Then & Now: A No-Longer-Entry-Level Professional’s Perspective

Hello fellow bloggers, communication minded peeps, and young professionals! We are excited to bring to you CM’s first guest blogger. Every month we ask one communication professional to write about their respective field and journey. This week we are pleased to introduce a fellow alum and IMC professional from our own community, Claire Dillard!

Claire is a Communication Studies graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. After graduating she worked as a contractor for Bon’s Eye Marketing (Wilmington, NC), accepting a full-time position as Marketing Coordinator—her current position— in fall 2012. We had the privilege of meeting Claire when she served as Caroline’s mentor in the UNCW Communication Studies Department mentor program, Project Protégé. Having benefited from her advice, we felt we needed to have her share it with the world! Claire is currently a member of Ladies’ Night, and is active in Port City Young Professionals and the Cape Fear UNCW Alumni Chapter.

Then & Now: A No-Longer-Entry-Level Professional’s Perspective

I am beyond excited (and flattered!) to have been asked to contribute to the Communication Minded blog. After agreeing to write a post, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to share with you. A fellow graduate of UNCW (class of ‘12), I’ve decided to use this as an excuse for me to reflect on what I have learned – and what I wish I would have known sooner – in my two-plus years as a working professional. Enjoy!

When first starting out, no one expects you to know exactly what you’re doing. I’ll be honest. Even after two years, I still have days when I don’t know what I’m doing – and that’s okay. College courses are great for building a foundation of knowledge, but there are many things you won’t learn until you experience them firsthand. I knew the difference between a pitch and a press release. I knew how to navigate various social media networks. But what tone is most appropriate when emailing a certain editor? How much will my client need to spend on Facebook Advertising in order to achieve the best ROI? In the field of Integrated Marketing Communication, things are always changing. Staying on top of the latest trends is a fulltime job itself. Don’t fret when you feel a bit lost or have to Google a few terms you think you should already know – it’s totally normal!

Claire Dillard Graduation

Start building your professional network ASAP. This is especially vital for those in the PR profession. If you are responsible for pitching stories to the media, chances are you will be communicating with the same editors, journalists and news content managers time and time again. Don’t stay hidden behind your emails or phone calls. Get to know these people on a personal and professional level. Ask them to join you for coffee. Building that trust and relationship makes all the difference. No matter your profession, take the time to attend networking functions. You never know who your next client, co-worker, or boss might be.

There is no homework in the “real world.”Not to say that you won’t ever need to complete tasks after-hours in certain situations, but it took months for me to get used to relaxing when I left the office. Throughout our typical 17 years of school (K-12 plus four years of undergrad) we have grown accustomed to the routine of attending class during the day and then returning home where we completed our additional assignments and projects. But once you begin a 9 to 5 job, your work hours actually do end at 5 p.m. It sounds so obvious (and awesome), yet it was by far one of the hardest changes for me to grow accustomed to. Few people warn you about this but new graduates must prepare to battle the anxiety that comes with always thinking, “Isn’t there something I should be doing right now?!”

Even when college is over, education is not. Whether you are a new graduate still searching for a job, a young professional or a C-suite executive, take advantage of opportunities to educate yourself. From webinars to online courses to industry publications, there is always something for me (and you) to learn from. Here are a few sources I highly recommend:

You can love your job without loving everything about your job. I love being creative. I love writing advertising copy and searching for the perfect photo to accompany it. I love interviewing clients and using their insight to construct industry trend pieces. But that’s not all I do. I complete tasks like gathering media kits from numerous outlets and developing spreadsheets with ad rate and deadline information – not my idea of fun. I have found that it’s all about a healthy balance. Are you more happy in your job than not? Are you able to complete tasks that prove your worth and test your ability more often than those that require little to no expertise? Make sure you enjoy what you do even if you don’t enjoy everything you have to do. No job is perfect but don’t let that stop you from finding one you love.

Claire Dillard

Claire Dillard

Want more from Claire? She loves talking to fellow (and aspiring) communication professionals.


