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Walk West intern Candace Carter promoting the Salvation Army Most Amazing Race

The Intern’s Journey: Jumpstarting My Marketing Career

In May 2017, I proudly moved the tassel on my graduation cap from right to left as I earned my Marketing degree from East Carolina University. However, this anticipated achievement wasn’t the only reason for my eager enthusiasm leading up to graduation day. My goal throughout college was to have some kind of marketing position locked down prior to walking across the stage to accept my diploma—well, the rolled up piece of paper that represented it at least. A couple weeks prior, I accomplished that goal by accepting an internship with Walk West. Although some questioned my reasoning behind acquiring a position as a marketing intern over a full-time job elsewhere, I knew this was the best move to jumpstart my marketing career.

Awareness

During my initial job search, I didn’t apply for any marketing internships. To be honest, the thought didn’t even cross my mind until one of my connections introduced the idea and informed me that I didn’t have to be a student to apply for one. Although I gained great experience from college internships and student organizations, I was aware that I still had a lot to learn as I began my journey as a new marketer.

I knew I needed agency experience to explore my career further before being siloed into a marketing specialty. While degrees and certifications are important, the real value comes from hands-on work experience. But ultimately, I knew it was my responsibility to forge my own path and flourish in the position that I was in.

Walk West intern Candace Carter taking pictures at CP3 event

Consideration

Realizing that my first position would be essential in setting the pace for my career, I did a lot of networking and research on various companies and agencies in the Triangle with career opportunities in marketing. At this point, I was looking for a solution to my current situation and, most importantly, I was searching for a position that enabled professional growth, challenged me daily, played a significant role in skill development, provided hands-on experience, and surrounded me with talented mentors.

Walk West exceeded all of those expectations. From Lunch & Learns to one-on-one training sessions and check-ins, the mentorship and insightful advice that I received from the team provided a collaborative and positive learning atmosphere. The internship had no limits, which was very appealing to an entry-level marketer like myself with a hunger for absorbing as much marketing knowledge as possible while participating in unique experiences—just to name a couple, photographing Chris Paul’s CP3 basketball camp and presenting marketing ideas at a Salvation Army board meeting.

Walk West intern Candace Carter promoting the Salvation Army Most Amazing Race

Decision

Amidst my job hunting journey, I maintained a long-term mindset. I didn’t want to settle for something simply because it was “full-time.” Instead, I searched for businesses and positions that met the criteria I had established. I determined that any company can hire for talent, but the kind that sees true potential and invests accordingly was the type I wanted to begin my career with.

With a clear goal in mind, I made the ultimate decision to “Walk West.” Since day one, I’ve been able to add a myriad of skills to my personal marketing toolbox and have contributed to many projects.

Just to give you an idea, I learned:

  • SEO, content writing, and social media best practices
  • Various marketing tools (e.g., Sprout Social and Screaming Frog)
  • Professional photography tips
  • What it takes to give an excellent presentation
  • How to execute market research to support Discovery projects
  • Paid social campaigns
  • Google Analytics and Sprout reporting

Honestly, if you name it, I probably learned it. Even if I was familiar with how to do a certain task, I remained curious on how to incorporate best practices and was always looking for opportunities to learn and stay involved. Internships can be very valuable but it all depends on what you make of it.

CP3 Walk West Prepping for Interview with Chris Paul

With all that said, don’t limit yourself to only applying for entry-level marketing jobs. Instead, apply for internship opportunities regardless of whether you are a current student or recent graduate. Look past the fancy title and pick a position at a company that challenges you to leave your professional comfort zone, offers continuous learning opportunities, and supports your ideas.

Looking back on the entirety of my internship, I can say with confidence that I was right to invest in Walk West. As a result, I’ve learned a multitude of valuable skills from some of the most talented marketing minds in the Triangle, gained hands-on experience in all forms of marketing, and am now an official part of the Walk West team as a Marketing Specialist.

Walk West Team at CP3 Event

Are you interested in jumpstarting your career through a Walk West internship? Visit the Walk West careers page for a complete listing of positions.

This blog post was originally published on WalkWest.com.

Boneyard-ECU

The Game Day Experience in Pirate Nation

For anyone who has ever met an East Carolina University alumni, they know that Pirate fans love their ECU football games. Having attended this great university, I can attest to the famous Pirate pride and spectacular game day experience that Pirate Nation is so fond of. In fact, throughout my four years at East Carolina, I never missed a single home football game, even if it was pouring rain! What I love most about game day at ECU is that the entire college town of Greenville, NC, shines with ECU pride and is completely decked out in purple and gold.

