Archive for the ‘Student Life’ Category

Flex that Creative Muscle—Work out your Imagination!

September 15, 2015


I’m a runner. More often than not, you’ll find me running countless laps around my neighborhood right after work. But, I didn’t always enjoy running. In fact, I used to be very bad at it. Back in high school, I would struggle to complete a mile in less than 15 minutes. However, after many years of conditioning and long runs, I have no problem running 5+ miles! Years of daily, hard aerobic workouts paid off, and now my mile time is around 8 minutes.

I believe it is also equally important to actively “work out” your mind. Depending on the type of mind exercises you do, you can improve your creativity and/or analytical thinking. As members of the marketing field, we need both creative and analytical thinking skill sets. So, why not set aside time to work out our minds so that we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our creative and analytical thinking?


Specifically, since I am currently in IMC 615 Creative Strategy, I want to focus on how to improve creativity. I wanted to share a few things that I personally do to exercise my mind. These “mind exercises” have helped me to become more creative and imaginative:

  1. Change your mindset. Switch from a “I can’t” way of thinking to a “what if?” mindset. This allows you to see a problem or a certain aspect of life from new and different angles.
  2. Daydream. There is no set way to daydream, but you should practice doing it. Personally when I daydream, I like to think of “what if’s” and turn them into detailed story plots. Therefore, daydreaming allows my mind to get better at creating stories and characters. In fact, storytelling has become very easy for me, because I daydream so much.
  3. Try something new. Break away from your routine. I like to take a Saturday trip once a month to visit a new place or State Park. Doing this opens my mind up to new experiences and new scenery.
  4. Immerse yourself in art—movies, paintings, music, sculptures, dances, theater, and novels. This allows you to see and experience other people’s perspectives and ways of thinking.
  5. Learn about other cultures and try to interact with people from those cultures. Many of us have narrow scopes and perceptions about the world; I know I did before I began traveling the U.S. and the world with the military. In fact, I once traveled to Africa for a month, and that experience opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and creativity. They had completely different lifestyles and artistic styles!

What about you? Do you have any specific “mind exercises” you do to improve your imagination and creativity? Please share!

Hello from the City that Never Sleeps

July 2, 2015

Hello everyone!

Hope everyone is having an amazing week so far. We are a few weeks away from the end of the first summer session, the 4th of July holiday is coming up and overall summer is officially upon us. Time for some good R&R, and vacation time with family and friends. I personally am looking forward to spending the 4th of July weekend with friends in Lake Tahoe. I hear its really beautiful down there, and this would be my first time in San Francisco so I’m looking forward to the experience.

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Yvonne Unubun, I live in New York and work in digital marketing at an ad agency called Razorfish, as an account manager. I have a Bachelor’s in Communications from City University of New York’s City College with a concentration in advertising and public relations. In my downtime, which is scarce these days with school, you can find me catching up on some of my favorite TV shows – Nashville, HTGAWM, Grey’s Anatomy, or exploring New York City and the many attractions and fun things it has to offer all year around.

YUnubun_USOpen    YUnubun_BrooklynBridge

Top – bottom: US Open, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny summer day.

I am currently in my third class of the IMC program and so far I’ve taken Introduction to IMC, Brand Equity Management and right now I’m taking market research and analysis. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I began the program in January of this year. I had originally taken one class at a different IMC program here in New York, but seeing as the program was in a 100% classroom setting it was really tough having to leave work early to commute to class, and then begin the journey back home. Three classes in I have to say although convenient in the sense of not having to physically be in a classroom, online learning is serious business. Between the weekly readings recommended by the professors, reading chapters from the assigned text, weekly discussion posts/responses, and weekly assignments there’s a lot to keep you on your toes throughout the week. However with time you are able to figure out a routine that works for you and your schedule.

As a student ambassador, I look forward to sharing my experiences throughout the program with you all. Also, I’ll be sharing interesting articles, industry news, outstanding marketing campaigns or fun facts about brands, and companies. Feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions of what you would like for me to blog about.

