Start With The End Game In Mind

May 23, 2016 by

curriculum map

Retrieved from

As Capstone drew near, one of the things I focused on was how can I leverage my other classes to help me deliver the best capstone project?

For Crisis Communication, I developed a plan for the CDC and in Audience Insights I tried to look at why people were or weren’t vaccinating. Both of these built on the campaign I had developed for PR Concepts & Strategy.

All of this pre-work really helped me get a head start on my campaign; don’t get me wrong, there was still a ton of heavy lifting and questions to answer. Having spent time researching vaccines and the CDC, I was acutely aware of new articles and research and filed them away into my capstone folder.

So what does this mean to you? As you lay out your course schedule, try to be conscious of the end game, developing an integrated marketing campaign. If you know your company already, which classes will help you get there? How can that company be represented in those classes? For example, in Brand Equity I selected Taco Bell, perhaps I should have picked the CDC or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (my campaign was focused in Michigan). Will your campaign require a big internal communication plan, then take that class? The bottom line, don’t take your schedule lightly, take the time to plan it out.

Here are few tips:

  • Decide when you will take 636 Campaigns. Campaigns is only offered in late fall, late spring and summer. Plan your schedule to hit one of those. Personally, I do not recommend taking a semester off before Capstone, I would have lost all motivation.
  • Check your electives first. Unlike the core courses, every elective isn’t offered every semester. If you want to take Global Brand Communication, you will have to plan for it.
  • Which teachers? Deciding if there are teachers you want to take is also important. Talk to other students. WVU IMC also awards the Alexis Vanides teaching award, you can see past winners here
  • Put it on paper. Lay out your schedule (use this with your wish list and your back-ups. Prior to registration, find the course numbers and copy them there. That way when registration opens, you’re just copying and pasting the numbers into the system, not searching.

Here’s to #owningit!


Lobbying and grassroots advocacy are different approaches to a common goal

April 28, 2016 by

By: Joshua Habursky and Mike Fulton, first appearing on The Hill’s Congress Blog

Grassroots lobbying by trained volunteer advocates and the direct lobbying by paid professional consultants is not always a perfect marriage. In some organizations the grassroots wing and lobbying wing will have an adversarial relationship having the standard misconceptions of “astroturf” or “hired-gun” for one another. Congressional gridlock increases the likelihood that your bill will reach an impasse and internal strife within a government relations department does not further your organizational agenda or advance your cause.

Grassroots advocacy and direct lobbying are two techniques that need to be carefully applied in calculated situations to spur regulatory or legislative change. The techniques are complimentary and work best when the techniques are applied consistently, cooperatively and when the two functionaries are constantly communicating. Having an engaged public is important to bring about substantive action in the public policy arena and is an integral component in the overall process. Having a trained lobbyist constantly monitoring the public policy process and providing expertise is an equally important ingredient. The recipe for success in government relations includes both ingredients.

Lobby Days, Hill Days, Advocacy Summits, or the host of other names for Congressional fly-ins are usually instances where lobbyists and grassroots advocates mingle. The most successful government relations departments will not treat this event as a turf war or create an unnecessary hierarchy between the two sub-sectors. Lobbyists and professional grassroots staff should both be ushers for the volunteers that donate their time to be an integral part of the political process and advocate for a cause that they care deeply about.

The right to petition government for a redress of grievances, protected by the First Amendment, applies to individuals and organizations from the small non-profit to the large corporation. This right is also the universal standard that applies to professional lobbyists and grassroots advocates alike, granting them the authority to communicate with government to support or oppose action. Lobbying and grassroots advocacy are different approaches to a common goal.

Grassroots advocacy, sometimes mistakenly termed “indirect lobbying” is a means to influence the decision-making process vis-à-vis trained constituencies and to create an atmosphere of public awareness around an issue to encourage average citizens to take part in political efficacy. There is nothing “indirect” about a constituent meeting with his or her member of Congress, sending an email, or Tweeting about an issue that directly affects the member’s district.

Effective grassroots advocacy can be just as “direct” as if the communication came from a professional lobbyist. The trained lobbyist must ensure that this communication meets the conventional standards of communicating with Congress, polish the edges, and navigate the intricacies of the process.  Effective lobbying and advocacy occurs when both sub-sectors of government relations are synchronized and working in tandem.

When these two essential ingredients of successful advocacy do not mix well, nothing tastes as bad and objectives sour.


Habursky is the Chair of the Grassroots Professional Network and can be reached at Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy at the Asher Agency – Both teach online communications courses for West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media.

