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Pipe Kitty Makes Greenway a Viral Marketing Sensation

Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2012, at 2:45 PM

If the phrase "pipe kitty" means anything to you, you've likely witnessed the tremendous power of viral marketing. Though certainly not a concerted marketing effort, Greenway Home Services, a Memphis HVAC, plumbing and appliance repair company, began a viral marketing sensation this past weekend.

Learning via Facebook of the Humane Society's outcry to the public for a plumber to assist with the rescue of a kitten in distress, Mike Wilson, Greenway VP of Operations (and my husband), came to the rescue. Founded around a service culture of "do unto others," it's a regular occurrence for the Greenway team to come to the rescue of those in need. Typically, this maxim is applied to their customers, but this time, it was a starving 6-week-old kitten's turn to benefit.

Having spent five days trapped in an underground pipe, malnourished and crying, the kitten, which would become affectionately known across the mid-south as "pipe kitty," was in need of a gallant rescue. Wilson called in his plumbing team, not realizing at the time they would spend the next 12 hours digging this kitten out of the ground by hand.

Fueled by the kitten's cries, they would not be deterred despite the lack of daylight and callused hands. Plumber Fred Simmons said early on, "We're not quitting until this kitten is free -- period." He was right. Around 4 a.m., Pipe Kitty was freed and released to the Humane Society only to be later adopted by Wilson himself. "We're naming her Piper, of course," says Wilson.

Over the course of the night, the Greenway team set up a Twitter profile called @MyPipeKitty to update the community on the group's rescue efforts, in addition to posting updates through Greenway's own social media profiles. The community rallied around the rescue crew, cheering them on via social media. Greenway engaged with the community, problem solving with them about how best to rescue the kitten. Suggestions were shared with the rescue team, with several of those suggested strategies put into action in the field.

The news media ran repeated stories throughout the weekend -- locally and nationally, as the community couldn't get enough of the story of this tough group of plumbers with the soft hearts. Celebrities, like Dancing with the Star's Carrie Ann Inaba, even tweeted their good wishes to the Greenway rescue team.

Greenway was solely concerned with doing the right thing -- they certainly didn't set out Friday with a mission of generating press and going viral. However, their approach to opening a social media forum to garner the community's support in collectively solving this problem was spot on. They also allowed prospective customers a window into their culture.

In support of the daily heroic acts conducted by the Humane Society, Greenway is launching a new program to recognize area animal advocates, making donations in their honor to the organization.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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Lori Turner-Wilson
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Lori spent over 15 years leading corporate marketing and communications divisions in the financial services, hospitality and franchise restaurant sectors. As Director of Target Marketing for the Hampton Hotels brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Lori managed promotional, direct and Web marketing, as well as custom publishing, for the brand's franchise system. In her role as Vice President of Employee Communications and Development for First Horizon National Corporation, she managed the corporation's internal culture initiatives, communications, and employee recognition programs. Other positions held include Sr. Communications Director/Corporate Editor for TCBY Enterprises, Inc., and Vice President of Marketing for First National Banking Company. Lori is a founding sponsor and member of the Board of Directors for LaunchMemphis -- an organization committed to developing an entrepreneurial community in Memphis comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and local organizations. In addition, Lori is on the Board of Directors of the Sales and Marketing Society of the Mid-South and on the Advisory Board for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She is a sought-after speaker in the Memphis area, delivering sales and marketing keynote addresses and workshops to organizations like: the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South, LaunchMemphis, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Regional Chamber, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Lori holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in addition to having completed the University of Colorado's School of Bank Marketing and Management. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including local and district Addy's, Communicator awards, and a Telly. She received recognition as one of the Memphis Business Journal's "Top 40 Under 40" recipients in 2009. Lori also served as a contributing ghost writer for the renowned "Complete Idiot's Guide to Guerilla Marketing." Beyond her passions for marketing and dogs of all shapes and sizes, Lori is an avid traveler, runner and foodie.