Archive for July, 2013

Tips and Tools for Back to School

July 31, 2013

If you’re following the IMC group on LinkedIn, incoming student Kristi Hansen started a great discussion by asking – “any recommendations for a first time online student?” The responses include tips that I wholeheartedly support and at least one that I can’t believe I’m just now learning of (built-in citations in Word). Thanks, Kevin!

Whether you are completely new to the program, returning from an extended break, or still catching your breath after completing the summer term, now may be a good time to refine your productivity habits and get ready for a successful year. I tend to be a late-adopter, but a great lesson I’ve learned from my classmates and professors is to accept technology and take advantage of resources that enable us to work smarter.

Turtle on a skateboard

Work smarter, not harder

I’m currently working through Michael Sliwinski’s 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity Video Course. This is a free course that offers advice on how to stay on top of it all by managing your inboxes, knowing when tasks are really projects, working through tasks by context, and more. While each step only takes about five minutes to watch or review, you may want to take time out to integrate some suggestions into your own processes. Sliwinski often pairs the advice with his own Nozbe system, but I found that I could apply most of his recommendations with Evernote.

Let’s talk about Evernote. Every so often I come across an app, movie, food, or some other product that I could shamelessly promote in the street without any paid compensation or company affiliation. After some initial resistance and a few trials with inferior applications, what finally convinced me to give Evernote a shot was the fact that I could download and manage it on my PC. This not only speeds up input and organization but gives me the option to keep notebooks local or on the cloud. Cloud items are synced with my phone app, and their Android widget allows me specify which lists I keep at a glance.

Evernote logo

For IMC coursework, you can use Evernote to create notebooks for each class and sub-notebooks for each week. Given that course readings, discussions, and assignments are often catalysts for new ideas, another great feature of the application is that you can organize your thoughts and classmates’ suggestions on other marketing or job-related projects. How many brilliant ideas never see the light of day because they get buried in a college-ruled spiral notebook? If you’re looking for a better system to get and stay organized, I encourage you to give Evernote a chance.

My last recommendation is a bit less technology-based but an invaluable resource nonetheless. For students who’ll be juggling family and home life with their coursework, a local library can be a haven for quiet time and longer sessions of uninterrupted work. This may seem like unnecessary added time away from the family, but a few hours of productive alone time can actually help you be more “available” to your loved ones later on. If your county or city library branches are not up to par with good Wi-Fi and quiet areas, don’t be afraid to “blend in” at a local college library. I personally alternate between several local libraries with varying early morning to late evening hours that fit my family schedule.

Library Photo

The best libraries are spacious with quiet zones, multiple power sources, and strong Wi-Fi.

What tools, tips and resources will you use to manage the upcoming school year? Let me know what you think of Sliwinski’s productivity course or how you use Evernote to juggle responsibilities.

(FREE) Virtual Integrated Marketing Conference & Expo

July 30, 2013

If you were unable to attend Integrate 2013, Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo is coming up on August 15th.


Target Marketing and Printing Impressions host this event, which commences at 10:00AM and concludes at 5:00PM. The agenda includes a variety of industry topics including the shift to Omni-channel marketing.

I registered, and I am most excited to find out how engaging or disengaging an online conference platform will be in comparison to attending an on-site conference.

Click to learn more about this virtual event.

If anyone attends, please reach out and let me know what you thought of the virtual conference.

Digital Publishing Gives Voice to a New Platform Called Hyperink

July 23, 2013

Forbes continues to offer compelling marketing content through their BrandVoice™ channel. My favorite contributing agency is gyro, not to be confused with the Greek dish of the same name. What sets this agency apart is their brand promise of “igniting business decisions in a numb world.” One of their highly regarded portfolio pieces is a marketing and research development project titled “The @ Work State of Mind.”

Outside of their agency work, gyro has their own BrandVoice™ channel called gyroVoice. Top contributors include CEO, Christoph Becker. His latest article titled “Brand Relevance In a Tech Minded World,” encourages readers to, “Say no to the creative apartheid, and make brands and businesses matter to people again.”

