Chase Heatherly grew up a Clemson fan, but he joked last week that now that he’s working in Columbia: “I suppose I can trade in that orange for garnet.”
Heatherly became Free Times’ new publisher and advertising director this week after a stint as consumer brand marketing manager for Gannett’s Carolinas Region where he worked with three newspapers in Anderson, Greenville and Asheville.
The Williamston native and Palmetto High School graduate received degrees in marketing and business management from Anderson University, where he received the President’s Award given to one member of the graduating class for leadership, academic excellence and community service.
As a senior, he was named one of the Anderson Independent Mail’s 20 Under 40 emerging leaders in 2012, the youngest-ever recipient of this award.
Heatherly has worked in newspapers since leaving college, joining the advertising teams for the Anderson Independent Mail and The State. He returned to Anderson to become marketing manager and eventually Gannett’s regional marketing manager.
Heatherly started reading Free Times while working at The State and he liked to catch up on the weekly paper’s arts, entertainment and dining news as well as its business and political coverage.
“This product is engaging and has an edge about itself,” he says. “I feel that Free Times competes with daily papers in similar markets. I have not seen a weekly paper that covers and engages with its surrounding community as well as Free Times does. Free Times is a staple of Columbia.”
He wants Free Times to build on its reputation for thorough news coverage: “We should consistently provide coverage, hold leaders and organizations accountable.”
Heatherly says he also seeks to deepen Free Times’ relationships with the community. He served on boards for arts and education groups as well as his alma mater. He’s a Rotarian and serves on the board for Project Talitha Cumi, a foster care ministry in La Esperanza, Honduras.
“Residents and visitors of the Midlands region should look to Free Times as their top choice for local news,” the history buff who likes to play racquetball says. “This requires extensive brand development, community relations and audience engagement.”
Free Times has a diverse audience to attract more readers and advertisers, Heatherly said. While he sat in Groucho’s in Five Points over the weekend, he says he watched an elderly gentleman, a woman in her 30s and USC students grab copies of the state’s largest weekly paper.
But he also will look at building Free Times through events, such as the new Greater Columbia Dragon Boat Festival in May and annual Best Of Columbia party in August.
“By holding events such as this, we can both positively impact the community and reach new people that we hope will begin to read, engage and follow us.”