Archive for the ‘IMC Coursework’ Category

Seven things I wish I had known when I started the IMC program

May 1, 2014

It’s hard to believe that I started this journey to get my Master’s Degree three and a half years ago and it’s about to end in less than two weeks! I have learned A LOT in the last 3.5 years — about marketing yes, but also about endurance, time management, writing, research, and myself. Some of these lessons I picked up early on, and others only more recently. But all of them are things I wish I had learned a bit sooner. So here it is. For all of you who are just getting started in the program (and even those of you who have been with it a little while), here are seven (because five was too few and ten was too many) things I wish I had known when I started the IMC program.

1. Time management takes on a whole new level in the IMC program. No matter how good you think you are at time management, you will find yourself hitting that submit button with only seconds to spare at least once per semester. At first I thought maybe it was just me. But then I started connecting with some of my classmates offline and found out I wasn’t alone! Even the most dedicated and disciplined of classmates has had a week or two (or 9) when they have found themselves working feverishly on Monday night only to click that upload button at 11:54 p.m. I don’t recommend doing this a lot (I personally have had way too many close calls), but cut yourself some slack if it happens every once in a while. And know that Murphy’s Law will prevail and those assignments that you think won’t be such a big deal will end up taking you twice as long to get done! So try and start early as often as you can to save yourself the stress.

Calvin and Hobbs on procrastination

We all find ourselves hitting the submit button at 11:54 at one time or another.

2. Quality sources make all the difference! As I progressed through the program I learned from each professor which trade publications and sources they favored for quality information when doing research. Some of these I subscribed to early-on and used throughout the course, others I only discovered late in the game and I wish I had thought of them sooner. So, here are a few that I recommend you sign-up for now: AdAge, AdWeek, PR Week, DM News, Pew Research, and MarketingProfs. I also highly recommend you take advantage of the online library databases for accessing journals and competitor/industry information. They’re free and they will give you information you will not find in a Google search. I’m sure there are more that classmates can recommend, but those are the gold standards that have helped me through many a discussion board post and weekly paper!

3. INTEGRATE is awesome. Seriously. You should go! At least once. I almost didn’t go last year and changed my mind at the last minute and I’m so glad I did. Not only were there some great sessions, but it was the first chance I had to meet classmates and professors in person and see the WVU campus. It made me feel so much more connected to the program. I only wish I had gone sooner.

Evernote on an iPad

Evernote helps me work on school work from any place or device.

4. Empower yourself to be mobile. I think I was about 3 semesters into the program when I read a blog post by Kevin that talked about some of his favorite tools that helped him find success in the IMC program. It was the first time I had ever heard of Evernote. It has since become one of my favorite go-to programs for school, work and personal life. Using a tool like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote allows you to save your research, and even write your discussion board posts or papers in one place, but access it from any device. So whether you’re in your office at your desk, sitting on the couch at home with your iPad, or even on your phone while waiting for your kids to finish their piano lessons, you can sneak in a little work and pick right back where you left off at the next opportune moment.

5. Every professor is different. It’s true. No matter how consistent the program is (and trust me, it’s pretty darn consistent compared to others I know about), or how standardized the syllabus, each professor is going to communicate differently and grade differently. They are human, after all! Yet for some reason I’ve seen a lot of classmates get very upset by this fact. Were your undergrad professors all the same? I highly doubt it. I know mine weren’t. You will have favorites and some that kick-your-butt! And there may not be consensus on this by your classmates…so just because your friend said they loved Professor so-and-so doesn’t mean you will. All I can say is accept this fact now and it will save you a lot of disappointment and frustration down the road. For my part (and I have nothing to gain by saying this since I’m pretty much done with the program), I found all of my professors to be reasonable and fair.

