Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway is in a relationship with his city. A communication strategist, freelance writer, and author of "I'm a Memphian," he can be reached at

Conaway: This city's soul resonates

By Updated: April 04, 2019 6:28 PM CT | Published: April 04, 2019 5:32 PM CT

Back in the '80s, I heard Tom Peters and his book, "In Search of Excellence," quoted in meetings and bars as much as I saw suspenders and BMWs. I never cared much for those business fortune-cookie quips, but I’ll paraphrase one in particular that’s stuck with me all that time:

The best thing about being new in a company is you have no idea what you can’t do.

I thought about that as I was having coffee with David French, a quiet man who prefers listening to talking, seeing to being seen. You probably don’t know David and that’s fine with him, but he knows you. You’ll probably never hear from him and that’s fine with him, too, but he’s made sure people have heard of you.

David is relatively new to Memphis, so he had no idea that many of us think you’re not supposed to even like the place, much less fall in love with it. He had no idea that many feel you have to live here forever to understand it, that its big moments were in the past, that a big chunk of the people here live in the past and prefer it. He had no idea that an inferiority complex isn’t a common condition here, it’s a virtual requirement.

He had no idea that the warmth he felt, the personality evident everywhere, the genuine nature and character of the place, and the promise all that holds for a city, were largely unseen by the population.

He had no idea we don’t know our own soul. That hasn’t stopped him from telling the world about it and reminding us in the process.

David runs the Memphis Brand Initiative, and he and his team have quietly been making a lot of noise about us. In 2017, they asked a lot of questions here, nationally and internationally and found out that this city’s soul has resonance. They’ve been crafting messages and spreading the word across cyberspace and among opinion shapers and makers ever since.

You may have seen some of what they’ve been up to.

#BringYourSoul has been used more than 11,000 times on Instagram in a little over a year. has a community of more than 200,000 members across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and 600 or so individuals and organizations have become Memphis Ambassadors.

He shared some of the results of all of that with me over that cup of coffee.

For instance:

When asked about Memphis, 55 percent nationally have a favorable opinion, up seven points since 2017. Among multicultural millennials, that favorability exceeds the national audience by 10 percentage points, up five since 2017.

Increased familiarity with Memphis is up 18 points, recall of positive coverage of the city is up six points, curiosity about us up eight points, and ranking Memphis No. 1 among five cities as a place to visit is up 13 points.

And this.

Even here the soul is stirring. The majority of us – 55 percent – say Memphis already is or is becoming a great place to live and work, up 13 points since 2017.

This old adman’s cynicism has been a bit checked by those numbers, my decades-long rant about recognizing and promoting our soul as our message a bit vindicated, and my hope a bit raised that we can now look to what’s coming with a smile instead of frowning about what’s long gone.

I’m a Memphian, and I want David to know how warmed I was by that cup of coffee.


David French Memphis Brand Initiative

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