Invest in Yourself

April 13, 2017 by


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

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


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

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

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

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

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





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

April 6, 2017 by


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

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

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


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

Think Carefully

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

Who You Hire Becomes Your Reputation

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

Delegate Well


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

Getting Clients

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

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

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

Become a Good Salesperson

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

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

Perform on Every Project

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

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

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

Don’t Just Take Any Client

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

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

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

Other articles by Marilyn Heywood Paige

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

March 30, 2017 by


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.


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


“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


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


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


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 by


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.

Why I Chose WVU IMC

March 2, 2017 by
Jennifer Maltba began her journey with the IMC program in August 2012; graduating in December 2014. Her favorite thing about the program was its ‘learn today, use tomorrow’ philosophy, which she felt truly made this a one-of-a-kind program.  A month after graduating, she took the position of Marketing Manager at Cvent, a global meeting and event technology provider headquartered in the DC area.  When not creating integrated marketing campaigns and tracking Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Jen can be found planning her next trip to somewhere new, exploring the neighborhoods of DC in search of the best food, or taking in the latest museum exhibit in our nation’s capital.   

As I began my search for a graduate program in early 2012, I was looking for something that would complement my undergraduate degree of advertising communications and marketing.  I also was keen on finding a program that would have lessons that I could utilize in my current position and in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go Mountaineers!

5 Quick and Easy Stress-Relief Strategies

February 22, 2017 by


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

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

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

  1. Talk it out

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

  1. Listen to Music

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

  1. Exercise

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

  1. Stay positive

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

  1. Breathe

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

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

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


February 16, 2017 by


Analytics involves a lot of difficult numbers,  but the information you gain from those numbers is worthwhile. Analytics give you a chance to find out if you are effective at reaching your target audience. Analytics provides a roadmap to show you where your brand has been and figure out where to go from here. This roadmap shows the reason behind what posts work, when you should post, and why you should post effective content.

Website Analytics
Analytics give us information about how your public is reacting to the information you are giving them. Website analytics will tell you what kind of content that your online visitors are seeking when they visit your site.  Analytics will show you how long people spend on each page.

Do you have a lot of people leaving your website without a purchase? Analytics will help you discover how people use your website and when they leave, as well as potential indicators of trouble like spending too little or too much time in one place.  These indicators can show you the root of your website’s problems.

Social Media Analytics
Social media analytics can tell you how well you are reaching your target audience. Are you posting content that your followers want to see, or are you posting content that you think they want to see?  Analytics will allow you to track how well certain types of posts are doing.  Unsure if posting another product picture will be a good strategy?  Look at the analytics from the past and see how well your followers liked previous posts. Unsure about posting something a little out of the ordinary?  See how your followers responded in the past.  The results may surprise you.

Overall, analytics is exciting for marketers.  Analytics will tell you about the people you are reaching – their likes and dislikes, their interests, their hobbies, and their locations.  You may see opportunities through analytics you had not before.

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

February 9, 2017 by


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Lessons from Groundhog Day

February 2, 2017 by


Groundhog Day is my favorite “non-traditional” holiday. There’s something exciting about a quirky groundhog predicting the weather based in Punxsutawney folklore. In addition to the holiday, there is an excellent 1993 movie Groundhog Day featuring Bill Murray, in which he is covering the Groundhog Day festivities for his local news station and gets stuck repeating Groundhog Day again and again. Here are some practical lessons from Groundhog Day that can be applied to graduate work in the IMC program:

  1. Once you master your school routine the program will become more manageable.


Bill Murray is initially thrown off-guard when he realizes he is trapped within Groundhog Day. However, his character uses that to his advantage to avoid stepping in a puddle, to perfect his television reporting skills and make the most of his newfound small-town lifestyle. The IMC program runs each class with the same structure as the introductory IMC 610 course. Students can use knowing the class routine to their advantage to work on research, reading, discussion posts, responses, writing and editing. Moral of the story, make the most of your “Groundhog Day” routine course schedule to excel in the graduate program.

2. Strive to make the most out of your word choice.


As IMC communicators, we tend to be long-winded on paper and in-person. The IMC program aims to make students concise communicators. Although you may have a lot to say on the topic, sometimes less is more.

3. Take advantage of the accelerated 8-week terms.


Unlike Bill Murray’s take on Groundhog Day, each of your classes will end within the 8-week term. While 8-weeks may seem short, there is a lot of work that goes into the two month span. If you find a course challenging, really lean into it because there are only 8-weeks and you can learn so much from your classmates, professors and colleagues. Plus, switching classes every 8-weeks keeps life interesting and students have the opportunity to learn about many different IMC topics.

4. Remember the end game is graduation!


While in the program, it may feel like graduation is so far away. However, after you complete your 11 courses you will have your master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Remember, you will also have 100% departure once capstone is complete.(You can do it!)

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone!

Five Ways IMC Prepared Me For Agency Work

January 26, 2017 by


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


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.