Archive for April, 2015

Three Quick Creativity Tips

April 30, 2015


Creativity can be challenging. Hard deadlines and client needs aren’t always conducive to the creative process. I’ve learned a lot about my creative process since beginning the IMC program. There are dozens of tips and tricks that can boost your creativity, but I wanted to share my top three with you.

  1. Learn and trust your creative process. This was especially difficult for me to understand. I was very focused on deadlines and setting aside a specific amount of time for homework that I wasn’t allowing myself to move through my own creative process. It took me a while to understand what my creative process was and what I needed to do to allow myself to be creative. It’s not always easy to allow yourself to move naturally through the process, but it’s important to try to trust you instincts. When I first started the program I would carefully set aside time to do homework. (I’m the kind of person that plans out my free time.) Now I know that in order to produce my best work, I need to let my brain “digest” it for a day. I usually write papers, edit photos, and do my design work in a time frame that allows me to revisit it the next day. I still work to set   aside time, but I understand that it may change and evolve as the project does.
  1. Take a break! Part of the creative process is knowing when you need to walk away and take a break. Getting away from what you’re working on refocuses your brain and allows inspiration to hit. Try going for a walk, reading a book, getting coffee, or taking a nap to free up your brain. (Naps can be very powerful things!) Research suggesting that you start to lose efficiency if you work on something for more than 90 minutes at a time. If your creative process dictates that you work well under pressure, you may want to schedule a short break so you don’t lose steam!
  1. Accept Feedback. Asking for feedback can be challenging. What if you have to start over? What if the message is confusing? What if I run out of time? All of these thoughts can prevent us from asking for and incorporating feedback into our work. Feedback can be very helpful in further developing ideas and expanding on what you’ve already accomplished. Build time into the process to get feedback. Plus, the nature of our industry is that you’ll never be working on an entire project by yourself. Learning to accept feedback now will help you be more successful at work.


Everybody’s creative process is different and it’s important to take time to understand yours. What other creativity tips have you found?

Image created by Heather Zeutzius

Join the #AgencyBlueprint Virtual Book Discussion

April 20, 2015
Are you trying to disrupt and transform the marketing services industry?  If so, you need to join the #AgencyBlueprint virtual Skype book discussion on 4/28 at 8:30 p.m. EST. I will share key insights from The Marketing Agency Blueprint: The Handbook for Building Hybrid PR, SEO, Content, Advertising, and Web Firms by #Integrate15 speaker, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), with attendees.

This event is part of an interactive series focused on empowering IMC professionals through thought leadership discussions, marketing technology analysis and creative collaboration.

When: 4/28 at 8:30 – 9:30 PM EST
Where: Skype
Please join the #AgencyBlueprint Skype discussion!
Direct message me (@Julie_Long_) for complete login details.

Please note that early INTEGRATE full-conference registrants may receive Paul’s latest book The Marketing Performance Blueprint at the conference next month.

The Story Behind STORY

April 15, 2015

A Manhattan-based retailer is turning the page on brick-and-mortar expectations. STORY has a magazine POV, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store. (It’s like a Pinterest board come to life.)

With its product as content, and its content changing completely monthly or bi-monthly as well as being for sale, STORY has embraced its retail media status. Past themes including Well Being, Design, Made in America, and Cool reflect how STORY has continued to reinvent its space and product stock while inspiring an audience. Experiential storytelling is the steady factor.


There’s always something new inside STORY.

Brands both new and established have sought to become part of STORY’s themes. From General Electric to celebrity-status YouTubers, STORY has the ability to extend its content and reach beyond typical niche retail markets by partnering with a new set of brands every few weeks.

How has media inspired other brick-and-mortar retailers and brought together unlikely brands?




How To Name A Marketing Agency

April 13, 2015

The first surprising thing I discovered in my IMC Capstone journey is that naming a marketing agency really tests your creative skill. Idea? Google it. Already taken. Better idea? Backspace and Google again. Also taken.

It’s a process I recommend starting before Week 1 if you can. I learned to prioritize the “how” of my then yet-to-be-named agency. How did I want my agency to approach a client’s project? That starting point inspired me to then relate my concept to less-literal names, finally leading me to a winner.

During this process, I stumbled upon a helpful agency name graphic I hope you’ll find just as useful.

While I mostly recognized the Founder names, the other categories offered the most inspirational ideas during my brainstorming process.

Because Capstone requires you to thread your agency’s unique approach throughout your integrated marketing proposal for the chosen client, take some time to build a strong foundation for your project. Having a clear agency identity makes writing other sections in your project easier to accomplish because you have a defined perspective to work from.

WVU IMC alum, current and future Capstoners: What advice/comments/questions do you have about naming a marketing agency?


When a Brand Really ‘Gets’ You

April 8, 2015

Isn’t it refreshingly creepy when a brand really “gets” you? I’ve been a Real Simple reader for a decade, but recently I’ve not been that interested in the content. How many ways can one really use a lint roller? And how many more things can I clean with lemon juice and white vinegar? And no matter how hard I try, I’ll never fold a fitted sheet so that it is not recognizable as a fitted sheet.  In fact, why would I not want to know which one is a fitted sheet.  I want to know! Just as I was considering letting that subscription go, I reengaged with Real Simple via a spin-off Instagram account that resonates deeply with me. WomenIRL is “an account that features real images from women’s feeds that give a more realistic, unfiltered perspective of everyday life.” Sure, we love to dream about perfectly staged coffee tables and fresh flowers in every room of the house, but Real Simple just proved to me that they REALLY GET ME when WomenIRL launched.

