Deana Ivey has been chief marketing officer for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp (CVC) for 17 years … quite a time to have this job in Music City! We are big fans of all the Deana does, and who she is, and are delighted to have her grace our virtual pages today.
How did you find your way to Nashville?
I grew up in Kentucky, but found my way to Nashville after working in tourism in Gatlinburg. I thought I would only stay here a couple of years, but it has now been 17 because I fell in love with my job and this city.
How has your job changed as CMO of the Nashville CVC since you first started?
Nashville has always been a strong destination because of our deep roots in music, but it has changed so much since I first started. We are now being recognized for not only the great music coming out of here, but also [for] our food, fashion and arts. Through our marketing and the changes that have gone on in this city, we are appealing to a much bigger and broader audience. It’s so awesome to see visitors from all walks of life appreciating the city for what we’ve always known it to be.
In your opinion, why has Nashville taken off as the “it” city? Was there any one moment or a perfect storm of events?
I think it was a culmination of many things. About 12 years ago, we went through a strategic planning process and put a stake in the ground regarding the Music City brand. Although we had been known by that name for many years, it took a lot of citywide marketing and PR efforts to get everyone on board to embrace it and then start telling the rest of the world that we are THE Music City. In the last few years, so many people — like Jack White and the Black Keys — have moved here, and that just adds to our brand story. At the same time, the Music City Center opened, all of these great new restaurants starting popping up, and the journalists that we were bringing in started to see and understand what we had been telling them. Nashville is a special place and the rest of the world is just now figuring that out.
What makes Nashville’s CVC stand out among its peers?
We always hear we have one of the best in the country. It is absolutely true that we have one of the best CVCs in the country and honestly, it starts at the top with our CEO, Butch Spyridon. The man has a complete passion for this city, and he never stops thinking of ideas to make the city and our organization better. Over the years, we have put a very strong team in place that works hard and puts in a lot of long hours, and all because we love this city and believe in what we do.
Is there one thing that you wish Nashville had that it currently does not, from both a resident’s perspective as well as for our tourists?
The thing that everyone is talking about, which is public transportation. With more than 12.6 million visitors a year (not to mention all the new people moving here), we need an easier way to get around. This is especially important when we are trying to attract the international visitor, who is so accustomed to it.
What was your last best meal you’ve enjoyed in Nashville?
This is cheating a little, but it would have to be the Bon Appetit Grub Crawl that we just hosted. It was the most incredible day of dining in our city. Being served the best offerings at so many of our great restaurants was fantastic! We had everything from lamb meatballs at Etch to fried bologna sandwiches at Robert’s Western World. Many visitors came to Nashville just for this event, and it was a great success, so stay tuned, because we will be doing it again.
Can you share with us a favorite quote or saying?
IGBOK – it’s gonna be OK. You’ve seen it on some bumper stickers I’m sure, and if you were like me, you weren’t sure what it was at first. When my husband was right in the middle of his cancer treatments, one of my girlfriends told me to make it our daily mantra. I can’t tell you how much we think it, say it and lean on it. Think about it – we all say it all the time to other people, but when you are going through a tough time, just keep telling yourself that one way or another, it really is going to be OK, and then believe it.
With so many readers having extended family coming in town for the holidays, what is a great event for them to know about?
Since we produce it, I must say the Jack Daniel’s New Year’s Eve Bash on Broadway. We are so excited that this year Nashville will be part of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC. It has been a goal of ours since we started the event five years ago. Bring your out-of-town guests to the event, or tell them to tune in for a little taste of Music City to ring in the New Year!
As you think about your greatest challenges in life, do you have insight for others going through their own challenges?
My husband, Brian, has been the greatest inspiration to me as he’s battled his illness off and on for over 18 years. He is so strong and determined and never, ever gives up. He has been such a great example of never quitting for our 12-year-old son, Ben. We are reminded way too often that we can do hard things, and we really can! When your life gets turned upside down, you must do everything in your power to find that inner strength and keep on going. Whether it’s big, life-changing things or the stress of everyday living, you have to dig deep, depend on your faith and power through. A little chocolate always helps, too!
Do you have any favorite books that you’ve read over the past year that you recommend?
On a business front, it would have to be Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business, Reboot Your Life, by Mitch Joel, and a personal favorite was the Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. That one has stuck with me for a few months now.
Do you have a mentor that you’ve leaned on for advice over the years?
My sisters have always been my mentors for their perseverance, determination and intelligence, as well as their sweet natures and their love of family.
Name three lighthearted things you can’t live without!
- My iPad. I literally sleep with it every night (kind of sick I know!).
- Sports. I love all sports, but especially when our son is playing.
- Travel. I take after my mother and will go anywhere at the drop of a hat.
Thank you, Deana! To find out more about what is going on in Nashville this coming holiday season, be sure to visit visitmusiccity.com.
Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for our photos each week in our FACES series.