West Virginia University’s Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) features a network of 1,500+ alumni, current students, and faculty. For IMC students, WVU's support system begins on day-one and continues as long as you let it. As the saying goes, “Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer,”
One IMC alum, Lindsay Emery, shares her takeaways and feedback for current students and prospective students of the IMC program alike. Lindsay now uses the skills and knowledge she gained while enrolled in the IMC program in New York City where she runs the marketing department for TTC Group, a social impact consulting firm.
We asked Lindsay to answer a few questions about her time in the IMC program so that current and future students can learn from her experiences.
You graduated in May of 2014. Almost five years later, how does IMC play a part in your position at TCC Group?
I run the Marketing Department for a social impact consulting firm headquartered in New York City. Our firm collaborates with foundations, nonprofits, and companies around the country to help them achieve a greater impact in their efforts to solve complex social problems.
With a marketing team of two (and a firm of 40+ staff), we wear many hats and are responsible for all of the firm’s external marketing and communications efforts, including social media, brand management, and content development. We also provide ongoing internal staff training related to marketing, such as storytelling, marketing metrics, and public speaking.
Over the past two years, I led our firm’s brand refresh effort. We worked with many external partners and stakeholders, as well as our internal leadership team and staff to provide the world with a clean, concise, and powerful outward-facing TCC brand story that matches our dedication to facilitating social change in the world.
The refresh included a new mission, new logo, new tagline, new messaging, new website, new color palette, new impact stories, new templates, and much more (one of my favorite elements is our brand video!). It was a massive undertaking.
We officially launched in December 2018, and I’m thrilled with how it has been received by clients, staff, and partners alike. For a company founded in 1980, this brand refresh represents the beginning of a new chapter, and it is amazing to be a part of it.
Nearly everything I work on ties back to a relevant IMC course – from brand management and internal communications to marketing strategy and creative design. In particular, the capstone course served as a real-world experience of designing, planning, and pitching a robust campaign from start to finish – which prepared me for the detailed and complex planning surrounding the launch of TCC’s refreshed brand.
The IMC degree also helped position me as a viable candidate when first being interviewed for this role at TCC Group.
If you were to recommend the WVU IMC program to a friend or colleague, what would you say?
Before I started, I was admittedly a bit skeptical of an online degree. How can one learn as effectively without the intimacy of an in-person classroom setting? However, I quickly learned that the IMC program is intentionally designed for individuals with full-time jobs (and lives).
The flexibility to work full-time and complete a master’s degree – with easy access to professors and fellow students (albeit electronically) – quickly offset any perceived downsides to an online program. Any time I might have spent traveling to and from a classroom could be redirected to coursework.
In short, if you are looking to position yourself for a new job or promotion, cannot afford to not work, and believe a graduate degree is what is needed to get you there, the IMC program is designed for you.
How do you think the IMC program has influenced the way you look at marketing communications?
The program states it well in its leading descriptor “integrated.” Historically, marketing, communications, public relations, advertising, etc. have been separate, silo-ed entities. From the onset, the IMC program explained that everything we would learn and explore would be within the context of understanding how these various methods and tools were inter-related and could be better integrated to more effectively achieve a common goal.
For small to medium-sized companies, such integration may be prompted more so out of necessity than strategy (for example, a marketing department may also be in charge of communications, PR, and advertising simply because the company does not have the bandwidth). However, the program helped prepare me for those strategic conversations so that opportunities for integration could be capitalized on rather than ignored or dismissed.
Moreover, last year I attended a workshop with nearly 100 attendees. Every single person in that room was there to find better ways to integrate their marketing and sales efforts. The call for integration is not new – but having a program specifically designed to address this valuable convergence is an asset (and WVU’s IMC program was the first of its kind!).
As an industry practitioner, what advice can you share with prospective students considering IMC?
I have two pieces of advice for prospective students thinking about enrolling in WVU's Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program:
1. The IMC program is a broad sweep of integrated marketing communications, and you will only scratch the surface of each component in the program. The type of work you do after you complete the degree will dive much deeper into one (or more) of what you have learned. Use the program to understand IMC at the macro level and to help shed some light on your interests at the micro level. Then, find a position that allows you to 1) apply what you know, 2) dive deeper into your specific interests, and 3) provides an ongoing learning environment.
2. Marketing is both a science and an art. Even if your work ends up leaning in one of those directions, it is important to understand how they relate to and depend on one another – especially since trends, technology, and audiences are always changing. As such, never stop learning. Join listservs (MarketingProfs, Adweek, PR Daily News Feed to name a few), seek out articles, read books, watch videos, and take courses – both within and beyond your field of work. It is the blend of the science and the art that makes marketing both interesting and effective.
How have IMC networking connections impacted your career development and growth?
The advantage of an online program is working with students and professors who are living and working around the country, which subsequently provides a diverse set of perspectives and experiences in every course. We would bring real-world scenarios from our job and life to class conversations. We would research and discuss both historical and real-time successes and failures in the IMC industry.
The program also embodied the “learn today, apply tomorrow” mindset. This way of thinking has transferred into how I view my role and responsibilities as an alumna – and I believe the role and responsibilities of the alumni network. I feel empowered to actively tap into the IMC network as questions and opportunities arise in my life and career. The “pay it forward” approach was how I was invited to share my story in this format, and I hope sharing some of my story is one way in which I can pay it forward to current and future IMC students.
If you have questions about the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program, don't hesitate to request more information today! The professionals at WVU are excited to hear from you and are dedicated to making your questions a priority.