Posts Tagged ‘Integrated marketing communications’

Unexpected, Difficult, Rewarding

July 12, 2016


In three words I can describe my Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC 610) experience: unexpected, difficult and rewarding.


I never imagined myself enrolled in an online graduate program. I am a personable and engaged student that loves face-to-face interaction with my professors and colleagues, and I did not think an online program could provide me with a satisfying experience. IMC 610 showed me that I was wrong.

My IMC 610 class was extremely responsive; students created insightful posts, challenged their classmates with intriguing replies and provided diverse perspectives on questions posed. In an odd way, through my classmates’ posts, I got to know each of them on a deeper level by understanding their points of view, interests and prior experiences. Honestly, by the end of the course, it felt as though I got to know my classmates better than I would have in a traditional setting.


IMC 610 challenged me in ways that I have never been challenged before. Not only did I have to learn to manage my time effectively in order to complete my discussion posts, responses, papers and readings, but I also had to learn how to “think for myself.” I know that sounds stupid, but here is what I mean…

In this class, I learned how to interpret materials, develop opinions on them and reinforce my opinions with supplementary materials, validating my arguments. This required a lot of introspective thought, something with which I was not extremely familiar. Although this was difficult at times, it helped me learn more about both integrated marketing communications and myself as a communicator.


I have to say, the rewarding feeling that accompanied submitting my final project and completing IMC 610 was phenomenal, but this was not the only time during the term in which I felt fulfilled.

After each assignment, my professor offered constructive criticism. It was really great to hear that I was understanding the week’s material and applying it in a productive way, but it was even better to hear her suggestions and apply them to better my campaign. By the end of the course, I had completed an entire integrated marketing plan; something I never thought I would be able to do, and something I never would have been able to do without the help of my instructor.

Overall, my first graduate-level class was fulfilling, surprising and difficult to say the least. The quality of learning was insurmountable and the “classroom” interaction was superb. I can honestly say that I cannot wait to see what adventures future courses hold; keeping in mind that WVU’s IMC program is not for the faint of heart.

Navigating today’s KIND of media environment

June 16, 2016


Today’s media environment is rapidly changing. At the rate that technology is advancing, today’s channel of choice could be tomorrow’s old news. This is both exciting and nerve-wrecking for marketing communications professionals.

Opportunities to reach target audience members are growing; however, if we are not prepared to navigate a continually adapting media environment, our efforts will most likely fall flat. Joe Cohen, Senior vice president of Communications for KIND Healthy Snacks addressed this topic, as well as many others, in his session at #INTEGRATE16.

During his session, Cohen discussed six points in relation to today’s media environment.

  1. Increased segmentation and competition: As more media channels emerge, each must become more specialized in order to retain an audience. This also means there is more competition among media for consumers’ attention.
  2. News in real time, all of the time: Social media, social media, social media. Social media makes news instantaneous. As marketing communications professionals, we must embrace and utilize this to the best of our abilities.
  3. Clickbait headlines: Marketing communications professionals must “fight” for the attention of consumers. One way to win over consumer attention is through eye-catching, intriguing headlines.
  4. Decline of print media: Consumers are now relying more on digital media, instead of print media, as sources of information. We must adapt to this change in order to continue reaching our audiences.
  5. Citizen journalism: Today, anyone can be a journalist; anyone can be considered an “expert.” No degree or prior experience is needed.
  6. The rise of the influencers: As a continuation of the previous point, marketing professionals must realize that everyday individuals are not only becoming the world’s journalists and “experts,” but they are becoming some of the most powerful influencers. These influencers can make or break products and brands.

According to Cohen, understanding and remembering these six points will help you navigate today’s media environment. I believe that it will also help you prepare for the changes to come.

Yesterday it was newspapers, today its social media. What’s next? Although we have our suspicions, no one can ever be sure; however, if we keep an open mind and embrace media adaptations as they occur, marketing communications will continue to be an integral and influential part of today’s world.

