nygel, a bank manager, and daughters Sloan, 18, a tomboy; and Richmond, 15, a girly girl. “I think it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that my girls are my passion!” he says.
Daughter Sloan was born with Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t slow her roll.
“It doesn’t define her,” Brickey says. “When she was born the human side of me took over and I started thinking she may or may not be able to do this or that. But I quickly learned that Sloan can do anything she wants to, and she’s taught a lot of people that she’s more typical than she is atypical. She’s a cheerleader, she’s one of the more popular kids in high school.”
Brickey was married on an overlook at Norris Lake, where he has a boat. “We live near Norris, and it’s a special place for us,” he says. “More and more the kids are doing their own thing, but we try to get out on the lake together every chance we get.”
He also sits on the board of Knoxville’s Sertoma Center, which assists adults with mental disabilities in finding jobs and transportation—and with having their own homes. The work is deeply personal and satisfying. “We all take for granted that feeling of owning a home and having a job,” Brickey says. “This gives them a full, rich life and I’m proud of that."
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