Finding Inspiration

November 11, 2015 by

I just started IMC619 Emerging Media and the Market. This class includes the creation of a blog with a minimum of one post per week. My initial reaction to this requirement was there was no way I was going to be able to come up with ideas for one weekly post, let alone the possibility of more. What I’m finding, however, is that through the class discussions, there are lots of topics that I can write about I hadn’t even thought of before.

For instance, this week we are discussing Fortune 500 companies and how they market to minority populations. I find it interesting that only 4% of these companies have a minority at the helm while minority groups, such as Asian Americans. generate the highest spending (Berman, 2015). Disney has separate websites for English-speaking and Latin-speaking guests. The websites are very different in how they are created with different color schemes and focuses of information.

latin disney

regular disney (Raziuddin, 2015).

While these are just two examples of things that have sparked my interest and will more than likely become topics for my IMC619 blog posts, there are a plethora of others that come from the reading materials as well as the discussion posts from other classmates. The Fortune 500 leadership information is something I found in my own research while the information about the Disney sites came from a classmates post.

My point is that there will be classes throughout your IMC course work that will challenge you and maybe even overwhelm you from the moment you read the syllabus. When this happens, remember to react with a mindset that you CAN do this. Take a deep breath, do your own research and read classmates posts and the responses. I have no doubt that you’ll soon be finding inspiration that you never thought of for posts and responses!



Raziuddin, Sarim. (2015, October, 28). Disney !Aja!. Retrieved from

Buyer Beware: The Non-Disparagement Clause

November 10, 2015 by

In the age of Yelp and ubiquitous product reviews, consumers may think that they are safe to voice their unfiltered opinion of an experience they’ve had with a brand. Alas, that’s not quite the case.

Thanks (or no thanks) to non-disparagement clauses, companies are allowed to take legal action against customers who post negative reviews if the review could hurt the company’s bottom line. The clauses are currently allowed in every U.S. state, with the exception of California.

non-dispSenator John Thune (R, SD) is fighting for legislation that bans such ‘gag’ clauses nationwide.

“This is really sort of online bullying, when you intimidate and create an atmosphere of fear, that a consumer can’t express their views about a product or service online.”

The flip side of the controversy argues that the non-disparagement clause protects the company from defamation and false allegations that may be detrimental to the health of the business.

So what say you? Are non-disparagement clauses an infringement on free speech? Or are they a justifiable measure against damaging online reviews?


November 5, 2015 by
The obligatory selfie from my hotel room.

The obligatory selfie from my hotel room

Long time, no see. Well, sort of.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I proudly donned my cap and gown and graduated from the WVU IMC Program. Because I wouldn’t dream of missing the annual Integrate Conference, held in Morgantown each spring, I’m still able to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and of course – learn some new tricks from seasoned pros.

That’s why when I heard that the IMC Program was bringing a one-day Integrate Conference to Washington, D.C. on October 27, 2015, the nation’s capital and one of my absolute favorite cities, I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by.

I live in Ohio, the heart of it all, so Integrate DC was a very quick plane ride away. Since 2011, I’ve worked as a Marketing Coordinator for a non-profit organization headquartered in North Canton, Ohio, and one of our programs, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, is housed inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office located in Alexandria, Virginia. Instead of flying in solely for the conference, I was able to stop by our very own National Monument of Innovation, grab some photos for our social media pages and introduce myself to new staff.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office's Madison Building is quiet a beauty, especially with the leaves turning.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Madison Building is quite a beauty, especially with the stunning colorful leaves

In reality – the conference was so amazing, it would have been completely worth the trip on its own! Five presenters, along with their anecdotes and advice, filled our morning with high-quality content.

Speakers for the day were Leslie Schrader, of Ketchum Washington, Michele Bartram of Business USA, Keith Quesenberry of Messiah University, Kurt Kehl of Monumental Sports and Entertainment and last but certainly not least, Eric Asche of Truth Initiative.

Some of the most memorable takeaways for me had to do with earned media, how to turn an old process into a better one, the importance of influencers and so many social media related pointers that I am grateful I took notes. These are all part of ongoing conversations at my job, and because I handle social media for our multiple programs, the words resonated with me.

