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.

Make Advocacy Great Again

January 19, 2017 by


 Joshua Habursky is the Director of Advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America and Adjunct Instructor in the Reed College of Media teaching the strategic social media course. Habursky is also the Founder/Chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network (GPN), which is a group that hosts events and webinars for advocacy communications professionals. GPN recently put on an event on communicating and advocating before the new Presidential administration. Here is a recap of the event.

In mid-December, the Grassroots Professional Network convened a powerhouse panel of lobbyists and communicators on the politically-active George Washington University campus to offer grassroots advocacy professionals meaningful insights on the prospects for the Trump Administration and Republican Congress in the first 100 days and beyond. I’d like to share some of their views and encourage you to watch it online, if you were not able to be there.

The first 100 days of the new administration will mean big changes for those at the forefront of grassroots, grasstops and advocacy. The event featured experts in government relations from a variety of fields for the fourth installment of the CQ Roll Call lunch and learn series produced by the Grassroots Professional Network (GPN) and hosted by the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

Tony Gnoffo, policy editor at CQ Roll Call, moderated the lively discussion among the following panelists:

Rich Gold – Partner at Holland & Knight
Gloria Story Dittus – Chairman of Story Partners

Howard Marlowe – President of Warwick Group Consultants
David Lusk – CEO/Founder of Key Advocacy
Mike Fulton – Director of Public Affairs & Advocacy at Asher Agency

The consensus was the growing list of promised or must-do legislative and regulatory objectives will be “nearly impossible” in the first year, let alone the action-packed first 100 days. Funding the federal government for the remainder of the year, a much-desired infrastructure bill, comprehensive tax reform, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, confirmation of a new Cabinet and vacancy on the Supreme Court, and raising the debt ceiling would be formidable in the first term, according to the panelists who brought more than a century of experience to the audience.

The panelists offered hope and optimism for the next two years, but encouraged the grassroots community to “go beyond the beltway” to find authentic voices with incredible storytelling capabilities to resonate with new federal leaders and policy makers. They unanimously agreed that Donald Trump’s successful tactics online and hosting rallies locally are resonating with the American people and offers opportunities to build bridges in key Congressional districts and states.

The role of coalitions was emphasized as a cost-effective tool to show breadth of support for issues backed up by local voters who can communicate to their members of Congress. The election results signify a shift from a non-profit, community-based grassroots focus to one appealing to government that will be managed and operated like business units.

The feeling of the panelists is Donald Trump has selected senior vice presidents to run each federal agency under his leadership as CEO in order to bring about change sought by his supporters. They said that business model approach with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress may not be enough if legislation cannot be drafted, compromised on and enacted with the backing of the American people. Cultivating local and state influencers will be a key, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan being in step with President Trump.

With the hefty “to-do” list awaiting Congress and the Administration, the panel warned that there will be little room for dissension and controversy in the GOP and among conservative Democrats they need to bring about action.

It was pointed out multiple times that it will be far easier to mount opposition campaigns to Trump’s repeal, restore and replace objectives. Effective challengers to President Trump’s policies were identified as conservative Democrats and long-time safe Republicans such as: Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Bernie Sanders,  John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Rand Paul, Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins and Dean Heller. With only a 52-48 margin of seniority in the U.S. Senate, the panel encouraged focus on those who could help or hinder reaching cloture at 60 votes.

They encouraged grassroots advocates and fellow lobbyists to not ignore freshmen Senate and House members, many who have served with distinction in the House or in state governments.

Panelists felt that non-traditional Rust Belt voters and individuals cultivated by all political parties through grassroots would remain active (if engaged properly with solid content and tactics) in the first year of the Trump Administration. It is incumbent on grassroots professionals to educate their networks on the issues, work on key messages with anecdotes that resonate, develop a rich content calendar and leverage authentic voices in their upcoming campaigns.

