Archive for February, 2014

The 24-Hour Challenge

February 27, 2014

When my friend Grace told me she signed up for a 24-hour design challenge to benefit a nonprofit project, I immediately had two reactions: jealousy* and doubt. Is it even possible to design and begin to implement a quality campaign –including every branding and web presence element you can imagine-  in one day’s time?

It is.

health race

Photo Credit: The Great Health Race

The 2014 Louisiana “Design-A-Thon” sponsored by Doublet Media presented the nearly 20 challenge participants with the New Orleans Council for Community & Justice’s youth wellness program, “The Great Health Race.” The program plans to educate and empower middle and high school students of New Orleans to pursue health-conscious lifestyles, according to “The Great Health Race” website– a site developed during the design-a-thon, of course! Health advocacy through student leadership is another core aspect of the program.

Split into design, development, and public relations teams, those in the design-a-thon spent a day relying on their creative talents to form the campaign’s elements.

Inspiring. That’s one of the words Grace used to describe the experience.

The design-a-thon is a perfect example of what can happen when skill and collaboration meet. Although the experience was inspiring in itself for my friend, it also moved me to pass along the torch of inspiration to readers of this blog.

What causes can we contribute our talents toward? Simply promoting awareness of worthy projects can help – and it only takes a minute.




Tweet: #GreatHealthRace

Thanks to Grace for sharing her experience! Check out her personal blog, change ya mind. change ya life.


*We live over 1,000 miles away from each other. Not convenient. Maybe West Virginia and Louisiana could move closer together?

Start here

February 25, 2014

Earlier this week I was watching a fantastic interview between photographers Chase Jarvis and Brandon Stanton.    During the interview they talked about ideas and how to get started with a project. We’ve all been there.  We need to find the next big idea, the next great ad campaign, but we often get overwhelmed because we’re starting at the end.  We are trying to start at “the big idea” and not at the beginning.

Brandon was a bond trader in Chicago when he lost his job.  He moved to New York with 2 suitcases and the goal of taking 10,000 portraits.  I completed a project where I took a photo every day for a year – 10,000 portraits would be much more difficult. He didn’t have a lot of money, he slept on a mattress on the floor, and now he has a New York Times #1 Best Seller.  His 10,000 portraits project turned into Humans of New York, which is a phenomenal photo project that has earned him more than 3.2 million likes on Facebook and has provided us with an amazing glimpse into the lives of every day people living in New York.

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During the interview, Brandon said some amazing things that everyone can take to heart.

You have to be your own fan first. When Brandon said this I thought, well yes, obviously you have to be your own fan first. Then I realized that I’m not always my biggest fan.  I thought back to a year ago when I was in the Creative Strategy & Execution class and remembered how frustrated I got trying to come up with great advertising ideas.  I always liked my ideas, but didn’t always believe they were great until I read my professors comments.  Why did I expect him to like what I was doing if I didn’t love it?  Why would I even bother showing it to someone when I didn’t believe it was great?  At times, I think we are scared to say we like or even love our ideas because we’re afraid they’re not good enough.  It breaks my heart when I overhear students in my office talking about doing a project in a particular way so that their professor will give them a good grade instead of doing what they really believe is great.  Stop it!  

When I started asking people if I could take their photo two out of three people said no. Can you imagine this?  I’m working on a new portraits project now and have tried to go up to strangers and ask to take their photo and am terrified they’ll say no.  They are strangers, what’s the worst that can happen?  They say no and I ask someone else.  Can you imagine if every time you presented an idea, 2 out of 3 people said no?  You’re not presenting to strangers – these people hold a place in your life.  Their opinion means something.  What would that do to you?  Would you second guess yourself?  Would you change your project?  Please refer to the above paragraph for the answer.  If you don’t love what you’re doing and believe in what you’re doing, how can you expect someone else to love it?  When you’re starting a project, or when you have an idea, it doesn’t take 2 out of 3 people to say yes – it starts with one.

So much of social media is stage managed. This is the most accurate depiction of social media I’ve heard yet.  Brandon is right.  Social media is becoming a series of carefully orchestrated words and sentences designed to sell products, but fall under the guise of being social and building relationships with community members.  On the Humans of New York Facebook page, Brandon shares very short responses from the people he photographs.  They’re beautiful snippets of their lives and the reason they’re so amazing is because he cares enough to ask questions and tries to get to know people, even for a short amount of time.  Above all, we need to remember that social media is social.  Yes, there are so many business benefits to being on social media, but promise me this…don’t get into the habit of bulk uploading and scheduling your posts and tweets.  Don’t take the social out of social media.