6. Connect with classmates outside of Blackboard. It wasn’t until very recently that I got invited to a Facebook Group for IMC students, that was created by a classmate (and is not officially affiliated with the IMC program). This has been one of the best discoveries of the last 3 years because it has allowed me to “meet” people I’ve never had class with, ask for suggestions, tips and recommendations relating to certain classes, share ideas, commiserate about our lack of a life on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and just in general talk…you know that thing you did in the hallways when you were in undergrad? The stories that got shared around the lunch table or in the lobby of your dorm room? That stuff is missing when you’re in an online program. But thanks to social media there are ways to connect with colleagues outside of class. Whether it’s through Facebook, LinkedIn or even email, I highly recommend you get connected to other students outside of the Blackboard classroom! In fact if you’re interested in joining the Facebook group let me know!

7. At some point you will want to quit. OK, maybe this won’t happen to everyone, but I know that a good majority of the people I’ve met through the program have contemplated it at least once before they finish. And some even do quit…for a semester or two. Whether your personal life changes, your work life gets too hectic, or you just plain need a break, at some point you may find yourself wondering – “Can I really keep doing this?” The answer is YES! Yes, you can, even if you have to take a break — don’t give up! You will be so glad when you cross that finish line.

A fresh summer start

March 4, 2014

For most people, spending their summer studying integrated marketing communications would not be their first choice – especially if this was their first experience in a graduate program.  Starting the IMC program in the summer wasn’t necessarily my first choice, but I am extremely happy that I was able to do so.  Initially I wanted to start the program in the Spring however; I was participating in a service learning trip to Ecuador and since the introductory class is only offered in Early Spring, Summer, and Early Fall I pushed IMC 610 back to summer.  Here are some of the best things about  my summer start!

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 4.17.20 PM

“Slow time” at work – At UW-Whitewater our summer months are a little bit slower, not entirely slow – but a little slower.  More people take vacation, there are less students on campus, and things are a little more flexible.  I was able to dive into grad school and get a better understanding of the time commitment of classes.  I hadn’t been in classes for three years and I had never taken an online class. Starting in the summer allowed me to gain my graduate school footing while still maintaining my employment.  That’s been the greatest part of the program overall.  I am able to work, go to school, and sneak in a few hobbies here and there because of the flexibility of the WVU online program.

Summer Capstone Class – I will take the capstone class in the summer.  I know that my situation is a little different.  With the tuition support I receive I am only able to take three classes a year instead of the five that are offered.  The way the stars have aligned means that I will also take the IMC 636 class in the summer.  I am very excited about this because I will be able to adjust my schedule accordingly and take the time I need to be able to create a great campaign.  Sometimes you have to think about the beginning and the end!

Don’t wait! – I didn’t want to wait.  I could have decided to push back my starting date to the fall but I thought that if I waited, I would never start.  Yes, a graduate degree is a lot of work.  Yes, your life will have to change a bit.  Delaying the start of the program is not going to change any of that.

Fresh air and warm weather – I know this sounds a little bit ironic, but it really helped.  We’ve had some pretty rough winters here in Wisconsin.  I had always heard people talk about seasonal depression and cabin fever in winter, but didn’t think too much of it until recently.  In the summer you can go out, get some exercise, and let your mind relax just a little bit easier than you can in the winter.  Because of this I was around more people to bounce ideas off of and I was traveling more, which  helped create discussion content for my classes.

I highly recommend starting classes in the summer.  As I said before, you’re always going to have a reason to wait, but it’s not going to make starting any easier.  Once you start, you’ll be happy you did.

Capstone Survival Tips

December 5, 2013

Halfway up the mountain

WVU IMC students who attend the INTEGRATE 2014 conference will have an opportunity to attend an IMC 636 Capstone workshop and get survival/success tips from course professors and recent graduates. As a current Capstone student, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to come up for air and offer some advice for students who aren’t able to attend the conference or will be taking the course next semester. You’ll notice that most of the points are things that students can do now. Don’t wait until the Capstone begins to get your act together.

Review the Student Portfolio page. The Student Work page of the IMC website offers a video overview with the IMC Curriculum Developer Kristen Wilkerson and a gallery of previous projects. Don’t neglect to click on students’ names to read the various Capstone Experience sections. Renny Zackman notes under his project, “Students need to approach the course with the expectation that they will be living and breathing the workload for nine weeks.” Sentiments like these are exactly right and will help mentally prepare you for the journey.

