Archive for the ‘IMC in practice’ Category

Agency vs. in-house communications: One career, two different worlds

September 5, 2017

People always ask me, “Which do you like best – agency or in-house?” Or, I find myself in talks with a recent graduate who will be on the fence and wants help weighing the pros and cons of each. No one wants to potentially miss anything happening on “the other side.”

As someone who has worked in agency, done a fair amount of independent consulting and has also worked in corporate communications – I can say, you gain rich experience in each and both can be equally rewarding.

In my experience, below are some of the contrasts.

Breadth versus depth of work

In the agency and consulting world, you get a wide range of experience working with different clients who make up different sizes and industries. While you may not become an expert in any one industry, this side of the business allows you to explore a breadth of PR, cultivate media relationships across a variety of beats and discover what you enjoy most. On the other hand, corporate communications offers PR pros a deep understanding of one brand and its assets. The good news? These folks become brand and industry experts. The bad news? You could get pigeon-holed in an industry that you don’t want to work in forever.

“In my view, there is a ton of upside to working in-house. The team is completely focused on common goals, you become more experienced in one industry and you can focus on just doing great work versus billing time,” said Scott Castleman, TransCanada.

Doing what you love.

Unfortunately, not all clients (and industries) are created equal. You may be extremely passionate about telling one brand’s story and fired up about advocating for a specific issue/cause, while you’re not so jazzed about another client’s work.  A pro in corporate communications is, you have the opportunity to seek out an industry or issue that you’re passionate about and put all of your energy into it every day.

The “team” can look very different.

One of the great advantages to working at an agency is being able to bounce ideas off of fellow creatives who understand what you do. Whether you’re testing different messaging, thinking-thru a crisis response or vetting a media pitch – you have a team of communications professionals you can learn from and who can offer valuable feedback. Often times, collaboration with other seasoned PR pros is harder to come by in-house. Your colleagues might be all very smart people at their jobs but when it comes to marketing communications – they just don’t get it (and that can be frustrating at times). The product itself can also be less quality, not having the benefit of collaborating with other, like-minded professionals. As the old saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one!’

“Many strategic communications students or new grads start in agencies where teams of skilled professionals and a solid manager can test their capabilities and determine strengths…That leads to advancement within one’s agency or leaping to an in-house position. This is the career path I see most often,” said Mike Fulton, The Asher Agency. 

Getting the greenlight.

At an agency, waiting to get client approval on every single landing page, ad, story angle, speech, op-ed, etc. can mean deadlines getting pushed back. However, based on my experience working in-house, getting sign off from legal, execs and IT is easier and much quicker.

To sum it up from my point of view – if you like specializing in something and prefer more structure, in-house communications may be the best option. On the other hand – if you dig more variety in your work, then agency is the way to go!


A 2011 graduate of the IMC Program, Bridgette Borst Ombres is a former television news reporter turned PR and marketing professional with a decade of experience working in the communications field across agency, corporate and nonprofit sectors. Bridgette is the director of marketing and communications at a tech company in Pittsburgh and also consults for a variety of businesses.

She is a member of PRSA Pittsburgh, serves on the TEDxPittsburgh committee, the co-founder of Not Your Mama’s Book Club and volunteers as a mentor at WVU Reed College of Media.

Education for the Traveler

August 14, 2017

I never knew how much the world had to offer until I stepped into it and decided to live. For sure, everyone has their own idea of living— some aspire to have the white-picket fence and a home filled with a family, while others, like me, have decided to break away from the ordinary and travel with an uncertainty that is fueled with the idea that everything will workout in the end. In 2011 I did something almost unthinkable for a hometown girl from Kentucky, I became an expatriate. America will always be home, but the world has been calling me, and I can’t shake off the need to answer.

Since moving abroad the amount of history that I have seen with my very own eyes and have touched with my very own hands is countless. I am able to do all of this because I made the decision to become a certified TESOL teacher, which means I teach the English language to those who want to learn it. Teaching English abroad has been the most rewarding job I have ever had, but two years ago I decided I wanted to start making a change and that’s when I discovered the IMC program at WVU.Picture2

Working on my master’s degree while living abroad has been great! Don’t get me wrong, it can be very challenging, but that’s the best part. It makes me get out of my comfort zone and explore my community. I am currently residing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and being able to experience the culture and how IMC comes into play has been such a learning experience. The culture here is very different than what I grew up knowing and being able to understanding that and use it throughout the IMC program has allowed me to bring a new dimension to my class discussions and papers.