You can reach me at

INTEGRATE 2015: Speaker Profile – Steve Radick

March 23, 2015

“Integrated marketing can’t be a mandate. It has to be a mindset.”
– Steve Radick VP, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh 


The tweet-worthy quote Steve shared with me in the interview below highlights the quality of thought leadership content that will be shared with attendees at the INTEGRATE conference.

Registration is still open. However, early bird rates end on March 31st.

@Julie_Long_: On your blog you stated, “Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.” How do you define IMC and who should be attending meetings?

@sradick: There’s this misperception in the industry that integrated marketing means having a bunch of boxes on an org chart. Just because you have a Director of Search, and a VP of Media, a Director of PR, a Senior Social Media Strategist, and a User Experience Czar doesn’t mean that you’ve got an integrated marketing agency. You’re actually more likely to have an old-fashioned game of Hungry Hungry Hippos on your hands – everyone’s scratching and clawing to get more money and power for their respective discipline. Integrated marketing is about more than giving each department a seat at the table – it’s about making sure the people in those seats are more concerned with the business than themselves.

If you focus only on involving people because of where they are on the org chart, you’ll get people who build from the bottom up. That is, the social media guy thinks social media will solve everything. The paid media guy wants a paid media solution. And so on and so on. You end up with a bunch of strategies and tactics that someone then has to cobble together into a single, coherent strategy. Shouldn’t we instead strive to build strategies from the top down? Get the people in the room who are focused on meeting the business objectives first, not his or her line of business. Integrated marketing can’t be a mandate. It has to be a mindset.

@Julie_Long_: At INTEGRATE 2015, your presentation will be focusing on the arms race currently taking place in content marketing. Can you tease us with any of the topic areas that will be discussed?

@sradick: Just like the hammer in search of a nail, marketers are spending more and more of their time and energy reducing every conversation, article, and photo to a piece of data, all in an effort to maximize their ROI and deliver the most eyeballs at the lowest price. There was a time wayyyy back when, in 2010, when content marketing best practices were to write a blog post and post to Facebook 3-4 times a week. As more content was created, it became harder and harder to stand out though. Marketers took this as a challenge and figured that the best way to solve this problem was to pump out even more content. The more you post, the more chances there are of people seeing it right? Instead of a world where brands created content that solved problems, added value, or created deeper relationships with customers, we created a world where more simply equals better. That’s why there’s so much spam and so many banner ads. It’s easier to spam a million people in the hopes that 1% of them will click rather than creating something valuable for 50,000 people where 20% will click. Where does it stop?

Content marketing gives us the opportunity to rethink how brands market themselves for the better – if we can stop ourselves from trying to game the system and instead think about how to best optimize our relationships with our customers.

@Julie_Long_: Students/Alums: Submit one career advancement question for Steve and the winning question will be personally answered by him at INTEGRATE.

Post your question in the comments section below.


A special thank you goes out to Steve for taking the time to provide his thoughtful contributions to this article.

Online Student Life: The Importance of the Furry Study Buddy

February 11, 2015

Student life is a little different at a 100% online program like WVU’s IMC. We connect virtually through Linked In profiles and we might follow each other on Twitter, but there’s no student union to foster classmate comradery. Each course begins with an introduction post – tell us about yourself, what brought you to the program and what you hope to get out of the course? As a common closing statement a lot of students mention their families and furry study buddies. Student comradery bubbles up when we can bond over rescue dogs and typical cat antics.

So this is a post dedicated to the dogs and cats (and even a horse!) that are the loyal, late-night companions of current and recently graduated IMC students.

Add a comment below about your furry study buddy and email me [] a photo so we can round up some more photos of furry honorary students.