 

Tailgating

Tailgating is an essential part of the festivities that contribute to the entire game day experience. No matter what time the game begins, ECU fans are located all over Greenville tailgating hours before it starts. Walking around Greenville on a game day, there is an overwhelming strong aroma of food on the grill, Bojangles, and beer.

Outside of great tailgating food and drinks, there are many different activities to participate in. In fact, at every tailgate lot, there are corn hole boards, people throwing footballs, and drinking games being played. Also, depending on where you are located, if you are near the stadium you may see the dancers, cheerleaders, and band parading through the streets.

 

Pregame Show

After hours of tailgating, people start heading to the stadium to grab their seats. Being a student, I always stood on the stands in the Boneyard student section. The atmosphere of being in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is unlike any other. There are many traditions that take place from start to finish of each game.

Starting each game the band, color guard, dancers, and cheerleaders go out on the field to perform a pregame show to get the crowd excited. The show begins with a classic chant of “E-C-U” followed by some music and crowd engagement. Once the crowd has gotten the chance to yell for their section, we begin chanting the E.C. Victory (Fight Song). The band then gets into a formation, in the shape of our state. and the entire stadium begins to sing the ECU Alma Mater. Following the Alma Mater, we all sing the National Anthem to support our country, and most of the student section chants, “USA.”

Returning back to chanting the Fight Song, we all continue to get excited for the game to begin. The band creates a new formation and the cheerleaders as well as our mascot, PeeDee, lead the entire stadium in the “Purple – Gold” chant. After it ends, the football entrance video for the current year begins to pump up the crowd.

After the entrance video is played, the sound of an air raid siren goes off and the song, “Purple Haze” begins to fill Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Displayed on the field is a giant, blown up Pirate head with purple fog flowing out of it. The first to come out of the fog is the famous, Steve the Pirate who is followed by the head ECU football coach. For my first three years of college the head coach was Ruffin McNeill, and for my senior year, we had Scottie Montgomery. Both coaches were awesome, and I’m glad I was able to experience them coaching the team.

Once the anticipation rises, our football team finally runs out at the sound of a cannon going off and the announcer shouting for the Pirates. The crowd goes wild and the entire stadium lives up to their motto of getting rowdy in Dowdy. We wrap up the pregame show by chanting the Fight Song again and get ready for kick-off.

 

Kick-off

Leading up to kick-off, the captains of both teams meet in the middle to do the coin toss. After the winner of the toss is announced, the crowd goes wild. Then, another video displays. This one also happens to be my personal favorite. The video starts out with Pirates of the Caribbean character, Elizabeth Swan, telling the men to “Hoist the Colors.” After that scene, it shows a clips of the movie while playing the song, “Yo-Ho” (A Pirate’s Life for Me). The audience sings along and sways back and forth with their arms wrapped around one another.

As soon as the video ends, the kick-off song, “White Stripes” begins to play. All of Pirate fans bring out their keys and start jingling them while singing along. After the kicker kicks the ball, the game begins.

 

The Game

The crowd takes “rowdy in Dowdy” to a whole new level. Especially when we score. After a touchdown, the cannons go off and the fans begin cheering along to the Fight Song. Included in the celebrations, the cheerleaders and PeeDee do push ups with the score of the game.

There are many traditions that take place during the game outside of celebrating touchdowns. For instance, the crowd dances along with the band and takes part in their chants. Similarly, there are multiple times with the “Purple – Gold” chant is cheered as well as other common ECU chants led by the cheer squad. We also have a special chant when our team reaches a first down, “First down, Pirates, ARRRGH.”

Outside of the general chants and cheers, the crowd has their own traditions that they begin on their own. For example, at every game, we always try to begin a giant wave that flows around the entire stadium. Also, as some of you may know, our university is also known for shouting out the lyrics to the song, “Living on a Prayer.” It is amazing when this song begins because the entire population in Dowdy-Ficklen doesn’t miss a single beat. Even after the song stops, a lot of us continue to sing.

Another really cool tradition that I took part in during my senior year took place during the blackout games. At every blackout game, there are always students who paint themselves like skeletons. This school year, some of my friends and I decided to show our Pirate pride by painting ourselves for our senior year blackout game.

 

No Quarter

If you’ve ever stayed past half-time at an East Carolina game, you probably have witnessed “No Quarter.” This celebration occurs in between the third and fourth quarters. During this part, the “No Quarter” video is played and the fans pull out their flags. The song, “Welcome to the Jungle,” begins and fans with their flags are shown on the big screen. At the same time, the Pirate flag comes down, and the “No Quarter” flag is raised.

