Author Archive

The Keys to Event Marketing – Part 2: Inspire FOMO

May 11, 2017

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FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out—is a key motivator in many aspects of our lives.  We want to experience the museum exhibit that no one can get a ticket for, we’ll stand in line for an hour to try a cupcake, or we’ll book a trip to Iceland because everyone else seems to be doing it… FOMO applies to events too.  As a marketer, you have to figure out what makes your event special; special enough that people will take time away from their “regular life” to spend their time and money in order to learn or do something they would not typically get to experience.

There are two parts to creating this FOMO – one is actually planning an agenda and developing content that will be unique, inspiring, and engaging; two is making sure your target audience knows about how great the event is going to be and feel like they’ll miss out if they do not get to experience it.

With the access to so many free tutorials, videos, classes, networking events, etc. it can be hard to convince someone (or that someone’s boss) that an event is worth spending their time and money.  So, how do you do it?

First, read part 1 of this event marketing blog series and make sure you know your target audience and ways to use that information to your advantage.  Next, finalize your planning, then execute — hit send on your first email, post your first promotion tweet, and launch your Google Ad campaign!

Create Communications Timeline:

Events have hard deadlines, so start from the event date and work your way backwards.  Find out when key information will be available and define your timeline(s) – one timeline for prospective attendees and a second for registrants.  When does registration open and close?  When is the event’s schedule going to be finalized and available to share?  Are there key speakers or keynotes you will want to promote to entice registrations?  Are you providing an event mobile app and when will it be available to download?  Plotting out your key communications will allow you to divide up the outbound communications and decide how many times you’ll need to send prospective attendees and registrants information.

Choose Your Channels & Tactics:

When researching your target audience, identify not only what industry they work for, but see if you can infer other information that can inform your selection of marketing channels and tactics.  Can you identify “watering holes” where this audience goes for information—websites, social media, magazines, etc.?  Are there groups on LinkedIn that a larger percentage of the members fit your target audience?  Are there any trade shows you’re attending prior to your own event where your target audience is also in attendance?  Any information like this can help you to identify and focus in on where you need to be promoting and getting the word out about your event.

Now-a-days there are so many places to promote your event – your company website, outbound emails, your social media channels, paid social media (like LinkedIn InMail drops or Sponsored Content), Google re-marketing PPC ads, buying an eBlast for a partner to send out to their membership, etc.  Know your budget and choose the channels/tactics that will give you the most opportunities to reach your audience and will give you the best ROI.

Nail Your Messaging & Branding:

As an integrated marketing communications professional, one of your main goals is that the messaging and branding are consistent regardless of the channel or tactic, from the first invite to the directional signage onsite.  The color scheme of your event website should be pulled in to the design of your HTML emails; the tone of your tweets should build off the emails messaging; even the key speakers should relate to and/or speak to key themes brining your messaging to life face-to-face.  Every single touchpoint is the opportunity to reinforce and prove to your attendees that they made the right decision in choosing to attend your event.

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Jennifer Maltba began her journey with the IMC program in August 2012; graduating in December 2014. Her favorite thing about the program was its ‘learn today, use tomorrow’ philosophy, which she felt truly made this a one-of-a-kind program.  A month after graduating, she took the position of Marketing Manager at Cvent, a global meeting and event technology provider headquartered in the DC area.  When not creating integrated marketing campaigns and tracking Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Jen can be found planning her next trip to somewhere new, exploring the neighborhoods of DC in search of the best food, or taking in the latest museum exhibit in our nation’s capital.  

 

 

 

INTEGRATE WV Part II

May 4, 2017

INTEGRATE West Virginia will take place in Huntington, West Virginia, on June 2-3.

From one WVU IMC student to another, I would definitely recommend attending! Why? – The speakers, the location, the professors and the cost. For the inside scoop, read on!