Throughout the program I have noticed several differences in advertising, but the one that stands out to me the most is the lack of women in advertisements. Women’s body parts are not allowed to be out on display, so getting creative on how to advertise is a must, especially if you’re selling women’s clothing. Another hot topic is the fact that women can’t drive here, regardless of personal opinions on this matter, as a student who is studying IMC I have found that women in this country have really utilized social media in order to work from home and some have become very successful.

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I typically get the same questions about living in Saudia Arabia. Is it safe? Do you have to cover your body? Is the food good? I always answer with, Yes, I feel extremely safe here. Yes, I have to cover my body by wearing an abaya. There are times I cover my hair and times I don’t. It is not compulsory for me to cover my hair, but a vast majority of the people living here do wear a hijab (head covering). If you’ve never had Middle Eastern food, you’re missing out! However, Riyadh is home to almost any western restaurant you can think of. This city is full of expats, so the food choices are endless.

I am still not done traveling, as you can see I’ve only dipped my toes in the water, but I do like that I will have a career path that’s different than teaching when I decide to try it out. I may even take my IMC degree with me into the education field. Being an ESL teacher has allowed me to travel and see the world and to meet the most amazing people along the way. It is because of my lifestyle I even discovered the IMC program. For that I am grateful.

I implore you to step out of your comfort zone and travel, the world is beautiful.


Milinda Gray is currently a TESOL teacher in Saudia Arabia, and she is a student in the Integrated Marketing Communications master’s program at WVU. 

Get Down to Business: 10 Qualities of Strong Job Seekers

August 11, 2017

I have had the good fortune of meeting and counseling thousands of job seekers during my life.

Former interns and co-workers, my alumni network, congressional aides, reporters and editors seeking to transition their careers, college professors on behalf of their top students, graduates of my own online course, colleagues in professional associations, and employers who have hired my mentees and want more employees like them all contact me for advice. Networking is the name of the game, and it beats solely searching for job postings.

After years of giving advice, it has become easy for me to spot the job seekers who have the most promise. They often exhibit these 10 attributes in exploring new positions or chances for advancement.

1. They know what they want and don’t want.

If an applicant says they are open to anything in any city, then I know that it’s far too broad for me to be helpful. Job seekers need to conduct research and know the types of positions, particular locations, and specific organizations they’d prefer working for to be able to secure specific recommendations and leads. Networking is more productive if people are realistic about their capabilities, experience and optimum job environments.

2. They are not obsessed with their résumés.

Résumés are essential, and should be complete, factual, concise and have no typographical or grammatical errors. However, it is excessive for someone to hire a résumé editor in the first 10 years of their career. Instead, job seekers should focus on WordPress sites, portfolios, short videos, business cards and other tools that complement their résumé.

3. They exhibit strong listening skills.

Time is precious for all parties. I do not need your life story or history of career failures to learn more about you and to offer some tips on networking targets and job leads. It is helpful if the person I am counseling is prepared to take good notes and to follow up quickly after our session. The first conversation we have — whether it’s on the phone, via email or in person — is not intended to be the only or last networking session.

4. They offer feedback and explanations in a purposeful and concise way.

The way people answer my questions is indicative of how they would do so in a formal job interview — and sometimes I am looking for talent to join our agency. Therefore, I appreciate those who are professional and provide constructive feedback.

5. They maintain a robust LinkedIn profile.

Employers I work with consult LinkedIn in almost every circumstance to learn about a job seeker’s career history. One should always try to maintain a positive online social media presence, especially during a job search.

6. They possess strong references and relationships.

It speaks volumes when someone takes the time and effort to ask for support and recommendations. Likewise, those who serve as references to young people are special individuals. It matters who you select, how well you know them and whether you trust what they say. For those who offer no substantive references: It will be a longer, more arduous job search without the human capital.