Following the presentations, we took a short walk over to Ketchum Washington’s workspace, which was unbelievably and utterly epic (my apologies…there are no other words to describe this, I tried). The environment is one that certainly fosters creativity, and the team was extremely proud to show us completed national (and often, award-winning) projects they produced for clients.

We closed the day with a networking event at the HON Showroom. This was a beneficial way to get to know more about the people I had spent the day with and view quite possibly the most amazing office furniture showroom known to man. Can you tell I am fascinated by architecture and decorating?

I ended October 27 with new contacts, new experiences and better yet – a new bank of knowledge.

So, what’s next for me? I’ll be in the Washington, D.C. area November 17 for my organization’s Collegiate Inventors Competition Expo and unless there’s an unavoidable catastrophe  – Morgantown once more for the two-day Integrate Conference in June 2016.

Fun fact: During Integrate 2015, I sent my department leader an email with a high-level idea that came to mind during a presentation. I just had to send it right then, because I knew it was that good. And just this week luck was on my side, as several required pieces aligned seamlessly, and I received word it’s a go!

You never know where you’re next bit of inspiration will develop but as an alum of WVU IMC, I have the resources needed to make the most out of tasks I am given, large or small.

Twelve cardinal rules for connecting and motivating Congressional action

October 28, 2015 by

Twelve cardinal rules for connecting and motivating Congressional action

Article originally featured on

By Mike Fulton and Joshua Habursky

We find it fascinating how many organizations break or ignore the cardinal rules for connecting with busy Congressional staff and motivating Congressional action on behalf of one’s organization. It sounds like common-sense Lobbying 101, but it turns out most groups want to make advocacy more difficult than it needs to be.

Our collective thinking was confirmed recently at an Association of Government Relations Professionals panel on best practices for communicating with Congress more effectively. Research conducted by the non-partisan, non-profit Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) headed by Bradford Fitch was instrumental.

The two of us have been in government or advocating at the state and federal level for more than 50 years, and we encourage our colleagues and newcomers to adhere to these cardinal rules:

1.) The Ask

On Capitol Hill the answer is almost always “yes.” It becomes the advocate’s job to raise the level of “yes” as high as possible. Many groups do not clearly articulate a call to action as they present their case.

2.) Knowing Committee Assignments

It turns out many people just get their itinerary on lobby day and pay no attention to the Committee assignments and jurisdiction of the Members of Congress they are visiting. This is a death knell with overworked Congressional staff who are seeing an average of six groups a day and trying to keep up in a dozen issue areas. It is also offensive to Congressional offices because this basic information is on their websites and in all Congressional directories.

3.) Set the Tone for a Congressional Meeting

Prior to your day on the Hill, mobilize your grassroots efforts to send email , post social media messages, and get your advocates to make calls to congressional offices to give staff and members a preview of the legislative action that you are seeking. Members of Congress and staff should not hear about your issue, cause, or “ask” for the first time during your in-person visit. Set the tone for a congressional meeting in the days leading up to your meeting so that you can speak more confidently about your topic knowing that the staff or members has heard recently from constituents and passionate advocates prior to your arrival.

4.) Pick Up the Phone and Call

Your iPhone does more than help you text and email. You can also make calls to Congressional decision-makers that allow for more of a connection and a better give-and-take. It is more effective to call sometimes, rather than rely on technology.

5.) Convey a Personal Story

People are most often swayed by other people, and personal stories greatly enhance the technical aspects of a complex issue. To communicate effectively, advocates must explain their issue and how it impacts real people. Storytelling and anecdotes are the best ways to do this.

6.) Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth

Lobby day fly-ins bring hoards of people together in packs to approach each office, and members of Congress and Congressional aides have difficulty connecting personally with large groups that are often leaderless. Thin the herd and have a team leader manage the introductions and the dialogue for better results.

7.) The Golden Nugget

We all have our kryptonite likes and dislikes, and the more we know about the Members and staff we need to help us, the better the outcome. We encourage you to do your research, pay attention and be a good listener in your advocacy. Find that “golden nugget” that makes an elected official or senior staff person tick and that will open the path to success.