  1. THE SPEAKERS

INTEGRATE West Virginia will feature 13 world-class speakers, from across the country—Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and Morgantown. Working for companies like Coca-Cola, Google and Verizon, their specialties range from tourism marketing to internal communications, and include everything in between. A couple highlights…

Andy Azula, senior vice president/executive creative director at The Martin Agency – INTEGRATE West Virginia’s keynote speaker, Andy Azula, has many claims to fame; however, he is best known as UPS’s “whiteboard guy.” This campaign was so famous, Azula got spoofed on Saturday Night Live!

Amanda Todorovich, director of content marketing at Cleveland Clinic – Named the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Content Marketer of the year, Amanda Todorovich is a nationally renowned speaker. She also manages Health Essentials, the number one most-visited hospital blog in the United States. 

Sebastian Webber, founder of CrowdSurge – This music industry executive has worked with a multitude of popular artists, including: Coldplay, Adele, Leona Lewis, M.I.A. and Sia! In 2010, his work landed him on Billboard magazine’s “30 under 30” list.

Listen to this! I heard Chad Mezera, assistant dean of online programs, say this is the best INTEGRATE line up yet!

  1. THE LOCATION

Huntington is a rural, southern West Virginia town filled with local shops, unique restaurants and stunning greenery. Its small-town charm was recognized when it received first place in the America’s Best Communities competition in April 2017. While you’re there, be sure to check out the following.

For food: Fat Patty’s – This hometown restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Best known for its specialty burgers, Fat Patty’s was named by USA Today as one of the top 51 Burger Joints in America in 2013.

For drinks: Huntington Ale House – Offering customers more than 90 different beers, the Huntington Ale House has something for everyone. Whether you prefer a local, craft brew, or a simple, domestic draft, it’s here!

For fun: Take a tour of Marshall University’s campus – Founded in 1837, Marshall University is home to 13,631 students. As you walk the institution’s historic campus, I guarantee that some areas will look familiar, as they acted as sets for the 2006 blockbuster hit, “We Are Marshall.”

Here’s a tip! Bring your walking shoes. Huntington has some gorgeous scenery that you won’t want to miss!

  1. THE PROFESSORS

INTEGRATE provides IMC students with an opportunity to connect with, not only one another, but also with their professors. Developing one-on-one relationships with the IMC program’s professors allows students to better understand course options, build their professional networks and obtain knowledgeable mentors. Here’s what you can expect!

The Alexia Vanides Teaching Award – Each year, one IMC professor is awarded the Alexia Vanides Teaching Award. This honor is decided upon by the program’s students. Did you pick the winner? Find out at INTEGRATE West Virginia!

Kristi Hansen Onkka – Developer of the IMC program’s newest course, IMC 693 – Augmented/Virtual Reality, Kristi Hansen Onkka will be at the conference. In addition to acting as a speaker, Hansen Onkka is bringing her AR/VR gear for attendees to try. Pick her brain about this new course while seats are still available!

Whitney Drake – A 2016 graduate of the IMC program, Whitney Drake is now working as a professor! Talk to Drake about her experiences, and the option of teaching after graduation.

Head’s up! There will be nine professors at INTEGRATE West Virginia.

  1. THE COST

When attending conferences, expenses add up quickly! In addition to paying for the conference, you must secure a hotel room, purchase food and pay for other miscellaneous expenses. As of now, I have been to nearly a dozen professional conferences. Of them, INTEGRATE is, by far, the cheapest. Check out these deals!

The conference – If you register by May 15, and use the code ‘INTWV,’ you can attend INTEGRATE West Virginia for only $200! That includes access to the event’s keynote dinner!

Your hotel – A limited number of rooms are available at the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington, at a special conference rate of $94 per night. The hotel is within walking distance of the event, as well as many local shops and restaurants.

Dining – The INTEGRATE West Virginia event staff has worked to secure discounts from local restaurants for all conference attendees. All you have to do is show your name badge! 

Food for thought – to attend Content Marketing World 2017, it costs $2,000, and we are featuring one of the same speakers!

For more information about INTEGRATE West Virginia, or to register, please visit integrate.wvu.edu. Contact Megan Bayles, public relations and marketing graduate assistant, at mebayles@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-3286 with any questions.

I hope to see you in Huntington!

