If there is a way to communicate with people and get a message out, Jason Falls (Class of 1995) has likely done it.
In print. On air. Online. On social media. On stage.
As the senior influence strategist for Cornett, a creative marketing agency in Lexington, Falls has found himself in a place he wouldn’t have predicted as an in-demand digital and influence marketing expert, keynote speaker and author.
Growing up in Pikeville, Falls’ mother was the editor of a local newspaper. She and his two grandmothers proved to be the biggest influences on his interest in communication, his intellectual curiosity and taking the initiative when he wanted something.
“I was exposed to communications and the media up-close and personal at a very young age. I became fascinated with writing, journalism and broadcasting because I was around it all the time,” Falls said. “Mom solidified her influence when I was 14 and for the summer, she decided I needed to do a list of chores every day instead of laying around the house. So, I promptly marched myself into the local radio station and told them I wanted a job. I’ve been working in some form of communications ever since.”
As a radio broadcaster and speech and drama team member in high school, Falls did not shy away from communicating in front of people. After he graduated, he wanted to pay his way through college and he chose Morehead State University when they offered him enough scholarship money. That and a bit of encouragement and assistance from Pikeville attorney Jim Pruitt (Class of 1971) helped Falls become an MSU Eagle with a plan to make communication his career goal.
Falls was like a kid in a candy store going through his communications courses, taking on the challenges and soaking up knowledge to become a better writer and producer on his way to earning a Bachelor of Arts in Radio/TV Communications in 1995. He wrote for The Trail Blazer and said professors like Dr. Noel Earl embraced his writing and sense of humor and would give him feedback. Several other Eagles also influenced his career path. Randy Stacy (Class of 1977), former sports information director, recruited Falls to be an assistant in Athletics his sophomore year.
“He basically gave me the job of handling the duties of a full-time assistant,” Falls said. “Having that kind of responsibility with someone looking over my shoulder definitely readied me for the real world.”
Steve Hamilton (Class of 1958 and 1963), former MSU Athletic Director and MSU Baseball coach, pointed Falls toward broadcasting and helped him land his first job as an associate producer of ABC Sports Radio after graduating from West Virginia University with a Master of Science in Sports Management.
Falls held positions in sports media and public relations in various university athletics programs for more than a decade and honed his internet chops. He was writing about sports teams on websites he built himself using blogging tools and techniques. He was surfing message boards looking for opportunities to promote student-athletes. When he transitioned to more mainstream marketing working for Doe-Anderson in Louisville, he managed public relations for Louisville Slugger. His print and broadcast focus started to become more digital.
“It just so happened that this was when brands were starting to ask questions about blogs and social networks. I’d been writing an old newspaper column on a website (a blog) and navigating forums and message boards for several years to satisfy my inner nerd, so I knew answers to their questions,” Falls said. “The leadership at Doe-Anderson kind of did what Randy Stacy did years earlier: They gave me a ton of responsibility and let me just do it. I guess I didn’t screw it up.”
Falls and Doe-Anderson began building social media concepts for spirit brands like Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam, who invited him to speak at conferences about what factored into their success. By 2013, he had a prestigious Sales and Marketing Technology (SAMMY) Award for his work with Maker’s Mark, wrote two books on social media marketing strategy and had the top marketing blog in the world, according to Advertising Age. He has since made a career as one of the go-to strategists, speakers and personalities in the social media and digital marketing space, working for companies like CafePress and Elasticity before coming to Cornett.
“It wasn’t long before I had been through enough challenges; I knew I was pretty good at solving problems in the digital world,” Falls said. “I’m not always right, nor are my ideas always award-winners, but they have sound thinking and, thus, have a chance to be successful.”
As Falls continues to work at Cornett to find innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of creative marketing in digital outlets, he also recently completed his third book “Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand.” He said as more and more brands have utilized social media influencers to boost online engagement and sales, he would like to take the “R” out of “influencer” and have companies focus on “influence marketing,” which can be done by businesses large and small.
“If you’re a local business and your target audience is parents, the president of the local PTA might be your best’ influencer’ and that person may not be on social media at all,” he said. “The book helps business owners and marketers understand a broader, more effective way to think about influence, influencers and how to design strategies to leverage the practice. Influence marketing is often a more effective and efficient way to spend your marketing dollars. The book helps you figure that out.”
Falls said the impact of social media marketing isn’t going anywhere, so neither is his line of work, the demand for his expertise or his ambitions to explore even more ways to communicate with his audience. He said his career has come full circle to his time in audio production and “goofing off on the radio in my MSU days.” He turns his attention to podcasting and what he thinks is a growing movement for on-demand audio way to consume information. Falls currently has two podcasts, “Digging Deeper” and “Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast,” and plans to release his next book on audio formats before going to print and digital.
Falls said while he may have been a deft and memorable communicator at an early age using his voice, he said so much of what he does comes down to putting his thoughts on paper. Whether it’s a blog or a book, he said he owes a lot of that to becoming an Eagle and the people on campus that helped him soar.
“From (faculty advisor) Joan Atkins’ first real critique of my Trail Blazer articles to Randy Stacy ripping apart my press releases for the volleyball team to Noel Earl listening to me read my newspaper columns out loud to see if there was a laugh factor, I became a writer at Morehead State,” Falls said. “I’m not Hemingway…but I write for work or play every day. Sometimes I even write well. On occasion, I even turn a phrase that’s good enough to make me stop and think, ‘Damn. That’s pretty good.’ I wouldn’t have nearly as many of those if not for my hands-on learning as a writer at MSU.”
To learn more about MSU communications programs, visit www.moreheadstate.edu/cml.