Stephanie & Roscoe

Stephanie Marchant and Roscoe

Meet Roscoe… Roscoe P Kitty Cat… or as we refer to him around here – RPKC. He has been one of two furry study buddies throughout the IMC program that kept me motivated with purrs of pride, head bumps of encouragement, and the occasional face of disinterest to keep me grounded and focused on school and not how adorable he is. Which is hard, because he is.

Andrea & Kicks

Andrea Blanton and KicksThis is my study buddy, Kicks! I adopted him from the animal shelter almost two years ago and he has been with me throughout my entire IMC journey! He likes to help me with my courses by laying on my books, carefully watching me edit my papers, and sitting right in front of the tv so I don’t get distracted!

Marie, Silas & Jericho

Marie Carly and Silas JerichoThese are my study buddies… Silas (left) and Jericho (right). They’ve helped me through undergrad and now my time in the IMC program! They’re great at distracting and helping me relax when I’m frustrated with an assignment. Oh… and they’re super cute and soft… so I mean- cuddling with them while writing a paper makes the whole homework thing a lot easier.

Rachel & Meeko

Rachel and MeekoThis is Meeko. She insists I get my homework done quickly so I can give her pets, belly rubs & kisses. She also makes me laugh when I’ve hit a wall with studying. Usually because she’s running around the house in a manner similar to parkour.

Sara & Charlie

Sarah and CharlieMeet Charlie, my one-year-old German Shepherd. He’s a rescue smile emoticon I’ve had him for four months now. Charlie makes sure I never go without a break from homework. He gets “paws on,” and he helps me by removing my laptop from my lap and inserting himself. He’s 80lbs, 26″ at the shoulder and still growing. He’s half my grocery bill. Oh, and he knows German commands. Besides the nuisance of having dog hair everywhere, he is the joy of my life.

Kelly & Capt. Jack

Kelly and Capt JackMeet Capt. Jack…as you can tell from the picture he always right there to give me help when I need it! (except when he is in the plants knocking them all over the floor) With that being said, I love him so much and I’m so thankful I adopted him this past November

Tyler & Nyla

Tyler and NylaThis is Nyla. After I finish an assignment, she’s there to offer overwhelming positivity. Although, if the program wasn’t online, I’m sure she’d still try to eat my homework.

Mary & Molly

Mary and MollyFrom 610 through 636 Molly was my constant and faithful companion. I would get stuck into my IMC books and she would be right there at my feet.

Lauren & Nora

Lauren and NoraNora is our little rescue that we adopted this fall. She’s still learning that my MacBook isn’t a pillow so I usually have to keep her in a separate room while doing DPs. There’s no more rewarding feeling than coming out once I’ve turned everything in and cuddling with this little lady.

Kate & Skye

Kate and ShyeMeet Skye, our rescue Aussie mix with bright blue eyes and adorable ears. She spends most nights laying next to me while I pound away at my keyboard only to occasionally close it on my hands as a reminder she needs love too. She’s been with me most of the program, and is pretty excited for me to finish in December so I can spend more time giving her belly rubs and treats.

Brittany & Austin

Brittany and AustinMeet Austin: He may be a little bigger than your average furry friend, but he snuggles just the same!

Carisa & Hodor

Carisa and HodorHodor thinks studying via osmosis is worth a shot.

Julie & Ruby Sue

Julie and RubyMy Boston Terrier, Ruby, is my 12-year-old IMC sidekick as she is my loyal foot-warmer and late-night companion. Here she’s basking in the midnight glow of the desk lamp. She’s survived my single days, newlywed phase, two children and now a Masters degree. Someone get this pup her own jar of peanut butter – she’s mastered companionship and deserves a treat! Any guesses on the movie character for whom she’s named?

Let us know about your furry study buddy!  We’ll post again with some more pics.

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.

IMC During a Trip to the Windy City

August 27, 2013

Last weekend I went on a mini-vacation to Chicago before classes started again.  I don’t know where the time went between classes, but it was good to get out of town and get refocused!  During the trip, I couldn’t help but think of the many levels of IMC happening in the various locations we visited.