INTEGRATE WV

April 27, 2017

 

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THE DEFINITION OF INTEGRATE

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word integrate in the following manner.

Integrate: to make a person or group part of a larger group or organization

You are probably wondering why I am giving you a vocabulary lesson, but I promise, I have a point!

The first IMC Weekend took place in 2005. The event was founded to bring together WVU IMC students from across the country. It was intended to unite students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet one another. It was meant to make them feel that, even though they study online, they are, and will always be, part of the Mountaineer family.

The success of IMC Weekend warranted its continuation. In 2011, IMC Weekend transitioned into a full marketing communications conference. That’s when INTEGRATE was born!

The first INTEGRATE conference was held in Morgantown, West Virginia. Since then, it has traveled to multiple cities throughout America; cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and, soon, Huntington, West Virginia. The conference, which once attracted only WVU IMC students and faculty, expanded its audience and began drawing marketing communications professionals from all industries.

First you got a vocabulary lesson, and now a history lesson? What’s next?

The point is, despite its changes, the definition of INTEGRATE remains the same. INTEGRATE is a chance for marketing communications professionals to gather, learn, share and grow, both individually and as a collective unit. That is something that will never change, regardless of Merriam-Webster’s updates.

This year, we’ve teamed up with Marshall University to bring you INTEGRATE West Virginia. INTEGRATE West Virginia will take place June 2-3, in Huntington, West Virginia. This year’s conference will feature Andy Azula, senior vice president and executive creative director at The Martin Agency, as its keynote speaker.  For more information about the conference, or to register, please visit integrate.wvu.edu. Contact Megan Bayles, public relations and marketing graduate assistant, at mebayles@mail.wvu.edu, with any questions.

The Keys to Event Marketing – Part 1: Know Your Audience

April 20, 2017

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There are a multitude of reasons for organizations to host events, but planners and marketers tend to agree that the top reason is to build brand awareness, which will increase revenue or engagement, depending on what kind of organization.  To grow this awareness and drive revenue via an event, you must first generate interest, deliver registrations, and ensure attendance.  In this post, we’ll cover steps that should take place before you even hit send on the first email, post the first tweet, or spend your first dollar on a Google Ad.

Where it All Begins – The Target Audience:
There are multiple channels and tactics that can be used to get the word out about an event: email, social posts, direct mail, word-of-mouth, paid search ads, print ads, etc.  But before you choose how to reach prospective attendees, you must first consider the following – Who is your ideal audience? What do you know about them?  Why would they be interested in attending your event?  How will you reach them and persuade them to spend their money and time at your event?

Increase Relevancy by List Segmentation:
Once you have answered these questions and narrowed down your target audience, now consider how you segment them. By industry? By geography? By job title/job function?  By attendee type? Segmentation of your contact list will allow you to tailor your outbound messaging, such as email invites and paid digital ads, to be more relevant to the audience on which you are trying to reach.

Take IMC’s Integrate conference – the team marketing the event is targeting a variety of attendee types: previous attendees, speakers, professors, current students, former students, prospective students, industry professionals, and sponsors.  Imagine if they used the same messaging to try to invite someone to be a speaker as they did to invite a current student to participate… both the speaker and the current student would most likely delete that email because they wouldn’t think it was relevant to them.

Personalize with Data Tags:
Segmentation is the first step to being relevant and the second is using the information you know to personalize your communications.  Do you know their first name?  Use the <Insert First Name> data tag in the greeting to address them at the start of the email.  Do you know what industry they are in or company they work for?  Direct them to a page on the event website that is relevant to <insert industry here> professionals.  Were they an attendee at last year’s event?  Add a note at the top of the direct mail piece acknowledging that, something like: “We hope you enjoyed Integrate 2016.  We’re excited to invite you to join us again this year!”