Consumer Insights and Content Creation

June 15, 2016


Whether or not you admit your HGTV, Food Network or Travel Channel obsession, Julie Link and Greg Stroud know exactly why you’re hooked: they’re the ones gathering consumer insights in order to make marketing decisions and create content. Their job is certainly no easy task.

At HGTV and DIY Network, Greg is the Former Vice-President of Programming Integration and Julie is the Director of Research and Consumer Insights. As they found out, when you’re company is not hitting its mark, sometimes a complete rebranding is necessary to fix the problem.

How do you go about rebranding? Simple – by watching trends, commercials and, most importantly, the target audience you are trying to reach.

In order to really connect with your consumers, Julie and Greg suggest “learning in the moment” and immersing yourself. By going “all in” among the audience you wish to reach, you’ll not only know your customers/viewers, but you will:

  • know their style,
  • give them a reason to participate and
  • have a story to tell.

Once you know your consumers and have developed a creative way to reach them, you must pitch your idea to your team. By getting your hands dirty so to speak, you will be able to develop materials that help your team better understand what your idea is all about. It will also allow you to present information in an innovative and engaging way that allows your team to actively participate in the creative process.

Julie and Greg suggest presenting information to your team as if you are presenting it to an external client. By making your target audience the driving force behind the campaign, and introducing an element of fun into the mix, your ideas will resonate with the team and satisfy your target audience.

Building the right kind of audience to attract national advertisers is also crucial, because a lot of companies make a majority of their money from advertising sales. This means watching trends and noticing consumer characteristics and patterns that correlate with these trends.

The question then becomes whether people are buying products in response to trends or are trends emerging in response to influencers in the market? As Julie and Greg point out, a trend is often not a material object but a popular idea that it represents. People become attached to brands/companies/products because of the ideals and experiences they represent.

Thus, perhaps the best consumer insights come from when you become part of the target audience you’re trying to reach.

Keeping Consumers “Lovin’ It!”

June 15, 2016


I have seen the McDonald’s menu grow and change dozens of times. When I visit McDonald’s while traveling, there are always differences in the restaurants’ menus. I never really understood these changes and differences until attending #INTEGRATE16.

While at #INTEGRATE16, I attended a session featuring Mel Windley, James Nice and Jeff Monfort. Windley is the Executive Vice President of Fahlgren Mortine, working primarily on accounts for the McDonald’s Corporation. Nice is a Marketing Manager for the McDonald’s Corporation in the Ohio Region, and finally, Monfort is a McDonald’s franchisee who owns six restaurants in the Ohio Region. Together, these men discussed McDonald’s successes, attributing its victories to teamwork and audience insight.

The success of any business depends on its ability to serve its customers. McDonald’s uses audience insights from local, regional, national and global markets to ensure consumer satisfaction. The #INTEGRATE16 trio explained that in order to satisfy as many customers as possible, McDonald’s must consider what is right for the brand and the consumer in a particular marketplace; that’s why campaigns like “Nocturnivore,” and “#Macithappen,” are only seen by subsets of the company’s global market.

In order for regional campaigns to prosper, and McDonald’s restaurants to flourish, teamwork is essential. Windley, Nice and Monfort describe it as the “three-legged stool,” through which the brand, the operators and the suppliers/partners (the legs) must support the consumers (the seat). Without proper teamwork, and each leg polishing it’s part of the company’s iconic golden arches, the consumer would be dissatisfied.

Based on its consumers’ desires, McDonald’s now offers breakfast all day. It has developed new menu items and enhanced its current offerings. It has even implemented different menus in different locations. But, what’s next?—That is up to you, the consumer.

Getting the Wind Behind Your Sails: Pirate Ships and Propelling Brands

June 9, 2016


Although officially titled a Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer at the company Brains on Fire, Geno Church considers himself more of a “WOM (word of mouth) Cupid” and a “pathfinder” for his company’s clients. After attending his session entitled Welcome to a Brave New World, it’s not hard to see why: he’s charismatic, passionate, hilarious and innovative.

