On May 23, West Virginia University’s M.S. in Data Marketing Communications program held an online information session that included a panel of alumni and faculty who offered insight from their experience with the program and provided advice to students who are considering beginning a data-driven marketing graduate program at WVU.
Panelists included Josh Wilson, Vice President of Marketing at Whitefish Credit Union, April Blankenship, Manager of Video Partnerships at Initiative Media, and Cyndi Greenglass, DMC instructor and Senior VP of Strategic Solutions at Diamond Communication Solutions. Read on for a recap of the most important takeaways from the session!
What motivated you to pursue the DMC online master’s program at WVU?
April Blankenship: I found that it’s very useful information for the current landscape, and I’ve been able to apply everything I learned in class directly to my day-to-day. So, it really is a perfect mix of that marketing communications with the data focus, and it really helped me under both what my clients are dealing with and what I need to be dealing with on a daily basis.
Cyndi Greenglass: You either find there’s a program in data science that is very geeky and not applied in a practical sense. You have a lot of computer science programs where you’re learning a lot about the technology, but the real intersection is when you’re using it and discovering how you can make better decisions, how you can bring it into your everyday work and decision making is really compelling. It’s one of the exciting things about teaching this program.
How would you explain the DMC program to a friend or colleague?
AB: The number one way I’ve been describing it is that it’s marketing communications but through the lens of how data can help you achieve your goals.
Josh Wilson: This is marketing for the 21st century, this is where the industry is going for the data-driven component, and this program gives you the foundation for it.
In what ways do students/alumni apply learnings from DMC courses to their actual careers?
AB: Before I started working with Subaru I worked with about seven different clients, and they all have different needs, they all have different data available to them, and they all have different targeting and goals they need to achieve. So, I’m able to be more adaptable and able to understand more where they are coming from.
CG: What we learned here is how to position and frame your information, your opinion and your insights and back it up with the data to have the confidence to speak confidently and to help guide decision making and be that person in the room that brings something added.
What does a typical DMC assignment look like?
JW: There is no typical assignment, which is probably the best part. I mean, especially with marketing, you're in this position, you're in this field because you don't want the typical every day, same routine job. So, because of that diversification, it keeps your interest.
AB: So the program basically has two different types of assignments: There are the discussion posts that you're in all week long and engaging with everyone, and then there's a written assignment, and they're typically around five pages. It does take a little bit of time to research and do your reading, but there's nothing, that is unapproachable about the assignments. That's one of the things that I loved. It was always manageable with having a full-time job.
How challenging is balancing coursework with your work and personal life?
JW: It’s not easy, it’s not supposed to be easy. This is an 18-month program, and if you were to cohort it’s back to back it’s about two courses for each time, but is it manageable? 100%. I found a way that I could do it, but it was some long nights and a lot of reading. Pretty much a lot of my lunch breaks, all of my lunch breaks were that way. I have two young kids; at the time, my daughter was one, and my son was three. So, for me it was once we had dinner, clean up the house and put them to bed, I am up late doing course work, but is it rewarding? 100%. Is it doable? 100%.
AB: I was able to manage through doing as much as possible on the weekends. It took up most of my weekend, but I was able to free up my Monday through Friday to do a lot more of my work. I have both a full-time job, and I commute, so there's a lot of time spent throughout my week that I don’t have for coursework. So, it's manageable, it can be challenging, certain weeks are harder than others, but all in all, it's totally doable, and it's very rewarding.
What types of responsibilities does a data-driven marketer have?
CG: I think it's someone who is not afraid to be held accountable because metrics can be scary. Not everything works. We're going to have a healthy respect for the numbers and think it's going to work, but sometimes what you learn is that something doesn't work. Some things work better than others, and you have to have the willingness and openness to be held accountable. Students have to have a healthy curiosity, an open mind and be a critical thinker.
JW: A data-driven marketer is pretty much going to be the vanguard in that industry, the one leading the charge on a marketing quest to drive it with data. The responsibility is huge because you have to show that, “hey, we're going to do something different, this is the data to back it up.” Then you have the post-campaign reports to say, “we really did drive results.”
What advice would you give to an experienced marketer considering this program and what advice might you give to a new grad or a young professional is considering this program?
CG: So, for an experienced, smart marketer considering this program, I think what's great is how topical and current everything is. This field changes daily. There is so much to learn to stay current, and it's really hard to stay on top of it if you are experienced and have been in the field for some time. You're going to learn so much, not only from the faculty, but you will learn so much from your fellow students.
JW: Those discussion boards are probably the most valuable part of the program. Do your homework, cite sources, and respond to them and really engage in a meaningful way. I'm going to engage, and I don't care if this person is a VP of a large company, which we have in our class, I’m going to challenge that person. I might disagree, I'm going to cite sources, and that's where this program really does shine, the sense of engagement beyond the assignments and creating that collaboration within the class. So, whether you're experienced or new graduate, it's not an online course that's easy, and you're going to come inside there drop some assignments and go. Take it for what it is, it's an investment in terms of dollars and time.
Make yourself irreplaceable in the marketing industry.
In order to make yourself irreplaceable in the field of marketing communications, you need to understand how to harness the power of data and know how to use that data to create and refine integrated marketing campaigns across all media channels. Obtaining a graduate degree in Data Marketing Communications could be the way that you establish yourself as a relevant, competitive, and data-minded marketer in today's complex and ever-changing marketing communications industry. We invite you to request more information today to learn more!