Know Your Audience & Use It to Your Advantage:
In our world, nearly every experience is tailored to each person.  It is imperative that you look at all the information you know prior to launching your event marketing campaign.  Then see how you can use that information to make prospective attendees feel as if you are personally inviting them to your event.
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Jennifer Maltba began her journey with the IMC program in August 2012; graduating in December 2014. Her favorite thing about the program was its ‘learn today, use tomorrow’ philosophy, which she felt truly made this a one-of-a-kind program.  A month after graduating, she took the position of Marketing Manager at Cvent, a global meeting and event technology provider headquartered in the DC area.  When not creating integrated marketing campaigns and tracking Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Jen can be found planning her next trip to somewhere new, exploring the neighborhoods of DC in search of the best food, or taking in the latest museum exhibit in our nation’s capital.  

Invest in Yourself

April 13, 2017

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Tax Day brings up many mixed emotions—stress to hit the deadline, relief when it’s over and for many, excitement to receive a tax refund. While people are experiencing the many emotions of Tax Day, it is a reminder about empowering ourselves with the expendable money from our tax returns.

Graduate school is more than a financial commitment. Earning a master’s degree is an investment in your future with your time, energy and money, but the return on investment is key.

Time 

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While the Big Bang Theory’s protagonist, Sheldon Cooper devoted an excessive amount of time to academics, I would be lying if I said graduate school wasn’t a time commitment. Luckily with IMC, once you complete the introductory IMC 610 course, the rest of the classes follow a similar structure. In my personal experience, I work around the deadlines in place such as the paper on Monday, discussion posts on Wednesday and discussion responses on Friday. I budget my time based on the deadlines in place and try to work around my full-time work schedule and personal obligations.

Mental Energy
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Integrated Marketing Communications is a creative field, which is one of the many reasons I selected IMC for my master’s degree. However, after working a full day in our industry and coming home to continue writing sometimes it can be a challenge. In order to combat creative “fatigue”, I try to brainstorm writing ideas for school during my spare time and plan writing times when I’m creatively fresh, such as first thing in the morning. Everyone has a preference on the best writing times rather first thing in the morning, afternoon, evening or late-night. When you figure out your best writing time it will greatly improve your mental energy spent on innovative and original school work.

Money
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College students are often stereotyped as struggling financially. Fortunately, with the flexibility of an online master’s program IMC students do not have to abandon their full-time careers to go back to school. Of course, graduate school is a financial investment but there are opportunities to work while pursuing your degree and students don’t have to sacrifice career momentum in order to obtain a master’s degree.

Return-on-Investment(ROI)
With any investment, it is critical to figure out the return-on-investment. The IMC program is a commitment of time, energy and finances. However, the return-on-investment greatly outweighs the upfront work for the master’s degree. I may sound biased as an upcoming May 2017 grad but many alumni feel the same about the program’s ROI. Over 97.9% of graduate would recommend the IMC program and 88% believe the degree led them to a better position or promotion.

As Tax Day rolls around the corner this Monday, think about the ways you are investing in yourself and your future this year. It could be an excellent opportunity to invest in a graduate degree with the WVU Reed College of Media online programs.

 

 

 

 

Secrets to Starting Your Own Agency: Agency Owners Tell All Part II

April 6, 2017

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Marilyn Heywood Paige shares the real-world application of IMC in marketing agencies.

If you’re thinking about starting your own marketing agency, you’re in good company. According to AgencySpotter, there are 120,000 marketing agencies in the US. Every one of them was started by someone just like you.

In my last post, I gave you tips from small agency owners on finances, charging for your services, and demonstrating your value to the client. In this post, I’ll reveal the secrets agency owners around the globe shared with me on hiring employees and getting clients.

Hiring

When you finally get to the critical mass of client work that you need to hire staff to help you, it’s a great accomplishment. However, hiring employees is where many agency owners have the steepest learning curve. Here’s what some agency owners had to say about expanding their staff.

Think Carefully

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Marcus Miller, head of SEO and digital marketing at the UK agency Bowler Hat, thought every hire would be as great as his first hire, his sister. That wasn’t the case. He writes, “My next three hires did not last six months. I suspect one even stole from the office. A fourth hire was with us for nine months but was a disruptive force in the office. My days became a hell of trying to manage people and creating processes to ensure work was done properly.” He continues, “My advice is to think very carefully about bringing extra people in. You must consider the culture and how to create a space that allows people to learn and do great work. You have to create a place that people will want to come to work in each day. Somewhere that is intellectually nourishing, fun and rewarding. You must do everything you can to hold onto the good people.”