Throughout his session, Geno artfully equates the aspects of marketing to piratehood. He says that by being engaged in stories, we help things live on through mythology, symbolism and sharing. Effective marketing has to tell a relatable story that is better than all of the other stories, otherwise it won’t win over consumers. For word of mouth marketing, companies have to start with people first, as they are the center of any successful WOM campaign. Geno states that to really draw in and engage consumers, you have to “help them be what they want to be” and make their purpose your purpose. To really identify with the customer, it is important to take on their values and beliefs as your own.

Geno continues by comparing the mythology of piratehood to the mythology of a brand: you must love the brand you’re working with in order to get consumers to love the brand and lifestyle associated with it. In this sense, if consumers love your brand and its stories, it will become a “shared ship;” consumers will not only jump on board but will encourage others to do the same. Eventually, with enough positive word of mouth marketing from everyday consumers who love your brand, your “shared ship” will become a “self-driven” ship. If not, your consumers will sense doubt and either mutiny or abandon the ship.

But how does all of this word-of-mouth marketing (or WOMMology, as Geno calls it) work? He says there are three parts:

  1. Functional
  2. Social
  3. Emotional

The functional part of WOMM serves as the nuts and bolts “stuff:” shared information and factual knowledge that helps consumers to gather more information and make decisions. It is vital as it is the centerpiece of WOMM. The second part, social, usually involves social signaling, or how a brand as well as consumers showcase their uniqueness. Last, but not least, is the emotional factor: if the brand does not elicit the correct, “balanced” emotional response, people will not talk about it. This means the marketing showcased has to provoke enough of a response, either good or bad, for people to want to bring it to another person’s attention. As Geno puts it: if someone thinks “This is okay”, they are pretty unlikely to talk about it on their own.

Just like pirates sailing on a ship, Geno encourages us both as Integrated Marketing professionals and consumers, to inspire and encourage exploration. He reminds us that just because customers buy something, that doesn’t mean their loyalty or trust in that brand is set in stone. And, just like a pirate raising his telescope to search for unchartered land or another ship to raid and take over, don’t be afraid to take risks and look beyond what is directly within plain sight.

Reflecting on #INTEGRATE16

June 8, 2016


As an undergraduate, I studied public relations. To supplement my classroom education and gain real-world experience, I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Through this organization, I attended a variety of conferences from Portland, Oregon to Austin, Texas and everywhere in between. After attending seven conferences with PRSSA, I thought I had an idea of what INTEGRATE would be like, but I could not have been more wrong.

As a conference attendee, you see the finished product. It’s like going to the theater to see a movie; you do not witness or understand what goes on behind the scenes. Yes, throughout my undergraduate years, I helped plan meetings, activities and conferences, so I had an idea of the work required to plan and execute a successful event; however, I never planned anything of this magnitude.

I started work as a graduate assistant with the Reed College of Media and its Integrated Marketing Communications program just three weeks ago. Since my first day on the job, the word INTEGRATE was engrained into my memory. I was told it was “Beason season,” (Nicole Beason is the lead conference planner.) and that I would do nothing but live and breathe INTEGRATE until June 5, 2016.

Throughout my first two weeks as a graduate assistant, I helped with small conference tasks like alphabetizing name badges, assembling gift bags and picking up prizes. I also had an opportunity to help plan the social media challenge. Although I knew my role in planning the INTEGRATE conference was small, I began to feel some ownership in the event and a stake in its success.

As the first day of #INTEGRATE16 approached, I was excited, nervous, anxious; just a ball of emotion. I was excited to meet professors, graduates and fellow students. I was nervous to mess something up, and I was anxious for the conference to start. When day one of INTEGRATE commenced, I wanted to help in any and every way possible, and I was, happily, put to work.