I am very excited about this time of massive change and opportunity, and I can assure you that GPN and its leaders and members will be leading the way.

The session is available for viewing on YouTube at


Connect with Joshua at

Getting Ready for the Spring Semester

January 12, 2017 by


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.


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.

Achieve Your Grad Dream in 2017

January 5, 2017 by



New Year’s resolutions are a chance to start over, begin or simply try something new. The start of 2017 signals the time to make a change. For many people, New Year’s resolutions are not the easiest goals to attain. However, with small steps and strong willpower anything is possible. If your New Year’s resolutions include going back to school, having a successful semester or completing graduate school, here are some easy steps to help you excel.


  1. Planning to go back to graduate school

Now is a good time to start the application process. When choosing a start date, consider how graduate school will fit into your current lifestyle. If work tends to be less demanding in the summer, that could be a better start date than the traditional fall semester. In addition, look into the types of classes you will be taking and how you can apply them to your current job or future career aspirations. When I first considered the Integrated Marketing Communications program at WVU, I enjoyed the wide array of classes that matched my interests such as digital storytelling, public relations and social media. Once you start the application process, don’t be afraid to reach out to your campus contact with any questions or concerns. Also, family and friends make excellent proofreaders for your personal statement. (As well as a strong support system throughout grad school!)

  1. Preparing for a successful semester

The key to success is being prepared and developing a work-school-life balance that works best for you. Once you get into a routine with discussion posts, responses, papers and editing the semester goes much more smoothly. Pro tip: It doesn’t hurt to have a planner or organizer handy to write down your school routine until it becomes natural.


  1. Graduating from the IMC program

Whew! You did it! If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to graduate with your M.S. in IMC you are less than a year away from achieving that goal. As you begin this year, stay focused on your last few classes and try to do some early research for capstone. Capstone is your chance to showcase everything you have learned throughout the program and a bit of your personality with your selected client campaign.


New Year’s resolutions can seem daunting at the start of any year, but if you take them step by step they become manageable ways to achieve your dreams.

Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2016 by

Dear IMC Friends and Family,

We hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday!


Mentor and Be Mentored.

December 14, 2016 by


Beliefs about mentorship are drastically shifting. Mentorship is no longer focused on guiding those “below us” on the totem pole. It is now focused on using our own expertise to teach those around us, helping them to flourish and prosper. With this idea of mentorship in mind, it is safe to say, regardless of our ages, titles or years of work experience, we each have something we can learn from one another.

Mentorship is about building a mutually-beneficial relationship between two individuals through which both parties are collaboratively learning and growing. That being said, you are never too young or too old to have a mentor, or maybe even a “board” of mentors. So, if you haven’t already, start now!

Finding the Perfect Mentors

  1. Understand your needs as a mentee.

There are many different kinds of mentors; there are coaches, connectors, cheerleaders and challengers, just to name a few. When searching for a mentor, it is important for you to understand your needs and goals, and seek a mentor that will help you fulfill them.

  1. Pursue someone who is your opposite.

Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, those that differ from you can often offer you the most diverse knowledge and most insightful advice. For instance, a big trend in today’s business world is reverse mentoring, when Baby Boomers their opposites, Millennials, as mentors.

  1. Don’t be so focused on a person’s title.

Alexa von Tobel, the CEO and founder of LearnVest claims, “It’s about the person, not their position.” When searching for a mentor, take into consideration a person’s experiences and expertise, not just their title.

Being an Awesome Mentor

  1. Set relationship expectations.

Sit down with your mentee at the beginning of your relationship and discuss expectations. This will ensure that you are both on the same page. Express to your mentee that you will do all you can to help them achieve their goals, but be sure to NEVER make a promise that you can’t keep.

  1. Be invested in your mentee.

Show interest in their lives, ask questions, celebrate their achievements and, most importantly, LISTEN! These gestures and actions, no matter how small, will strengthen the bond you have with your mentee and enhance your relationship ten-fold.