Who You Hire Becomes Your Reputation
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For some agency owners, taking on employees equates to feeling more personally responsible. Robin Donovan of the Bozell Agency in Omaha, Nebraska noted, “You’ll feel pride in every single accomplishment made by anyone in your company, and you’ll feel responsible for every single mistake or problem made by anyone in your company. You are completely dependent on the people at your agency, and you are completely responsible for them, too.”

Delegate Well

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Nikki Bisel, owner and founder of Seafoammedia.com in St. Louis, Missouri learned that hiring people meant trusting them to do the work so you can focus on the bigger picture.”I learned that it’s imperative to hire people better than you that you can delegate to. Your role as the agency owner is to keep the wheels greased and keep your business growing. The only way you can do that with confidence is to have a team of experts that you can delegate work to. You may love design or social media or copywriting, but your core responsibility to your employees and your clients is to build a solid business.”

Getting Clients

Even if you have been freelancing and have some clients with which to start your business, you’re going to need more to keep your business growing. Getting new clients can be the most challenging aspect of running your own agency.

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“During our first year in business, I learned a valuable lesson; stellar customer service and a strong work ethic will not pay your bills. I was under the impression that once I got started if I did my job to the best of my ability that things would fall into place and my money tree would start to flourish. Well, consider that lesson number one that I learned, and a laughable one at that.” Rachael Ekey, President of The Markey Group, a boutique marketing agency located in Westlake, Ohio.

What Rachael is hinting at is that it doesn’t matter how good your services are, at some point you’re going to have to sell them to prospective buyers.

Become a Good Salesperson

Jeff Kear ran a marketing firm for fifteen years and is currently the founder and CMO for Planning Pod in Denver, Colorado.

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On this topic he notes, “The biggest lesson I learned in my first year running my marketing business was that I had to become as good a salesperson as I was a marketer. Every marketer thinks they are good at selling, but what they’re really good at is presenting, and there’s a huge difference between presenting an idea or campaign to a client and pounding on doors to sell yourself and your abilities. Most marketers love the behind-the-scenes strategizing, conceptualizing, and campaign building that is so essential to growing a brand. But they aren’t salespeople because, for the most part, they don’t enjoy the constant prospecting, calling, and rejection that just seems to fuel salespeople to plow ahead. And you don’t tend to be as good at things that you don’t enjoy. . . The second piece of advice I have is to take sales training. The only way to get good at something is to practice it, and most marketers are extremely capable of becoming excellent salespeople. And the way you become proficient at something is to develop those skills through practice.

Perform on Every Project

Bob Bentz (WVU’81) is the president of mobile-first digital agency Purplegator in suburban Philadelphia.

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He advises that retainer clients are a thing of the past and you have to perform well on every project. “The days of the Mad Men era are gone. Retainers for mobile and digital are uncommon, and you have to perform on every promotion, or you may not get another chance.”

He’s right. At my agency, Fig Advertising and Marketing and many others, retainer clients make up just 40% of the agency revenues.

Don’t Just Take Any Client

But while retainers may be fewer and further between, some agency owners feel that you need to be careful about the clients you take on.

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Jodie Cook, the owner of JC Social Media in Birmingham, UK encourages newcomers to choose clients carefully. “I learned in my first year of business to be choosy about who you work with because their reputation will become yours. We see each client relationship as a partnership rather than an ‘us vs. them’ arrangement. This means we work with people whom we like, get on with, and genuinely have a great partnership with. Difficult clients will make your work difficult and your life difficult. Say no!”

Starting a marketing agency is a challenging endeavor. You can be successful at it, but it will test you in ways you don’t imagine at the start. Hopefully, the insights gained from these agency owners will help you avoid some of the same pitfalls they experienced.

Other articles by Marilyn Heywood Paige

Secrets to Starting Your Own Agency: Agency Owners Tell All Part I

March 30, 2017

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Marilyn Heywood Paige shares the real-world application of IMC in marketing agencies.