One of the great sales promotions we took advantage of was the Chicago City Pass.  We were able to skip lines, gain admission to a variety of locations, and get a discount on food and other items.  Because of the City Pass, we visited locations we would have ordinarily skipped.  Most locations had great signage and made customers feel like a VIP with City Pass access.  Prior to purchasing the City Pass, I looked for reviews via social media.  As with most products or services, there were mixed reviews.  Some locations treated the City Pass differently.  All locations followed the guidelines however, there were inconsistencies in customer service.

Overall, I noticed the glaring differences in customer service across locations in the city.  At times, we were even ignored by sales associates.  It seemed as though some of the locations were unaware of the impact customer service has on a brand.  As I traveled through the Skydeck, Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, the John Hancock Observatory, and Navy Pier, I couldn’t help but think about the layering of branding that occurs.  Customers will form opinions about the initial location.  For example, we had a great time at the Shedd Aquarium, but a less than desirable time at the Skydeck.  Those experiences impact the brand of those two facilities.  Both of those locations we visited because wephoto(2) had the City Pass.  So those experiences impacted our opinions and feelings about the City Pass.  We loved our hotel and the Hancock Observatory, but were not pleased with the service at the restaurant we visited on Navy Pier, and I got very tired of having our photo taken at every location we visited.  Those experiences impact how we talk about our overall trip and the city of Chicago.

I also see this “nesting” at work.  I work in a student union, and our customers view what happens in our building as being the responsibility of our organization.  If a student has good or bad food, they associate that with our union, even though dining services is a separate entity.  It is not in our best interest for us to try to make those differentiations.  So, we all work together for the greater good, the brand image of the union.

Our overall trip to Chicago was great and there were a lot of consistencies working toward the brand image of the city while maintaining the individuality of the locations we visited.  The architecture was beautiful and many of the locations we visited had similar banners out front (tying the museums together) and consistent imaging for the City Pass (which helped customers easily utilize it).

Consistency is always key in IMC and branding.  Take a look at Disney.  They strive for each customer, no matter which part of Disney they visit, to have the same experience.  When you get off the plane, when you call the front desk, when you visit the locations, each person says, “Have a magical day.”  These tactics have helped create Disney’s brand.  I don’t think the city of Chicago needs to develop a similar style however, each level (the city, the City Pass, the individual locations) should strive for consistencies.  That’s what customer service and identity standards are for after all!

What are your experiences with “nested branding?”  Any other cities, multi-location companies out there very successful?

A Look Back at Summer

August 26, 2013

As we begin our IMC Week 2, I thought I’d do a quick recap about how I spent my summer break. I remember from school that this was a popular topic second only to the dreaded what did you get for Christmas? interrogation.

Not since high school do I remember feeling the urgency of summer as much I did this past month. It’s a feeling of let’s hurry up and relax – or not relax and get out and do stuff. I was like Bill Duke’s character in Predator after he finally loses his mind. “I’m gonna have me some fun. I’m gonna have me some fun.” Summer usually feels like any other segment of the year, but this year I found myself trying to entertain a 3-year-old to make up for all my busyness during the school year.

Houston is not a place where you can just stumble into fun. The city with its surrounding suburbia pockets is too big for that. Fun has to be researched and found, or you will miss out. I don’t know how many years the circus has been coming to town, but this was the first year that I noticed the billboards before the troupe had already left town. Motherhood must have sharpened my senses.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was probably the highlight of the summer. Not just because of the hilarity of watching my husband be more impressed than my son – the kid was more interested in his lollipop than a performer riding a motorcycle on a wire. “Mommy that’s dangerous.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the circus would also be a pre-consolation for my elephant figurines that the two would later take turns breaking. It’s easy to see from the balance of photos that this is my favorite animal.

Elephants during the preshow.

Circus elephants during the preshow.

Elephants playing during the preshow.

A little flirting before the show.

