Trey Pennington: Reaching Out in the Darkness

Trey Pennington, who I met via Twitter a year ago and in real life at the Monitoring Social Media conference in New York a few months later, taught me the value of stories for marketing and social media. The power of stories goes beyond marketing and social media interactions. It’s at the core of how we communicate as people in a human voice to provide insights and lessons about the world. Tragically, Trey’s own story came to an end yesterday when he took his life.

Trey described himself as a marketing consultant who traveled around the world teaching others how to use emerging technology to make meaningful connections with real people. With his easy-going South Carolinian accent, he won many friends and followers. View any of the social media platforms where Trey was active and you’ll see that Trey practiced what he preached. He was well connected and his pages are filled with wishes from family, friends and followers.

It’s hard to believe that a man whose life was built on the principle of sharing as a teacher and a social media master couldn’t share the pain that he apparently was feeling. Despite social media’s core principles of transparency, social media participants can be reticent to let others know about their pain and troubles, especially in light of the Internet’s permanent memory.

As we ponder his loss, we, his family, friends and social media colleagues, must consider how we can change our share-all transparency on social media platforms to provide the means to enable those in pain or trouble to reach out for help and understanding.

The truth is that suicide is the silent “S” where those suffering can’t bring themselves to ask for help while they hide their symptoms and personal pain. Often, it’s difficult to tell there’s a problem until someone dies and sometimes even not then. Let’s use this opportunity to reach out our digital hands, to help those who are in need, to help light up their darkness.

My heart goes out to Trey’s family at this sad and painful time. Nothing we can write or say can replace his generous being nor can we fill the hole his passing has left.

Heidi Cohen

For those looking for suicide support and information, please reach out to

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15 Responses to Trey Pennington: Reaching Out in the Darkness

  1. Monica Ricci says:

    Oh my goodness, I had no idea about Trey. How sad, how tragic. It is heartbreaking to experience the loss of someone so bright, engaged, full of life and contributing to the lives of others. I’m so sorry for the loss of those who knew Trey personally and of course for his friends and family. Thanks for a wonderful post Heidi.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this, Heidi. I suffer with depression, too and am learning more and more about this disease which is so, well… ugly. Depression is NOT something sufferers can “just get over”. It is NOT a sign of weakness. And it does not make us unapproachable freaks. Thank you for encouraging all of us to reach out to those we know and cherish. Listen. Care. xo Here’s the post I wrote following Trey’s death called, “Dealing with depression: a personal story”

  3. Heidi,

    Likewise I knew Trey to be a generous and warm-hearted person and a wonderful teacher. Thank you for the tribute and my heart also goes to his family at this tragic moment in their lives.


    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Cathy– I agree. Trey was a very giving teacher and colleague. Too bad he couldn’t share his pain so that we could have helped him. Sincerely, Heidi Cohen

  4. Joseph Ruiz says:

    What a beautiful and appropriate post. You have captured the essence of the matter. I am personally reading Dr. Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection” talks about wholehearted living, provides guidelines for living a life that you describe above. Prior to this tragic event I have been challenged to live a more transparent full life; now I am inspired to live with Courage, Compassion and Connection. These are the 3 ingredients Dr. Brown has identified as essential to living a wholehearted life.

    With deep appreciation to you Heidi and grief for Trey’s family.

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Joseph — Thank you for sharing your reading. Let’s find a way to help those whose challenges require delicacy and a measure of less transparency. Wishing Trey’s family positive energy and good wishes to get through these painful days. Sincerely, Heidi Cohen

  5. dannybuntu says:

    Sometimes, we tend to get caught up in the things that we do. We put on our best faces for the world to see, we strive to be happy and make others happy so that other people would see how much value we can give to them.

    I never knew him but I guess that if he’d like to be remembered, it would have to be the positive effects of his life on those he has touched.

    It’s a sad day for social media and sometimes a lesson for us who use it frequently in our daily affairs – to reach out and take the time to just stop and listen.

  6. Desperately sad news. Trey was a great speaker, educator and friend to so many people. As you say, he spoke at my last NYC conference in 2010 and he was due to speak again at SMM11 NYC in October. Will miss him badly.

  7. Thank you, Heidi, for speaking for those of us who cannot right now.

  8. Ted Rubin says:

    Hear, hear Heidi… absolutely on point. Thanks for sharing. I truly believe… “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Let’s do our best to be there to help others learn to dance.

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Ted–Thank you for taking the time to write. While I agree that life’s about living, we have to be open to hear those who need our help. We must find ways to light up the darkness so that others don’t feel that their only choice is suicide. Sincerely, Heidi Cohen

  9. Well written Heidi – he was an incredibly inspiring person who, in his last moment, continues to teach us that this IS real life!