Thousands of very tiny evolutions created Humans of New York.  This simple concept was like an electric shock to me.  Whether it is photography, marketing, advertising, public relations, or branding, we think we have to come up with the big idea right away.  We see another company make a stellar ad and suddenly that’s what we’re aiming for.  I’m not saying don’t aim high, but start small.  When I started the IMC program, when I started taking photos, and when I started blogging, I assumed that everything I did had to be my life’s greatest work.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized how ridiculous that sounds.  (I’m not even 30, I pray I haven’t done my life’s greatest work yet.)  Great ideas are built, they are not born fully developed and foolproof.    Great ideas take time and they change and grow.  As a process-orientated planner, that is absolutely terrifying.  I think we all need to slow down, enjoy the process, and concentrate on each next step as it comes instead of trying to jump to the end.  Don’t be afraid of the little steps.

The interview is worth watching no matter what field you are in or want to be in.  It reminds us that there are little things we can do that will make a big difference in our lives.  Most of them start with not being afraid and believing in yourself and your ideas.  After all if you don’t, why would anyone else?

Database Dangers?

February 20, 2014

IMC students who have already completed IMC 616 – Direct Marketing will know how big of a role database marketing can play in a business’s marketing and communications mix. Using database marketing can drive great success when the savvy marketer leverages its capability to target the perfect customer. Renting a list can be a great way to put direct mail into the right homes and acquire new customers.

But do we take a risk when we use databases to market? In this day and age, there is more and more information being logged about customers, especially with the proliferation of comprehensive CRM systems. What happens when more information than just a name and address are being collected? Additional information makes it possible to segment lists or perform predictive analytics. Or, it might provide a customer service representative with guidance for a specific customer or situation. However, customers might not always be happy about some of the information being collected about them. Mike Seay is the perfect example.

OfficeMax placed the blame on a data broker when Seay received a letter addressed to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash or Current Business.” Seay tragically lost his daughter in a car crash a year earlier, resulting in an upsetting incident for him and a very public blunder for the office supply company. Seay couldn’t have been happy to receive the letter or to know anyone was logging this information about him. It seems likely that someone entered this information into a CRM record to alert his or her colleagues to be sympathetic, but it should never have been part of the information set provided by a data broker. Do these types of incidents make companies reconsider list rental, or at least which brokers they work with? It should, as their reputation and public image are at risk.

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This isn’t the only high profile incident of this nature to occur recently. Bank of America and the Golden Key Society had to apologize in early February when mail pieces were directed to “Lisa is a Slut Mcintire.” Certainly, no company wants to be calling their prospective customers “sluts.” This incident received attention on social media when Lisa shared the letters. The story ended up gaining attention from national news outlets.

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CRM systems are very powerful and allow us to interact with our customers in incredible ways. However, any company that is in the business of sharing their customer data, or borrowing data from others, should do so cautiously. Otherwise, they could have a similar PR disaster on their hands.

Who can forget all of the trouble Dwight Schrute got himself into on The Office when he attempted to use Michael Scotts (albeit rudimentary and index card-based) CRM system? Dwight stole the written information Michael had kept about his client, but failed to use it tactfully (or in accordance with the confusing color coding system). How are any of us (besides the original record keeper) supposed to know why certain pieces of information are being logged in a database and how that information is to be used?

What are your thoughts? Are the risks worth the rewards? Are these isolated incidents or just the tip of the iceberg?

OfficeMax has already indicated that it will perform keyword searches to avoid more incidents like these. I think any organization leveraging database marketing would be well advised to take similar precautions. With such an approach, businesses can continue to realize the substantial benefits of database marketing, while minimizing their risk.

VHS is to BlueRay as Blog is to Vlog?

February 17, 2014

If the VHS tape turned into the BluRay disc which revolutionized video entertainment, what will revolutionize the Blog as a communications medium?  Video blogging or vlogging has been rumored to be just the revolution that blogging enthusiasts need.  However, online video has been around for more than a decade and vlogging still struggles to achieve a preferred status among the masses.  Vlogging has gained popularity as devices used to create and consume content continue to lower development costs, but many consumers still feel they read faster than a video can present information.  Additionally, online video content is still considered by many to be difficult to optimize for search engines. So what will it take to make vlogging a success?  Is it a great tool that will end up underutilized…reminds me of betamax but that’s a whole other topic.  Do we even need to worry about how valuable vlogging can be to marketers?  Have a look at existing video consumption statistics from Caterina DiIogia, Cargill Communications, Forrester Research and Nevin Thompson. 