According to Pirates, “No Quarter” essentially means to take no prisoners and show no mercy. As for us ECU Pirates, the purpose of this portion is to cheer on our football team and remind them to fight hard during the final quarter. Also, this is everyone’s favorite time to get onto the jumbo screen with their “No Quarter” flags.

At the end each game, we always sing the ECU Alma Mater. Plus, if we win a game, we also sing, “All I Do is Win” and yell, “ECU” during the pause after DJ Khaled sings, “…everybody’s hands go up!” However, win or lose it is always a pleasure being able to support the ECU Pirate football team.

 

 

Boneyard-ECU

 

Rain or shine, I never missed a single home game during my college career, and I am so glad I didn’t. Being a Pirate is one of my favorite things, and I enjoy showing off my Alma Mater pride, especially at the football games. I will miss watching the games in the Boneyard as a student. However, I’m  going to try to attend as many ECU games as I can as an alumna!

 

Newly Engaged? Make Sure You Have These 5 Essentials

Recently, I got engaged on March 4, 2017, AKA the happiest day of my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been dreaming of my wedding and all the festivities that lead up to it. Now that I am engaged, I get to make that dream a reality with the love of my life. Thanks to my awesome friends and family, I was quickly equipped with five essentials that I think every bride-to-be should have.

 

Wedding PlannerWedding-Planner

Of course being engaged is a very exciting time, but it can also be very stressful as well. Every bride-to-be wants the wedding to be perfect and there is a lot that goes into planning such a special event. The best way to manage all of the wedding planning stress is by staying organized.

On the same day that my fiancé proposed, my close friend gave me a wedding planner. She proceeded to tell me that having a planner such as this really helped her keep track of all that she needed to do. Also, it can be a great keepsake to look back on after the wedding.

 

Wedding-Planning-BagWedding Planner Bag

My awesome sister threw me an engagement party that was absolutely amazing. At the party, I was blessed with gifts from family and friends. One, in particular, was an adorable bag to carry my wedding planner in. Similarly, I also got another one to tote more of my wedding related materials in!

In my opinion, I think bags like these are very beneficial and much needed for every bride-to-be. You can use these to tote around your planner, pens, receipts, and other materials you receive from visiting the different wedding services that you will incorporate on your special day. However, don’t limit the use of your bags to just simply the planning process. You can also use it on the day of the wedding as well.

On the day prior to your wedding, I suggest packing your bag with some necessities that you may need. For example, some things that you might consider packing could be tissues, deodorant, a bleach pen, extra lip gloss, and bobby pins. Regardless of what you end up using it for, I highly recommend having at least one bag to tote around all of your items in.

 

Wedding Planning App

There are many wedding planning apps available to use. However, my top two are The Knot and Wedding Wire. I have heard great reviews about both apps from close friends of mine. Basically, it all comes down to preference. Regardless, both of these apps are great to use.

There are many great features included within these apps. One in particular that I really like is their list of recommendations. Both apps include a list of vendors that they highly recommend. They also provide many different forms of advice for wedding planning. Another great addition to these apps is that they both will help you to create an easy to use website for your wedding. Also, both set up a timeline with recommendations based off of the wedding date that you enter on your profile. You can use this timeline as a guide for planning the big day.

 

Ring DishRing-Dish

You can never have too many ring dishes. You can put one by each sink in your house, by your bed, on your dresser, and wherever else you might find it necessary to have one. Some people chose to wear their rings all the time, but others like to take them off when they are cleaning, cooking, or sleeping.

Ring dishes are great because you can take your ring off without having to worry about losing it. I’ve only been engaged for almost two months now, and I already have two ring dishes that I use all of the time. One is by a sink at my house, and the other is right by my bed. If you’re interested in a personalized ring dish like the one pictured in this post, check out Owl Lilly Vinyl Designs on Etsy.

 

Ring Cleaner

Once you become engaged, everyone will be asking to see your beautiful new ring. So, you might want to keep it clean and sparkly to show it off to all of your friends and family. Depending on where your fiancé purchased your ring from, the jeweler may offer free cleaning. However, I still enjoy having a ring cleaner available for when my ring is in need of cleaning, and I cannot make it to Diamonds Direct.

bride-feyoncee

These are just a few of the things that I think are essential to have as a bride-to-be. I’m excited to continue along this very exciting journey of being engaged! If you have any other suggestions of products you think would be a great addition to the ones listed in this post, feel free to share them in the comments below.

The Proposal

It was ECU Spring Break 2017. I had a full week of activities planned with family, friends, and my awesome boyfriend, Michael. I’m a big planner, but something happened during spring break that certainly surprised me. On Saturday, March 4, 2017, at around 5:00 p.m., the love of my life asked me the question I’ve been waiting for since I was a little girl. However, before I get into all of the details about the question which completely changed everything, let’s back up a few hours.