8.) Truth or Consequences

Many organizations make their pitch for a project or issue and, when asked, they cannot explain the potential consequences of the Member of Congress supporting their position or project. Members of Congress are more cautious than ever, for good reason, and they need to understand the ramifications in they offer an amendment, cosponsor legislation, appear at your event, etc. The ability to create win-win situations can win the day.

9.) Keep Your Friends Close, and your Enemies Closer

It is important that you know your organization’s issue inside-out, but it is more important to know the other side of the story. Members of Congress and their staff need to know all facets of an issue, who supports each side, consequences of inaction or action, and many other details. If you can share these critical elements, it will crystalize the issue and speed up potential support. Staff and members of Congress tell us often that the best lobbyists are those who know and can articulate the other side of an issue as well as their own.

10.) Not in Session Makes for Better Meetings in DC

Most lobbyists think the best meetings occur when Congress is in session. Not so, said Congressional aides in a CMF survey. They say more quality time is available without the pressure of watching Floor and Committee action.

11.) Being nice will get you farther on Capitol Hill

Professional conduct and best manners are noticed and appreciated. Lead with a smile and your best behavior, and go out of your way to treat everyone as if they are a decision-maker (because they are)!

12.) Say Thank You

When someone in government takes action on your behalf and your organization, please take the time to say thank you. Congressional aides relate that many people fail this simple courtesy and it catches up with them the next time they are in need.

Habursky is senior manager of Advocacy and Engagement at the American Diabetes Association and can be reached at Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy at the Asher Agency – or @hillrat1156. Both teach online communications courses for West Virginia University.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

October 21, 2015 by

This semester I am taking IMC641 Social Media and Marketing. It’s an elective and I chose it because social media is something I do at work and I wanted to get a better grasp on things. Let me just say, it’s been a challenge and has definitely made me step out of my comfort zone.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great class and I’m glad I chose to take it. At the same time, however, it’s making me realize that I don’t have a clue when it comes to social media beyond Facebook. There is a plethora of things I’ve learned this semester but there are a couple things I will definitely be taking away from this class.

  • There is no clear cut answer to the question of quality over quantity. Both are important and play a role in social media advertising. It is clear, however, that one, well placed post can make a huge impact for a company. Marketers need to always be ready, always be thinking and be willing to take chances.
  • Social media platforms are being created all the time. In order to stay in tuned companies need to focus energy on keeping up to date, knowing which platforms are relevant to the target market they are trying to reach. Marketers need to always be researching, learning and growing.
  • Most of all I learned that focusing on social media in my career is not something I really plan to do. While I enjoy the medium and it’s definitely something I will always participate in, there are other aspects of marketing that intrigue and interest me more.

Thus, my point that it’s good to take classes based on what you don’t know rather than what you do. Don’t choose classes on topics that you are familiar with or comfortable with. Choose classes that will challenge you, push you to do more research, and dig deeper inside your thought process. There are so many choices that do just that in this program. Don’t be afraid to take that step and challenge not only yourself but others in your class as well!

graphic for blog

A New Way to Reach Your Audience

October 20, 2015 by

Advancements in technology now allow us to communicate with each other instantly through text messengers, Skype, Face Time, and other platforms. But have you ever wanted to learn more about a brand or receive news about the company from their CEO through live broadcasts on your smartphone?

One of the great things about the IMC program is that the program evolves quickly and adapts to new technologies. In one of my elective courses, IMC 628 – Applied Public Relations, I was able to create a crisis communications plan for one of my assignments. Once I learned about the new app, I started thinking about how I could incorporate it into my crisis communications plan.

Thanks to my boss, I recently learned about a new mobile application called ‘Periscope’ that allows users to broadcast videos live. As their website says, “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.” Using Periscope allows people to share their moments with others without actually having to be there in person, but still having the sense of being there and interacting with someone in real time. You can see some photos from the Apple App Store of the application below:

Periscope 1Periscope 2Periscope 3Periscope 4

The application is available for free through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Many brands have begun to use the application to show the audience what the brand is all about, what they have to offer, and build relationships with their customers. The app would allow someone in the company to respond to questions via live video and would show the audience that the brand is being transparent and genuine.