Since gyro has the power to “ignite,” Forbes recently released a new Free ebook titled, “The Forbes Model For Journalism In The Digital Age.” 

Upon first glance, I was impressed both at the volume (78 pages) and the interactivity of the PDF. As I continued to scroll down, I noticed that each page was stamped with an icon that appeared to be a happy unidentified marine animal holding a pen next to qualifying text that read “Forbes With Hyperink.” My first thought after, “I can’t believe all of the is FREE,” was “What is Hyperink (not to be confused with Hyperlink)?”


It did not take long for me to realize that this was a new non-fiction publishing platform specifically tailored for busy people. One key differentiator is that this platform gives voice to experts and well-known bloggers who want to publish a book based on their blog content.

The mission of Hyperink “is to work with those bloggers to curate their existing posts, videos, and comments and create the best books.” All content is very reasonably priced, and the formats include kindle, iPad, Nook, and PDF.

Take a look at their selection here.

In addition, Hyperink offers Quicklets, which are described as “Your expert sidekick to the world’s most popular books.”

Has anyone downloaded a book from Hyperink? If not, what platform do you download digital content from?

Do You Need a Break From School?

July 22, 2013

I recently received an email from a prospective IMC student asking me whether I recommended taking classes year-round or taking a semester off. This was also a popular topic of discussion at the 2013 Integrate Conference, as every prospective or new student wants to know “how long will it really take me to get my IMC degree?” Of course there is no easy answer. How long you take to complete the program is a personal decision and what has worked for one student might not work for others.

Keep Calm It's Almost Summer Break

Sometimes taking a semester off can help you return to school with more energy and excitement.

As for me, when I first decided to enroll in the IMC program I was determined to take 1 class every semester, without a break, so I could finish up in just 2.5 years. This seemed to be very doable and the idea of finishing up as quickly as possibly appealed to me. Then I completed my first two semesters and reality set-in. Already juggling the roles of wife and mother along with a demanding marketing job, I realized that not taking a break was going to lead to burn-out very quickly. So, I took the summer semester off my first year. I struggled with the decision, knowing it would prolong my time in school. But being able to spend more time with my family for those three months, without worrying about homework assignments or discussion board posts was wonderful! I re-discovered what it was like to read a book for pleasure, and cuddle with my husband on the couch in the evenings without a laptop. Not only was it nice to have the break, but when the fall semester started that August I felt ready, even excited to begin school again.

After that first year I decided finishing the program with balance in my life was more important that finishing it as quickly as possible. So I made the decision to take off at least one semester every year and give myself, and my family, that break. Yes, this means it’s taking me 3.5 years, instead of 2.5 to finish, but as I like to say to people when they ask how long I’ve been in school “it’s a marathon, not a sprint!”

If you are a prospective IMC student, or even a current student struggling with the idea of taking a semester off, I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself what you think you can realistically handle. Don’t compare yourself to other students, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t able to stick with your original plans. In the end, it’s about crossing that finish line; and no awards are given for being the fastest in this marathon.

My First 5 Mistakes as an Entrepreneur

July 17, 2013

I rarely tell the story of one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but I think I’m far enough removed from it that I can share a good chuckle without wishing I were dead. When I was about 19 years old, I went to a high school football game with a friend whose boyfriend was on one of the teams. She naturally knew quite a few people and was introducing me around when one guy said something to me that I interpreted as, “Can I have your phone number?” Six words, seven syllables. Since I had a boyfriend at the time, my circa 1990s reply was, “I already got a man.” After an awkward pause in the group, she pulled me aside and informed me that all he said was, “Hi.” One word, one syllable.


“Oh, I’m so embarrassed!”

Since jumping into the entrepreneurial pool, I’ve continued to make mistakes that – while much less mortifying – have made me shake my head and think, I can’t believe I did that. Jane Porter of says that “pointing out your own missteps…can be illuminating for readers,” so thinking back, here are five early mistakes that cost me in time and lost productivity.