7. They connect with me, and other references, on social media.

If a prospective job seeker contacts me on LinkedIn or Twitter after a counseling session, I see it as positive and not presumptuous. Bring on the connections and the networking for life.

8. They’re willing to tap connections in their home state and alumni networks.

It speaks volumes when young people (or older adults seeking new career paths) have not consulted their home state or alumni networks. People in cities come from all over the globe, and we need to use every asset we have at our disposal in seeking jobs.

9. They are open to learning new skills, volunteering and meeting new people.

I look for individuals who are willing to take risks through internships, studying abroad and sometimes even delaying graduation by a semester for experiential opportunities. I also often invite people I have just met to accompany me to professional or networking events so they can meet people in a short time frame. Those who do not hesitate to take me up on the offer go up a rung on the ladder.

10. They follow up.

It doesn’t take much time to send a thank-you email or handwritten note, or offer a gesture that might help you stand out to someone who can guide your career search. The person who included a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card in her handwritten thank-you note, for instance, is someone I still periodically get lunch with.


Mike Fulton directs Asher Agency’s Washington, D.C. office and teaches public affairs at West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. He worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years and has been in communications and advocacy for the past 25 years. Connect with him at mikef@asheragency.com. This blog post originally appeared in PRSA Tactics. 

Integrated Experiences

June 15, 2017

Kelsey-Berg

After a long anticipated wait, the day had finally arrived. I was headed down to the small town of Huntington, WV to attend INTEGRATE West Virginia. As I drove into town, I got butterflies and was so excited to attend my first INTEGRATE conference. You hear from everyone who has ever gone that the conference is outstanding, but you don’t quite believe it until you’ve experienced it. Now, I am one of those people saying just how outstanding the conference was.

From my first step into the door, the team welcomed me and introduced themselves. Finally being able to put names to faces was a relief and comforting in a way. It was special to know I had been working with some of these individuals for over two years and I finally was presented with the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level rather than through our digital exchanges.

From that moment on, I was hooked. Networking opportunities left and right surrounded by captivating breakout sessions just made the whole experience memorable.

With each and every session I was in, I was able to walk away with a minimum of at least three ideas or concepts that could help me in my professional life today. Whether it was a trick with content or an idea with creative, each piece built up a pretty impressive puzzle by the end of the weekend.

The speakers proved to be some of the best in the industry. With the numerous awards to their names and countless nationally recognized campaigns, I was engulfed with every story and piece of information they told. Not only were they great to listen to, they all had wonderful senses of humor making the hour sessions fly by!

To me, however, the most rewarding aspect of the conference – networking. As you walk in, you instantly look around to put some names to some faces. You recognize a few professors and maybe a student or two you have had class with but once things get moving, you become the fastest friends with so many of these classmates and alumni. Getting to know more about conference attendees’ careers and how they are intertwined in the marketing communications web is so interesting and you truly learn so much. In addition to that, you make lifelong friends both personally and professionally.

If you haven’t been to INTEGRATE yet, I would highly suggest it. One of the best conferences I have literally ever been too given the quality of content and the opportunities to build your skill set and relationships with other marketing communications professionals.


Kelsey Berg is a current student in the WVU IMC Program. She is the marketing content coordinator for FootJoy. 

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.

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

Jenn-Cartmille

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.

Three Challenges of Transitioning from College to Career (And How to Crush Them)

February 9, 2017

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One of the toughest things college students face is the transition from university life to full-time work. The hours are different; the expectations are more challenging, and you often don’t have your best friends around anymore to help ease the stress.

Here are the top three challenges you’ll face in your transition to the work world and how to combat them.

Working 9 to 5

Having to be somewhere five days a week, eight hours a day is a big adjustment. You’re used to making your own schedule, blowing off class when you feel like it, and having a week off for spring break. No such luxuries in the work world. It’s a different schedule altogether.

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I’ve had new grads come to work for me who confessed that sitting in front of a computer all day was hard for them. They just weren’t used to having to stay in one place all day. It’s understandable, but you don’t want to look like a slacker who can’t handle a desk job. So how can you maintain your sanity?