What can be done to help vlogging take off?  How about these three suggestions:

Provide a brief overview as an introduction.

With the amount of traffic generated by people viewing online video, transitioning to video-based blogs seems like a natural transition.  For those concerned about speed of content presentation, maybe a short introduction could be beneficial.  If the vlog is presenting the top three steps in creating better SEO for your website, spend the first 30 seconds telling what the steps are and then 5 minutes going into detail on steps presented.  This will give viewers the opportunity to drop out of the video but still feel good having gained some new information without a big investment in time. 

Optimize for search.  Yes, it is possible.

Speaking of SEO, what are the SEO affects around vlogging? SEO is always a touchy subject and one that changes dramatically every time Google decides to update their algorithms.  According to AJ Kumar of, there are a number of tactics that can be implemented with video content to improve search results across Google and other search engines. 

First of course is creating great content.  If content is not engaging and providing value, even the best SEO will not generate loyalty and shared links.  Content should help people solve problems, make the laugh, stimulate thought, or provide some other value.  Value will spur sharing and that has greater value for bloggers as it adds visibility without any added cost.

Next, determine what the relative keywords are and use them in multiple places.  Add them to the title tag, to description text, categories, keywords, and even captions and subtitles.  These keywords tell the searches engines what the video is actually about.  It helps the search engines rank the video properly when presenting searchers with results form a query.   Videos without keywords are just another packet of uncategorized data clogging up the internet. 

Post the video clip on as many video services as possible.  YouTube is the biggest player but don’t underestimate other services like Vimeo. Services like Vimeo have their own loyal following so discounting them can be a costly oversight.

Use analytics to see how videos are performing.   YouTube offers free video analytics that help owners see the number of views their videos are getting, total viewing time, dropout times, playback devices, demographics and much more.  All of these insights provide valuable data in creating new videos that will better resonate with audiences and make videos even more successful. 

Finally, the video should elicit some kind of response.  Viewers should be asked to take some kind of action.  Click a link, “like” the video, share the video.  Interactions help build online credibility and authority.  YouTube tends to reward better performing videos so the more interactions generated the better. 

Show readers some love too.

For those who still love to scan text and pull out nuggets of information, a transcript of the video is a great option.  Add a brief overview statement or abstract and some bulleted data points and then provide the full text of the video.  It is a bit labor intensive but these transcripts can be a big win for vloggers looking to attract more traditional blog consumers.  There are a number of services and software applications available to help with transcription like Inscribe and Lionbridge just to name a couple.

With proper implementation of the suggestions, vloggers can help gain visibility through search and bring broader audiences to their vlogs.  With greater visibility, easier access to content production tools, and more adoption of vlogs from traditional blog consumers, maybe this media can evolve into the next great information channel.

How Superheros Get More Awesome

February 10, 2014

I saw this yesterday and could not help writing about it.  This video has essentially restored my faith in the world.

In case you’re going to watch the video later, here’s the short version.  A mother was having a difficult time getting her son to wear a hearing aid.  The son said that superheros don’t wear them, so she emailed Marvel Comics looking for some semblance of a Superhero with a hearing aid.  Marvel sent her a picture of Hawkeye, who only had 20% of his hearing and used hearing aids.  In addition, they sent her son, Anthony, a one-of-a-kind drawing of “Blue Ear,” a superhero modeled after Anthony.  Now, Anthony is wearing hearing aids and will never look at them the same way again.


This image is from Fox 43 Central Pennsylvania

Marvel wasn’t required to do this – they didn’t look at the boy and say, “Wow, what a great marketing opportunity.”  They saw a need and knew they could help.  They created that sketch, something that probably took one of their artists an hour, and changed Anthony’s life forever.  This is what makes Marvel a great company.  Yes, they make awesome Superhero movies and comic books, but it’s actions like this that build brands.  This one action has more power to build relationships with customers than 100 Captain America movies.  Honestly, isn’t this what being a Superhero is really about?  Look at X Men, they all have something about them that differentiates them.  Because Marvel took action, Anthony will never look at his disability the same again.

When you’re a great company, that does great things like this, other people tell your story for you.  While watching the Super Bowl last weekend, I noticed a lot of Budweiser commercials.  (The Puppy Love commercial is amazing.)  One thing that made me take a step back was the Hero’s Welcome commercial.  It was a beautiful commercial, but it was Budweiser saying, “Look at this awesome thing we did.”  Instead of allowing others to generate the attention for them.  Their actions were amazing and very meaningful to that individual and his hometown, but that’s what makes people want to talk about it.  Let your customers talk for you.  Marvel didn’t create Blue Ear for the press coverage, or for their own ad campaign.  If you do good things and create great content, people will share it for you, and that’s the best marketing available.