Organize your previous coursework. I’m a fairly organized person, but my biggest pre-Capstone regret is not having a unified system for all my lessons, assignments, notes, articles, and all those helpful links that professors and classmates share throughout the program. I started out printing everything and putting it into binders, jotting ideas onto notebook pages, and saving links in my browser Favorites folder. I credit my program experience with upgrading me to digital and cloud-based organization, and even my local folders are arranged more logically. However, I didn’t go back and “fix” the beginning, so I’m all over the place chasing down previous coursework. As you learn better organization systems, consider investing some free time to reorganize older notes and files.

Keep up with your books. This may be a no-brainer to some, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Know where ALL your IMC books are, and resist the urge to sell them back to the bookstore or to Amazon. I found one of my early IMC books packed away in my garage (what was I thinking?) and I still need to flip my house upside down to locate another. (Even as I write this I keep looking at my bookshelf ready to tear it apart to find that book!)

Brush up on Microsoft Word. I’m still working through this issue, but making a project look “pretty” using Word is a bit of a challenge if you’re used to using Adobe or other design software. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what Word can do and how simple commands can make the project more visually compelling, but I recommend getting past that learning curve before the Capstone begins.

Clear your calendar. I admit that I’m a bit of a calendar junkie and like filling it up with stuff. As such, I probably went into the Capstone with still too many obligations, but I tried to be purposeful about clearing my social calendar. I did make allowances for Thanksgiving weekend and my son’s birthday, but I definitely felt the pinch (still no regrets, though). Don’t feel bad about being selfish over this last nine weeks. I blatantly pulled a Flava Flav on my side of the family. I can’t do nothin’ for ya, man. To add to the rudeness but to accomplish the survey research and a focus group, I even had to set an expectation for friends/family to help me. I can’t do anything for YOU for nine weeks, but I need everyone on deck to help ME.

I know that some of this sounds exaggerated, but you really do need to master time management for the Capstone. Reserve some free time to spend with your significant other and/or kids, and give your brain some downtime to rest and get creatively recharged. Remember that every extra commitment you make (other than work obligations) will take hours or even a full day away from your project.

Read everything upfront and make a project management schedule. Don’t wait until week 7 to read the Week 7 Assignment. When you start the Capstone, read through all the coursework and any extra documents from your professor. This will give you time to get over the shock, digest everything and plot an estimated timeline. Nathan Pieratt, a Spring 2013 Capstone student, notes, “To stay on top of the deadlines I had to create a set schedule to touch some aspect of the project every day.”

I’m still plugging away and have a little over 2 weeks (yikes) to become 100% enlightened, so if any other current or former Capstone students have any additional points for future students, please post a comment. I’ll also be happy to field any questions from other IMC students.

Summarize the semester up with a new form of poetry called a Dekaaz

October 21, 2013

If you could sum up the past few nine weeks into only ten syllables, what would be your statement? The syllable structure should be broken out as follows:

2 syllables in the first line

3 syllables in the second

5 syllables in the third

The name of this structure is called a Dekaaz.

Rachel Bagby, a leadership consultant, coined the term.  She describes it “as a new form of lucid expression that you create and say out loud.” Thanks to a TEDx event in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania I had the pleasure of listening first hand to Rachel speak and sing about Dekaaz’s.


At this moment in time, my Dekaaz would be “I want to finish my PR final.”

As this semester comes to a close, what is your Dekaaz?  What would be your future Dekaaz?

Feel free to share and see how it feels to post it in the comments section below.

Why I’m glad I started the IMC program in January

October 8, 2013

I had toyed with the idea of going back to school off-and-on for three years before I first heard about the WVU IMC program. I remember it was a Friday afternoon in early August of 2010 that I sat at a Panera sipping iced tea and attended an informational session online. I thought “if this is an indication of what the learning experience will be like, I am sold.” That was the beginning of this crazy journey that I am now close to finishing.