Working an event, especially a conference the size of INTEGRATE, is extremely draining. Honestly, I did not realize the amount of planning that this conference required until I arrived at West Virginia University’s Media Innovation Center on June 3, 2016. Every detail of the event was planned, from where food was coming from to when speakers were arriving to what color chairs were to be placed in each row. Everyone in the office moved in harmony, like one well-oiled machine.

As a graduate assistant, I did my best to follow suit; however, every once in a while, I liked to step back and watch. From my observations, I learned the power of teamwork, the importance of preparation and the true purpose of coffee. Overall, my first-ever INTEGRATE conference was spectacular. The speakers were awesome! The attendees were great, and this all served as a comforting reinforcement that integrated marketing communications is the right career path for me.


My “Integrated” Experience

June 8, 2016


I have to say, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I learned I would be working #INTEGRATE2016. I thought that maybe it would be a more intense version of a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference – but as it turns out, it was so much more.

Once I got over the hump of having to wake up at 5:30 a.m., and be somewhere at 6:30 a.m., it was a whirlwind of energy and activity that reminded me why I chose the Integrated Marketing Communications program at West Virginia University. Not only are my coworkers, faculty and student body intelligent, friendly and passionate, they are like a second family. Working an event is hard – but when you work with great people, it makes the work fun.

As for the conference itself, the speakers’ passion and knowledge were unparalleled. They gave amazing insight into not only the industry, but the WVU IMC program as well. When a professor’s enthusiasm not only matches but further ignites yours, it reaffirms your decision in your field. That’s exactly, at only three weeks into the program, how I felt during my first day of the conference.

Even as I worked the conference and managed social media during the sessions, I was learning and having a fantastic time. The sessions I attended were not only captivating, but entertaining and full of personality. It was a great experience to finally be able to meet, face to face, and connect with professors (and other students) I have only been able to interact with via email and discussion boards.

I learned from Matthew Pye about sweetening your market efforts to stand out; was motivated to do more and think outside the box by Geno Church; and Whitney Drake taught me about turning blunders into homeruns through Chevy’s #TechnologyandStuff. I didn’t realize how much I had left to learn until I walked out of the sessions I attended. It’s a fascinating and humbling experience.

To say attending INTEGRATE is crucial is an understatement. I not only learned so much, but I was able to engage with faculty and professors and gain a better understanding of their teaching methods. If I get the chance to attend another INTEGRATE conference, I will be there in a heartbeat – and I encourage my fellow classmates to do the same!





Make your integrated marketing efforts so sweet, it’s like they were “Just Born” today

June 4, 2016


In today’s day and age, information is EVERYWHERE! From television and radio to billboards and magazines, products and services are constantly being advertised, and, frankly, people are becoming desensitized. So, in a world of advertising-overload, how can you make your company stand out and leave a lasting impression with its audience?

Matthew J. Pye, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Just Born Quality Convections, addressed this question during his session at West Virginia University’s 2016 INTEGRATE conference. Pye faced this issue first-hand while working for Just Born, maker of the iconic Peeps, Mike & Ike’s and Hot Tamales. He says, in order to make your company and its products stand out in a crowd, you must learn to leverage three things.

1. The power of partnerships
Together, everyone can achieve more! To be successful, partnerships must optimize the strengths of each party to create win-win situations.

2. The power of public relations
Although advertising sustains brands, it’s public relations that builds them. Utilize any and all public relations and publicity to create buzz about your organization and its products.

3. The power of branding
You and your company’s employees should be your biggest brand evangelists. With that being said, to be successful, start your branding efforts from within.

By successfully leveraging the power of partnerships, public relations and branding, your company will undoubtedly stand out among its competitors. In the words of Matthew J. Pye, if you are ever having trouble, just remember to K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple Stupid!

For someone like me, who is contemplating a career in corporate communications and branding, this session was extremely enlightening. To hear from someone who has worked with an iconic brand like Peeps, was a treat sweeter than the candy itself.