  1. At all times, be honest.

Just as in any relationship, honesty is key! No matter what the issue or question, provide your mentee with honest, not sugar-coated, advice. Also, do not be afraid to admit your mistakes and failures, as you have learned from them, and they can help your mentee learn too.

How to Get An Interview at a Marketing Agency

December 5, 2016 by


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

How To Land Your First Job at A Marketing Agency: A Two Part Series

Part II – How to Get An Interview at a Marketing Agency


In part I of this two-part series, I outlined five ways to position yourself for an agency gig even if you don’t have any marketing experience. After reading it, you may have thought, “That’s great except how do I get the interview in the first place?” It’s a fair question. Without experience, how will you get your resume through the HR software? The answer is, you don’t. You have to go old school on their asses. You have to pull out tactics from back in the day and use them like you have been doing them all your Millennial life.

Use Snail Mail

If you were creating a marketing campaign for a client, you would use your IMC knowledge and create a multi-channel effort. While the digital channels may be most in your comfort zone, snail mail gets through because it’s unexpected.

Create a direct mail postcard campaign with yourself as the featured product. Assemble a targeted mailing list, write the copy, design the piece, (or have it professionally designed) optimize the offer and the call to action.

Remember your IMC lessons on frequency and reach and send the same or a slightly different version of the postcard every month to your targeted mailing list of hiring managers at different agencies. Show them that you are a true IMC practitioner and include your social media profile and the web address of your portfolio on the postcard.

Network Like You Mean It

There are advertising and marketing associations all around the world where you can meet other marketing professionals. Use these associations’ websites to find events in your area that you can attend. Show up to at least two events with your perfected 30-second elevator pitch and your resume. Make it a goal to meet and talk with at least ten people and to ask each of them if they know of any agencies who are looking to hire entry level candidates. Follow up on every lead you get.

Ask For An Informational Interview

An informational interview is a twenty to thirty-minute interview that you initiate to gather information on an organization, industry or role within a company. It is not a job interview. Informational interviews are a tool to help you meet people in the industry you are targeting to learn more about their job, their challenges, and what they are looking for in new hires. You can use LinkedIn to research agencies and their personnel to develop a wish list of people you want to talk to. If you subscribe to LinkedIn Premium, you can send messages to people you don’t know.

The trick to informational interviewing is to make it clear that you are not looking for a job, but that you are gathering information about the industry, company or role so that you can make informed career decisions. Coming from this angle takes the pressure off the potential interviewee and makes them more open to helping you. (You can find great how to’s on getting an informational interview, preparing for it, and conducting one like a pro at

Be Tenacious

Jamie T. of Fort Collins, Colorado started looking for agency work in her junior year of her undergraduate marketing program. She emailed, and cold called dozens of agencies to secure a summer internship. The one agency she was most attracted to didn’t return her calls, and when she finally got someone on the phone, they weren’t all that interested and put her off. (Okay, it was my agency, and we initially blew her off.) Jamie didn’t give up. She kept asking the owner of the firm (my boss) for an opportunity until he finally said yes.

Perseverance won the day. Jamie got her agency internship and when she graduated from school the following summer we offered her a full-time slot in our firm.

If you’re short on experience, it can be difficult to get an interview at a marketing agency. But if you use these old-school tactics, you’ll stand out and likely get a hiring manager’s attention.

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.

Positioning Yourself For An Agency Job Even If You Have No Experience

November 29, 2016 by


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

How To Land Your First Job at A Marketing Agency: A Two Part Series

Part I – Positioning Yourself For An Agency Job Even If You Have No Experience


You have a shiny new IMC degree that you’re pumped to put to good use. However, the jobs you’re qualified for are so entry level you fear you’ll poke your eyes out every day at work. While you may have the knowledge, you don’t have experience in the field. So what do you do to snag your dream job in a marketing agency? Here are five ways to position yourself to get your first agency job.