Not into 9 to 5? Thinking about starting your own marketing firm? Before you jump in, ask yourself if your primary desire is to practice integrated marketing communications (IMC), or if you love the idea of running a business and managing others who practice IMC.

When I graduated from WVU’s Integrated Marketing Communications master’s program, I started my own marketing consulting firm. Within two years of launching, I merged with a larger full-service marketing agency in Denver and never looked back. In my short stint as an agency owner, I learned that there’s a huge difference between running an agency and working in one. They require very different skill sets. So, while I liked utilizing the skills, I’d acquired in the IMC program, using them accounted for just 30% of my day as an agency owner. The rest of the time was spent networking, selling, managing vendors, billing, and accounting—things I didn’t especially want to do. I learned that I didn’t want to run an agency, I wanted to work in one.

If you’re not sure if you want to go solo, or if you’ve decided it’s the right path for you, here are words of wisdom from agency owners to help you understand more about running your own agency.

So You Want To Start A Marketing Agency

I polled successful agency owners from around the country (and a few in the UK) on what their biggest lessons were in their first year running their agency. There were a few themes they all had in common, so here is the summary of their wisdom on finances, charging for your services, and demonstrating your value to the client. In my next blog, I’ll reveal what they had to say about hiring employees and getting clients. Learn from their mistakes and shorten your pathway to profits.

Finances

Many agency owners I polled outlined the need to get your finances in order and not just hope it all falls into place.

Be Strategic

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“The biggest lesson I learned was how important it is to be lean and strategic with spending and ALWAYS aware of your financials. Without your arms around your financial situation, you’re not able to make informed decisions, flex/spend/save where you need to and ultimately, you’ll put yourself out of business.”
Karen Cummings, founder, Radiant Marketing

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Dave Hartshorne, director and digital consultant at dijitul in the UK concurs. He says, “Get your finances in order, and the rest will take care of itself. Management and accountancy software should be implemented into the business before you even start talking to customers.”

Charging for Your Marketing Services

It’s one of the hardest things to do, and the most necessary. Knowing what to charge is difficult, and many first-year owners struggle with it.

Be Confident in Your Abilities

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Will Coombe, Co-founder of Sharpe Digital an SEO company in Central London said, “In the beginning, we did not value our time enough. Looking back, there was a lack of confidence to set our fees high. This attracted the wrong kind of client and meant we were taking on too much work for not enough compensation, all leading to stress and a lack of growth.” His advice is to, “Have the confidence to charge more. If the service your agency is offering is truly exceptional and delivers value to your client, set your fees higher than the market average. This will qualify the prospective client and mean you can do a better job for more pay when they work with you.”

Coombes said it well. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t charge much, your client won’t value your service, no matter how good you are.

Do More Than Good Work

Many new agency owners think that if they just deliver a good service, customers will appreciate the work, referrals will come, and the business will flourish. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Show Your Worth

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Toby Danylchuk, co-founder of 39 Celsius in San Diego had extremely sage advice. He said, “Never stop proving the financial value of your work to current clients. You are a line item expense, and if you can’t prove the value of your work, the client will leave. For example, ‘Here’s how many leads we delivered this month at an average cost of $x per lead – this led to $x of revenue. Or ‘We improved the conversion rate on the site by x% which increased sales by x.’ “

Danylchuk continued, “If you can’t demonstrate what the economic value is of the work you are doing for your clients ongoing, they will either judge your work as a cost not worth continuing with, or competitors will pitch them, and they will run off to be someone else’s client. Never stop selling your value!”

Danylchuk is dead right. There are hundreds of digital freelancers and agencies in any given metro area and thousands across the country with whom you will compete. Clients often suffer from shiny object syndrome, a condition which makes them think that someone else has the magic bullet, so they are too often easily lead astray.

So how can you, the newly-minted college grad, compete? By doing your research and taking their advice. I will cover agency owners’ tips on hiring employees and getting clients in the next blog.

You can start your own agency. You just need to be smart and informed about it. Stay tuned for more great insights from successful agency owners who started from where you are now.

