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Concept Development, Strategy, and Tactics in Integrated Marketing Communications — WVU Faculty Insight

Larry S

Larry Stultz, Ph.D., has been a part of the  Integrated Marketing Communications faculty community since 2007. He served as department chair for the Bachelor of Arts in Advertising program at The Art Institute of Atlanta, where he taught courses in conceptual thinking and campaign development for twenty years. Prior to entering the teaching phase of his life, he operated design and advertising firms in New Orleans and Atlanta with clients in hospitality and tourism, commercial real estate, corporate communications, health care, and social services.

As an expert professional in the field of marketing communications, we're excited that we had the opportunity to interview Stultz on our weekly Marketing Communications Today Podcast. Here's what he had to say.

Nathan Pieratt: How are you able to help  WVU IMC students understand conceptual thinking and strategy development?

Larry Stultz: In marketing communications, the real power is in concepts. There has to be a single main idea. I referred many years ago to a book Joey Reiman wrote called “Thinking for a Living.” He says, "The creative thinking plus critical thinking equals conceptual thinking." You have to use your right brain and your left brain. Concept and strategy are critical to then developing the tactics and executions that are right for your clients and your target audience. You’ve got to be authentic; you've got to personalize your message; and you've got to have a concept that makes people take notice.

NP: One of the things I try to stress when I'm teaching is if the concept is going to work across all your channels and if it's truly integrated, you have to make sure that that idea can flow down into your mid and lower funnels.

LS: It's been a learning process for all of us in the business too because years ago, you always started a campaign with a print ad and a billboard. Everything just launched from there, but that is no longer true. You may never have a print piece in a campaign. The thing that we find with students is often we gravitate toward a social media execution and native advertising executions before we really think it through about what is really going to hit the market where they live. So, that's why we do the strategy statements and the creative briefs and then work that to death before we ever dive into tactics.

NP: I've seen where brands are starting with video. Video is a lot of fun and super dynamic, but it's moving and there is a lot of excitement to it. Translating that into your email is very difficult. Having those core messaging components, the core concept that you can go back to helps.

LS: We are all trying to figure out and keep up with the digital space, and we are all watching what the big brands are doing. Even they're having trouble figuring out what to do with this digital space. We're all learning it together.

NP:  We're seeing the need for specializations and understanding key channels like digital and paid media. Our  IMC program is now offering seven Areas of Emphasis (AOE) to reflect that change in the market.

You can get an AOE in  Creative Strategy, for example. How do we make sure that conceptual thinking is addressing contemporary needs? Are there other resources you're sharing to make sure our students are staying on top of these contemporary changes?

LS: I just finished reworking part of the course this summer because we have found that textbooks cannot keep up with the changes going on in the industry. The industry changes virtually every day. One thing that we do is I personally record video for every week explaining what's going on in the course for that week, and giving people some hints about what's developing in the industry for that topic. I also subscribe to many, many marketing news briefs that I get virtually every day such as Marketing Dive, Drum and Content Institute. They contain a lot of articles and sometimes those articles just really ring the bell with what we're talking about that week. And I'll forward those articles to the students. That's the only way we can keep this course relevant and up-to-date to the minute.

NP: Do you have any advice for our students as they tackle marketing around how to speak to the correct audience?

LS: The critical issues are knowing the target audience and that “day in the life” story of our target market. What I have students do is to first start with considering their own journey through life. We all share these billions and billions of experiences, and if you can draw on those experiences for even your conceptual thinking and especially then into your tactics, you're going to ring a bell in the audience's mind. And "the day in the life" story, the target audience is a story that I have everybody write about. Who is their target audience that they think they're going to reach? Define that person and see if that really is somebody that's going to use your product or service or organization. Write that story and that's who you base your executions toward — when you finally get around to putting the executions and tactics together.

More about Larry Stultz:

Larry Stultz has served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Ad Club and provides ideation facilitation and consulting services to clients in the southeast. Stultz holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Visual Design from Purdue University, and he earned his Ph.D. in Educational Policy: Social Foundations from Georgia State University in 2006.

Join us on our  Marketing Communications Today podcast Thursday, August 8 at 1 p.m. ET to learn from Bill Oechsler on why KPIs matter to the CMO, CFO, and CEO. 

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It's your chance to make a difference in the field of marketing communications.

Here at West Virginia University's Reed College of Media, we are dedicated to preparing the next generation of irreplaceable marketing communications professionals. For that reason, the courses in the  Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program are taught by diverse and forward-thinking faculty — from marketing directors to academics, from entrepreneurs to authors — who are all recognized as true leaders in their fields.

As someone who's interested in boosting a career in the field of marketing communications, you should  contact us today so that we can help you transform your future in this rapidly-changing industry. And if you're ready to jumpstart your future in this field, you can start your  online application today!