iMedia Guest Speaker: Heather Keets Wright

On Wednesday, April 11, the iMedia class was visited by Heather Keets Wright, a multi-platform journalist and leading consultant in the content marketing industry. Heather is the chief creative officer for Cylndr Content Agency in Durham, N.C., and also runs her own content marketing agency, Wright Creative Agency, with her husband Mark.

Along with her warm spirit and excitement for all things creative, Heather had a lot of information to offer our iMedia class. Her level of expertise in the agency world was displayed through a presentation showcasing some of her most notable projects.  

Heather has written and consulted for reputable clients such as Essence, Martha Stewart, Wells Fargo, and the New York Presbyterian Hospital – to name a few. The iMedia class was eager to ask Heather for suggestions she may have for shaping and progressing in our careers. Out of the plethora of information she offered the class, here is a list of the top 5 tips she shared:

1.) Create your own LLC. Now.

Heather explained the importance of creating and developing our own personal brand. She explained that along with the “main” jobs we commit our time to, we as creatives should always be working on a passion project of our own. This not only secures and develops us in our own expertise but also helps market our talents to others.

2.) If given the opportunity, work in a brand and agency setting.

Heather explained that it can be tempting to want to work in an agency, but it is important not to overlook the benefits of working inside the brand itself. Having experience working for the brand will give us a better perspective of the needs and processes that happen on the other side of the fence. This perspective can better equip us to service clients when we make the shift into agency life.

3.) Stay up late and work hard.

Heather put it plainly, if you are not willing to stay up late working on a project, you are in the wrong industry. The steps it takes to become a successful creative requires a lot of energy and dedication. This is a testimony that resonated with many of our iMedia students. Our evenings spent in the editing bays of Long have really paid off.

4.) Always Freelance!

Heather reminded the iMedia class that we should always stay open to working on freelance projects. This helps expand our expertise and build our skill set.

5.) Network.

Last, but certainly not least, Heather told the iMedia class to utilize their connections and resources. Notably, she pointed out that our classmates are now a valuable resource to each of us. When we are given big projects that require a team of professionals, we can now tap into our iMedia network to find the talent we need.

Thanks Heather for visiting our class!

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A Moment of Reflection: What I Have Gained From iMedia

For the 2018 iMedia class, graduation is less than two months away (crazy, I know). This past school year has come with a lot of excitement and adventure, to say the least. As the iMedia class takes a breather from our studies with a week-long spring break, we finally have a chance to step back and marvel at the work we have accomplished over the past eight months. After learning new things and taking on big projects, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel…but before we move on to the next chapter of our lives, it is important that we relish our accomplishments from the past year.

This past year has opened doors and planted seeds of new beginnings for many iMedia students. What we have learned and accomplished here should be noted and celebrated. I have witnessed the substantial growth of my classmates as they work tirelessly in and out of the classroom. There is nothing in our work that should be taken for granted. Every small win has built the confident and thriving class we are today.

I have compiled a list of my own accomplishments and gains from this past year, and have found it to be extremely helpful in my own self-revelation. Looking at this list, I know for sure that my time here at Elon was well spent. The long nights in the editing bays, the hours spent sketching and wireframing, and even the small frustrations and hang-ups – they were all worth it in comparison to the growth I have gained as a professional, and as an individual. Below are what I believe to be the top six skills that I acquired through my time in the iMedia program:

  1. Strong Technical Skills in Adobe Editing Software

Every day in class we worked with editing software that varied from video work, audio and even app-development. Our skills to edit and create digital content has grown substantially over the past year. For example, I blossomed from having intermediate skills with Microsoft PowerPoint to having professional knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud software.

  1. Real World Experience

One of the most exciting moments of the iMedia Program was our fly-in experience in January where we complete a project for a real client in a foreign country. For one week, we were all knee-deep in a culture that was different from our own while servicing a non-profit organization. We all got a taste of what it means to work professionally with a team on a real project – and that’s awesome.

  1. The Ability to Adapt – Quickly

Being fully immersed in different editing software and programming languages for 10 months requires that one be flexible and ready to learn – quickly. The fear of trying something new has broken away from us. Now, we are no strangers to jumping in head-first.

  1. Theories to Inform Content Creation Strategy

Not only can we create beautiful designs and layouts, WE CAN EXPLAIN WHY THEY WORK. The ability to articulate why our work matters and how it impacts the final product is crucial. Our creativity has been paired with a soundboard of knowledge to help us make informed decisions in our design process.  

  1. A Strong Network of Professionals and Resources

As a university, Elon is known for its valuable network of alumni and career services. But the iMedia family runs deep. Many of my classmates, myself included, have already made several connections with iMedia alumni this year. Some alumni have visited our classes and given us a wealth of knowledge on how to improve our work. Being a part of the iMedia family is like a badge of honor – we are supplied with tools and connections that have helped us substantially in our projects and job search.

  1. Memories and Friendships

This is a big one for me. I have had the time of my life while working with my classmates. We have shared so many laughs and memories. Some I hope to never forget. This year was a time of growth for all of us and we did so with humility and respect for each other. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some phenomenal people.