Why Unpaid Internships Are Impairing Your Organization’s Growth

The benefits of internships are endless. Interns gain experience, responsibility, knowledge, and confidence. Today, interns and internships are a norm in organizations. While internships are held to favor the intern, there are ways in which the organization can benefit.

As young professionals, working our way up to manager level positions, we have to question; how can my organization most benefit from the internship program we have or lack? Drumroll please, and the answer is… by paying them for their time. The following are four benefits of offering paid internships.

1. It attracts talent.
Paid internships are highly sought after by both undergraduates and graduates. (In integrated marketing communication it can be the first year or two of your post-grad life.) Every company wants to have the best employees working for them, including interns.

Suzanne Lucas reports in her article, “A Strong Case for Why You Should Pay Your Interns”, that paying internships (of at least minimum wage) get three times the number of applicants. Although it will take more effort sorting through resumes, the reward of finding an intern that fits into your company is well worth it. InternMatch Chief Marketing Officer Nathan Parcells further comments: “When you switch to paying interns, the quality of applicants goes up, so does the speed of training, so does the value an intern adds over a summer, and so does the likelihood that you end up hiring that person.”


2. It increases candidate diversity.
In “FAQ and Guide on How to Hire Interns”, Parcells states, “not paying your intern immediately excludes a large number of college students [and recent graduates] who need some level of payment to consider internship employment.” He explains, “African Americans and Hispanics are much more likely to be holding college debt than white and Asian students. … Organizations that are trying to hire diverse candidates will struggle if they force students to choose between a paycheck and an internship program.”

Having worked as an undergraduate with a variety of individuals, from retired military to experienced entrepreneurs, my projects has benefited from the different perspectives and understandings these diverse candidates hold. Excluding pools of people leads to less cultural diversity and less creative, relevant work.

3. It makes your interns happier.
Interns are a happy bunch of individuals. (This is coming from my personal experience and from talking with others.) We like learning and applying our theories to real world work. Good internships will make us happy even if they are unpaid, but not having to worry about squeezing in extra hours at another part-time job to pay off credit cards or debt does make the load lighter.

An article by The Muse notes that by paying interns you aren’t limited to them working a few hours a week because of other jobs, “They’ll have more time to work for you.” In addition, “Happy interns say nice things about your company.”

4. It gives your company a good reputation.
When you pay an intern it shows you value them and that value, appreciation, and mentorship leads to word-of-mouth marketing. During college, I was lucky to be selected to intern at two organizations. They were both nonprofit, therefore I was unable to be paid, and I was completely fine with that because I was learning so much. At the end of one I was presented with a surprise stipend for my contributions. That token of appreciation meant a lot to me, and to this day I still advertise and recommend the two organizations to others.

Looi Qin En exclaims in “Why Interns Should Be Paid”, “[Interns] are willing to give up a higher paying job (the hourly wage for a part-time/temp job seeker is typically twice that of an intern’s hourly wage if you calculate allowance vs. hours worked). … [T]hey should be paid a gratuity allowance. No, not as a monetary reward, but a token of appreciation, a gesture of thoughtfulness. That the company cares about the intern enough to help defray living cost like meals and transport.”

Cartoon Unpaid Intern

Why does this matter for young professionals?
In fifteen years we will no longer be young professionals. We will be executives or small business owners that make the decisions and set the industry standards. In order to improve and advance in our field we have to start investing in its future.

There is a stigma that goes with marketing, public relations, and advertising. It starts in college, when you tell someone that you are a Communication Studies major, they automatically assume your major is easy. (If you went to my undergrad it means you couldn’t get into the business school. #nottrue) A professor told my undergraduate class that marketing and communication employees are the first to go in recessions because our work is undervalued and deemed unnecessary. How do we combat this? We show our trade and skills are valued, and that starts with valuing interns and changing our mindset about internships.

As David Sederholt remarks, “I and other managers strongly believe that we have a responsibility to teach young people the value of learning from and working in a real business environment. We give them real work, real managers, real responsibility, real accountability and yes, a real paycheck.”

 How do you feel about paid and unpaid internships? Share with us your opinions and experiences in a comment below.