Have you had experiences with the app? Do you think the app will continue to grow in popularity with brands?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Dos and Don’ts for Advocacy Meetings on Capitol Hill

September 30, 2015 by

capitol hill

I just finished an exhausting, but incredibly productive, day on Capitol Hill this week with a novice but passionate group of professionals affiliated with a leading nonprofit health care organization.

They were executing their inaugural “Day on Capitol Hill,” and they hired me to set up meetings, plan a bipartisan briefing over lunch with a senator an
d prepare their “constituent advocates” to be comfortable with the messages and logistics of House and Senate protocol.

The client asked me to put together a list of the best practices in advocacy and to present it to the 62 staff and volunteers who agreed to spend the day lobbying for a worthy cause. I had given this same presentation many times over the years, and the timeless dos and don’ts are essential for both advocacy veterans and beginners.


  • Bring business cards — they are the currency of Capitol Hill.
  • Be on time. We all love to talk and you need to observe the five-minute rule of being early or late.
  • Accept that there can be changes in who we meet with; surprises are a given!
  • Be prepared for the member of Congress to walk by and join the meeting. I cannot tell you how many times clients have been on their phone or reading, and the representative or senator has scooted by them (a missed opportunity).
  • Have a chief spokesman who leads and guides each meeting.
  • Have three key messages in your presentation. Let experts or those who know the most tell each story.
  • Tell the most important things first, and emphasize the call to action or “ask.”
  • Offer short, impactful stories and anecdotes to make your points that back up each key message.
  • Gently ask if the senator or representative is likely to help with the “ask.”
  • Know the answer is usually “yes,” but it matters greatly what level of “yes” you are able to secure in each meeting.
  • Take pictures in a respectful way. It is appropriate to ask permission first — most offices like tweets or Facebook posts about their responsiveness.
  • Complete an evaluation after every meeting so your organization can gauge the effectiveness of our visits and follow up appropriately.
  • Last, but not least, wear comfortable shoes (and your FitBit) as there is a great deal of walking between meetings.


  • Make assumptions about who does what in a congressional office. I have seen clients brush off the chief of staff and spend far too much time with the staff assistant.
  • Leave the sound on your iPhone on, or use it during a meeting.
  • Let the noise and hustle bustle in the smaller congressional offices distract you.
  • Interrupt a member of Congress or staff person, let alone someone in your group.
  • Rustle your papers and read from your notes verbatim.
  • Answer questions that you do not know the answer to. It is OK to say, “I will research that and get back to you.”
  • Look at the clock on the wall or your wristwatch, as if you are bored.

My group exceeded all expectations, and I appreciated that they listened and learned from a former Capitol Hill aide who still remembers how I liked to be treated when constituents or advocates visited.

While most of my work is at the federal level in Congress, these tips are applicable in state capitals as well.

Those of us who represent clients seeking government action know “constituents come first,” and their active engagement during in-person meetings and other communications is the most effective way to convey our point of view. That is why we need to help them understand the proper rules of engagement.


mikeGuest blogger Michael Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy for the Asher Agency in Washington, D.C. He teaches public affairs in the WVU Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. Email:

Brand Equity

September 24, 2015 by

I’m excited to say that I’ve just finished my third class in the IMC program—IMC 613 Brand Equity Management. Time is flying quickly, and I have learned a lot so far!


The final project for IMC 613 was a brand audit.  A brand audit examines a specific brand’s strengths and weakness and its position within the marketplace. To conduct a brand audit, you need to study how the business manages and positions the brand portfolio and how consumers’ view that brand. Additionally, you need to examine the competition. By conducting this research and analysis, you can uncover what opportunities exist for the brand and what improvements need to be made.

