Written by Smoak PR

Ten at the Top Welcomes New Board Members

Greenville, SC [ February 2, 2021] – Ten at the Top is pleased to announce the addition of 14 new board members for the 2021-2023 term. Each new member participated in one of the TATT New Board Member orientation sessions held on January 28th and 29th. They join existing members to form the governing board for the 10-county non-profit organization.

New Members to the TATT board are:

Geoff Beans, Associate, NAI Earle Furman

Alex Butterbaugh, Owner, Keowee Brewing Company

Annie Caggiano, President & CEO, Oconee Economic Alliance

Dr. Annette Christy, Executive Council Member, AARP of South Carolina

Stinson Ferguson, Special Counsel, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd

Joel Jones, Chief Operating Officer, ReWa

Brown Patterson, Chairman, Laurens County Council

Abby Russell, Corporate Relations Director, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Nathan Senn, Mayor, City of Laurens

Frannie Stockwell, President, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Michael Thorsland, Superintendent, School District of Oconee County

Jenny Wehrs, Vice President-Operations, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System

Julie Wilkie, City Manager, City of Greenwood

Trentsie Williams, Director of Finance, Meg’s House

The TATT Board of Directors is composed of public, private and civic leaders from across the 10-county Upstate region. TATT board members are charged with representing the region and their community in fostering trust and collaboration across the region on issues of regional significance, serving as an advocate for regional thinking within their specific city or county, assisting TATT in engaging elected officials, business and community leaders, and supporting general organizational functions.

About Ten at the Top

Comprised of public, private and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. For more information, visit www.tenatthetop.org.

Written by Smoak PR

Meet Our Spring Interns!

Smoak PR is thrilled to welcome three new Spring interns: Irene, Lizzie, and Lindsey. As college students interested in improving their communications skills, Smoak PR will prepare them with knowledge and experience in the public relations industry. To kick off the semester, each intern introduces herself and her goals for this time with Smoak PR:

My name is Irene Biganzoli and I am a junior at the University of South Carolina Upstate, majoring in Communications Mass Media, with double minor in Business & Entrepreneurship and French. I chose to follow this career path because I am fascinated by how words and effective messages can change how one’s story or passion is perceived. Communication is an everchanging field which amazes me, bringing to light modern platforms and utilizing them in the most efficient way. This fresh and dynamic side of communication is what brought me to choose it as a career. While studying and researching mass media and marketing tactics in the classroom, I hope that this amazing opportunity at Smoak PR will show me how these tactics are applied in the real world, teaching me new ones and reinforcing the lessons learned. I hope to become a better communicator, online and with Smoak PR clients and team, gaining hands on experience in areas like media relations and strategic planning.  

My name is Lizzie Burnett. I am a senior at Clemson University studying Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management with a concentration in Travel and Tourism. As one might guess, I have a heart for travel and adventure, and I want each day to look different and allow creativity in the workplace. One of the major trends in what I have studied is the importance of local pride, events, and having a great sense of involvement in the community. This is largely what attracted me to an internship in Public Relations. I am hopeful that this opportunity to intern at Smoak PR will teach me valuable lessons in how to inform the public on ways to get involved and improve the connectivity of a community. 

My name is Lindsey Cottle. I am a junior Communication Studies and French double major at Furman University. My favorite aspect of PR is getting to work with people, learning about their creative visions and helping make those a reality while simultaneously meeting their brand’s more pragmatic needs. I have a passion for travel and for education – which, to me, are one in the same – so I’m constantly trying to see more of the world, meet new people, and interact with cultures and mindsets different from my own. At the root of all these interactions is communication, hence my major: in our hyperconnected world, people seem to feel more disconnected than ever. This phenomenon underscores the importance of effective and meaningful communication, both digitally and interpersonally. I hope to refine the communication skills I’ve developed during my time at Furman through this internship with Smoak PR to better connect with others, and to serve my community by engaging with the public at a local, regional, and global level! 

Although we are beginning our internships virtually, we aim to emphasize collaboration and connection in order to make the most of this opportunity at Smoak PR. Each of us has a similar educational background, and yet brings her own unique set of skills to the table. We can’t wait to discover what this semester has in store for us! 

Written by Smoak PR

PR During a Crisis

Utilizing media to distribute information is critical during a crisis. As a PR agency, if we’ve learned anything during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it is that communities rely on receiving information and important updates from the media outlets they trust. Similar to how consumers rely on trustworthy news, it is crucial to share your company news and updates to ultimately benefit your brand during this unique time. Below are a few reasons why PR is beneficial for your company during a crisis.