Saturday Morning

It was a regular morning just like any other. I was meeting with my sister, Jamie, to go shopping. We met up to ride together in the same car and head over to a Lula Roe open house sale. We easily spent way too much money that morning purchasing super cute clothes, but it was a lot of fun. After an exhausting shopping trip, we ended up treating ourselves to some delicious Starbucks.

Saturday Afternoon

Once Jamie and I finished hanging out, I headed back to my dad’s house to meet up with one of my best friends since high school, Sarah. At the time, I didn’t realize she asked me to get my nails done with her that day for a specific reason. We’ve gotten our nails done together multiple times in the past, so I wasn’t thinking anything was about to happen that day. Although, I’m so thankful she talked me into fixing my nails for what was to come.

Once our nails were both fabulous, Sarah told me that she needed to drop off some work keys to a co-worker since we were going to the beach the next day. I didn’t think anything of it. I figured we were just going to drop off the keys and then get ready to meet our boys for dinner that night.

She drove us to Sunset Lake where we were supposed to meet her co-worker and husband. Sarah convinced me to get out of the car with her so she didn’t have to go alone. So, I did. Little did I know what I was actually getting out of the car for. We started to walk around, and then all of the sudden Sarah pushed me forward and says, “You go first.”

The Shock

I was confused as to what was happening, but then I looked down at the ground and saw a path of pink flower petals. That’s when things started to click. I turned around to Sarah and mentioned something about me not looking presentable, but right after that nothing else mattered. I was in complete shock, but beyond excited.

The Proposal

I followed the path of pink flower petals that led up to my handsome boyfriend standing under a beautiful waterfall. Once I was close, he grabbed my hand and led me a little further until we were standing in the middle of a circle of petals. He held both of my hands, smiled at me, and said, “I love you with all my heart. You’re my one and only forever, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Michael got down on one knee and pulled out a Verragio box. He opened the box which showed a GORGEOUS ring and said, “Candace Frances Carter, will you marry me?” That was the question that set the course for the rest of our lives. Without any hesitation, I answered him and said, “YES!”

After he placed the ring on my finger, we embraced one another and reflected on the unforgettable and special moment that we just shared. Then Michael told me to turn around, and I saw my friends Sarah, James, Ethan, and Alyssa. To my surprise, Ethan recorded the entire proposal and Alyssa photographed it!

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this perfect video that Ethan Britt Films put together for us.

 

Our proposal date will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it the day that Michael and I became engaged, but it also was the anniversary of my Grandma and Granddaddy Searcy’s wedding, March 4, 1961. Knowing that this date held so much meaning, made it felt as if Grandma was right there with us celebrating and smiling down from heaven.

After the initial shock sank in, we told our family and friends. We also stopped by to see some of our closest family members to share our great news with them. Everyone was so excited for us!

March 4, 2017, will always be a date that I will never forget. Our engagement has been a dream come true! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!

 

Thank you, AG Photography, for capturing some amazing photographs from the proposal!

Candace and Michael’s Engagement: Saturday, March 4, 2017, around 5:00 p.m. at Sunset Lake, Holly Springs, NC.  

Personal Brand Campaign: Part 2

After reading part 1, you now know the first steps that I took in order to begin my personal brand campaign. To give you a quick recap, I first set a goal, then created a set of forms, set up progressive profiling rules, and retrieved the gated content URL to place within an iframe generator. Within this post, we will flow right back into the next steps I took after utilizing an iframe generator.

Landing Pages:

In part 1, I discussed how I had to create three of everything. Similarly, it is essential to have three landing pages as well. I designed each of my landing pages to relate to my different pieces of content. After I was finished designing, I copied the iframe code that I generated and pasted it within a “Custom Content” block. By pasting the code in the landing page, Act-On automatically linked my progressive forms and media to the landing page. Displayed below are screen shots of my three landing pages with their appropriate progressive profiling forms.

Landing Page #1:

Landing Page #2:

Landing Page #3:

Once each form is completed and submitted, the user will automatically be given the downloadable content for each specific form. For example, my first form was designed to give out a step-by-step guide that I created titled, “How to Create a Form in Act-On.” The second form displayed my second piece of content called, “How to Create an Email in Act-On.” In my last form, the submission resulted in the person receiving my resume.

Outside of the downloadable content, a personalized thank you email set to send for filling out each form. Each of the emails was catered toward the certain piece of content the reader received. Also, the email included another attachment to each of my content pieces and directed the individual to check out my website, blogs, and photography.

