– Written by Julie Long and Kat Shanahan with artwork by Julie Long
Pride. After searching my vocabulary for the word that best described how it felt to be at WVU for the INTEGRATE2014 conference, that’s what I’ve come up with. Being on campus for the first time and networking with fellow students, professors, and speakers all gave me an overwhelming sense of pride and reaffirmed my decision to get my IMC degree from WVU. Walking through the gates and into Milan Puskar Stadium for the keynote dinner you almost felt like a celebrity walking the red carpet but instead of an entourage consisting of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, I was in the presence of presenter and Alexia Vanides Teaching Award winner, Joe Barnes, and fellow blogger and conference guru Julie Long (that’s my kind of entourage). –KS
It is rare to find a group of individuals – let alone an academic program – that pushes you to become your best self. I have spent the better part of my career looking for a mentor. It turns out that I all I needed to do was join the WVU IMC program. As a result of becoming a student, I now have an entire community of mentors. Even though the mentors in my community are remote and spread out geographically, I would call upon their advice before reaching out to individuals in my face-to-face network. The main difference between the two groups comes down to the understanding and passion that everyone affiliated with the program has for the IMC field. I never would have thought that an online program would be all this and more…
The “and more…” is in large part attributed to the annual INTEGRATE conference. Unlike other marketing communication conferences where attendees pass like ships in the night, I view the INTEGRATE conference as “the event” that anchors my year. It is not everyday that you are surrounded by the caliber of talent that congregates in Morgantown year after year. It was truly inspiring to meet new faces this year, including Kat, who epitomizes and exemplifies a passionate and dedicated IMC student.
Even though the weekend is jam packed with networking and breakout sessions, the event culminates and hits a crescendo during the reception. — JL
At the reception, the excitement began building as we recapped a great conference and prepared to hear closing remarks from WVU administration and Head of Media Solutions – Tech for Google and WVU IMC professor, Elliott Nix. It was at this time that I was able to finally meet all of the fellow students in my current class, connect with speaker Lee Odden, and take just one minute to bask in the final moments of the conference. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better we were seated for dinner. –KS
Three years ago, I was a wide-eyed Freshman attending the big event. I knew very few , if any, of the faces or names of anyone sitting around my dinner table. This year, I knew all but two individuals at my table.
With each passing year, I have begun to judge my professional IMC accomplishments against the calendar year of the INTEGRATE conference. After year one, I forged face-to-face connections with faculty and fellow students and I even started an IMC Pinterest board. After year two, I became a blogger for the program and continued to forge even deeper relationships with fellow IMC’ers. After year three, I became an author for Steamfeed.com, connected with IMC bloggers Kat & Rebecca, joined Twitter, tried out Google Glass, and was accepted into the WVU IMC Classmates Facebook Page (The conference continues throughout the year on social media!) All of these accomplishments, including meeting the large majority of my e-connections, would not have come to fruition if I did not attend INTEGRATE.
The reception affords me time to reflect back and look ahead at my uncharted path. Looking around the room this year, I could not help but soak up the energy emanating from within the walls of the stadium. Sitting down at the table I was able to see first hand how the IMC field is directly being shaped by the program. The momentum of the evening hits a crescendo when the keynote speaker takes the stage. The impending speech is a pivotal turning point in renewing my sense of pride for the program, and my passion for the field of IMC. –JL
The keynote presentation by Elliott Nix was nothing short of inspiring. Elliott talked about the importance of tying innovation to business strategy and asking oneself, “Does this solve a problem?” Having a great idea is one thing, but using that to solve a problem is where you find real innovation. Elliott said, “Technology isn’t about making things easier, it’s about making lives better.” Sounds great, right? But how do you do that? According to Elliott, you must build a culture of failure and challenge your preconceived notions of what’s popular. Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
After Elliott’s keynote we sat down with him to ask just a few more questions about innovation. Elliott said the key to overcoming blocks in innovation is to ask yourself, “What’s the immediate answer, and then what’s the exact opposite?” What’s the answer that is going to get you fired? You take the second idea and do what you can to poke holes in it. If you can’t…that’s the one you should go with. Elliott also challenged us to think about the problem in a different industry and find out how you can apply that to your industry.
We also asked Elliott what’s in store for those in the IMC program. He said that we should “think bigger,” find new ways of looking at a business/client, and show how you can tackle the narratives of traditional and digital marketing together. We all know that trying to show the value of IMC and finding companies that support that way of thinking can be challenging. Elliott recommended finding companies that are “on stage” and have a media presence in the mobile, video, and analytic areas. Those are the companies that will be more forward thinking. As you can see, Elliott left us with no shortage of important topics to think about. Our challenge now is how to use it. Where are you going to start? –KS
We would like to say a monumental thank you to the IMC team and executive team Nicole, Chad, Shelly, Judy, Briana, Rick, Michael, Aaron, Rachel Mort, and Rachel Angry for everything you did to bring INTEGRATE 2014 to fruition.