1. Not having a clearly defined niche. Yes, I know that all the books and blogs and articles and experts say that this is one of the first things you should do when starting a business. I only knew what industries I didn’t want to focus on, but I felt that defining a niche would put a wall up and limit potential business. Well, let me tell you –you want that wall. You need that wall.

One of my first trips out to promote my business was at a general networking meeting. While I met some supportive entrepreneurs who were further along in their small businesses, most people had the same agenda – to sell their services but not be sold to. Plus, the range of represented industries was so varied that the one person who seemed partly interested in my services was from an industry that I had no knowledge of. Listening to him explain his business nearly sucked the marketing enthusiasm out of me. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was saying. Huh? Are you asking for my phone number?

In his book, How to Start a Home-Based Web Design Business, Jim Smith illustrates how being successful in his particular industry requires access to a diverse set of skills, whether you possess them yourself or have access to a large talent pool. If not, you should focus on one niche market and become an expert in that area. Smith notes, “This will allow you to concentrate on a smaller market while building your skills in sales (or insert your own deficient skillset).”

2. Not making a “real” version of my business plan. My first business plan was all fluff. I drafted it while taking a continuing education course at a local college, and instead of treating it like the business roadmap it’s supposed to be, I wrote it like an academic assignment. Again I’ll reference Smith who details how to write an honest, navigational business plan to keep yourself on track. He then advises readers to have a second, more upbeat (but still honest) version if you need to sell your idea or secure financing.

3. Cold calling. I’ve done some cold calling in corporate environments that didn’t just entail dialing for dollars but actually dropping by prospects’ places of business with no prior appointment. So I took this sophisticated Fortune 500 training with me in my own business attempts. The good news is that the humiliation was never as bad as that high school football game, but it was counterproductive to effective lead management and to maintaining the level of confidence I needed to keep pushing forward.

I realize that cold calling is sometimes necessary, but do some prep work beforehand. Research your prospects to get an idea of their needs, and be prepared to manage concerns and objections. Some people are just naturally gifted at cold calling and sales, but if you don’t have that alpha personality, find your strength in a related task such as building and nurturing relationships. You should also add it to your IMC mix so that your prospects already have a general idea who you are.

cold calling cartoon

4. My first client. While this was technically a practice job, I was overzealous in agreeing to build an ecommerce site when I had never done an ecommerce site. I didn’t realize that such a task involves more than just figuring out the technicalities. There was the 200+ inventory that would change every season, and the shopping cart and batch upload method I chose was too complicated to hand off to the client. Plus, I found out through a third party “buffer” that the client didn’t understand most of what I was saying. I didn’t know how to turn off the jargon. I didn’t know I was speaking jargon. It was a mess, but I’ve since learned about managing the process (versus just the work) through some of the readings and discussions in IMC courses like Visual Information Design and Creative Strategy and Execution.

keep calm and try again

5. Fear of failure. Once in another life, a friend and I went to a Prince concert, and one of the stage crew asked her to go up on stage to dance alongside The Artist. She replied that she would only go if I could go with her. The crewmember agreed, and then they both looked at me as if to say, “Alright, let’s go.” I don’t know how many actual seconds went by, but I completely froze as a series of random what if thoughts ran through my mind. I finally managed to shake my head to say “no,” and the moment was gone. (As a side note, I don’t regret that decision because every girl who went up there was completely star struck and could barely move anyway.)

What was surprising was that I could actually be paralyzed by fear. Since starting my business, I’ve read and heard many encouraging articles and messages that remind me not to let fear paralyze me with inaction. I’ve mostly tried to heed this advice, but the mistake I have made is sometimes allowing fear to bubble just underneath the surface. By doing this, I was able to function, but when obstacles arose, I would get discouraged and give up. Be aware of this type of fear – it may not paralyze you but will set you up as a straw house that will crumble at the first sign of trouble.

In 7 Key Lessons from The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau says, “Failure is overrated. Many of the unexpected entrepreneurs I met had experienced numerous false starts and made plenty of mistakes….In event of initial failure, they were able to regroup and give it another go.”