Through the final project, I learned what a brand audit can help you discover about a brand. These are a few examples of the type of information I uncovered when I conducted a brand audit on a challenger brand:

  1. The disconnects between the company’s view of its brand versus the actual customer perceptions of the brand
  2. Unnecessary product/line extensions
  3. Inconsistencies amongst the brand’s marketing and positioning efforts/programs
  4. A lack of a strong, unifying brand mantra
  5. Sources of the brand’s strengths
  6. The target audience’s actual feelings and thoughts about the brand’s products and the competitor’s products

As you can see, the information gained from conducting a brand audit proves to be extremely useful for a business. If you took the class, do you have any experiences with conducting your brand audit project that you wish to share?

Flex that Creative Muscle—Work out your Imagination!

September 15, 2015 by

I’m a runner. More often than not, you’ll find me running countless laps around my neighborhood right after work. But, I didn’t always enjoy running. In fact, I used to be very bad at it. Back in high school, I would struggle to complete a mile in less than 15 minutes. However, after many years of conditioning and long runs, I have no problem running 5+ miles! Years of daily, hard aerobic workouts paid off, and now my mile time is around 8 minutes.

I believe it is also equally important to actively “work out” your mind. Depending on the type of mind exercises you do, you can improve your creativity and/or analytical thinking. As members of the marketing field, we need both creative and analytical thinking skill sets. So, why not set aside time to work out our minds so that we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our creative and analytical thinking?


Specifically, since I am currently in IMC 615 Creative Strategy, I want to focus on how to improve creativity. I wanted to share a few things that I personally do to exercise my mind. These “mind exercises” have helped me to become more creative and imaginative:

  1. Change your mindset. Switch from a “I can’t” way of thinking to a “what if?” mindset. This allows you to see a problem or a certain aspect of life from new and different angles.
  2. Daydream. There is no set way to daydream, but you should practice doing it. Personally when I daydream, I like to think of “what if’s” and turn them into detailed story plots. Therefore, daydreaming allows my mind to get better at creating stories and characters. In fact, storytelling has become very easy for me, because I daydream so much.
  3. Try something new. Break away from your routine. I like to take a Saturday trip once a month to visit a new place or State Park. Doing this opens my mind up to new experiences and new scenery.
  4. Immerse yourself in art—movies, paintings, music, sculptures, dances, theater, and novels. This allows you to see and experience other people’s perspectives and ways of thinking.
  5. Learn about other cultures and try to interact with people from those cultures. Many of us have narrow scopes and perceptions about the world; I know I did before I began traveling the U.S. and the world with the military. In fact, I once traveled to Africa for a month, and that experience opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and creativity. They had completely different lifestyles and artistic styles!

What about you? Do you have any specific “mind exercises” you do to improve your imagination and creativity? Please share!

On the Road Again

September 10, 2015 by

Traveling for work or pleasure is a great way to get out of the office and explore different areas, but it can also cause some issues when looking to further your education. When I was considering applying to the IMC program, I had several concerns about how the program would mesh with my work schedule. Finding a program that allows you to work, travel, raise a family if you choose to, and have a social life (also optional, haha) can really make a huge difference in your decision. One of the great things about the IMC program is the flexibility offered!

In my current position as an Admissions Counselor, I travel often to recruit students. During the fall, I travel for two weeks straight and attend college recruitment fairs.

As you can see, my travel season starts very soon and is jam packed!


I started the IMC program when I held another position and there were no issues, but once I started my new job I worried about how travel would effect my classes. My experience with traveling while in the IMC program has actually been fairly stress free. I have taken a few trips with friends and a few trips for work and haven’t had any issues with my classes. In my opinion, the best thing is that students are given the syllabus which lays out the entire course, assignments, discussion posts, etc. from day one and allows you to work ahead if need be.

Some tips I have for those of you who travel are:

  • Add your assignment due dates to your work calendar so you have reminders
  • Read and work on posts during your down time (lunch break, waiting at the airport, etc.)
  • Start your work early (procrastination definitely makes things difficult)
  • Be sure to email your professors and let them know you will be traveling
  • Start your day earlier! (I have found that getting up earlier and doing homework or reading before I start my work day has really helped me)

These tips not only help with managing homework, but they can be very beneficial when working on a major project at work too!

What are some tips you all have for getting things done when you have to travel?

(Featured Photo courtesy of Instagram)


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