Women IRL 1

Women IRL 3

WomenIRL 2Now, throughout the day as I mindlessly check my Instagram feed between meetings or while waiting in the drop-off line, I get quick hits from a brand that say, “hey, I know how you feel.” And that puts Real Simple back on my mind in a very good way. No need for a multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad, just give me a few crowd-sourced ‘grams that show me that you know me and I’m totally yours again. Well done, Real Simple.

The IDEA FACTORY Lives on in Communications and Advocacy

April 2, 2015

Idea Factory - BLOG

This is a guest blog post by IMC 638 instructor, Mike Fulton.

Ideas are the lifeblood of our business.

I learned in my first year at an emerging Washington, D.C. public and government relations shop that ideas generated from credible, insightful information and translated into creative, measureable strategy separated the pretenders from the ladder climbers. That is still the case!

I was fortunate 25 years ago when I made the transition from Capitol Hill public servant to communications and lobbying. My first boss, Dan McGinn, president of what was then Ryan-McGinn, Inc. in Arlington, VA — set the tone at our firm and was masterful at conceptualizing tangible, strategic tactics to advance our clients’ diverse priorities. I wanted not only to be like him, but also to continually impress him with my ideas for our clients and new business pursuits.

One day our hard-working chief handed out T-shirts at an energizing company retreat with the words “The Idea Factory” emblazoned on the front. Below the title was a graphic featuring a large golden light bulb being pulled out of a factory by many smaller light bulbs, excited by their collaboration. Our company logo was featured on the large light bulb.

Thank goodness, in all of those years and several agencies later, I continue to strive to offer my clients and new business prospects the “big idea” that will help catapult their organizations forward. Every consultant – from the CEO to junior account executives – should be constantly focused on connecting the dots for their clients and generating ideas that inspire, persuade and build lasting relationships.

Key Tenets of Generating and Sharing Ideas

    • Know your client, their people, culture and industry as well as or better than they do themselves.
    • Follow multiple sources that impact their industry and business, particularly in the areas of emphasis of your policy, media, events, marketing, advertising or fundraising scope of work.
    • Meet with or talk to experts and key influencers in your clients’ field(s).
    • Visit the clients’ offices, business locations and meet with as many people as you possibly can.
    • Listen more initially and resist the urge to offer off-the-cuff feedback on client issues. Clients love when consultants listen well and act when they are informed and certain. Do not take copious notes when handling crisis scenarios; your notes may not initially be protected by attorney-client privilege.
    • Do not always wait for regularly scheduled client meetings or conference calls to share “breaking information” that could assist them or change current strategy.
    • Always be thinking of other services or products in which you could interest your clients. Do not wait until contracts are completed to pitch your ideas or share meaningful information.
    • Offer context on your information and ideas as well as the timeline, responsibilities and estimated costs required. Stress win-win partnerships and resource sharing.
    • Try to anticipate how your ideas or information will be received by the client and be prepared to leap into action (more research and/or actual implementation).
    • Make proactive information gathering and idea generation a part of your personal and corporate culture.

Scenarios when the “big idea,” strategic thinking or research made a difference

When the pressure was on: A global corporate client with multiple, complex products and solutions needed it to be boiled down to a simple every-day concept that anyone could understand. A brainstorming session on a federal holiday led to the winning theme, which landed our agency a $7 million annual account.

When extra time was spent researching contents of a report: A $10 million project was identified in one of the 13 federal appropriations bills. We had a client that wanted a similar project and had a need for a PET scanning center, so we pitched it with a key Senator who made it happen.

When a tactic revealed more than we were counting on: A national survey was conducted as a means for offering a transportation center client “news” to announce at an upcoming event, and responses to some of the other questions posed convinced the client to broaden its membership and goals.

When listening paid dividends: We pitched a statewide community college system for a comprehensive marketing campaign and, because we listened carefully, we heard the chancellor begging for help on a smaller but more important communications and fundraising priority. Doing a great job on that project got us closer to winning the statewide campaign.

When partnerships were forged: Leveraging a Congressionally-authorized Veterans History Project and bringing in college journalism and oral history students to assist, we created an award-winning “Take a Veteran to School Day” campaign for the cable industry that we also replicated in another state. Partnerships can amplify a campaign, and building on existing successful programs can build instant credibility.

Following these key principles and adding your brand value to them may help you retain some clients beyond the original contract, gain repeat business from decision-makers, and maintain trusted relationships for decades. I continue to
work with some people I first met while working in Congress three decades ago.

I can truly say that my first job after Capitol Hill was working at the IDEA FACTORY, and I am glad I did!
C. Michael Fulton is director of public affairs and advocacy for the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency. Mike teaches public affairs in the WVU Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. He is active in both the Association of Government Relations Professionals and Public Relations Society of America. He can be reached at, LinkedIn or @hillrat1156.