I believe many of my classmates would agree with the things I have listed here. As a testament to their hard work and dedication – all of my classmates have gained a plethora new skills and abilities through the iMedia program. We each have collected a wealth of knowledge and materials that are sure to be beneficial for our next steps of life. Let’s carry this reflection with us and use it to fuel our final push to graduation!

Reflection

“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”  — John Dewey

Halfway Through Chaos!

It’s hard to believe that not only fly-ins are over and we have completed all of our client projects, but also that we are almost halfway done with our spring semester in iMedia.

At this point, we are well immersed into our classes and have began designing our capstone projects! Our projects range from stylish interactive magazines to beer apps and some of us are still in a whirlwind of ideas.

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And I can’t even explain the amount of group and individual projects we have in all of our classes. Currently in our Multimedia Storytelling class with Dr. Copeland, we are finishing a social media story and just finished a 100-second video project.

Moving on to the SEO, Analytics and Social Media course, we are currently sculpting a white paper centered on different social media areas. My group’s focus is brand consistency through social media. It has been so important to learn how to work in teams throughout this journey!

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The Digital Brand Communications class has also been an amazing learning experience. We’ve had the opportunity to pick any brand of our choice and essentially find an improved strategy for the brand, and also design brand elements.

But, with all of this chaos we still cannot believe this year is wrapping up so fast. We now officially have two weeks until a much needed spring break and there is NO room for procrastination!

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The Calm Before the Storm

Something is coming, and no, it’s not winter. Finals week is days away and having a mountain of assignments can be a little scary, stressful, and overwhelming. However, our #iMedia18 class has a surefire way to make sure we survive and thrive finals week. Music!

For some, studying needs to be a calming experience. The lights need to be low, tea needs to be herbal, and there has to be an acoustic guitar playing softly in the background. But if you’re like I am, you need the lights to be as bright as they can, caffeine to be pumping through your veins, and your music to have a beat so strong it makes the hairs on your arms stand up. No matter your preference, here’s what #iMedia18 listens to stay calm before the storm.

So, what do we listen to when we’re working?

“I put on a 70’s soul playlist called “Feelin Good” to liven the spirits a little bit!” -Sarah Donahue

“If I am writing something, I️ like music with a high beat and no lyrics. Sometimes I like music with mellow beats that I️ don’t know the words to, like the “Brain Food” or “Indie Folk” playlists on Spotify.  If I️’m designing, I️ listen to my own playlist because it has all my current favorite songs and I️ think it helps with my creativity.” -Ashley Sugg

Sabrina Claudia has a very mellow vibe that I like to listen to when I study. I like to listen to things that I don’t know too well so I can’t sing along.” -Kendra Sharpe

“I enjoy listening to a loop of rainfall while I’m studying. The sound of the rain has always been soothing to me, so it definitely helps me focus!” -Case Gardner

“When I have to write something it’s classical music, like “Classical Music for Reading”. If’s creative work I love listening to indie bands like Alt-J!” -Chandler Cates-Wessel

“I don’t listen to music because I get too distracted and start to bob and sing-along!” -Nick Cook

No matter the playlist, we all have something that sparks our creativity and keeps us going no matter how early or late. For now, we’ll keep studying, but after, we’ll be listening to some “Party Jams.” Wish us luck on our finals!

 

Feeling Inspired

Looking back on the semester, the time has truly flown by, and perhaps one of the most rewarding things I’ve come to learn is how valuable your classmates can be to one another. We all work hard during the semester juggling so many different projects and papers, all keeping in mind what our goals are for the next semester and of course our goals beyond that. As someone who has the strange combination of an English undergraduate degree and a background in finance, there were not a lot of opportunities in my professional career to collaborate on creative projects. I have found it so helpful this semester being surrounded by other like-minded creators, who are there to talk about ideas, offer new ones, give feedback and generally just be supportive of each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked an idea through with classmates or asked for advice on a topic they might be knowledgeable in. I think so often we sit with an idea in our head and over-analyze it (or maybe that’s just how I am?), and can’t see the bigger picture as clearly.

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As this last week before Thanksgiving break draws to a close, we are all preparing for the end of the semester with final projects and papers for our Capstone projects next semester. It has been interesting to see some of the Capstone ideas slowly starting to take shape. Having each other, in addition to our professors, as resources is a valuable part of this program, and I know when I enter the workforce after graduation in May, these skills will be useful as well. Before starting the iMedia program I hadn’t anticipated just how much of your experience is enhanced by your classmates, and I have no doubt that the fly-in will further support this idea, as we work with international clients. Undoubtedly, I’m not alone in saying I’ve found that being around creative people, fuels my own creativity.

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Find Your Mantra

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A ten month graduate program can feel like a whirlwind at times, but in the best way possible.  Throughout the last eleven weeks, I have found myself clinging to quotes and mantras to help power through the late nights or early mornings.

 

  1. “Trust the process” – Literally Everyone

This is a quote that we have heard from professors and alumni who have come back to speak to us. From what I can tell, based on what previous alumni have said, trust the process is a quote that carries past the classroom and into the office. To fully grasp what this quote meant, I asked professor Motley and his explanation is spot on!