Marilyn Heywood Paige is the Vice President of FiG Advertising and Marketing in Denver, Colorado. She earned her Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications from West Virginia University in 2013.

Other articles by Marilyn Heywood Paige

March 16, 2017

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Jenn Cartmille is expected to graduate in December 2017. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, where she is the Marketing Manager for the Greater Columbus Sports Commission. 

If you’re anything like me, the thought of going back to school while working full time can be overwhelming. It’s easy to be flooded with notions that it will be impossible to balance work and school, the ROI will be minimal, and the ultimate question, “How does this apply to my career goals?”

I get it, I had all those thoughts plus some when I researched graduate schools. My undergraduate program and internship experience placed me in a favorable position upon graduating in 2011. However, as I immersed myself into the “real world” and began the professional journey, it became clear that my career was taking me down a path I hadn’t originally intended.

You see, I was focused in communications and PR but, welcomed opportunities that led me toward marketing.  I soon developed a passion for content marketing, brand management, and how organizations can take an integrated strategic approach to marketing.

Upon discovery of the IMC program, it was obvious that WVU understood the importance of working while obtaining your degree and all those worries in regard to graduate school washed away. Funny how that happens when the right fit comes along. Speaking of the right fit: Soon after being accepted into the program, I took a job at the Greater Columbus Sports Commission (Sports Commission) as Marketing Manager. A new position for the organization, my role was designed to focus on brand-elevating and client-relevant marketing strategies.

Talk about new beginnings.

The Sports Commission is a non-profit whose vision is to transform Columbus into one of the world’s best sports destinations.  We bid on sporting events to drive tourism to the city. Once Columbus lands a sporting event, it is our job to service the event and make sure people, both locally and outside the city, attend the event. In addition to those portions of our job, the marketing department supports the Sports Commission brand.

Fast forward (almost) two years and I’m nearing the end of my graduate journey. As I reflect on these past couple years, I can say without hesitation that I would not have been as successful at the Sports Commission without this master’s program.

I have used the Sports Commission as a “client” in numerous classes, which in return has been a catalyst for the development of the organization’s IMC plan and its first marketing campaign that isn’t event-driven. Additionally, a website redesign is set to launch in June, a focus on in-house content marketing, dedicated efforts to web and social media analytics, all of which have transformed the way we approach our vision. The coursework and WVU professors have all been part of that journey with me as they’ve guided, critiqued, and pushed me to be the best marketer for the Sports Commission.

There are so many benefits to the IMC program and I could happily list them over a cup of coffee any day. However, if you leave this blog post with any piece of information, I hope it is this: The IMC program provides the tools for taking a holistic approach to how marketing, communications, PR, business development, events, and operations all fit into one to support and accomplish your company/organization/brand’s goals.

And for that, I will calculate the ROI on the IMC program for the remainder of my career because it will continue to prove its worth well into the future.

March 2, 2017
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Jennifer Maltba began her journey with the IMC program in August 2012; graduating in December 2014. Her favorite thing about the program was its ‘learn today, use tomorrow’ philosophy, which she felt truly made this a one-of-a-kind program.  A month after graduating, she took the position of Marketing Manager at Cvent, a global meeting and event technology provider headquartered in the DC area.  When not creating integrated marketing campaigns and tracking Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Jen can be found planning her next trip to somewhere new, exploring the neighborhoods of DC in search of the best food, or taking in the latest museum exhibit in our nation’s capital.   
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As I began my search for a graduate program in early 2012, I was looking for something that would complement my undergraduate degree of advertising communications and marketing.  I also was keen on finding a program that would have lessons that I could utilize in my current position and in the future.

In an email sent to me by the WVU IMC Team in July 2012, they promoted the program perfectly:

“The successes of our students and graduates are proof that the “learn-it-today, apply-it-tomorrow” focus of the IMC program works. Students are able to take the knowledge they gain from their courses and immediately apply it to their professional careers.” – WVU IMC Team (July 2012)

Their ‘learn it today / use it tomorrow’ theme is not just marketing spin; it is something I found true course after course.  One day I would be reading about SEO and audience insight and the next day I’m in a meeting with the web and digital teams discussing this topic.  Now two years after completing my MS degree, I continue to wish that I could go back and participate in the program again and again.

