About Di

Writer, editor and debt slayer chronicling her journey to financial enlightenment.

Keeping up with Pace, learning about content strategy

There’s always something going on at the second floor of Powell. Each Thursday, special guests visit us to give us the scoop of what’s happening in the real world.

Last week, three accomplished representatives from the Greensboro branch of Pace Communications, including iMedia alumna Bettina Johnson, enlightened us about content marketing for the Thursday Afternoon Special.

President Craig Waller digs iMedia students, and I know some of us fell in love with Pace’s work and mission on Thursday.

Waller said, “You come much more accomplished and you’ve got a much broader skill set, obviously.”

Thanks, sir. And why didn’t I intern with you this semester?

Pace Communications

Waller said the increasing importance of content creation for brands has been great for Pace. Pace is in the eye of the hurricane, he said.

“The digital world started transforming our business because not only was it an easy and cheap way of reaching customers, but it is also an easy way to measure,” he said.

Brands as media owners isn’t going away, Waller said,  using Coca Cola as an example. Jobs at brands exist for iMedia students that didn’t five years ago, he said.

Bettina said her experience working at Pace is similar to the iMedia experience because she has to work with so many people with different skill sets.

“You kind of have to know how to talk the right language to get these projects done,” she said.

Kevin Briody, vice president of digital strategy, taught us about Pace’s integrated approach to creating and publishing content for clients, such as Verizon Wireless and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and how they measure their campaigns with analytics. Then Bettina gave us a quick run-through of how she uses Sysomos to conduct real-time social media monitoring and analytics.

Content marketers must know what content to push and when, Briody said.

“You can churn and burn a ton of content, but it is marrying the art and the experience.” – Kevin Briody 

Continue reading

SEO Roadshow stops in Elon

A stranger stopped Mark Traphagen (@marktraphagen) at a conference and looked at him quizzically.

“’I know you. You’re in my search results’,” he recalled the man saying.

Mark Traphagen discusses Google Authorship at the SEO Roadshow hosted by the iMedia program on March 1.

Mark Traphagen discusses Google Authorship at the SEO Roadshow hosted by the iMedia program on March 1. (Photo by Iris Maslow, iMedia ’13)

“It was my first moment of being Internet famous,” Traphagen said.

Traphagen, director of digital outreach of the Raleigh-based agency Virante, is listed in more than 32,000 Google Plus circles.

You read that correctly. 32,000.

Traphagen (@marktraphagenand fellow SEO superstar Phil Buckley (@1918), SEO director at Virante, shared their insights with the iMedia community last Thursday about how to improve a personal or business brand’s web presence through search engine optimization.

“You have to think of leading Google through your site like a blind five-year-old.” – Phil Buckley

Associate Professor Amanda Sturgill invited Buckley and Traphagen to move their wildly successful SEO Roadshow from Raleigh to Elon. The current students, alumni and other guests were honored they agreed.

Here are some of top things from the session:

  1. It’s imperative that web developers and SEO specialists have experience in each other’s fields to improve communication and collaboration.
  2. Search engines want to know more about a page through metadata. Think about all the data on your page and let search engines know what’s the context of that data. Buckley: “You have to think of leading Google through your site like a blind five-year-old.”
  3. Your code should be as much a thing as art as graphic design. Keep it clean and organized.
  4. Use web-based tools to improve your code, such as Schematic.org and SEO-browser.com. The first adds additional metadata to your page. The latter helps you examine and understand the component parts of a Web page. It shows you what the like looks like to search engines.
  5. Validate your sites using Validation.w3.org because it’s one more thing that Google likes, and shows that the site is well-maintained. The Google Webmaster Team considers validation when determining a site’s quality.
  6. Learn how to effectively use Google Plus. Just do it. Be like Traphagen and join more than 32,000 circles.
  7. Pay attention to Google Authorship and Author Rank. Traphagen said, “It’s Google’s identity engine.” Google authorship allows an individual content creator to establish who they are and connect their face to all of the content they made.
  8. Why is Google Authorship important. It makes sure search results stand out. “And nothing stands out more than a human face.” This could be a huge factor in search later. Companies will want to feature authors who have high social capital and a large web presence and reach.
  9. When networking, leverage your existing connections by calling them every once in a while. Do something memorable. Buckley passes out French coins from 1918 instead of business cards.
  10. Build authority online by creating content. Traphagen: “The content that you create becomes a calling card for you.”