-Megan Bayles

#INTEGRATE16 Bucket List

June 3, 2016


Welcome to INTEGRATE16, fellow Mountaineers! As an experienced INTEGRATE attendee (since 2014) and a WVU IMC alum (Class of 2015), I’m looking forward to catching up with the IMC community over the next two days.


Let’s Go Mountaineers! I met the WVU Mountaineer during last year’s networking reception at INTEGRATE15.

Whether you’re new to the conference or have made it a tradition to attend, I’d like to suggest some INTEGRATE16 “bucket list” items for your consideration…

  • Get social (media). This should be natural for a group of IMC folks, but remember to join the conversation on Twitter using the #INTEGRATE16 hashtag! We usually feature some of our favorite tweets on the blog. Not sure whose selfie stick took that group photo? You’ll probably find the picture on Instagram.
  • Raise your hand. INTEGRATE provides an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals about how they approach their work. Ask questions during the conference sessions; these often spark some of the most interesting group discussions.
  • Talk to an IMC instructor. It’s so nice to chat with our instructors offline. Some of my instructors have even remembered my class projects when I’ve talked with them at INTEGRATE. Don’t be shy!
  • Get a taste of Morgantown. Even if you don’t have time to visit Coopers Rock, check out Peace, Love & Little Donuts — a new local favorite and a very short walk from the Hilton Garden Inn. I waited 45 minutes in line when they first opened!
Last year I ended my INTEGRATE experience with a visit to Coopers Rock with fellow bloggers Kat and Julie.

Last year I ended my INTEGRATE experience with a visit to Coopers Rock with fellow bloggers Kat and Julie.

Seriously, these donuts are delicious! I recommend the Samoa and Cinnamon Sugar.

Seriously, these donuts are delicious! I recommend the Samoa and Cinnamon Sugar.

Are you an INTEGRATE alum? If so, what’s on your “bucket list” for this year’s conference?


Q&A with INTEGRATE Speaker Joe Cohen

May 31, 2016



Joe Cohen is the Senior vice president of communications for KIND Healthy Snacks. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for the student blog, you can also read more about Joe here.

Q1. Last year #kindawesome set out to engage customers in acts of kindness, tell us how this program came to be?


At KIND, we’re always seeking new and creative ways to make kindness a state of mind. It’s been that way since 2004 when our founder Daniel Lubetzky launched KIND and the company immediately became a pioneer in both the healthy snacking and purpose-driven brand categories.

In 2013, we first introduced #kindawesome as a program to empower our team to spot and celebrate acts of kindness happening around them. When a team member witnesses a kind act, big or small, we give the person a #kindawesome card that they can redeem online for KIND Snacks as a “thank you” for being kind along with a #kindawesome card to pay it forward.

Last year, timed to World Kindness Day on November 12, we scaled up the #kindawesome program by creating digital versions of the cards to empower our fans to help in spotting and celebrating kindness. Simultaneously on World Kindness Day, our team brought to life KIND acts all over the country through regional activities like spreading the importance of kindness in preschools and delivering care packages to the elderly.  The campaign became the most expansive grassroots activation in KIND’s history and a great moment in our ongoing effort to recognize and celebrate kindness.  

Q2. Does KIND use influencers, if so please tell us a little bit about that?

KIND has an incredibly passionate base of fans and this includes influencers ranging from actors and athletes to health and wellness experts to social media stars.  When it comes to formal influencer partnerships and programs, we only work with individuals who we know to be fans and supporters of KIND – it’s very important to us that every influencer relationship begins with an authentic passion for our brand.

Q3. Recently the FDA has been looking at the definition of healthy snacks, would you tell us about KIND’s involvement in the conversation surrounding this topic?

To begin, we commend the FDA for its decision to reevaluate the regulatory definition of healthy which was introduced with the best intentions more than twenty years ago but has since become outdated.