  1. Create an Online Portfolio

    Even if you aren’t a web developer or a designer, having an online portfolio will differentiate you from other candidates. While you’re at it, make sure your resume looks like a convincing marketing piece as well. There are tons of templates available for both print and online resumes and portfolios. Find one that works for you.

    If you’re afraid of not having anything to put in your portfolio, read on.

  2. Take Initiative

    It’s never too early to start putting your marketing degree to work. Belong to a church? Ask them if you can take over their email newsletters. Have a hobby you’re passionate about? Write a blog about it. Are you a member of an association or club? Build their website, shoot a video for them, or take over their Facebook page. Whatever skills you have in marketing, find a way to demonstrate them. Keep logs of your efforts, and wherever possible, have metrics to show your efforts helped the organization.

    Being able to display that you have done marketing work even as a volunteer will help a hiring manager see your passion, initiative, and ingenuity. It’s also the stuff portfolios are made of, so get busy.

  3. Practice Writing

    If you didn’t major in English, you probably weren’t tasked with writing a lot in college. Marketing requires mad writing skills, so if you don’t already have near perfect grammar and sharp writing skills, start reading marketing copy and trying to emulate it.

    What is marketing copy? Blogs, white papers, email newsletters, magazine ads—anything that is positioning a product or service is marketing copy, and you need to understand how it works and how to create it. Google it; find books on it; scour the internet for good examples of each type of writing. Then practice writing your own comparable pieces. If you want to dive in and learn to write copy, visit They have one of the best online learning hubs for copywriting. Even if you aren’t writing for an actual client, if you have solid writing samples in your portfolio, you will be far ahead of other prospective candidates.

  4. Get Certified

    The more skills you can bring to the table that are useful to an agency, the better chance you have of being hired. Just about every digital agency works with Google AdWords and Google Analytics. If you are certified in either one or both, they will see you as someone that they can get value from starting day one. Google offers free training online, and there are other places around the web that have courses to help you pass Google’s certification tests. It takes an investment of time but is well worth the effort.

  5. Be Teachable

    There is nothing wrong with being inexperienced. Everyone was at some point. Being teachable and willing to do the work to become an expert in your field is one of the most attractive qualities in a new hire. Having writing samples and Google certificates will be proof of this. Showing how you consistently asked for more responsibility at school and at prior jobs goes a long way too. Even if none of your work experience is related to marketing, demonstrating that you took on new projects and saw them through, can differentiate you from other candidates.

If your dream job is in an advertising or marketing agency, these five tips will get you closer to achieving it.

In part II of this series, I will give you tips on using old-school tactics to get your foot in the door to land an agency interview.

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.

Put Humans Back Into Your Storytelling

November 21, 2016 by


In a world where we count followers, clicks, users and bloggers, it can be hard to forget that there are humans behind those screens. As we continue to use various forms of technology to communicate with our audience, we need to think of our emerging media platforms more like a campfire as opposed to screens.

In other words, stop grouping your hundreds or thousands of followers into one and instead, start thinking about them as individuals. What do individuals want to hear from your brand? Last year, the Brand Storytelling Report found that there is still a high demand for storytelling and that these stories should feature REAL people. See the infographic below summarizing its key findings.


Last week, I gave tips on how to incorporate emerging media into your marketing & communications plan. This week, I’m sharing three tips on how to add quality content that your customers actually want to see and read.

Stay grounded. Remember where your company came from and what your founders did to make it a unique and successful business. Learn about your history. Talk to your past and current employees and share with your customers this part of your story. Customer want transparency and honesty. Why not share your company’s history, its people and what makes it so unique?