Want to read more? Chip McCraw, who attended the event, collected key #SEOatElon tweets on Storify.

Phil Buckley gives tips on search engine optimization at the SEO Roadshow at Elon on March 1.

Phil Buckley gives tips on search engine optimization at the SEO Roadshow at Elon on March 1. (Photo by Iris Maslow, iMedia ’13)

Elon iMedia students listen intently to SEO enthusiasts Mark Traphagen and Phil Buckley at the SEO Roadshow on March 1.

Elon iMedia students listen intently to SEO enthusiasts Mark Traphagen and Phil Buckley at the SEO Roadshow on March 1. (Photo by Iris Maslow, iMedia ’13)

Continue reading

Inspired, Innovative, Intense: Reflections on the iMedia fly-ins

Aside

Spring semester is here ­- just a few weeks removed from an incredible winter term.

In iMedia, January is all about the fly-in projects. These winter trips allow students to build multimedia projects for the public good and showcase the skills they learned in the fall semester. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career.

My teammate Ashley Deese said it best:

The fly-in gave me an opportunity to work with a real world client and create a multimedia project for a client that would not have been able to afford it. Not only will this experience give me the competitive edge needed to stand out as an applicant when I am applying to jobs but it is also satisfying to know that we did something for the public good.

The process started with the draft. The advisors convened in late September to fill their rosters for the four fly-in trips: one in Cuba, one in Portugal and two in Costa Rica.

Each team spent October, November and December preparing for the trip – practicing video interviews, creating a group blog and coding sites in HTML and CSS for class.

In January, we hit the ground running. Each team had about a week to assess their client’s goals and gather the content for the site. Then we had 10 days or so to design and build the site.

Let me tell you – it was not an easy process. Literally, blood, sweat and tears went into these projects.

But it was rewarding once we presented our projects to our friends, family, industry professionals and iMedia alum on Jan. 24.

Elon iMedia students present a fly-in project.

Photo by Eric Townsend (as seen on E-net)

Here’s a list of the four projects:

Escazú, Costa Rica 

Client: Codece

Seven students built an interactive website for a community-run nonprofit that aims to save the natural beauty, traditions and culture of the young mountains of Ezcazú, which is adjacent to capital city San José.

http://www.codececr.org/

Térraba, Costa Rica

Client: Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe – Teribe Indigenous Cultural Association

Seven students documented the culture and natural sites of the Térraba indigenous group in southwestern Costa Rica. A government-commissioned dam could destroy parts of the land, on which the people have lived for more than 500 years.

http://terraba.org/

Havana, Cuba

Client: Organopónico Vivero Alamar 

This cooperative farm on the suburbs of Havana provides food and community services to Cubans. Six students documented what the farmers do and how the food travels from the farm to the table.

http://farmcuba.org/

Ericeira, Portugal 

Client: Surfrider Foundation

The international Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. Six students built a site to showcase the preservation and educational efforts of a chapter in the coastal community of Ericeira, Portugal.

http://surfriderericeira.com/

These projects were awesome!

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 8.25.19 AM

I managed the project on the Costa Rica trip in Térraba, which is an indigenous community in danger of losing part of its land and culture to government-commissioned dam. The Térraba treated us like family during our visit. They showed us all of their sacred sites, fed us delicious food they grew themselves and even took us rafting in their river.

My team worked really hard to create a site that would help preserve the culture of this wonderful community that we came to love.

“The job they did was of very high quality and very important for us. It is the first time someone did something like this here in the Térraba community,” said Jerhy Rivera, vice president of the Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe (Teribe Indigenous Culture Association).

The Tico Times

But my teammates and I hit some speed bumps on our journey. So did other teams.

