Choose901 Celebrates One Year of Upbeat Message

By Andy Meek

One phrase has been popping up in the local social media world with increasingly frequency over the past year.


It refers to a campaign led by the civic group City Leadership, and it’s designed to do exactly what the name says.

The campaign’s social media streams offer a steady drip of positivity and good news about Memphis. Thursday, March 28, offered a typical example of what the group is about. Its Facebook page was populated with things like official word of a lease being signed to reopen the Hi-Tone music venue and an encouragement for Choose 901’s audience to attend the Heart of Memphis celebration at Tiger Lane over the weekend.

Other days may see the campaign post videos of someone talking about what they like about Memphis, sharing upbeat news articles or Facebook and Twitter user statuses, among other things. What’s more, on April 2 the campaign will celebrate its first birthday with “Choose901 Day” at the Midtown Huey’s restaurant location at 1927 Madison Ave.

The celebration will last at Huey’s from open until close, and in honor of Choose901 turning 1, Huey’s is premiering a Choose901 T-shirt that will be on sale for the public, and there will be Choose901 stickers for all guests.

Huey’s also has agreed to host a special edition Memphis-themed trivia night that night. There will be Memphis-themed drinks, such as $5 “901-aritas,” featuring Justin Timberlake’s 901 Tequila with a percentage of proceeds going to Project Green Fork. And there will be happy hour prices on Ghost River beer all day.

John Carroll, executive director of City Leadership, pointed to Richard Florida, a professor and urban researcher who’s written multiple books about the so-called “creative class,” as an impetus for the Choose901 project.

“His theory is the only way to change a city is to talent-cluster as many young professionals together as possible, make sure they’re connected into the community, that they become friends, have places to exhibit their passions and make a difference,” Carroll said. “And then you basically kind of hold on for dear life and see how many of them stay in your city.

“What we’re trying to do is help brand our city to this demographic so that they know this is an amazing city for them to invest in and enjoy their lives.”

Carroll said some of his group’s own internal research showed that college seniors didn’t tend to associate Memphis with the idea of being a place where they could have fun or where there were many personal and professional opportunities.

“But both of those things just aren’t true,” Carroll said. “And we’re trying to rebrand Memphis to that possibility. Choose901 is a campaign targeted to 21- to 27-year-olds who are looking to invest in and enjoy their lives. We want those people to move here. We want to show off how much fun you can have and that you can enjoy living here.”

Choose901 currently has a staff of 10, all of whom work for City Leadership.

The driving force of the group’s campaign is something Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Morris recently sounded off about to The Daily News. His comments were referencing a recent article in the online publication The Daily Beast, which was critical of Florida’s notion about the creative class.

“Memphis is best when we are being Memphis,” Morris said. “We don’t do well chasing trendy, overly simplified strategies advanced by national consultants who don’t know us. We should aim to be a magnet not a mirror, drawing people to us with our own authenticity rather than trying to reflect what we think people want. We’ll never out-Austin Austin, or out-Charlotte Charlotte. But no one can replicate what we have in Memphis, and people from around the world love us for what we are.”