Why Do We Go To School?

April 27, 2016 by



Why do we go to school? There are many answers to this question…. We go to better ourselves, to stay connected to trends, to make more money or to teach. Ultimately the answer should be… “we go to school to learn.” In the era of trophies for everyone, it seems we have lost sight of learning. Learning means you will not have a perfect score; you may not get an “A” and you will most definitely have to work hard, otherwise you are not really learning.

I must admit, in the throes of school there were moments when I was extremely frustrated when I did not receive a perfect score. There were a few classes where I racked my brain until I wanted to dump my laptop on its head and throw my books out the window. But the one thing that kept me going was the fact that I was growing. I was challenging myself to learn and do something different, something that did not always come easily.

Capstone was no different. In our weekly discussions, I completely missed the media objectives and did general objectives. I reviewed previous work and the objectives I had done were not focused on media, they were campaign or PR objectives. I was pretty hard on myself. It was the end of the program, how could I possibly get that wrong, after all I have learned? Then my professor said something, “I wish students weren’t so focused on the grades, but on the learning process.” I was suddenly reminded that even after two years, I am still learning.

Cheers to all of us for making this huge investment and a reminder that we all should strive to be learners even when we have reached the finish.

From the Campaign Battlefront

April 19, 2016 by


Rest assured, I am not writing a post about the 2016 election (you’re welcome). Rather, I’m reporting on my own mêlée: the exhausting, empowering, sometimes petrifying, but mind-blowingly rewarding human experience that is IMC 636 Campaigns. These last seven weeks and beyond have challenged me in more ways than I could have imagined, but I am seven days away from sending off what has become my most prized piece of work and alas, I can [almost] see the light at the end of the grad school tunnel.

sneak peek

Sneak peek!

For those of you who have achieved your MSIMC degree, perhaps you’re having flashbacks to those final days of scrambling, and for those who have yet to experience it, strap in. I know I’m making 636 sound like some untamable beast, but I assure you that this has been the most gratifying course of my college career. Today, between working full-time, building my IMC campaign, and teaching yoga on the side, I’ve somehow managed to find a free moment for reflection, and this is what I’ve realized:

The phrase, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” is a sham. I entered into this program because I love marketing communications, and I suspect that I share this passion with many of you, but I think that we can all agree that it will never not be work. This program, let alone this profession,  is undeniably challenging, and it requires large amounts of attention on a nearly daily basis. But what keeps us in the game is that feeling of pride after a job well done.

I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing IMC for the past month and a half, and not because I have to, but because I want to. Something shifts in you during the capstone course; the more effort you put into your campaign, the more effort you want to put into it. In the dwindling days between me and this due date, I genuinely look forward to sitting down at my computer to continue construction of my personal masterpiece. I’m reveling in the chaos, and that’s how I know I’m doing what I love. So, instead of aiming to never work a day in your life, aim to find something you love so much, you’re willing to work your ass off for it.

Have you considered INTEGRATE 2016 and IMC 621?

March 31, 2016 by


Spoiler Alert…. This is my hard sell (I am not a spectacular sales person, so pun intended) for INTEGRATE 2016 and IMC 621 (the professor and curriculum are updated for 2016). I understand there are a lot of electives and we are in a digital program, however sometimes real-life connections and a class that was not on your agenda are worth the risk.

As many of you know, WVU is hosting INTEGRATE conferences in multiple locations. However, the flagship event is hosted in Morgantown and IMC 621 ‘Current Topics in IMC’ is centered around INTEGRATE 2016. Check out WVU’s 31 reasons to #attendINTEGRATE.

My journey to INTEGRATE started at DTW, continued through PIT and on to Morgantown:

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The conference is well organized, moves quickly and provides you with information that you will be able to draw upon in future classes. Personally speaking while attending, I was able to use information that Scott Cuppari shared regarding Coca-Cola’s age limit for advertising in IMC 619.The collaboration and participation across faculty, administration and students was amazing; #integrate15 even trended locally and shows the impact this group has in the social space.

Beyond just the conference agenda, for those of you curious around the expectations of Capstone, I highly recommend the overview that kicks off INTEGRATE. Those in 621 followed the Capstone prep with a class meeting. So why am I making a hard sell of INTEGRATE and IMC 621? INTEGRATE has a plethora of content that I would never have discovered before IMC 621; what grad student has time to watch that, unless it is part of your class?

Social and digital media are excellent, but real life connections still matter. Having the WVU IMC program online is probably the only way I would be able to complete my Master’s degree. But the ability to make real world connections with classmates, faculty and teachers was tremendously helpful.