  1. You are able to position yourself as a thought leader – When unfortunate circumstances occur in business, it may be important for you to right the wrong, or set the record straight to inform the community at large with honesty and transparency.  Sharing your story with the local media allows you to become the primary source of information that an audience receives. It can also be very beneficial to leverage your company’s profile through positive news, during a negative time. If you are able to give back to the community or donate your services after a crisis, it helps provide a renewed sense of reassurance in your brand and your ability to lead. This positions your company as a leader on the topic at hand, and therefore positions you for success in the future.
  1. You are able to control your message – By crafting and distributing a statement, providing an interview to the local media, or writing an Op-ed in your major daily, you are able to control your message. By serving as the official source of the information being shared publicly, you essentially eliminate or de-bunk any false information that may be circulating within the market. Communities like to hear directly from the source of the crisis and using the media to share your information directly is the most effective way to set you on a path towards normalcy once the dust has settled, post crisis.
  1. You are able to build trust among your community, peers, partners, etc. – By utilizing the media to share important information that the community would find beneficial, you are able to build trust. Whether it is trust that may have been lost due to the recent crisis, or the community simply needs reassurance, sharing your information on a platform like the local 5 o’clock news or in the community’s primary business publication, allows you to establish your footing and regain trust. Depending on the severity of the crisis, this can be very beneficial for the short term, as well as the future moving forward. Once the information is published, you are also able to utilize that coverage as your own to re-post, share and distribute across your own channels so that your database or followers are hearing the important information through another medium. 
Written by Smoak PR

Attorney Thomas G. Sinclair Joins Merline & Meacham, P.A.

GREENVILLE S.C. – January 11, 2021 – Merline & Meacham, P.A. is pleased to announce that attorney Thomas G. Sinclair has joined the firm.  Thomas practices in the areas of taxation, estate planning, trusts and estates, probate, employee benefits, pension and profit-sharing plans, partnership, limited liability company and corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, and non-profit and tax-exempt organization law.  He is a certified specialist in the fields of both Taxation Law and Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Supreme Court of South Carolina.  Thomas is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).  

He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the fields of Business Organizations (including LLCs and Partnerships), Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law (Lawyer of the Year 2021 in Greenville, South Carolina), Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, Mergers and Acquisitions Law, Nonprofit/Charities Law, Tax Law, and Trust and Estates.  He is also listed in Legal Elite of the Upstate in Greenville Business Magazine.  

Thomas earned his Master in Taxation Law Degree (LL.M.) from the New York University School of Law and his Juris Doctor Degree, cum laude, from the University of South Carolina School of Law.  Thomas is a member of the Greenville County Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar, the Greenville Estate Planning Council (President, 2014-2015) and the Greenville Estate Planning Study Group.

About Merline and Meacham: Merline & Meacham, P.A. was founded in 1970 in Greenville, South Carolina. The firm’s practice concentrates on tax, estate planning, trusts and estates, corporate and business transactional law. For more information, please visit the Merline & Meacham website at https://www.merlineandmeacham.com

Home | Attorneys at Law | Law Firm – Business Law | Tax LawGreenville Office. 812 East North Street, Greenville, SC 29601. Phone: 864.242.4080. Fax: 864.242.5758. Columbia Office. 723 Laurel Street Columbia, SC 29201www.merlineandmeacham.com
Written by Smoak PR

Spinx Celebrates Store #341 Opening in Charleston

New store featuring tunnel car wash and full kitchen opens on Highway 41 at Clements Ferry Rd.

Greenville, S.C. – Dec. 15, 2020 – The Spinx Company, the Greenville-based fuel and convenience retail company with more than 80 locations and 50 car washes statewide, recently celebrated the opening of the Spinx #341 store in Charleston. Located at 2627 Highway 41, the new store features a Ride ‘N Shine Tunnel Wash and a full-service kitchen.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the opening of another Spinx store in the Lowcountry. This location will provide our customers with a world class tunnel wash, a full-service kitchen, and of course, all of our other Spinx amenities to make the lives of this community that much easier,” stated Stewart Spinks, founder of Spinx. “We look forward to welcoming the community through these doors, as well as celebrate with some exciting special offers for a limited time.”