Thank You Email #1:

Thank You Email #2:

Thank You Email #3:

 

Marketing List:

Recalling back to the form submissions list that was discussed in part 1, I used the same list to upload the contacts provided by my professor. To upload the excel list of contacts, I clicked on the drop down arrow for “Signups From: ECU FINAL,” clicked on “Import/Export,” and then selected “Append to This List.” I followed the remaining steps, verified that the information was correct, and clicked “Finish.”

Automated Program:

After my forms, progressive profiling, emails, and landing pages were created, I put together my automated program. In the general settings, I assigned a program name and description to help me identify the basic campaign details while running. I also added my contact list, “Signups From: ECU FINAL.”

Under the tab, “Program Messages,” I added my three landing page email invites. For each of these emails, I included a public URL hyperlink to each landing page that it goes with. I also gave each email a very descriptive title to tell me which email contained the specific landing pages and appropriate content.

Automated Message #1:

Automated Message #2:

Automated Message #3:

Lastly, I had to set up a solid program flow. I created this to take each contact on a specific journey based off of their behaviors. For this flow, I included the three program messages that are displayed above.

 

 


The purpose of this automated program was to invite the contact list to each of my three landing pages. For each landing page that they visited, they saw one of the three progressive forms that I created. After they submitted the form, they received one of my three pieces of content based off of the certain form that they completed. Also, they were sent a thank you message with the attached content piece. The contacts continuously moved through the automated program until they reached the final step or exited sooner based off of their behavior.

Test:

As all marketers know, it would be foolish not to test a project out before sending it out. So, to ensure that my email marketing campaign would run smoothly, I tested it out on myself multiple times. Once I was happy with my work, I hit the “Start” button to begin my first email marketing campaign.

 

It was exciting being able to learn how to create an email marketing campaign through the Act-On Marketing Automation system. I believe this skill will be very useful throughout my career path as a marketer. In fact, this campaign may even be able to help me land my dream job!

Personal Brand Campaign: Part 1

During my Marketing Automation class this semester at East Carolina University, my classmates and I were tasked with creating a campaign using Act-On. The purpose of this campaign is to display our individual talents and personal brand to a list of 80 professional marketers. Through this post, I will show you exactly how I created mine.

Goal:

Before beginning any successful project, it is essential to set a goal and map out the steps you will need to take in order to reach that objective. In this case, since most of us are graduating, our goal for this project is to land a job and build connections. With that being said, we have to prove our worth and display our skills throughout the campaign before we can achieve our end goal.

Forms:

For this particular campaign, we were instructed to create three separate forms that would produce our three pieces of downloadable content. Our professor told the class that the best way to create these multiple forms is to first build a master form that includes all of the data that we want to collect from our recipients. Once it has been designed exactly how we like, we copy it three times. It’s important to note that all of the forms are to be hooked up to the same form submission list. In this project, I made sure that all of mine were hooked up to the same existing list, “Signups From: ECU FINAL.”

The image located below displays my master form. Within this form, I included all of the information that I plan to receive from my email list. Although this particular one will not be used, I created this one first in order to duplicate my CSS for the ones to follow.

The first of my three forms asks the recipient to enter their first name, last name, email address, and company. Once the individual enters in all of this information, they will be given the first downloadable piece of content and sent a thank you email.

Here is my first form:

For my second form, I attached my second piece of downloadable content. To receive new information from the reader, I asked for their job title and their LinkedIn URL. With their LinkedIn URL, I can now connect with them.

Here is my second form:

Now that I have all of the basic information that I need from each individual, my third form simply asks for their phone number. This form includes my most valuable piece of content, my resume. If the individual would like to view my resume, I request their phone number in return. After I receive their number, I can contact them and make arrangements to network with one another.

Here is my final form:

With so many steps required to properly run my personal branding campaign, I specifically named each form so that I can easily keep track and differentiate between them quickly. As you can see by the picture below, the master form is titled, “ECU FINAL” and the other forms are labeled in order from one to three. Also, I clarified in the titles which specific content is attached.

Progressive Profiling Rules:

Now that all of my forms are created, I can create progressive profiling rules. Since I created three forms for my three pieces of content, I needed to have three progressive forms. I labeled each of my progressive forms so that they match the order of my downloadable content. By doing this, I could easily keep track of which is first, second, and third.

In terms of the rules, I created the same three rules for each of my progressive forms. Although this may seem repetitive, it is essential to remain organized and specific. For each rule, I selected a specific form that I would like to be displayed.

Instead of simply using only the basic forms, we used progressive profiling so that we did not repeatedly ask our contact list for the same information. Instead, the rules catered the form sequence in the correct manner that the contact needed.