Let’s let failure be part of the process. Get out there, make mistakes, fail, learn from it, and begin again.

What mistakes have you made in business? I don’t want to be the only one oversharing, so I’d love to hear some other examples of mistakes made and lessons learned.

Greetings from Wisconsin!

July 16, 2013

Hi everyone! As you can see, my name is Kat and I’m the newest addition to the WVU IMC blogging team.KatShanahan2

I’m very excited to connect with you and share stores of our amazing time in the IMC program.  I guess I’ll start things off with a bit about myself!

I currently reside in Whitewater, Wisconsin and work at the James R. Connor University Center at UW-Whitewater.  For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of supervising the UC Graphics & Marketing staff and guiding the University Center through a very large branding project.  It has been an amazing experience and continues to keep me on my toes.  I really enjoy working with my team of student designers, videographers, and marketers.  We have some of the best (and nerdiest) conversations imaginable.

I’m also in the midst of co-advising the UW-Whitewater Student Optimist Club Service Learning Trip to Burkina Faso, Africa.  I’m working with a group of 20 individuals to travel to Burkina Faso for two weeks and provide service and support to the communities there.  We will be delivering the first ambulance to Dedougou, building a computer lab and community garden, and doing a variety of service projects.  I’ve had a great time planning and working with an outstanding team of individuals to raise money and collect donations for communities in need.  The students also worked to help create a clothing line!  I’m a little nervous for the incredibly long flight over however, I still have five months to prepare and we’re stopping in Paris.  I think I can handle it!  In 2012 I traveled with the club to Ecuador, which served as a great stepping stone for Africa!


My little man, Parker

My personal life includes spending lots of time with my adorable small dog, Parker.  He’s almost 2 and has quite the personality! I also run a small photography business and take my camera with me everywhere!  I’m currently working on a 100 People project.  In 2011 I completed a Project: 365, which called for a photo every day for a year!  It was a very difficult challenge however; I learned an incredible amount about my camera and my style as a photographer.  I highly recommend it!  After taking so many photos over a year (and many I didn’t like) I wanted to focus on quality over quantity, so I’m taking my time on the 100 People project.  That’s about it, besides the fact that I love zoos, Milwaukee Brewer games, the Green Bay Packers, tennis, traveling, and many more things that make me sound like a huge nerd!

I look forward to connecting with all of you and talking about marketing, branding, technology, social media, advertising, IMC, WVU, and anything else that might come up along the way.  Don’t hesitate to reach out via any social media you see fit!

A Brief Introduction

July 15, 2013

helloHello everyone. To introduce myself to the blog audience this short posting will outline a bit of my life. I am currently taking a semester off from the IMC program but am looking forward to starting my sixth class next term. My name is Jerome Brown. By day I manage the social media activity and strategy for my company, Verint Systems, including our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and Customer Online community. Additionally I manage the corporate website and special projects related to the website. My current ‘special project’ is the translation of the site into nine languages. Lots of fun!

I have been in the marketing industry in one form or another for more than 15 years. I have been a partner in a small multimedia firm, the creative director for a custom training and eLearning development company, the owner of a high-end home and auto audio/video sales and installation shop, and have had a host of other jobs from roofer to high steel worker to apple picker. My under graduate degree is in Print Journalism and Advertising from Troy University (Troy, AL). I am 43, live in Suwanee, GA (just north of Atlanta) with my awesome wife, two very active kids (Ethan, 10 and Katie, 6), and two crazy cats. I am also a Cub Scout den leader for 15 boys. Yes, my life is busy.

Before starting the IMC program I had been contemplating going back to graduate school for about five years.  I finally made the decision to jump in when my wife said “just do it already!” My job requires a lot of writing and content development that spans not only customer types but also global regions. The courses outlined in this program seemed to provide a great complement to my continuing daily activates.