Take a Walk

Get out at lunch and walk. Ditch your cell phone and go electronics-free for thirty minutes. Take micro-breaks and walk the stairs in the building. Just getting your heart beat up and a change of surroundings will help.

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Run Errands

Tell your boss you need a change of pace now and then. If there’s errands to run, parking meters to plug, lunch for the employee meeting to pick up, offer to do it. Not because you’re the lowly recent grad, but because you need to get out.

Smartphone Withdrawl

Unless your gig is to be on Snapchat all day, you’re going to have to curtail your texting and social media on the job. Yes, you can probably get away with a fair amount of online connecting throughout the day, but the price you pay is that you’re never completely engaged at work. It creates a never-ending bad feedback loop.

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If you always have part of your mind on your Snapchat feed and your friends’ texts, you’re never 100% committed to your job. The inability to focus will produce lackluster work, and  you won’t fully connect at work so that you can make a difference. There are plenty of studies that prove that the constant distractions and inability to focus will cost you plenty in your career.

Restrict Your Cell Phone Use

Leave your phone in your car when you go to work. I can hear you screaming from here, but just try it for a week and see how your productivity at work improves. Yes, you’ll initially feel naked without it, but the constant need for social media assurance is killing your ability to focus on the job. If you haven’t seen Simon Sineck’s video on millennials and their devices, it’s a must-see. He artfully outlines how the constant interaction with your phone is undermining your ability to relate to others and make an impact at your workplace.

After you’ve successfully weaned off the constant device checking, bring the phone into the office and leave it turned off in a desk drawer. Schedule three times a day when you will check it and stick to the schedule. Turn it off in between those times. Over time, you’ll stress less about what you’re missing and be more successful at work.

Assignment Expectations

When you handed in an assignment at school, you knew if it was an A paper or a this-will-get-me-a-C paper. Moving into the work world is challenging because there are no C’s. You have to hand in A’s all the time, or you’ll soon be branded as the weakest link. If you hand in enough below average work, you’ll be looking for another job in short order.

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Ask For Clarification

When you get a task at work, be sure to ask when it’s due and what the expectations are around it. Who is ultimately going to see the work? The CEO or an intern? Who else is counting on your contribution and how will it affect their ability to do their job? And always, always make sure you understand why this particular assignment is important. If you don’t, you may mistake something critical for busywork and cost the company money and possibly yourself a job.

No Task Is Too Small

I had a recent college grad who was assigned to upload products into a client’s website. She forgot to keep checking on the upload, and the software got stalled at product #300 out of 10,000. She didn’t notice the error all day. To her, it seemed like a boring, menial task but to the client, whose website she was supposed to update, it meant products available in an overcrowded warehouse that couldn’t be sold. It was a big deal to them. When we took her to task for her lack of attention to the assignment, she got offended and handed in her resignation. She saved us the trouble of firing her. What you do at work, no matter how small it seems, it matters. Treat it as such.

It is tough to go from classes to career. It’s a whole different set of rules and expectations. You may find it exhilarating; you may find it overwhelming. Keep in mind that every college grad you’re working with has been there. Be honest about your adjustment worries and ask for help.

Working for Yourself

And if you’re thinking that 9 to 5 and working for someone else isn’t for you, on March 30th and April 6th I’ll be sharing what agency owners around the country and in the UK learned in their first year of running their own marketing firm.

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

Five Ways IMC Prepared Me For Agency Work

January 26, 2017

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Marilyn Heywood Paige shares the real-world application of IMC in the agency setting.

Wondering how your IMC program compares to work in the real world? Read on to discover five ways that WVU’s IMC Master’s program will prepare you to succeed in a marketing agency.

Multiple Weekly Deadlines

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You may groan at how many papers there are to write every week. (I know I did.) I took two courses at a time, so the pace of the work was vigorous. The assignments were very challenging, and juggling two classes meant there were multiple deadlines every week.

Agency work is pretty much the same. At any given time, I have twelve to twenty clients relying on me to deliver results. In a busy week, I can deliver a finished project to a client every day.