Gated Content URL:

Having completed my progressive profiling, I was then able to generate a gated content URL for each piece of downloadable content. Within my media library on Act-On, I selected on the drop down arrow next to each file. I then clicked on “Gated Content URL” and hit the “Add” button once the pop-up box appeared.

In the drop down box, I selected the set of progressive profiling rules that matched the specific content that I was retrieving the gated content URL for. For example, for my first downloadable piece, I selected the progressive form titled, “ECU Final – Content #1.” After this was selected, a link was displayed available for use.

I did all of these steps for each of my three pieces of content. Next, I copied the gated content URL and inserted it into an iframe generator. This is a crucial step because it must be completed for each file in order to include the progressive profiling form and downloadable content within my landing pages.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of how I created my personal brand campaign! 

 

 

Why I Chose to Attend East Carolina University

Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on these past four years at East Carolina University. My time here has quickly flown by, and I’m grateful for every second of my time at ECU. I only have one month left until graduation, and I can say with confidence that choosing to attend this school has been the best decision of my career.

Why I Chose to Attend East Carolina University

Ever since I was a little girl, I always had a big spot in my heart for East Carolina University. My older sister, Jamie, attended ECU for both of her undergrad and masters degrees. So, I grew up being a fan of this awesome university.

While she was in college, my family and I would visit her in Greenville. Sometimes during our visits, we would go to the ECU football games with her, and I was able to experience the many traditions of Pirate Nation. It was easy to fall in love with the campus culture, and I continued to be a big supporter of the school even after she graduated.

 

Culture

East Carolina University is known for its loyal supporters. Anyone who has been to campus or around ECU fans can attest to the strong Pirate pride that students and alumni have. If you don’t believe me, yell, “PURPLE!” to someone wearing Pirate gear, and I can assure you they will yell, “GOLD!” right back to you.

Through my sister’s years at the university, I was able to witness the culture prior to filling out any college applications during high school, and I instantly knew that I would fit in really well with the ECU atmosphere. In fact, my heart was so set on attending ECU that I didn’t apply to any other universities. Looking back, I’m still glad that I didn’t because I absolutely love being a Pirate.

The culture of this university was one of the main reasons for my decision to attend. As an example, it’s easily showcased during the ECU football games. If you’ve ever attended one of these home events, you know exactly what I am referring to. The ECU game day atmosphere is by far one of my favorite things about the university. At each home game, there are many traditions to take part in, and the entire city of Greenville becomes one big, united Pirate family.

After experiencing the culture first-hand as a student, I can officially say that my perceptions of the ECU atmosphere were not wrong. I have connected with many ECU alumni simply through the similarity of both being part of the same family that bleeds purple and gold. Attending this university has solidified the fact that I am now a “family member” of a giant ECU community.

 

Education and Location

At the time when I was applying to college, I had no idea what major I wanted to enroll in. However, I knew that East Carolina provided an awesome education to all of their students. Plus, the university has a great price set for tuition.

I was right to listen to the ECU students that were years ahead of me about the ECU curriculum and the great education that they were receiving. Now, thinking back on my previous classes, I have always had professors who genuinely care about their students’ well-being. Throughout my four years of college, I never once worried about asking a professor too many questions in any class setting. In fact, most of my professors and I are connected on LinkedIn, and I’m sure if I reached out to any of them today for help, they’d be glad to offer it.

As for the location, Greenville is about an hour and 40 minutes away from Raleigh, North Carolina. It is a perfect distance from Raleigh, not too far and not too close. The drive is pretty much a straight shot to Raleigh as well. With that being said, trips to the city on the weekends are very doable.

There are a few other reasons besides the location, culture, and education that led to my decision of attending this university. However, these were definitely the three main decision points that directed my choice in picking a university. I have enjoyed these past four years, and I’m so glad that I decided to spend my entire college career at East Carolina University.

Take a look at some of my photographs from East Carolina University! 

 

Caitlin-Smith

TMC Interview Featuring Caitlin Smith

On Tuesday, April 25, Cait Vlastakis Smith will be presenting at #TMCtonight. Her presentation will be focused on journey mapping and how marketers can use this tool to improve how they interact with customers. So, if you haven’t RSVP’d yet, go ahead and check out the TMC Meetup page. This will be an awesome event that you will not want to miss!

Caitlin-SmithThe Interview

As most of you know, we conduct an interview for each of our TMC speakers. We do this each month in order to help you all, our awesome members, get to know the presenters and relate to them on a more personal level prior to sharing their message. In preparation for our next event, I was given the opportunity to interview Caitlin Vlastakis Smith and learn about her career.

Once we arranged a time to conduct the interview, I began creating a list of questions to ask Caitlin. On the day of our virtual meeting, I placed my laptop in front of me, grabbed a bottle of water, and had my questions ready to go. After everything was in position, I called Caitlin to begin our interview.