Hello from Connecticut!

February 6, 2014

Hello everyone! I’m very excited to be writing to you today as one of the newest contributors to the IMC Student Blog. I am just about halfway through the Integrated Marketing Communications program at WVU and I think that this new chapter in my journey through the program will be a fun one.

My name is Robert (you can read more about me on the IMC Student Ambassadors page) and I’m writing to you from my home in South Windsor, Connecticut — part of the IMC program’s New England contingent! Thanks to the IMC Community page, I can see that some fellow New Englanders are part of the program, and I hope blogging for the IMC Student Blog might help to connect me with more of them!

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Born and raised in Connecticut, I also received my undergraduate degree here, studying Environmental Interpretation at Central Connecticut State University. I’m a huge UCONN fan, but am making some room in my heart for the Mountaineers now that there is no longer a Big East rivalry with my Huskies. I am told that as long as I’m not a Pitt fan, I can peacefully co-exist with my fellow Mountaineers even though I bleed blue — that’s good, because one of my favorite moments in life is still when Kemba Walker hit a buzzer beating, step back jumper, while Pitt’s McGee struggled to keep himself off the floorboards. There is no love lost between Pitt and I, so it looks like I am in good company at WVU.

Currently, I’m an Associate of Marketing and Outreach at the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), a quasi-public agency in Connecticut. I’m involved in general marketing and outreach, but focus much of my energy on hyper local outreach and marketing campaigns as well as on the coordination of social media efforts. I’ve learned a ton of great information in the IMC program that I’ve been able to start using immediately at CEFIA. Strategies and information I learned about in IMC 641 – Social Media and Marketing (one of my favorite courses so far) are informing the decisions I make on daily basis and the insights I’ve gained in other courses are improving my work product as a whole.

If I’m not busy at CEFIA or working on my latest IMC assignment, I’m probably rooting for one of my favorite sports teams, tinkering with my DSLR, or spending time with my dog, Quinn. This is me, my dog Quinn, and my cousin Lisa taking a hike up Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire this past summer.


Beautiful hike with my dog and cousins!

It’s nice to “meet” you all and I’m looking forward to writing again and sharing more about my IMC experiences!

– Robert

Little things.

February 4, 2014

Hi there! This is my “initiation” into the IMC student blogging team, so I think it’s best to start off with the basics.


My name’s Rebecca, and Wheeling, WV is my home. I graduated with a professional communications degree from Wheeling Jesuit University last May and am currently working as a reporter for The Intelligencer/ Wheeling News-Register. I pretty much love anything creative. Photography, architecture, painting, typography, DIY projects… the list could go on.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is a must-see in the fall! I definitely plan to make a return visit in the spring. The architecture is incredible.

While considering how I plan to approach these blog posts, one thought really stuck with me. The bloggers who draw big inspiration from little things always inspire me to reevaluate my perspective- both on career and life.

Last summer I was lucky enough to travel Central Europe. Ten days, 7 cities- Munich, Nuremberg, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Melk, and Salzburg. (I would also like to list London in that tally, but seeing as we only had a brief layover in England and weren’t able to leave Heathrow, I don’t think the airport really counts as an immersive experience. Another trip for another time…)

Documenting the adventure, I took almost 1,000 photos. Oddly enough, those that I revisit most when I’m feeling nostalgic for Europe aren’t the photos that feature “landmarks” like the Hungarian Parliament Building or The Sound of Music gazebo– Remember when Liesl was 16 going on 17? Don’t get me wrong; I value these just as much! But there’s something about photos featuring the everyday, little things in Europe that trigger vivid memories from my experience.

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Finding a snail trekking across a brick wall while we waited in the hotel courtyard for a taxi to take us to our group’s first big dinner out in Prague.

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Taking a moment to appreciate the daisies growing in the Schönbrunn Palace gardens that display incredibly well-groomed bushes outlining a maze of pathways.

It’s the little things that often offer perspective on the big experience.

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An observant statue admires the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.


Connecting this back to my blogging approach… Integrated marketing is partly the art of perspective. You could say a Subaru commercial isn’t a “little thing”.  (This ad is pure brilliance.) But in context of the auto industry trend to sell brands rooted in human emotion, a commercial featuring a Subaru-driving dad and nervous daughter anxiously waiting for the bus to arrive on the first day of school is a single application of a big idea about wanting to protect loved ones. Way to go, Subaru.

I look forward to sharing more inspiration with fellow bloggers and the IMC community!