The Outstanding Award Goes to Who?

Last week the lists of nominees for the Primetime Emmy Awards were announced. Just as many of you are, we were excited to see some of our favorite shows nominated — “Scandal”, “Game of Thrones”, and “Mad Men”. There are many popular categories including Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress, Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy, etc. However, there are two categories that usually go unnoticed with general viewers: Outstanding Interactive Program and Outstanding Commercial.

In honor of the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, we decided to explore the nominees of these two categories and tell you whom we think, and hope will win.


Outstanding Interactive Program

This category (category 38) honors television program’s overall efforts for engagement of audience. To understand what is considered to determine the winner, we can look into the Emmy Outstanding Creative Achievements in Interactive Media, or juried 39. These awards are juried, meaning panels unanimously vote on whether television programs should receive this title. There is no head-to-head competition between programs like in categories. The award can be given in four sub-sections that include: Multiplatform Storytelling, Original Interactive Program, Social TV Experience, and User Experience and Visual Design. Now that we have general understanding of what overall efforts could include, lets go into the category 38 nominees.

Comedy Central’s “@Midnight”

@Midnight” is a new show where comedian/celebrity contestants aim to make fun of society staples such as the Internet, social media, and pop culture. If you haven’t seen it tune in Monday-Thursday at 12 a.m. or go to Comedy Central’s website to watch full episodes. As someone who had not seen the show before researching the nominees for this blog, I was cracking up throughout the half-hour episode. (Jimmy Fallon might have some late night competition.)

The show is set up similar to a game show and uses the social media platform Twitter. Contestants play for different Twitter handles and they encourage viewers to join the fun and tweet in their comedic comments, if good enough they could be shown on the next airing episode. “@Midnight” has been especially successful in reaching the male 18-24 and 18-34 audience. The Wrap reports, “@Midnight” ranked an average of second place in the late night hour segment (11 p.m. – 2 p.m.). Host Chris Hardwick explains, “Our goal was, how can we have as much fun as possible and engage people as much as possible.” From the episode or two I have watched the show definitely deserves to be nominated for this category.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” Premiere- Facebook Live and Instagram

Season four of  “Game of Thrones” brought new and creative ways for fans of the story to engage with the creator, cast members, and producers.Using Facebook Live, a media channel that “connects you with some of the top public figures and information about what they’re working on” via live streams of events and interviews, live cast the NYC premiere. Fans sent in questions via Facebook and Instagram that were asked and answered on the red carpet.

NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Digital Experience 

Jimmy Fallon has already won the hearts of late night with his hashtag segments and fun games, but in February NBC wanted to create a new digital experience for the viewers. It re-launched the website and created a custom app for the show, which is available for Apple products and Android. The app makes it easier for fans to watch clips, view audience driven content, and play fun games, which feature Jimmy and the cast.


NBC’s “The Voice” 

The Voice’s” sixth season return was no disappointment, especially with the return of coaches Shakira and Usher. The show received a total of 10 Emmy nominations, one of them being Outstanding Interactive Program. It is hard to not hear “The Voice” when Twitter lights up with support. Celebrity coaches, the contestants, the audience, and home viewers keep the storyline moving outside of the one-hour, twice a week showing. Personally, I’m quite impressed with their Pinterest page, which has themed show munchies, information on contestants, and behind the scene photos and interviews. Props to “The Voice” team for being able to engage so many people for a long period of time.


Caroline: For this award, I am going to predict “@Midnight” or “The Voice”. Both shows seamlessly incorporate interactive elements that enhance the experience for viewers, leading the way for TV in the future.

Outstanding Commercial

This category awards both the production company and the advertising agency of the year’s best spot. Entrant eligibility requires that the commercial must be 30 -120 seconds in length, originally aired during the primetime period (6:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.), and broadcasted to at least 50% of the total potential US television audience.

Last Thursday the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences released the five final contestants. Budweiser steals two of the spots with their Super Bowl commercials, the work of Anomaly ad agency. MJZ also has two spots among the five for their production work. Below we’ll take a look at all five and I’ll give you my prediction of the category winner.