“Creativity and good design “on demand” can be a challenge. Buying into the concept of process gives you a way forward even when you might be creatively stuck. There are many variations of design processes; for the most part, those variations do not really matter. What does matter, though, is that individual designers should come up with a process that works for them. What do you do when you hit the wall creatively? How do you ensure consistent high-quality results with projects. How do you work through the obvious/cliché ideas to ones that are more unique and interesting? I believe you do that by following the same process for all of your work.” – Motley

 

  1. “I’m on vacation every single day because I love my occupation” – The Dirty Heads

I’m sure you are thinking, “Ashley.. how can a band called Dirty Heads help you stay focused on your job search?” Well, I am glad you asked. I have always wanted my career path to be enjoyable, to the point where work feels more like a hobby with payroll. When you are in an accelerated master’s program, the average time spent in the classroom is cut in half but the workload is not. The quick turnaround time for assignments can cloud your creativity, making tasks that were once enjoyable monotonous. To avoid the ugly, green, wearisome monster from taking control, it is extremely important to remind yourself of the big picture. For me, the big picture consists of finding my niché so upon graduation I can find a job where everyday feels like a vacation.

 

  1. “You can’t help others be their best, if you are not at your best” – Myself

With the steady flow of assignments, I discovered that I subconsciously put blinders to what was happening outside of the assignments. I let myself slip into the routine of school, homework, sleep, and repeat. I was so focused on devoting all of my time to the assignments in front of me that I forgot to take time for myself. I started letting my mental health slip and found myself in a creative block for most of my assignments, but I didn’t know why. Out of nowhere, it hit me like a brick wall. A friend of mine text me asking for advice and good vibes. After listening to what had been weighing her down that week, what I said in responsive rolled off of my tongue before I could process what  I was saying. “You can’t help others be their best, if you are not at your best.” After I processed what I told her, it was like a weight was lifted. I wasn’t at my best and the blinders took over.

A few weeks ago, we found out our fly-in locations. Since then we have hit the ground running by having meetings, assigning roles, and beginning the initial plans. I realized, I can’t contribute to my group or help our client to the fullest extent of my skill set if I am am unable to see past the four walls of my apartment or the classrooms in Long. I need to start taking more time for myself to boost my creativity. Since taking time for myself, I am refreshed and on fire for this program more than ever.

 

  1. “Working hard for something you love is called passion, not stress.” – Pinterest

The typical response I hear when I tell people that I am in a 10 month master’s program is “That must be really difficult. You seem to be in good spirits despite being stressed.” Truthfully, I don’t really feel stressed, I feel motivated. The purpose of a master’s program is to refine a skill set that you already have a passion for. The amount of projects, assignments, blog posts, and papers are not meant to stress you out, but rather take your passions to the next level.

It’s November already?!

Prior to the start of this year, anyone that I had talked to who had been through the iMedia program would remark on how quickly their time flew by. As I flipped my calendar to November this morning, I thought to myself “boy, they sure weren’t kidding!”  Just yesterday members of our cohort sported some creative costumes in celebration of Halloween, and now today we begin the month of November.

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iMedia students Kyndall, Kendra, Kaylin, Amanda, Kelsey (me), Tip, and Sarah gather for a photo sporting their Halloween costumes

Though fall break was only two weeks ago, I find myself thinking back to it as though months have passed! Just yesterday we received an email from Dr. Lackaff regarding our pre-proposals for our research paper, an assignment that seemed months away when we learned about it in our final days of our Theory and Audience Analysis class with him just three weeks prior. And to top it all off, next Thursday we register for classes for our spring semester. As such, we are all starting to excitedly plan our next semester. With class options like Virtual Environments, Digital Brand Communication, Game Design and Development, and more, it’s hard to narrow it down to just three elective classes, in addition to our capstone course. Some students will pursue a professional apprenticeship in place of one of the electives, gaining real-world experience in a field that is especially of interest to them. Others will pursue an independent study to learn more about a specific topic with a faculty member that has expertise in that area. No matter which direction we go, our options are exciting and I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are all greatly looking forward to what the spring semester will hold.

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iMedia student, Trey, working on a class project in our beautiful common space

It’s both exciting and terrifying to think about how far we have come since we started our iMedia journey at the end of July. It’s exciting to think about our future after iMedia, as we have already learned so much and the knowledge we accumulate continues to grow each week. Yet it’s also scary to think about how little time we have left to continue to learn and take advantage of the incredible resources we have at our fingertips in this program. Receiving a master’s degree in just 10 months is an incredible benefit of the iMedia program, yet for those like myself who are interested in such a wide variety of topics, determining a direction in such a short amount of time is without a doubt quite a challenge, though it sure is not a bad challenge to have and one that I continue to embrace as the weeks continue on.

To alumni that visited campus and our new home in Long last week for Elon Homecoming 2017, we enjoyed saying hello and soaking up the advice you offered for the rest of our time in the iMedia program!

Early mornings

Early mornings before the sun has risen in our new home in Long.