The announcement that the FDA will reevaluate healthy generated a great deal of conversation in the media, as well as the health and nutrition communities, as did the agency’s affirmation that KIND can use healthy on our wrappers again – just as we had it before – in connection with our corporate philosophy but not as a nutrient content claim.

KIND’s involvement in this conversation began more than 13 months ago when we received a warning letter from the FDA asking for us to remove the term healthy from the back wrapper of four KIND bars, and that also pointed to a number of items that have since been corrected.   We quickly brought our packaging to compliance while at the same time studying the regulatory definition of healthy.  We learned that the current standard was introduced when the benefits of consuming “good fats,” like those in nuts (a key ingredient in many KIND Snacks), were not fully understood.  Under the regulation, foods like fat-free chocolate pudding and children’s sugary cereal can bear a healthy nutrient claim but foods like nuts and avocados can’t.

None of this made much sense to us, so last December we filed a Citizen Petition with top health and nutrition experts respectfully calling for FDA to update its guidance.  Since KIND filed the Petition, momentum has been building. From leading nutrition experts to Senators and members of the House of Representatives, there is a rising call to update the regulatory definition of healthy.

Our team continues to maintain an open and collaborative dialogue with the FDA and, while we know it will take time, we are optimistic that the regulation will be updated to better align with current science and existing dietary guidance.

Q4. You’ve been at KIND for almost two years, prior to that you spent 15 years at a PR agency. What differences did you see between agency PR and in-house PR? Were there any surprises?

Whether you are in-house or at an agency, the core tenets of communications remains the same.

There are, of course, differences.  One of the aspects that I loved about agency life was the creativity and adrenaline rush that came with managing multiple accounts and teams, and the thrill of the competition when pitching new business.  Additionally a big part of the reason why I stayed in the agency game for so long was the great culture and team in place at MWW.

Working on the in-house side is also very deeply rewarding, particularly at a company like KIND where I am helping to promote an incredible product and advance a social mission that resonates very deeply with me.  Additionally, part of what I like about working on the corporate side is that you’re able to go much deeper and understand the nuances and intricacies of the business at a level that just isn’t possible when working within an agency.

Regarding surprises, I had heard that the pace of working in-house versus at an agency is much slower and more methodical.  This isn’t necessarily the case at KIND which has a fast-paced and highly creative environment.  The day also happens to go by quickly when you love the work and the people, and at KIND I’m fortunate to have both.


Q5. Earlier this year you received the Philip Dorf Award, which honors individuals who lead, guide and selflessly counsel and stimulate the careers of PR professionals. Congratulations. What advice do you bestow on young PR practitioners or those just graduating?

I’ve been privileged to have had incredible mentors like MWW CEO Michael Kempner, ConAgra CCO Jon Harris and KIND CEO Daniel Lubetzky, who have had a profound impact on my growth as a person and as a professional.  My advice to young professionals is to actively seek, adopt and embrace mentorship experiences.  Identify individuals who you find to be impressive and admirable and make a proactive effort to get to know and learn from them.  Also, look for ways to extend your network. Get involved in groups like PRSA where you can meet and learn from new people, expand your skill sets and broaden your perspective of your industry.


Q6. What changes do you see within the PR practice in the next five years?

The profession itself will become increasingly competitive as more enter the field.  Communications pros will be challenged to continually refresh and enhance their skill sets and knowledge base or risk being left behind as the media and business landscape continues to remain in a near-constant state of evolution.

Additionally, the lines will continue to blur between the disciplines and there will be less traditional PR firms and more integrated marketing shops – this will also extend to the way PR is housed within corporations.  Continuing education will be essential and communications professionals who today are deepening their expertise in brand marketing, integrated marketing and data and analytics, will be better positioned for success.

Q7. Please share a favorite quote or person who inspires you?


“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” – L.P. Jacks, an English educator, philosopher and Unitarian minister


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