1. “A Hero’s Welcome” – Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial
Production Company – HSI Productions
Ad Agency – Anomaly

A tearjerker through and through, the spot shows the heartwarming homecoming of US military solider Chuck Nadd. The opening scene portrays the emotional first embrace of Nadd and his wife in the airport, and then transitions into showing the embrace of the whole town. As the magnitude of respect his community feels for him is shown through scenes of welcome home signs, American flags, and finally a town parade, viewers can’t help but feel a surge of American pride.

2. “Puppy Love” – Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial
Production Company – RSA Productions
Ad Agency – Anomaly 

The name says it all. What’s not to love about a puppy? The spot show’s the unlikely friendship between a yellow Labrador puppy and his Clydesdale best friend.  With the opening scene showing “Puppy Adoption” as Passenger’s song “Let Her Go” plays in the background, viewers are in emotional anguish waiting for the neighbors to realize these animals’ inseparable bond just can’t be torn apart. A definite crowd pleaser in post Super Bowl review, but will it remain favorite in the Emmy selection?

3. Childlike Imagination – What My Mom Does at GE
Production Company – MJZ
Ad Agency – BBDO

With an opening scene fairly reminiscent to that of Pixar’s, this General Electric commercial has artfully animated the mind of the 6-year-old narrator whose mom works at GE. The innocence of the child’s descriptions is meant to show the softer side of the company – the imagination part of their slogan “Imagination at Work”.  After its original release, Linda Boff, GE’s executive director of global brand marketing, commented on the spot, “Showing where the softer side—imagination, software, the mind—meets the harder stuff—the technology, the engines, the innovation—is, for us, a great marriage.” Judges will decide whether or not that great marriage is an outstanding one.

4. Nike Presents: Just Do It – Possibilities
Production Company – MJZ
Ad Agency – Wieden + Kennedy 

High paced and engaging, this Nike spot leaves viewers feeling energized and empowered. Standing fully behind their slogan of “Just Do It”, the commercial is constantly portraying the idea of pushing limits as the narrator pushes the viewer to believe that if they can do x, they can do y, and also z. The spot is able to effortlessly evoke the company’s passion about sports, but also about you.

5. Apple – Holiday TV Ad – Misunderstood
Production Company – Park Pictures
Ad Agency – TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Holiday ads, as we all know, are notorious for desperately trying to sell their products during height of the consumer-purchasing season. At first view, you make think this ad follows suit, depicting a teenager constantly glued to his cellphone during the family holiday gatherings, with the finality of the commercial depicting a product that will temporarily remove one from technology and bring them closer to family. However, this ad does just the opposite – showing how technology has actually brought this family closer together as the ending shows the real antics of the boy and his phone – a video he has made which captures his family’s most endearing candid moments of their holiday visit.


Savannah: While we all love cute puppies, we love our family more. And for that reason, I choose Apple. Their spot makes the viewer feel all the things they should – nostalgic, happy, content, and heart warmed. Rather than alienating or hampering our ability to connect, Apple portrays how their technology actually brings us closer together and just like it was part of this family, it should be part of yours too. And all of this is evoked without ever even mentioning all of the operating systems newest features, improvements, or tricks – other than the seeing the iPhone in the boy’s hand there isn’t even a mention of the company or anything related until the end. It is clear that Apple produced an outstanding commercial, and they key? Blending message with emotion.


Who do you think deserves the Emmy Awards? Let us know why in a comment below. And don’t forget to see who wins these two categories at the Emmy’s on Monday August 25th at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on NBC.

– Caroline and Savannah


Let’s get personal

What do polar bears, NASCAR, the Olympics, and now Brandon, Kendra, Alex, Zoey, and possibly you have in common? Well until the end of August, the answer is Coca-Cola. In the midst of another ingenious campaign, this time Coke is sponsoring none other than you.

Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign has swapped out the iconic logo on their Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero bottles for personal names. Do a double take next time you walk down the soda aisle – you may find yourself having a friendly game of seek and find with the bottles as you search for your own name. Names that are in production for the campaign are based on the 250 most popular first names among American teens.