I had researched and interviewed a number of other programs at University of Florida, Marist, Gonzaga, Northwestern, University of North Carolina, and University of Southern California. Each one listed West Virginia as a peer program and most referred to the WVU IMC program as an aspirational program. I figured if so many looked up to WVU, why go anywhere else?

That’s my story in brief. Some of the topics I will be writing about in the coming months include social media and how it fits into B2B marketing, big data analytics, trends in customer service, and analytics programs that help businesses learn from their customers.

Get Curious, Find Your Purple Cow, Go Full Cheetah, and Market like Seth Godin

July 1, 2013

If you search for “Seth” in Google, the first naturally yielded result will be “Seth’s Blog.”  What might appear to be an unassuming title is actually a powerhouse marketing blog.

I subscribed two years ago to the blog, and each day my inbox welcomes a new message from Seth Godin the author behind “Seth’s Blog.” What I like about Godin’s blog is that it is no-frills, but don’t let the simplicity fool you, he is a marketing thought leader.

My favorite post by Seth Godin is “The Curious Imperative.” In 115 words, Godin is able to concisely craft a mantra to readers that not knowing is not ok; curiosity is imperative in both your job and in your personal life.

I would follow this up by making an observation that a lack of curiosity is a disease that plagues so many people. When I look back retrospectively at my career, I can recall countless exchanges that I have had with colleagues who use language like,  “I have no idea where to look,” “I have never done that before,” “I was only hired to do X”, “I was never trained” and finally, “maybe you should ask person X.” The last three words of Godin’s post are the call to action that many people need to think and practice before they respond – “Look it up!”

By not looking it up, you absolve yourself from the discovery process. Google is a prime example of a company that has trademarked, branded and streamlined the “look it up” practice with their “Google it” call to action. Hopefully, WebMD one day will follow up by offering a self-diagnosis tool that can rate an individual’s peak curiosity levels.

Thanks to a flood of emails from eConsultancy and the DMA my curiosity was peaked for their first annual Integrated Marketing Week Conference (IMW) in NYC.  How could I not go, when Seth Godin would be presenting the opening keynote titled “Invisible or Remarkable? New Rules for Marketing in a New Economy.”

As the first attendee to arrive at the Metropolitan Pavilion, I was way to early by New York City standards and obviously an out of Towner.  However, to my credit, my curiosity level needed to be satisfied. It isn’t every day that you get to hear a speech by a truly accomplished visionary, and I wasn’t go to miss out on getting a front-row seat to the event!
Seth Godin

In about forty-five minutes, Godin had driven up the audience’s curiosity level with funny anecdotal historically based stories that were accompanied by a deck filled only with images that helped to drill down to the point that we are marketing during a time of great change.

He posed this question to the audience, “How do you market in a recession and with the underlying global shift toward a knowledge economy.” His answer was “Trip Advisor made more money than American Airlines because info about planes is more valuable than the planes. There are an infinite number of channels. Mass is not important.”

Since we are a species made up of connections, Godin views the idea of connections as the foundation for the “Connection Economy.” The follow the leader mentality that suppressed curiosity during the industrial age is no longer relevant. In terms of Integrated Marketing, Godin believes it should be “integration with humanity and not with computers.” Therefore, the “Connection Economy should be built on generosity and art.”  The four pillars being: “(1) Coordination, (2) Trust (3) Permission, (4) Exchange of ideas.”

The marketplace opportunity is already there. Godin believes “(1) All media is optional, (2) Mass isn’t important; the edges are important, (3) The only work that matters is work that matters.”

During his presentation, Godin made reference to themes from his earlier books about finding the purple cow that nobody wants and leveraging your tribes.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Godin showed the audience an image of a cheetah. The question posed was “Does a cheetah worry about how it looks when it runs? No. It runs intuitively.” With everyone’s curiosity peaked, he told the audience to go “full cheetah.” The caveat being that as marketers, in order to protect your curiosity you have to be able to embrace the failures that are bound to happen. His concluding wisdom was  “the man who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.”

Does anyone have a favorite Godin post that they want to share/discuss?