Circus preshow entertainment

Circus preshow entertainment.

Motorcycle on a wire.

“Mommy that’s dangerous.”

Lion and tigers 1

Lion and tigers. (Oh my!)

Lion and tigers 2

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Elephants on a stool

The things they make us do.

Elephants sitting

Does this trainer make me look fat?

Elephants laying down

Whew, I’m exhausted!

During the summer month, we also attempted to give our son his first experience at the movies. Little did I know that an episode of Curious George had already done that. He knew exactly where to look for the projector and immediately called me out for trying to cheat him out of the popcorn and soda part of the experience. I’ll be right back.

We also managed to squeeze in a couple of family visits, take advantage of our community pool, and celebrate my husband’s birthday. On our last dash for fun, my husband and I went on a date “day” and saw The Butler with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. This movie made me cry, left me (almost) speechless, and turned out to be the perfect ending to a short-lived but satisfying break.

While we didn’t take in the entire town, here are a few additional highlights to take in if you ever find yourself in Houston, TX.

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston area

The Toyota Center

Home of the Houston Rockets and now Dwight Howard

Reliant Stadium Exterior

Reliant Stadium – home of the Houston Texans

Reliant Stadium bulls

Entrance to Reliant Stadium

Houston Galleria area

Houston Galleria area

Williams Waterwall

Williams Waterwall

Williams Tower

Williams Tower

Waterwall Park

Waterwall Park

Who all hit the ground running during Week 1, and who all found themselves still groggy from summer?

Tips and Tools for Back to School

July 31, 2013

If you’re following the IMC group on LinkedIn, incoming student Kristi Hansen started a great discussion by asking – “any recommendations for a first time online student?” The responses include tips that I wholeheartedly support and at least one that I can’t believe I’m just now learning of (built-in citations in Word). Thanks, Kevin!

Whether you are completely new to the program, returning from an extended break, or still catching your breath after completing the summer term, now may be a good time to refine your productivity habits and get ready for a successful year. I tend to be a late-adopter, but a great lesson I’ve learned from my classmates and professors is to accept technology and take advantage of resources that enable us to work smarter.

Turtle on a skateboard

Work smarter, not harder

I’m currently working through Michael Sliwinski’s 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity Video Course. This is a free course that offers advice on how to stay on top of it all by managing your inboxes, knowing when tasks are really projects, working through tasks by context, and more. While each step only takes about five minutes to watch or review, you may want to take time out to integrate some suggestions into your own processes. Sliwinski often pairs the advice with his own Nozbe system, but I found that I could apply most of his recommendations with Evernote.

Let’s talk about Evernote. Every so often I come across an app, movie, food, or some other product that I could shamelessly promote in the street without any paid compensation or company affiliation. After some initial resistance and a few trials with inferior applications, what finally convinced me to give Evernote a shot was the fact that I could download and manage it on my PC. This not only speeds up input and organization but gives me the option to keep notebooks local or on the cloud. Cloud items are synced with my phone app, and their Android widget allows me specify which lists I keep at a glance.

Evernote logo

For IMC coursework, you can use Evernote to create notebooks for each class and sub-notebooks for each week. Given that course readings, discussions, and assignments are often catalysts for new ideas, another great feature of the application is that you can organize your thoughts and classmates’ suggestions on other marketing or job-related projects. How many brilliant ideas never see the light of day because they get buried in a college-ruled spiral notebook? If you’re looking for a better system to get and stay organized, I encourage you to give Evernote a chance.

My last recommendation is a bit less technology-based but an invaluable resource nonetheless. For students who’ll be juggling family and home life with their coursework, a local library can be a haven for quiet time and longer sessions of uninterrupted work. This may seem like unnecessary added time away from the family, but a few hours of productive alone time can actually help you be more “available” to your loved ones later on. If your county or city library branches are not up to par with good Wi-Fi and quiet areas, don’t be afraid to “blend in” at a local college library. I personally alternate between several local libraries with varying early morning to late evening hours that fit my family schedule.