One of the first thoughts I had after finding out about the IMC program was, “how soon can I start?” While I knew deep-down that this program would be the right choice for me, I was worried that since it was already August I’d have to wait a whole year to start. I was excited to learn in the informational session that the IMC program accepted new students in both the early fall and early spring terms. A January start? That would be perfect. It gave me time to get my application submitted, plan for how I would pay my tuition and just enough time to get used to the idea, without losing the excitement and momentum I felt.

On a Monday morning in early January of 2011 I logged-in to IMC-610 for the first time (I was so excited I couldn’t even wait till the evening to log-in). I had already received my orientation manual and new student packet, so I was ready to try out the Blackboard system and get familiarized with how everything worked. I was excited to see a video “welcome message” from my professor. Getting to see and hear her really helped take away some of the anonymity that can come with online interaction. Then I got to post my introduction and read introductory posts from all of my classmates…to be honest I felt like I got to know more about my “virtual classmates” through our online posts and conversations than I did about most of my classmates in undergrad whom I saw every week.

Professor Creely welcome message

I was greeted with a video welcome message from Professor Creely on the first day I logged-in to IMC 610.

While it was not intentional that I started the program in January, instead of the more “traditional” start date of August, I’m so glad that the timing worked out the way it did. Having three school-aged children, late August/early September is always a very hectic time, quickly followed by the holidays. Being able to get my kids settled into a new school year, enjoy the holidays with family and mentally prepare myself for the long journey I was about to take really made a difference.

The last 2-plus years have been an amazing journey. I will start my final course on a Monday in early January 2014…a bit of a full circle moment I think. I’ll follow-up that final course with my Capstone project and, hopefully, don that cap and gown in May.

If you are thinking about enrolling in the IMC program for early Spring 2014, I highly encourage you to just do it! January is a great time to start…a new year filled with new beginnings. And once you start, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait!

The Sociopath’s Guide to Strategic Planning

September 23, 2013
Catherine Ames

Catherine Ames/Cathy Trask. Illustration by arelia-dawn @ deviantart

There’s nothing like sifting through a 600-page book to reference a 60-year-old definition of a sociopath, but I’m always looking for a good reason to talk about my favorite book – John Steinbeck’s (1952) classic, East of Eden. Plot aside, Steinbeck’s sociopath is a natural-born strategic planner whose method of achieving goals deserves a brief mention if not some bit of admiration. He likens her to a monster.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? (p. 72)

When reading about Catherine Ames (aka Cathy, aka Kate), you root for her downfall, but at one point Steinbeck uses the character as a contrast to human tendency to falter on the course of our goals out of anxiety, hurry, or fear. He almost seems to pause to give readers a life lesson before returning to the flow of action.

If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. (p. 240)

The author notes that while “very few people learn this,” Kate’s one good quality was that she was able to form a plan and patiently work it to completion.

She thought to the end very quickly and then put it out of her mind. She set herself to work on the method. She built a structure and attacked it, and if it showed the slightest shakiness she tore it down and started fresh. (p. 240)

I’m currently building a strategic communications plan for PR Concepts & Strategy, and it occurred to me that the process is similar to the one used by Steinbeck’s villain. Textbook authors Laurie Wilson and Joseph Ogden guide students through a planning matrix that breaks down the classic public relations RACE model – research, action planning, communications, and evaluation. In the action planning phase, would-be strategic planners are instructed to begin with a goal, or “the end to be achieved.” Only after we have clearly identified what we want to accomplish do we begin constructing the method and identifying the means that will lead to success. It is not an easy task.

The goal setting part of the process is fairly simple. I compare it to that old Seinfeld episode where car the rental company tells Jerry that they’ve run out of cars despite him having made a reservation. To paraphrase, he complains to the agent that anyone can take a reservation, but it was the holding of the reservation that the company didn’t seem to understand. Similarly, I often think that anyone can set a goal, but it’s in the process of achieving the goal where so many people fall off. A well-constructed strategic plan is the bridge between starting out and reaching the finish line, but if you’ve spent at least 10 minutes in the marketing realm, that’s not big news.