As part of the grand opening, a variety of in-store specials will be available for a limited time:

  • Soft Serve Ice Cream Cones – 50¢
  • 16 oz. Frozen Coffee, Smoothies and Shakes – $1.50
  • Legendary Chicken Biscuit – $1.99
  • 2 Tenders/2 Wedges – $2.49

The new store provides another convenient location for the community to fill their gas tanks and enjoy Spinx’s legendary fried chicken, breakfast biscuits and chicken sandwiches served fresh all day. Also, at this location, Spinx is serving made-to-order milkshakes, smoothies and soft serve ice cream in addition to its wide offering of ice-cold fountain drinks, lemonade, iced tea, slushies and the popular “chewy ice.” Hot beverages, including bean-to-cup fresh coffee will also be available for purchase.

Learn more at www.SpinxCarWash.com or www.Spinx.com.

ABOUT SPINX – Founded in 1972 in Greenville, S.C., The Spinx Company operates 84 convenience retail stores throughout South Carolina, and with approximately 1,400 employees, it is the largest privately-held retailer headquartered in the state. Spinx is committed to making life easier by fulfilling people’s everyday needs with fresh, on-the-go food, beverages and other convenience products delivered in a safe, clean and friendly environment. Through the Spinx Xtras Loyalty program and the Spinx mobile app, the company offers its loyal customers savings on fuel and special promotions.

For more information about Spinx or the Spinx Xtras program, visit the company’s website at www.spinx.com. 

Written by Smoak PR

Internship Reflection

As the fall semester comes to a close, we are reflecting upon what we have learned during our time at Smoak. We are all very thankful for the experiences we have gained, despite any setbacks that may have occurred due to the pandemic. During these unprecedented times, we have learned how to adapt to working remotely both academically and professionally, and we would like to thank everyone at Smoak PR for the opportunities we have been presented to learn about and work in a PR environment.

Madison G:

As I reflect on my time spent at Smoak PR, I have nothing but wonderful thoughts and memories. I remember starting as a doe eyed senior who thought a job in PR was nothing but glamorous. Now, having been an intern for the semester I can confidently say I was not too far off with my original thought. It is just a different meaning of the word glamorous. The glamour is the smiles and joy you get to witness with your clients when you have been successful in your public relation efforts. This internship experience was like none other before due to Coronavirus. I was not allowed to go into the office, except the occasional days where I had to complete a delivery task. During my internship, I was entrusted to write press releases, draft mood boards, create social content, execute deliveries, and model for a client. Beyond these tasks, we were given the responsibility of preparing and leading weekly meetings. As I look forward to my future, I feel reassured in the fact that Smoak PR has prepared me well with the foundations needed for a career in public relations after graduation in May. For this, I am eternally grateful for their wonderful team who taught me so well.


This semester at Smoak was my first ever internship, so I was not quite sure what to expect at first. Over the semester, I learned about the specific types of clients that one could work with in the public relations field, such as political candidates, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. I have always enjoyed writing, so I definitely loved drafting press releases, newsletters, and blogs for different clients- but my favorite projects aside from that include creating Instagram Reels for Smoak, putting together mood boards for interior design, and drafting social media captions. I learned how to adapt to certain tones and verbiage when creating content for different clients. I also learned how to collaborate with others along with how to take the lead in meetings and tasks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both my internship and my classes were virtual this semester, so another thing I am taking from this internship is the importance of time management and meeting deadlines. I am very grateful for the opportunity to gain valuable experience with Smoak and I will definitely put my new experiences and skills to good use.

Madison D:

At the start of the semester, I knew that my internship with Smoak would be unlike any internship I have done before. With the internship mostly remote, I knew I would need to get myself organized and focused to intern from a distance. I was not expecting to be able to do all the tasks and skills I had expected before interning, but the team at Smoak made this experience incredible and I checked all the boxes on my list of must-do tasks during an internship. We had weekly remote meetings that made me feel like I was part of the team. Each week different Smoak employees checked in on us making sure we were checking off our boxes and getting the experience we hoped for. I also am able to articulate for future employers that I assisted with many virtual tasks in the PR field, such as virtual events, virtual meetings, and overall virtual communication. I am thankful for this experience, especially during this pandemic! 

We all had a very successful internship experience this fall with Smoak PR. This semester presented a set of new challenges for all, however, we all learned how to make the most of the situation in a way that proved beneficial to us as interns and to the team at Smoak. It was a unique time to say the least, but now we are prepared to handle the new normal of virtual meetings, virtual events, and communicating with others with the use of technology. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the women at Smoak PR for making the best out of a hard time.

Written by Smoak PR

How to Make Virtual Events Unique and Interactive for All

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, technology has proven to become everyone’s new best friend. Our typical in-person meetings, events and activities have completely shifted to rely on today’s advanced technology and virtual platforms to get the job done. Whether it is classrooms for students or celebrations to honor milestones in proper social distancing fashion, 2020 has proven to be a year where all of us, young and old, have pivoted to learn the ins and outs of remaining connected through a screen.