There Is No Late

There were many nights I was stressed out during my degree program and worked feverishly to get my assignment in on time. Turning in a paper late meant a grade of zero, so there was no late. Ditto for agency work. Clients don’t care if you have the flu or picture2overslept. If their newsletter doesn’t get out on time, or their website isn’t finished when you promised it, they will no longer trust you. They will soon be looking for another agency, and you get a zero on your paycheck. And honestly, it just feels bad when you can’t meet your client’s expectation, so you learn to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to avoid that scenario. (You also learn to manage your client’s expectations more effectively, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Writing and Grammar Matters

There is War and Peace amounts of writing in the IMC program. Between class discussions and papers, it’s a ton of writing every week. Add to it that APA style is not just encouraged, it’s enforced, and you have a fairly strenuous demand on your writing skills.

Other than having to provide copious citations, the amount of writing in IMC is comparative to the writing I have to do at my agency. Between emails, proposals, blogs, picture3websites, white papers, media releases, and social media posts, I can write 5,000 – 10,000 words a week.

And yes, APA style and grammar matters. When you are being paid to write for a client, you are representing their brand, so bad grammar, misspelling, or misquoting a source is a big deal. Plagiarism has even worse consequences. If you copy and paste an article from a website and put it on your client’s site, Google will lower their SEO rankings and possibly penalize the website. Just like in school, don’t steal someone else’s words without citing it or adding a backlink.

Capstone Course

Perhaps the most valuable course of all was the Capstone because that’s where you get to put all the pieces of your coursework together and demonstrate your competency in each.

Being able to see a brand from the complete 360 will make you unique in your field. There are endless numbers of specialists and experts of particular channels. However, few of our peers have true proficiency in evaluating an entire brand and knowing how to drive results in an integrative process. Working at an integrated marketing agency, I use the skills I learned in my program and the Capstone course every day.

Continuous Learning

Every week there were handouts and textbook chapters to read for class. The program’s accelerated pacing necessitates constant reading.

Agency work is similar in that marketing channels are constantly evolving. I have to stay up on what’s happening in social media, e-mail marketing, marketing automation and other channels if I want to remain competitive with other agencies. I never want a client to ask me about a tactic I’ve never heard of, so I read. Often.

If you’re thinking about working in an agency when you finish your IMC degree, the program is a great way to prepare for the demands of client-based work. You can read more about how to get an interview at an agency and how to land an agency job if you have no experience.

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.

Getting Ready for the Spring Semester

January 12, 2017

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I am a bit of an organization junkie.  I keep labels in stock. I have more post-its than is safe. Organization and planning orders my world.

After I joined the IMC program, I realized that my time had come. It was time to set up the best study plan the world had ever seen.  How else is everything supposed to get done in addition to my schoolwork?

Here are my top six tips for students preparing for a new semester:

Get a planner.  

Some people like paper planners, and some people prefer digital planning systems.  Figure out which will work best for you and then use it.  Write it all down, or enter it all.  Set up reminders, sticky notes, and notifications that you think will help. Keep a running to-do list that gives you a snapshot of your week.

Print out your syllabi for each class you take.

I know printing out anything for an online system seems a little strange, but trust me on this one.  You never know when you’ll need a quick check on some requirement and *gasp* NO WIFI.  True story.  Print out the syllabus and keep it handy.

Write down everything.

Here comes the planning part. Write down everything.  Write down deadlines. Write down when you’re going to work on every part of the assignments.  Write down when you have family obligations or big projects at work so you know that they are coming.  That IMC project may take more time than you think; planning it all out will give you a better idea of when you can do everything.

Notes.

Take notes while reading for a quick reference for later. Jot down things you find interesting or something you’d like to learn more about later. It comes in handy when you’re writing your discussion board posts or working on a paper.

Keep it together.

I use a 3-ring binder to keep my syllabus and notes for my classes.  I have sections for my to-do list, notes, research articles, and even websites to use. Keep it all in one place.

Email any questions.

If you have questions about anything for your class, be sure to email your professor early.  Don’t wait for the day of the assignment.  Get clarification for any assignment requirements you don’t understand or ideas you have trouble with from the lessons.