And for this modern twist of a campaign, teens are key. Stuart Kronage, Senior Vice Present of Sparkling Brands, Coca-Cola North America, commented on the creative behind the campaign, saying, “For teens and Millennials, personalization is not a fad, it’s a way of life”.

This concept of personalization is becoming increasingly important for marketers in the postmodern era. A new study released this spring by Adobe cites  that personalization topped marketer’s list at the one capability that will be most important to marketing in the future.

Customization is no longer just a trend, but a need for marketers if they wish to make an impact on the consumer. The article, “Marketing in a Postmodern World” flushes out the ideas of the growth in consumer and product relationship: By immersing themselves as an object, rather than attempting to maintain a detached position, consumers become a participant in customization.

As a result, products become increasingly less of a finished object. Products are essentially templates waiting for consumer input to dictate the finish. In turn, consumers are not just consuming the product, but producing it as well.

Marketers are continuing to open their proprietary processes and systems to the consumer. Input now drives design, manufacturing, assembling, packaging, delivery, and billing.

The “Share a Coke” campaign is a prime example of the role of packaging. Sure Pepsi also produces a refreshing cola, but when sitting next to a Coke bottle that has my name on it, which one am I going to pick? Coke, of course. Why? Because it’s MY bottle.

What products have you noticed that have become increasingly customizable?  Is a product that is personalizable more valuable than one that is not? How do you incorporate customization into your work?

– Savannah Valade

How do you see the world?

They say you are what you eat. But what about what you see? Do you see a commercial as an annoying transition in the middle of your show? Or do you see a spot that adds to your entertainment? What about your social media page? Do you see it as a way to avoid your workday and keep up with celebrities? Or do you see it as an expression of yourself, a news source, a tool of trade?

So how do you see the world? If you are like us, then you see the latter part of the questions above. And what does that make you? It makes you communication minded – and you are exactly whom this blog is for.

We extended to you a welcome, from the both of us— Caroline and Savannah, to Communication Minded. A blog that serves as a space for communication professionals to share their experiences, to converse on trends and techniques, and to create and contribute to new ideas and work in their respectable fields.

Underlying our mission, this blog will serve as an outlet in which half of our content will discuss social media, advertising, public relations, and other facets of the communication field via ourselves and guest contributors.

The other part of this blog will be our journey as young professionals. We recently graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and are currently breaking into the professional world. We want to share our experiences in hopes to help others navigate their professions.

So to kick off this blog we want to discuss something that we love critiquing and creating— brands. Most people think of brands in terms of products, off-brand vs. brand. Yet, a brand is much more than that. It is not merely a symbol or word; it is a story.

Brands are how we identify and express ourselves. Living in a consumer culture, the brands we consume become a part of who we are. As a consumer do you ever think about why you buy certain brands? Or why you don’t buy others? Is it because of a commercial? Is it because of what your parents used to buy? Is it because a friend said it was great? It is because of convenience? Price? Companies use all of these factors to try to package their brands so that their brand story is also a matching puzzle piece to your own personal story.

In order to show you what we mean and to tell you a little more about ourselves, we have created a collage of brands that help us make up our own personal identities.

Caroline Robinson

Caroline Collage

 Savannah Valade


Brands and people share symbiotic relationships. James Twitchell notes, “brand[s] can take years to evolve, it can evaporate in just months if it loses its interpretive audience.” The same brands you see in our collages today might not be the brands you see in our collages a year from now. Why? People and brands evolve. The brands that tell your story and feelings when you are twenty most likely won’t tell the same when you are forty.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, quoted “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.  So, whether you are a company, product, or individual remember to evolve your brand and change with your audiences.

We hope you have enjoyed our first post and have gotten a feel for what we will be writing about. Check out our backstories on “The Minds” page and learn more about the blog on the “What We Are” page. To subscribe to our weekly blog via email fill out the box on the sidebar (right side of the page).

-Caroline Robinson & Savannah Valade