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 Retrieved from

Talking and spending time with people can dramatically change your impression of them, particularly if the only other interactions you have had are through their written words. What’s not to love about attending a great conference, as part of a class where you learn and discover excellent integrated marketing messages from analytics, to direct marketing and everything in between?

Understanding their backgrounds, jobs and families outside of what you have seen or read online is an important component to interpersonal connections. In addition, most of my relationships with the Professors did not extend beyond our classes, so being able to spend time learning about their careers and the classes they teach is very impactful. Had I not been so far into the program, I probably would have changed some of my electives based on those discussions.

Real world connections are not just good for our brains, they are good for our health too. “When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health” (Matter, 2013).

Matter, G. (2013, March 23). Your Phone vs. Your Heart. The New York Times. Retrieved from

What is your Grad school routine?

March 22, 2016 by


my desk

Whenever I tell people I am in graduate school, the most common question I hear is “how do you do it?” They ask this because in addition to graduate school, where I doubled up twice: I oversee a team of 30, travel every two weeks or so, am married and have twin four year olds. I must admit, during the last two years, there are times when I have not done any of those things well and I definitely could not have done it without a supportive husband. So how did I do it? Get into a routine and stick to it; that routine might mean your normal routine is no longer normal.

I always order my book(s) before the semester begins, which allows me to read the first two chapters of the main book ahead of time. Have I had a teacher start in the middle of the book? Yes, but either way the chapters I have read usually help me get into the mindset of the class and I can typically use them for citations.

The next thing I do is create a folder on my desktop for the current class so that I can work on it no matter where I am (I back the folder up on Google Drive). I also create a new bookmark folder for the current class (I then move each class to a school master bookmark folder). You could use Pinterest, One Note or any other bookmarking tool to do this. I highly recommend doing this as I have used these bookmarks in multiple classes and I usually remember which class I wrote about the topic, making it easier to find. From there, it is time to create a couple of Word documents; one for the weekly discussion board posts and one for the weekly writing assignments. On the discussion board posts, I copy the weekly assignments onto the document and write below it. This helps me ensure that I am hitting all the points of the discussion and that I have the question for reference if something similar comes up in another class. I also put each week’s new question at the top. I do this so it is documented and doesn’t take me scrolling down, but also because I find that I use a lot of references more than once and I can copy and paste within the document. For the Word document, I create a template of sorts, with my title page, header/footer to the appropriate class. I also set the overall section heads and a few reference examples so I do not forget the format.

Once the class is on blackboard, I download all of the extra readings and put them in weekly folders within my class folder. I review the first week’s assignment before the lesson. I do this because it gives me an idea of what we are going to be writing about. I will copy the weekly discussion post into my document as well as the weekly writing assignment. When I am reading the lesson, I can pull quotes from the materials that I may want to cite. This also allows me, when I am able to multitask, to look for relevant articles online and bookmark them.

Aside from the first week, I typically try to do all of the reading between Sunday and Monday. I try to have my weekly discussion board posts written and up on Tuesday. I respond to four of my classmates on Thursday morning, I wake up at 430 am most days so I can get this out of the way before my real job starts. Over the course of the last few semesters, I have actually modified this slightly but by Thursday night, my minimum of four is typically done. On Friday during the day and evening I reply to anyone who has responded to my post.

As far as my papers during the week, as I mentioned I am trying to find relevant articles and figure out my approach or topic. On Friday, depending on how many replies, I will begin the writing process. Saturday evening I will usually finish writing my paper and I post it on Sunday after I have read it one more time. When I doubled up I had to do more writing throughout the week and even during the day on the weekends. Finishing the papers Sunday allowed me to start the next week’s work.

Between traveling and work events, I never know when I will have time to do school work. In addition, there is usually one night a week that I fall asleep by 9 pm; call it a combination of physical and mental exhaustion but I just have to roll with it. Having my homework done ahead of time allowed me not to panic in any of these situations.

The hardest semester for me was summer. You see in Michigan it is really hard to stay inside😉. Don’t get me wrong, there have been huge sacrifices, virtually no exercising, not spending enough time with my family and way too much caffeine. But overall it has been totally worth it!

Leveraging IMC to Land the Job

March 8, 2016 by


A few months ago, I made the career transition I had been dreaming about for years, and I can say with all sincerity that I could not have done it without the WVU IMC program.