In the public relations industry, event management is a huge part of our typical year-round business and as we know, in-person events were non-existent this year. In a time where we had no idea what three months down the road would bring, we ultimately had to learn how to plan and manage events that were no longer in-person, but 100% virtual. Learning the nuances of virtual events definitely brought challenges, but our goal was attained in helping our clients stay connected with others, during a time when in-person connection was limited. One of the most important takeaways that we learned over the past nine months is to ensure your virtual event stands out by engaging and interacting with attendees before, during and after the event.

Below are some of the main components we have found to be helpful for planning virtual events in the age of COVID-19:

  1. Hosting PlatformThe format of a virtual event or meeting affects not only the attendees’ ability to interact, but also the general feel of the event itself. It is important to discuss the overall goals and objectives for your virtual event with your client prior to making the decision on which platform to utilize. For example, if you want to be sure attendees can interact and talk amongst each other, your best bet is Zoom Meetings. This is probably the most popular platform as it is user-friendly and boasts a variety of interactive features that allow people to virtually connect with one another. If your event is more informative and educational, Zoom Webinar is probably a better fit. This platform is more limiting with its interactive elements that may be a distraction and is intended for more formal, educational purposes. There are many other available platforms, so it is very important to determine what best fits your specific needs and choose the best “venue” based off of that.
  2. Audio Visual TeamWith virtual events being reliant on the performance of the hosting platform and other elements that are sometimes out of our control, it is critical to hire a professional audio visual (AV) team. This will ensure your event is seamless from start to finish. Most AV teams have the technology and equipment such as cameras, lighting and staging to make your event appear like a true production to all viewers. It is much different than setting up a Zoom call and having the backdrop be your living room. This allows you and your client to really make an impact with visual and audio elements that would not have been an option without your go-to AV team. Also, in the case of a technical glitch or emergency it is always nice to have a team at your side to combat any problems that may arise during the event.
  3. Interactive ElementsThe best way to keep an audience engaged during a virtual event is through direct interaction. You can set aside a specific amount of time for your gathering’s audience participation, or you can interact throughout. Some ways of creating opportunities for attendees to participate are through chats, polls, and Q&As. You can share discount codes, downloadable links to information regarding your event, or surveys to hear the attendees’ feedback, which can be extremely valuable for future events. Through live tweets and Instagram stories, you can promote your event and create external engagement as well. Maybe determine a few “surprise” elements that will be certain to keep attendees tuned in for the event duration such as concerts, videos, shout outs and more.
  4. Registrant and Sponsor Mailers – Another creative way to get people excited about your upcoming event is to send complimentary event swag in advance of the event date. For example, a package with items that viewers can use as they watch your event such as a snack, bottled beverage, nametag or custom sign. Anything that can make attendees feel like they are also a part of the event program will generate excitement and make this event stand out from others. If your event has sponsors, make them feel appreciated by sending them a VIP “Celebration in a Box” that can be enjoyed amongst the company. Mimosas, party hats, sweet treats and more, make it fun for everyone! Remember, hold your attendees accountable by sending them items that they can keep nearby to serve as a reminder. As the event host, you have to keep them on the hook because it is much easier to avoid hitting play than it is to not show up in-person.

Virtual events offer a unique experience for both the hosts and attendees. Before the world went digital, virtual events were on the incline due to budget and accessibility reasons. Now, in a more technologically advanced world, hosting virtual gatherings has been taken to the next level through interactive features and upgraded design. While online gatherings may seem like a necessity at the moment, they seem to also be the future of events, so it is a good idea to get a head start in virtual event planning as it becomes the new normal.

Written by Smoak PR

Ten at The Top Announces Winners for their Regional Awards at Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

Greenville, SC | November 19, 2020 – On Wednesday, November 18th, Ten at the Top [TATT] hosted the Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event in place of their annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon. While this event focused on honoring the many unsung heroes who have gone above and beyond for their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, two of TATT’s traditional awards were also presented, The Burdette Leadership Award and The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration.

This event marked the fifth year that the Burdette Leadership Award has been given in recognition of Carol Burdette, the first female chair of Ten at the Top. The 2020 recipient of this award was Beth Padgett, who recently retired from serving as Executive Director of Compass of Carolina. This award is given to women who have stood out for their leadership and service across the Upstate, and Beth has demonstrated that through her volunteer work and career at Compass of Carolina, along with her current service as the District Governor for Rotary District 7750.