If you don’t mind sharing, could you tell me a little about yourself?

I went to college for art and creative writing, and even as my career has evolved to focus more on the business side of things, I still believe creativity is what drives us forward. I love creative problem solving because it’s both art and science.   So, throughout my career, I just followed that same truth: chase down interesting problems, try to look at them differently and, most importantly, work with great people.

Do you have any cool hobbies that you love doing outside of work?

I like to hang out with my daughter and husband, which means going to the playground and acting like a big kid…I try to go down the slides with my daughter, even though I’m much too large. You’re never too old to play!

I also do a little bit of art on the side. I like to sketch and draw. I also like to write whenever I can. Not working within the constraints of a business problem, just drawing and writing for fun.

What led to your desire to have a career in marketing?

I never had a moment where I realized, ‘Hey! I want to be in marketing.’ I just followed what I was interested in and that has led me through various roles that are either within marketing or tangential to marketing, like technology, design and content strategy. I love figuring out what makes people tick and understanding the “why” behind their behaviors. Humans are interesting creatures, and I like studying them.

What do you enjoy most about working in this field?

I enjoy the blend of creative and analytical thinking. I enjoy not living in just one area but being a connector across different disciplines. That allows me to flex different muscles, and I really enjoy that.

In your opinion, what does it take to become a successful marketer?

Relentless curiosity. I believe the most important trait for a marketer—and any professional, really—is to remain curious and to always ask, “Why?” The answers will often take you down many different roads, and you’ll realize how much everything is interconnected. As marketing, technology, and business become tangled together even further, it’s going to be important for people within neatly categorized departments to expand beyond their siloed group and remain curious about the larger ecosystem. One of my personal favorite pieces of writing is this one, where I wrote about obsessive curiosity and uncompromising idealism.

I saw that you have been published in Advertising Age and Content Marketing Institute. Could you tell me a little about that?

For the Content Marketing Institute article, “Content Planning: How to Use UX Research to Uncover Hidden Needs,” I was writing from the perspective of a user experience strategist and seeing the really important overlaps across UX research and content marketing, and how understanding customers better can help marketers with their work.

For the piece in Advertising Age, “Four Lessons from Losing a Pitch,” it was an interesting moment for me because it required taking a risk: being vulnerable and sharing a failure. I’d recently read ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown and recalled reading about the strength and importance of being vulnerable and talking about failure openly, so we can learn from it. I had no vision of actually submitting the article to Advertising Age. I credit two awesome people, Erin Grohs and Brittany Kotary who saw the potential in the piece and submitted it. I’m very grateful to them for that, as well as to my team who submitted insights that I packaged into the article itself.

At the TMC event in April, you plan to speak about “Journey Mapping for Marketers.” What do you consider to be your favorite thing about journey mapping?

It is a way to bring people together and get them focused on solving problems for the end customer or end user. It drives really important collaboration internally and gets cross-disciplinary teams rallied around the customer to create meaningful experiences and content.  Journey mapping helps us get out of our own way, get out of our own mindset and focused outward on our customers.

Do you have any specific advice for marketers who may have never created a journey map before?

You can do it! That is my only piece of advice.

Where do you see journey mapping and marketing going within the next five years?

Journey mapping within some organizations turns into, ‘Oh, look at this pretty map or this pretty artifact that we created,’ and there isn’t any action applied based on the activity of actually building the map.

So, my hope is that we continue to focus more on the insights and the actions from the journey mapping activity and focus less on just creating a really pretty artifact. Speed over perfection is important.

What is one major key takeaway that you hope the TMC audience leaves with after hearing your presentation?

The one key takeaway I hope they take home ties back to question five about becoming a successful marketer, and it’s that in order to truly understand your customers you have to be genuinely curious about who they are as humans. Journey mapping is one activity that can help you remain curious, and it’s a springboard for asking smart questions.

Caitlin is an awesome person to network with, and she has a lot of great advice and experience to share. If you’d like to reach out to her before the event, check out her website, Medium, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I can’t wait to hear her presentation and learn about journey mapping on April 25. I hope to see you all there!

This blog was written for Triangle Marketing Club.

Why I Love Networking

I started attending networking events during my junior year at East Carolina University. A few people in my organization, ECU AMA, were about to attend a Triangle Marketing Club networking event, and so I decided to go as well. After this event, I jumped at the chance to attend any other networking opportunities that our members were attending. Ever since January 2016, I have attended a minimum of one networking event per month. So, why is it that I enjoy these events so much?