Strategic Planning is Missing

Courtesy of Fran Orford

The challenging part about strategic planning – and the lesson from our sociopath – is to emotionally remove ourselves from the end goal so that we can focus on the specific tasks and daily minutiae that are required to reach the goal. What’s great about corporate strategy is that the process is often spread out between upper-level planning and lower-level execution. In our own business and personal ambitions, however, we’re solely responsible to form the plan and work the plan. This means that we have to stop daydreaming about and brooding over our goals just long enough to be productive and objectively manage the necessary actions along the way.

Lifehack discusses this productivity practice in “How to Practice the Art of Detached Focus to Achieve Your Goals.” Author and Productivity Coach Ciara Conlon states, “And so the secret is to focus intently, but to focus on the path and not on the destination.”

In using Catherine/Cathy/Kate as an example, let’s remember to set aside such sociopathic tendencies as selfishness, manipulation, lack of empathy and evil plotting. Nevertheless, some of our goals could stand to benefit from a thorough strategic plan and an ice-cold determination not subject to emotional derailments, hurried mistakes or irrational fears.

Further Reading

Steinbeck, J. (1952). East of Eden. New York, NY: Penguin Books (reprinted in 1992).

The Desert Road and the Stops Along the Way

June 14, 2013

Hello everyone! This introductory post may start off sounding like the cover letter to a job application, but please bear with me because I almost can’t resist. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. My name is Kris, and I’m excited to be a student blogger because I am passionate about Integrated Marketing Communications. Okay, got that out.

Actually, I AM having a great time in the IMC program and have mixed feelings about it coming to end after I complete the capstone this December. It’s like we’re driving down a desert road with all these fill-up stations, and the capstone is this large object in the approaching horizon (you decide if it’s a mountain or a molehill). I see the object, but I can’t see what’s on the other side of it. You might be wondering, “Well, why does it have to be a desert road?” Why? Because I live in Texas, and it’s HOT. It’s always hot. But you understand my point.

Desert Road

The journey toward our goals can sometimes feel like a lonely path.

I want to take this blogging opportunity to talk about the IMC program journey and hopefully connect it to entrepreneurial topics and balancing real-life responsibilities. While I’ve already launched and re-launched (and re-launched) my business, I still consider myself to be an aspiring entrepreneur. It truly is the road less traveled, but I hope to share my mistakes and ideas while connecting with other IMC professionals who may be on similar paths or have some insight for the journey.

Now for some quick personal history. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me knows that I have a big crush on New York City. About eight years ago, I decided to uproot my life in Florida, quit my job of 10 years, and move to the big city of…Houston. Houston? It was a shock to me, too. Long story short, within a few months of moving here, I met my future husband and married him just eight months later. We now have a 3-year-old son who’ll likely be managing our household and planning our social schedule in a few more years.

Lakewood Church

This is where we met. In a church this size, it was indeed a divine appointment!

Our wedding day

We danced to Sting’s “My One and Only Love.”

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about the program/courses or just want to vibe out about starting a business. The four electives I chose were Mobile Marketing, Visual Information Design, B2B Direct Marketing, and Digital Video Production. Yes, I already know that I probably should have taken Entrepreneurship in IMC, but I didn’t budget my electives. First tip: Be sure to budget your electives!

Two weeks left!

May 6, 2013


Wasn’t it just March and we were entering Late Spring? Wow! Being enrolled in Capstone has really made time fly.

Don’t get me wrong, the past seven weeks have been tough but do-able. I sit here looking at my list of what’s left to accomplish for my final project and its long, but I have a good grip on how to handle it.

When I’m having a moment of uncertainty, I always remind myself of all the classes and all the projects I’ve completed over the past three years. My neighbor once commented on how she can easily spot me when I’m on my computer, and the heavy frequency she spots me. Schoolwork has become a part of my life and I dedicate whatever time is needed to complete a project. Capstone is no different.

I went out of town for work last week and it was the best opportunity imaginable…perfect timing for sure!  I put in extra time on the discussion board prior to leaving which allowed me to really stay focused on the trip and why I was there. I arrived home with an uncluttered mind and was able to be productive.