Beyond the immediate use of knowledge, there were two other factors I considered –
1) Would a fully online degree have as much clout in a future employer’s eyes as if I had gotten a degree on a campus?
2) Did the flexibility and focus of the program outweigh the loss of the “traditional” structure and face-to-face interactions with peers and instructors?

Back in 2012, fully online programs were not as well-known or as predominate as they are now.  Only a few ‘brick & mortar’ universities had started to dabble in providing programs to students who would never step foot on campus.  So at the time it was extremely important to me, and comforting to know, that the recognition and respect that West Virginia University held would overcome any doubts someone might have about the validity of the program/degree.

When people ask me about doing an online program, I explain that they are not for everyone.  Those who need to show up at a building for three hours on Tuesday and Thursdays, those who need a face-to-face lecture, or those who thrive at in-person interactions may not find a fully online degree as fulfilling.  For myself, I enjoyed and excelled at managing my schedule and workload (after the initial back-to-school adjustment of course).  I also found that the quality of professors and even classmates was exceptional.  Because of the lack of a physical classroom, my professors and classmates could be from anywhere.  I had one classmate who worked on branding at Microsoft; another who literally spent half of a course in Asia for work; people from the east coast to the west coast.  I had professors who spent their days as executives at ad agencies having worked on campaigns for Ford and Buick.  The kind of experiences and knowledge we brought to the courses was something I don’t know a “traditional” degree could provide and that is what us marketers call a key differentiator.

So to those that have begun their IMC journey with WVU, I wish you good luck! Savor it! And for those pondering whether this is the program for you, I will say that yes, it will be work, sometimes a lot of work, but in my experience the lessons, discussions, and readings that this program provides will not only expand your knowledge of marketing, but elevate your status and relevance as a true marketer.

Let’s go Mountaineers!

5 Quick and Easy Stress-Relief Strategies

February 22, 2017

stress-blog

We have all experienced stress—it is unavoidable. Common stressors include family, friends, work, significant others, finances…and the list goes on. For college and graduate students, one significant stressor is often school.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 80 percent of students say that they experience stress on a daily basis. Obviously, this is not healthy. Stress has been known to lead to nervousness, loneliness, sadness, headaches, upset stomachs and fatigue. Severe levels of continuing stress can even cause depression.

Because you cannot avoid stress, you must learn to manage it in order to live a healthy and enjoyable life. Below, thanks to the American Psychological Association, the ADAA and healthline, we were able to compile a list of the five quick and easy stress relief strategies that you can use every day.

  1. Talk it out

Call, email or text someone that you trust. Simply expressing your feelings and concerns to someone else will automatically help to relieve some of your stress.

  1. Listen to Music

Listening to music has a myriad of soothing effects. In addition to calming your nerves, listening to music can “slow the pulse and heartrate, lower blood pressure and decrease levels of stress hormones.” This is especially true of classical music.

  1. Exercise

When exercising, the pituitary gland releases endorphins, which are proven to improve your mood. Exercising also prevents “excessive neuronal firing,” which helps you feel more calm. These effects can be felt even after exercising for only one minute.

  1. Stay positive

Always look at the glass half-full. By replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones, you will be able to better manage your stress. Staying positive can also lead to a longer life, a stronger immune system, and “better psychological and physical well-being.”

  1. Breathe

When you are calm, your breathing is slow and originates in the diaphragm. When you are stressed, your breathing is quicker and shallower. To reduce stress levels, focus your attention on deep and concentrated breathing—it will allow more oxygen to reach the brain, which, in turn, will help you relax.

Remember, stress is not something that can be avoided. Everyone deals with stress at some point in their lives, and everyone handles stressful situations in a different manner; however, these five quick and easy stress relief strategies are sure to work for anyone! So, next time you are stressed, give them a try!

To learn more about coping with and reducing stress, follow any one of the links provided above.