Swag

Being a broke college student, I jump when I hear the word, “free.” At most networking events, there are usually opportunities to be entered into a drawing and to obtain free swag. I mean, who doesn’t love free stuff?

So far, I have won a growler from a Red Hat networking event, a few pairs of concert tickets from Triangle Marketing Club events, and a ticket to the next Internet Summit! Some may say that I am very lucky when it comes to winning things, but I like to think it’s my dedication for attending so many networking events over the past year and a half. Who knows what I might bring home from this month’s networking event!

Food

Similar to the free swag and giveaway items, food is always an exciting incentive. Especially when it is free! Most of the networking events that you attend will have beverages and appetizers to snack on while you are networking your way around the room.

Food is a great way to calm your nerves while you build up the courage to go up to someone new and introduce yourself. Or, in the worst-case scenario, going to get food could be a great way to exit an unwanted conversation with someone. Regardless of your reasons, free food is just another great incentive to attending an event.

Connections

Being that I am very extroverted, I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about their career experiences. In addition to my general enjoyment of having great conversations, networking is crucial for finding a job. Through my classes and meetings with my AMA chapter, I have learned the importance of expanding my connection base. With the competitive job market, it is essential to have connections in order to venture out to new career opportunities and find a job.

At networking events, the most valuable thing that you will leave with is connections. Although all of the other things are awesome bonuses, the main focus and reasoning behind these events are to build a strong network. With that being said, try to find a great local event in your area that focuses on the relationship and networking aspect at the event.

Put in the comment section your favorite place to network! I’d love to read about them!

 

AMA ICC

Every year our East Carolina University AMA chapter attends the American Marketing Association International Collegiate Conference. During my first year involved with this organization, I was invited to join a group of students to travel to the conference. Unfortunately, I was unable to go. This year, however, I was able to attend. Being my senior year, I was so ecstatic that I was given this opportunity and was fortunate enough to travel with my organization.

The Conference

The 2017 AMA ICC was the 39th collegiate conference in AMA history. In preparation for the conference, our group downloaded the AMA Event App. Through it, we were able to see the agenda, connect with other students, and read about the speakers.

The conference had a full agenda set for each day. This schedule included a variety of sessions for students to learn and obtain knowledge from many successful business professionals. Outside of the sessions, there were also competitions and other events at the conference such as Mix ‘N Mingle where students could meet people from other AMA chapters.

Sessions

There were many different kinds of sessions. Some were designed specifically for faculty advisors and others for students. In terms of the student sessions, these topics related to creating a successful career, organizational development, and general marketing topics. Each individual was able to pick exactly what interested them and attend any sessions of their choosing.

To give you an idea of session topics, here is a list of a few:

  • Promotional Marketing | The Industry. The Community. The Careers.
  • The Power of Story Telling
  • A Social Media Double Shot!
  • How to Brand Yourself and Win the Interview
  • Chapter Planning for a Successful Year
  • Tips for Successful Fundraising

As you can tell by the titles, there were many beneficial presentations. Our members split up, attended a variety of sessions, and obtained a lot of great knowledge to share with the rest of our chapter. There was also a career fair featuring many of the conference sponsors.

What I Learned

Our ECU team learned a lot at the conference. Some information that was shared during sessions was already known by some of our members due to our chapter meetings and some of our ECU classes. However, there were still quite a few things that we were able to bring back to campus to share that we have never learned before.

In particular, one really neat thing that I learned was during the session with Mary Kay representatives. At this session, the presenter discussed a very successful template to go by when composing emails. She told us to always remember the acronym, “MADE.”

  • Message
  • Action
  • Details
  • Explanation

This acronym can be used as a guide to properly set up an email. For example, the message is what you are trying to get across to the person who receives your email. The action section is referring to the steps you are asking the receiver to take. The details are specifics relating to how they can complete the action. Lastly, the explanation tells the reader why they should complete the action in order to fulfill the sender’s message.

I really enjoyed learning about this email tip, and now I often think of this acronym when composing my own emails. This was just one of the many things that our group was able to bring back from the conference. In fact, besides this new knowledge, our chapter brought back something else that we are very proud of… an award!

It’s a Major Award

Our chapter was awarded, “Outstanding Chapter Planning and Communication” for the 2016-2017 school year. We were so excited about this accomplishment that our group cheered very loudly when our chapter was called out. It is such an honor to achieve this award, and we were thrilled to be recognized for all the hard work that our members have completed this school year.

I had a blast at the American Marketing Association International Collegiate Conference and am so glad I was blessed with the opportunity to attend. Thank you, ECU AMA, for providing me with a great experience for my first marketing conference and most importantly, a great year within the organization. It has been awesome serving as the ECU AMA Executive Vice President for the 2016-2017 school year.