This past weekend, I volunteered at a fundraiser in Akron, Ohio and about half way through, I realized I had gone the whole afternoon without thinking about school.

Sure, this sounds weird, but I’ve had countless dreams about the project over the past seven weeks, so giving myself a break, whether it be for an hour or a few days is really rewarding. Just like all the classes and projects, the indescribable feeling of pushing the submit button and receiving a good grade masks the stress.

What is your process to complete a large task?

Unchartered Territory and The Latino Effect

April 24, 2013

“President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years.” (Nasa, 2013)

The rest is history. To boldly go where no man/woman has gone before is a journey in bravery, positive thinking, and dynamic vision. In the race for influence and engagement, today’s marketers and communication specialists are striving for new growth and impact. Cultivating fresh land of attention and interest combined with planting seeds of reach are but a few of the many responsibilities of today’s modern day farmer of resonance. Everyone from brands, political startups, new media outlets, massive open online course platforms, and various champions of innovation to students and leaders of academia are exploring unchartered territories across a wide array of industry. What these individuals and organizations have in common is a desire for the prolific and real growth. Sometimes, during these kinds of efforts, a big fat purple elephant lies smack in clear view begging for a little love.

Imagine an opportunity in plain sight where the possibilities are real. In fact, how about a $1.5 trillion dollar sized pie of real potential? There are a few brave brands that have explored this arena of national influence and importance while others forge on without a dose of reality that lies at the very heart of IMC.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) can be defined as “The process of developing and implementing various forms of persuasive communications programs with customers and prospects over time. The goal of IMC is to influence or directly affect the behavior of the selected communications audience” (Wikipedia, 2013).

There is a group that was recently touted as the most important swing state in American politics. But guess what? The state we’re talking about is no state at all. In fact, if it were a state it would be the size of a small country. The 16th largest economy in the world to be exact. Ahead of Turkey, Australia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. We’re talking about a population group that has more per capita spending than BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries at around $31,135.

Say hello to the burgeoning Latino market.

The U.S. Hispanic market is comprised of young individuals who embrace new technology and social media at a rate faster than that of non-Hispanics. 50,000 Hispanics turn eighteen every month. The number of Latinos in the U.S. now numbers over 50 million with approximately 32 million of them online. Furthermore, 21% of Millennials are Latino. Few of us would tend to argue the fact that Millennials are influencing major purchases of their younger and older counterparts. America is becoming increasingly diverse. Especially, when the average age of Latinos is approximately 27 making them one, if not, the youngest population segment in the United States.

Talk about a huge population segment with tremendous opportunity for real influence and growth.

But what are marketers doing? Allocating around 5% of their total ad budget. What would happen if marketers shifted their focus from business as usual to embracing opportunities for new growth via multicultural marketing? A few champions come to mind and include the likes of Tide, Pepsi, Best Buy, and Kraft. These are a few of the brands that are taking into real consideration the opportunity that is the U.S. Hispanic market.

Say “Si” to this massive and real opportunity for bottom line growth.

Hello Midterm Week

April 16, 2013

Wow! What a busy, interesting, educational and unforgettable few weeks its been. I’m enrolled in IMC636 Campaigns or as many of us refer to it as Capstone!

Entering Week 5, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined about the organization we’re creating a plan for, the American Red Cross, and our target audience for the project – millennials (my favorite generation!). Large projects can be tiring, but piecing all the parts together, like I did this weekend for our midterm assignment due April 15, can be rewarding.

I found myself reading through my 39 page Word document a few times, but not to look for typos, to reflect on the work in its entirety. It’s pretty cool to think I started with a blank Word document and it eventually turned into a project I can be proud of.

Even with working full-time and tackling a huge project, I’ve had time to enjoy some fun things!


I went to a Cleveland Indians game with my parents this past weekend


I couldn’t resist taking this photo one morning last week. Spring is here!

Have you been able to enjoy the little things during the semester? If so, tell me about them in the comment section!


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