Storytelling has always been a part of human civilization. While today we get our fair share of storytelling from entertainment such as books, movies and tv shows, these stories all contain common elements that every great story should have:

  • Humans (characters): Every story introduces a protagonist, which the audience slowly learns about throughout the course of the story. Your brand’s story should also feature a human or two.
  • Action (plot): There wouldn’t be a story if it didn’t have some type of exciting plot or action for the audience to follow along with. What are the humans doing in your story? Is it interesting? Is it genuine? Don’t make the action all about your brand. Make it an interesting story that people will want to hear, read or watch.
  • Solution (the end): This is the part where marketers can really be creative to find an authentic way to tie your brand to the story, whether it is offering a solution, an answer or maybe just a means. I was recently reminded of an incredible example at West Virginia University’s INTEGRATE conference in Chicago. Remember Extra Gum’s #GiveExtraGetExtra campaign? Take a look at the ad that literally brought tears to eyes, as any great story has the power to do.

Whatever story you pick, this story should ignite a powerful emotion that will make people want to act. In the example above, the message was to “Give Extra, Get Extra,” or encourage people to buy and share the gum. Or, maybe your brand wants to use emerging media to create an experience for your customers. Whatever you want your call to action to be, make sure that it is powerful enough to emotionally affect people. This is where marketers will really see results.

Have you created a human story that really resonated with your audience and sparked action? Take a seat at the “digital campfire” and share it with us!



November 16, 2016 by


INTEGRATE Chicago featured six industry speakers: Bryan J. Bennett, Clarissa Beyah-Taylor, Andy Crestodina, Andrés Ordóñez, Hugo Pérez and Joseph P. Truncale. Although all practice in similar fields, their presentations were diverse and each, in my opinion, offered one clear takeaway for attendees.

Andrés Ordóñez from BBDO Energy kicked off INTEGRATE Chicago with a session focused on the creative process. Ordóñez pulled from his work with world-renowned clients, such as Pepsi, Orbit and Extra, and explained the key to creating a thought-provoking and viral-bound campaign. He claimed, as marketers and creatives, we must distance ourselves from our work and ask one simple question: “Would I share this?”


Takeaway #1: Always put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and constantly ask if you would share the content you are creating.

Following Ordóñez was Hugo Pérez of the Zeno Group, who focused on effective content storytelling. Through his use of props and video, as well as anecdotes about his prior experiences, Perez explained the importance of creating connections with those in your target market. He called this creating a “common thread.”


Takeaway #2: Creating a “common thread” between your brand and its target consumers makes storytelling easier and your brand more authentic.

  1. Bryan Bennett, author of “Competing on Healthcare Analytics,” was INTEGRATE Chicago’s third presenter. His session focused on five steps to better customer management. Through these five steps, Bennett emphasized the importance of segmenting consumers by purchase behavior and understanding customer lifetime value. He explained, “people respond when you talk to them in the context of what they are looking for.”


Takeaway #3: Focus on the consumers that are of value to your product. Don’t waste energy and company resources “chasing customers with no value.”

Clarissa Beyah-Taylor from Exelon was next to take the stage. Her session, titled “Breaking Through: Key Elements to Career Navigation,” concentrated on personal branding, more specifically, how to make yourself stand out in a crowd. Beyah-Taylor discussed the power of developing and understanding your personal brand, as well as being authentic and networking whenever possible.


Takeaway #4: Everyone is going to have a resume and a cover letter. Focus on what will set you apart and use that as a staple in your personal brand.

Andy Crestodina, co-founder and strategic director of Orbit, channeled his experiences with interconnected content to discuss search engine optimization, blogging and social media strategies. Crestodina explained that great content marketing is like a spider’s web—interconnected. He also claimed that including others in your content can improve optimization levels.


Takeaway #5: Social is viral! Include other people in your content, because “an ally in creation is an ally in promotion.”

Closing out the event was Joseph P. Truncale, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. His session, which focused on the public relations industry, discussed the changing requirements for today’s professionals. He explained that, as the industry and technology changes, jobs are becoming more diverse and less focused on traditional public relations functions.


Takeaway #6: Although technology is important, do not forget the power and significance of relationships in communication-related fields.