I’ll give you a short situation overview. After undergrad, I found myself working at a greeting card company, and while at first it seemed like the ultimate 500 Days of Summer gig, I quickly realized that this paper-and-ink industry didn’t quite pack the punch my millennial mind was hungry for. In October 2015, a digital marketing opportunity in the fashion retail industry presented itself in a way that seemed to shout “Rachael! This one! This is it!” in flashing neon lights, and I applied just as quickly as I could update my resume and cover letter, proudly boasting my in-progress Master’s degree front and center. The same day, I got a call from a recruiter. After a brief chat, I was scheduled for a series of interviews, for which I began preparation immediately. Spoiler alert: I got the job (yay!). Here are the steps that helped me do it:

Draw Comparisons

It can be easy to get (over)excited about all the new competencies in your marketing repertoire, but it’s important to stay organized and succinct in your message (IMC students/alumni – sound familiar?). To accomplish this task, I listed next to each bulleted item in the job description:

  • A specific work situation showcasing my experience in the area
  • A learning outcome achieved from an applicable IMC course

This exercise guided me in condensing my background into a few key points, allowing me to thoughtfully articulate my ability to fulfill each element of the job in the interview.

Gather Sources

As we learn in IMC, your argument is only as strong as your source. So in discussion board fashion (professors, be proud!), I came to the interview armored with research: quotes and figures to cite from reliable industry sources. When the time was right, I used these to add spice to the conversation or as the basis for an insightful question. Something like:

“I came across a quote from the VP of Digital Marketing in a recent Harvard Business Review article regarding the mobile app’s newly introduced native commerce. What has been the impact to mobile conversion rate since this addition?”

Communicate a Love of Learning

Was I a cookie-cutter match for the job? Probably not. But good hiring managers understand that candidates rarely fit the description in its entirety. I can say that what I lacked in experience, I made up for with a willingness – nay, a passion – to learn. Discussing my IMC coursework opened up the broader conversation of being self-motivated and eager to develop new competencies. Sure, just about anyone can say that in an interview if they wanted, but I had a big, bold line in the education section of my resume that spoke for itself. I’m speculating, but I think this factor was imperative in the manager’s ultimate decision to extend the offer.


Oh, and the hiring manager had a degree in IMC too..did I forget to mention that?

Why Grad School is Like Learning How to Drive a Stick Shift

February 29, 2016 by


I have always loved cars, which is really convenient given my line of work! When I was 15, I could not wait to learn how to drive a stick shift on my own. See, my mom had hurt her wrist and I was already helping shift gears with my left hand.

I am not sure how much courage my Dad had to muster up, but off we went to the parking lot of the community college. I will never forget how he made me turn everything off; no a/c, no radio and we had to have the windows down. You have to listen and feel the car in order to know how to shift. But Dad!!!!!!! No radio?!?!?

We started out slow, learning how to start in first gear, knowing when you needed gas. I did that over and over again and from there we moved onto knowing when you needed to shift, not because of what the RPM’s said but because of the sounds the engine was making. Finally, there was a little hill where I had to keep the car from stalling without the brakes or the gas, just using the clutch.

A week later we did it again, but in a different car. See how the clutch is slightly different and how it sounds different when it’s time to shift?

I know, I know there are probably a lot of ‘car people’ out there saying “you’ll burn out the clutch or the RPMs are the only thing that matter and the future is all about paddle shifters.”

So how does this relate to grad school?

Each class and professor are similar to driving a stick shift and learning a new clutch. You are not sure what their expectations are and you have to feel your way through. One professor may want you to comment throughout the week and another might be okay if you finish them all at once. Do not get flustered.

Knowing which classes require more work and being ready to commit to that amount of work is similar to being on the hill and knowing you are going to stall. Everyone talks about the amount of work you have to put into PR but they also talk about how much you get out of it.

Listening to the car is similar to listing to your classmates. Do not do your discussion board posts in a vacuum; read what others have written and leverage that in your comments.

You never forget how to drive a stick shift. If you have to take a semester off, you might need a minute to get comfortable in your seat, but you will pick back up where you left off.

Finally, there is nothing like pulling away from a light and leaving that other car in your dust. That’s exactly what you are doing to your competition by being enrolled in the IMC program.

Here’s my post grad school stick shift dream, what’s yours?

2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The 650-hp, 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is one of the most capable vehicles on the market, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in only 2.95 seconds, achieving 1.2 g in cornering acceleration, and braking from 60-0 mph in just 99.6 feet.