Library Photo

The best libraries are spacious with quiet zones, multiple power sources, and strong Wi-Fi.

What tools, tips and resources will you use to manage the upcoming school year? Let me know what you think of Sliwinski’s productivity course or how you use Evernote to juggle responsibilities.

My First 5 Mistakes as an Entrepreneur

July 17, 2013

I rarely tell the story of one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but I think I’m far enough removed from it that I can share a good chuckle without wishing I were dead. When I was about 19 years old, I went to a high school football game with a friend whose boyfriend was on one of the teams. She naturally knew quite a few people and was introducing me around when one guy said something to me that I interpreted as, “Can I have your phone number?” Six words, seven syllables. Since I had a boyfriend at the time, my circa 1990s reply was, “I already got a man.” After an awkward pause in the group, she pulled me aside and informed me that all he said was, “Hi.” One word, one syllable.


“Oh, I’m so embarrassed!”

Since jumping into the entrepreneurial pool, I’ve continued to make mistakes that – while much less mortifying – have made me shake my head and think, I can’t believe I did that. Jane Porter of says that “pointing out your own missteps…can be illuminating for readers,” so thinking back, here are five early mistakes that cost me in time and lost productivity.

1. Not having a clearly defined niche. Yes, I know that all the books and blogs and articles and experts say that this is one of the first things you should do when starting a business. I only knew what industries I didn’t want to focus on, but I felt that defining a niche would put a wall up and limit potential business. Well, let me tell you –you want that wall. You need that wall.

One of my first trips out to promote my business was at a general networking meeting. While I met some supportive entrepreneurs who were further along in their small businesses, most people had the same agenda – to sell their services but not be sold to. Plus, the range of represented industries was so varied that the one person who seemed partly interested in my services was from an industry that I had no knowledge of. Listening to him explain his business nearly sucked the marketing enthusiasm out of me. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was saying. Huh? Are you asking for my phone number?

In his book, How to Start a Home-Based Web Design Business, Jim Smith illustrates how being successful in his particular industry requires access to a diverse set of skills, whether you possess them yourself or have access to a large talent pool. If not, you should focus on one niche market and become an expert in that area. Smith notes, “This will allow you to concentrate on a smaller market while building your skills in sales (or insert your own deficient skillset).”

2. Not making a “real” version of my business plan. My first business plan was all fluff. I drafted it while taking a continuing education course at a local college, and instead of treating it like the business roadmap it’s supposed to be, I wrote it like an academic assignment. Again I’ll reference Smith who details how to write an honest, navigational business plan to keep yourself on track. He then advises readers to have a second, more upbeat (but still honest) version if you need to sell your idea or secure financing.

3. Cold calling. I’ve done some cold calling in corporate environments that didn’t just entail dialing for dollars but actually dropping by prospects’ places of business with no prior appointment. So I took this sophisticated Fortune 500 training with me in my own business attempts. The good news is that the humiliation was never as bad as that high school football game, but it was counterproductive to effective lead management and to maintaining the level of confidence I needed to keep pushing forward.

I realize that cold calling is sometimes necessary, but do some prep work beforehand. Research your prospects to get an idea of their needs, and be prepared to manage concerns and objections. Some people are just naturally gifted at cold calling and sales, but if you don’t have that alpha personality, find your strength in a related task such as building and nurturing relationships. You should also add it to your IMC mix so that your prospects already have a general idea who you are.

cold calling cartoon

4. My first client. While this was technically a practice job, I was overzealous in agreeing to build an ecommerce site when I had never done an ecommerce site. I didn’t realize that such a task involves more than just figuring out the technicalities. There was the 200+ inventory that would change every season, and the shopping cart and batch upload method I chose was too complicated to hand off to the client. Plus, I found out through a third party “buffer” that the client didn’t understand most of what I was saying. I didn’t know how to turn off the jargon. I didn’t know I was speaking jargon. It was a mess, but I’ve since learned about managing the process (versus just the work) through some of the readings and discussions in IMC courses like Visual Information Design and Creative Strategy and Execution.