“Though we would have preferred to honor our award winners and Upstate Unsung Heroes during an event where everyone was in-person, it was great to be able to recognize deserving recipients with a virtual audience of 300+ watching,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top.

The Welling Award for Regional Collaboration, named after Ten at the Top’s founding chairman, Irv Welling III, is awarded to individuals or organizations that embody the spirit of thinking and acting regionally. This year’s recipient was Michelin North America, for leading and fostering collaboration around the issue of mobility through their funding of the Upstate Mobility Alliance and support for the movement of people and goods across the Upstate. Mobility is critical to the mission of Michelin NA, which operates several facilities in the Upstate, and they have spent significant time, energy and resources championing this issue across the Upstate, country and globe.

To learn more about Ten at the Top as an organization, please visit www.tenatthetop.org


Comprised of public, private and civic leaders across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to build regional trust and consensus through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to encourage quality growth and enhance the economic vitality, natural and cultural resources and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. www.tenatthetop.org.

Written by Smoak PR

Ten at The Top Announces 10 County Representatives for Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event

Greenville, SC | November 19, 2020 – On Wednesday, November 18th, Ten at the Top hosted the Celebrating Upstate Unsung Heroes Virtual Event in place of their annual Celebrating Successes Luncheon. This event focused on honoring the many individuals throughout the Upstate who have devoted their time and selflessly served their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 130 nominees were recognized during the event as “Upstate Unsung Heroes.” You can read the full list on the Ten at the Top website.

One individual per county was selected to receive special recognition during the event. Below are the 10 county representatives that were present for this special presentation:

Abbeville: Ethan Cornick – Dreams with Open Arms, Volunteer

Anderson: David Baker – Anderson County, Emergency Services Director

Cherokee: Dr. Carol McFadden – Know(2) Neighborhood Association, Volunteer Director

Greenville: Marina Lewis – Mauldin High School, Social Worker

Greenwood: George McKinney – Greenwood County, Emergency Management Director

Laurens: Joey Avery – Laurens County, Emergency Management Director

Oconee: Vanessa Earle – Prisma Health, Community Health Worker

Pickens: Lesa Howard – 5 Point Church Food Pantry, Director

Spartanburg: Charlene Cheeks – Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Upstate, CEO

Union: Shanna “Nikki” Burgess – SC Works Greater Upstate, Talent Development Specialist Supervisor

“To adapt to these unprecedented times, Ten at the Top felt it was necessary to change both the format and focus of this annual event. We decided to bring the upstate together by recognizing the hundreds of individuals who have remained committed to serving others amidst the many unfortunate circumstances this pandemic has brought our way,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top.

“We hope that our event has not only shown great appreciation to these 132 nominees, but also highlighted the number of heroes we have living amongst us in the 10-county Upstate region that we encounter daily.”

To learn more about Ten at the Top as an organization, please visit www.tenatthetop.org


Comprised of public, private and civic leaders across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to build regional trust and consensus through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to encourage quality growth and enhance the economic vitality, natural and cultural resources and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow. www.tenatthetop.org.

Written by Smoak PR

Caldwell Constructors Hires Experienced New Team Member

GREENVILLE, S.C. – September 14, 2020 – Caldwell Constructors is proud to announce the addition of Ryan Cardell as Assistant Project Manager to their team. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran with impressive project management experience, Cardell will bring his knowledge and skillset to Caldwell Constructors while upholding the company’s core values of integrity, honesty, respect, service, and communication.

Ryan previously worked within the construction industry for 7 years, most recently serving as an Assistant Project Manager at Scorpio in Gainesville, Florida. Cardell has gained extensive experience with new construction, renovations, LEED projects and BIM coordination through managing projects at the University of Florida.

“We are excited to welcome Ryan, a very talented and experienced new member, to the Caldwell Constructors family,” says President of Caldwell Constructors, Gary Caldwell. “He will provide a valuable set of skills and will be an exceptional addition to our team. We are thrilled to have him on board!”

About Caldwell Constructors

Caldwell Constructors is a full-service construction company that focuses on building relationships and providing exceptional service to clients across the Upstate of South Carolina. Caldwell Constructors has extensive experience in commercial, industrial, institutional and medical market segments. Their approach to delivering projects with unwavering integrity, creative problem solving, and tireless work ethic has earned Caldwell Constructors an excellent reputation in the Upstate. For more information, please visit the Caldwell Constructors website at www.caldwellconstructors.com/.

1 2 3 4 5 22