2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible

The 650-hp, 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is one of the most capable vehicles on the market, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in only 2.95 seconds, achieving 1.2 g in cornering acceleration, and braking from 60-0 mph in just 99.6 feet.

Images courtesy of General Motors

One Word Sums It Up!

February 29, 2016 by


I’m currently enrolled in IMC637, Internal Communications. This is a class I highly recommend because it pertains to so many things we all deal with every day, not just at work, but with all of our relationships. This week is our final discussion question which asked us to choose a key factor or concept that we found from the class that intrigued us. We were also asked to explain how we would use it in either our personal or professional lives. While the thoughts below are just my opinion, I think the idea is something that every public relations person should always keep in the forefront of their minds when dealing with clients, customers or employees.

As for this week’s discussion topic, there are so many things that have peaked my interest. The one thing that absolutely intrigues me, however, are the organizations that feel making and keeping employees happy is the key to success. As we have discussed throughout class, good customer service comes from the interactions between the customer and employees.

We have discussed several things that are necessary to create good customer service, but I found an article, that for me, sums it up entirely. “There is no shortage of advice, opinion, theory and technology around the practice of customer service. Some of it good, much of it not. But none of it — none of it — will result in a truly exceptional customer service environment if it isn’t built around one simple word: Empathy” (Hess, 2012).

th[9]Empathy is two-fold. It’s not just about the employees having empathy for the customers, but also the company having empathy for its employees. “In the workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for co-workers and show that you care, as opposed to just going by rules and regulations. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the leadership belt of a well-liked and respected executive” (Pressley, 2012).

This doesn’t mean that leaders should be push-overs. What it means is that an effective work environment begins with leaders that “like people, enjoy working with and helping others [and] value people as individuals” (Pressley, 2012). This management style produces a better work atmosphere as well as allowing the leadership to deal easier with difficult internal situations when they arise.

Even though we haven’t specifically discussed empathy, I believe we have been discussing it throughout the class. In order to be an effective manager, in order to create a strong crisis management plan, in order to communicate effectively with customers, empathy must be a part of the thought process that goes into all of those interactions.

Regarding how I plan to use this in my personal and professional life, I would like to think that when I’m dealing with anyone, including family, friends, colleagues or customers, I would keep this thought in mind before reacting. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our frustrations over having to deal with difficult people we forget that they may going through a rough time. They may have a legitimate reason for their concerns and while we aren’t necessarily the cause of their issue, we may be the first person in their line of sight.

The following questions are a good example of what we should keep in mind when we are providing customer service, creating crisis management plans or dealing with internal communication:

  • “How does the person I’m trying to help feel?
  • How would I feel if I were that person?
  • No matter the request or the “rules,” is there something I can/should do to help?
  • What would I expect to be done for me if the roles were reversed?
  • In the end, what would make this customer satisfied or (better yet) happy, and is there any reason I can’t do it or find someone who can?” (Hess, 2012).

These can have an impact on the outcome of any situation, whether I’m management, an employee or a customer.




IMC & Higher Education-Do They Mix?

February 23, 2016 by


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How can the WVU IMC program benefit those who work in higher education?

Throughout my time in the IMC program, many people have asked me why I chose the program and how it relates to working in higher education. By asking this questions, most of these people were trying to ask whether or not the degree had value in the job market and if I could apply my knowledge in my chosen career path.

Well, I can attest that the IMC degree is highly valued and in need in the higher education field! I currently work for a small, undergraduate college in Virginia as an Admissions Counselor, but my IMC education has benefited me in my role in so many ways. The IMC program contains so many different forms of communication that play vital roles in any kind of business. I love higher education and marketing! Being able to combine my passions throughout some of my IMC classes has made the program a standout in my eyes.

Higher education institutions need people to manage social media accounts and campaigns, create press releases, analyze website and social media data, create appealing advertisements, and much more in the marketing communications field. That’s where the IMC degree comes in! I see the IMC program producing students who are described as a “Jack of all Trades”.

Throughout my time in the IMC program, I have been able to take away something from each class that can be used in a college administration profession. Some key takeaways I have found through the program include:

  • Being able to create marketing plans for your institution in your courses (One of my favorite things about the program!)
  • Learning how social media impacts college students and incoming students
  • How to effectively and efficiently present a pitch for new marketing or business plans
  • How to communicate within an organization and with external partners
  • Discover new tools that you can use in your strategies
  • Conduct research for your institution in regards to marketing and advertising
  • And learning alongside other higher education marketers

If you’re working in higher education marketing or interested in any field that requires  marketing communication, the WVU IMC program may be the program for you!


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