keep calm and try again

5. Fear of failure. Once in another life, a friend and I went to a Prince concert, and one of the stage crew asked her to go up on stage to dance alongside The Artist. She replied that she would only go if I could go with her. The crewmember agreed, and then they both looked at me as if to say, “Alright, let’s go.” I don’t know how many actual seconds went by, but I completely froze as a series of random what if thoughts ran through my mind. I finally managed to shake my head to say “no,” and the moment was gone. (As a side note, I don’t regret that decision because every girl who went up there was completely star struck and could barely move anyway.)

What was surprising was that I could actually be paralyzed by fear. Since starting my business, I’ve read and heard many encouraging articles and messages that remind me not to let fear paralyze me with inaction. I’ve mostly tried to heed this advice, but the mistake I have made is sometimes allowing fear to bubble just underneath the surface. By doing this, I was able to function, but when obstacles arose, I would get discouraged and give up. Be aware of this type of fear – it may not paralyze you but will set you up as a straw house that will crumble at the first sign of trouble.

In 7 Key Lessons from The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau says, “Failure is overrated. Many of the unexpected entrepreneurs I met had experienced numerous false starts and made plenty of mistakes….In event of initial failure, they were able to regroup and give it another go.”

Let’s let failure be part of the process. Get out there, make mistakes, fail, learn from it, and begin again.

What mistakes have you made in business? I don’t want to be the only one oversharing, so I’d love to hear some other examples of mistakes made and lessons learned.

Greetings from Wisconsin!

July 16, 2013

Hi everyone! As you can see, my name is Kat and I’m the newest addition to the WVU IMC blogging team.KatShanahan2

I’m very excited to connect with you and share stores of our amazing time in the IMC program.  I guess I’ll start things off with a bit about myself!

I currently reside in Whitewater, Wisconsin and work at the James R. Connor University Center at UW-Whitewater.  For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of supervising the UC Graphics & Marketing staff and guiding the University Center through a very large branding project.  It has been an amazing experience and continues to keep me on my toes.  I really enjoy working with my team of student designers, videographers, and marketers.  We have some of the best (and nerdiest) conversations imaginable.

I’m also in the midst of co-advising the UW-Whitewater Student Optimist Club Service Learning Trip to Burkina Faso, Africa.  I’m working with a group of 20 individuals to travel to Burkina Faso for two weeks and provide service and support to the communities there.  We will be delivering the first ambulance to Dedougou, building a computer lab and community garden, and doing a variety of service projects.  I’ve had a great time planning and working with an outstanding team of individuals to raise money and collect donations for communities in need.  The students also worked to help create a clothing line!  I’m a little nervous for the incredibly long flight over however, I still have five months to prepare and we’re stopping in Paris.  I think I can handle it!  In 2012 I traveled with the club to Ecuador, which served as a great stepping stone for Africa!


My little man, Parker

My personal life includes spending lots of time with my adorable small dog, Parker.  He’s almost 2 and has quite the personality! I also run a small photography business and take my camera with me everywhere!  I’m currently working on a 100 People project.  In 2011 I completed a Project: 365, which called for a photo every day for a year!  It was a very difficult challenge however; I learned an incredible amount about my camera and my style as a photographer.  I highly recommend it!  After taking so many photos over a year (and many I didn’t like) I wanted to focus on quality over quantity, so I’m taking my time on the 100 People project.  That’s about it, besides the fact that I love zoos, Milwaukee Brewer games, the Green Bay Packers, tennis, traveling, and many more things that make me sound like a huge nerd!

I look forward to connecting with all of you and talking about marketing, branding, technology, social media, advertising, IMC, WVU, and anything else that might come up along the way.  Don’t hesitate to reach out via any social media you see fit!


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