Future iMedia students, here’s the reality of the situation:

  1. You can’t prepare for everything. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Your flight will be canceled. You’ll get lost on a mountain for hours. Your client will want something unexpected. One line of code will render your site useless. So be flexible.
  2. Teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t fall prey to the perils of group projects. Try to be positive when things are falling apart. I’ve discussed this before, but learned so much more during the fly-in.
  3. Honesty and openness is key. One day, my teammates basically told me that I was acting like a “military taskmaster” as described by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. I, being a realist, was focused on the large amount of tasks we had to do and the short amount of the time we had to do them. My teammates wanted me to be to more of a cheerleader instead of a micromanager. Achor wrote: “In short, sacrificing positivity in the name of time management and efficiency actually slows us down.” So after our come-to-Jesus meeting, the team morale shifted for the better.
  4. Fall classes are super important. Learn everything you can because you’ll probably back up your classmates at one point. The coder will help the videographer. The writer will help the photographer. It happens.

My classmates shared more insights.

iMedia13 Quotables

1. Clients won’t always respect your expertise. 2. You have to trust your teammates so they trust you. 3. Preparation is the most crucial factor to success.

Don’t set any expectations for the trip because they’ll be blown away no matter what you think of.

Dont’ be afraid to try something different, whether it’s a skill like coding. It was something I wanted to get better at so being the web developer for my group helped me a lot. Trying different food is also fun, too!

1. Working with a group on something that big means a lot of trust and sacrifice. 2. If there are people not doing their jobs, there better be some people willing to pick up the slack or things won’t get done.

Continue reading

No I in iMedia: Making the Most of Group Projects

There’s no I in iMed… OK. So technically there is.

But the iMedia program is really about collaboration and teamwork. Last month, our professors started dropping group projects on us after weeks of solo work.

Create and implement a usability test, she said.

Partner up for an infographic design, he said.

You name it. We’ve done it … together. But I’m not complaining.

Everyone must work together to some extent in the workforce. Us iMedia students are getting better prepared for it by completing these group projects.

There are obvious advantages to group work:

  • Less individual work (ideally)
  • Diversity of ideas
  • Learning from others who excel in areas you don’t

But the disadvantages abound:

  • Scheduling conflicts
  • Lack of clear vision
  • Different work ethics
  • Poor attitudes

Future iMedia students, here are some tips on mitigating those problems:

  1. Be flexible. That’s self-explanatory.
  2. Communicate early and often. A team must work together to meet one goal. Make sure everyone is has the same vision and knows what’s expected of them.
  3. Set deadlines and be organized. Delegate tasks so people can use their time wisely to achieve the team’s goal. Make sure everyone meets deadlines.
  4. Learn how your teammates work. In one project, my partner liked to work at night and wing it a little. I like to work during the day and be overly prepared. It’s OK. Just communicate and compromise.
  5. Keep it light. When your team is losing focus, take a break. Even better, jam out to some music, dance or find a funny timesuck on YouTube. Those 10 minutes can recharge you for another hour of work.

iMedia13 Quotables

“Keep an open mind. Even though you have one idea that you think is super awesome, that doesn’t mean that is the optimal solution to your problem.”

“Try to work at it a little bit at a time. You have to set meetings and keep them. Usually right after class is a good time, rather than going back late at night.”

“Don’t wait to the last minute. If you’re the type of person that waits to the last minute, for once do everyone on time with your group members. Be open-minded because somebody might have a personality that you don’t like, but they can teach you a lot. Go into it with a positive outlook.”

“Make sure that you’re listening to your other group members…Something that I always do, before I let me know if this is a bad ideas… I want people to tell me if they disagree with something. That’s really important because some people are afraid.”

DIONI L. WISE IS A FORMER NEWSPAPER REPORTER WHO WANTS TO ENHANCE HER SKILLS IN MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING AND DIGITAL MEDIA STRATEGY. SHE HAS A KNACK FOR DOING CARTWHEELS AND TURNING MUNDANE PHRASES INTO SONGS.

They Told Me So: Tips for Succeeding in iMedia

By Dioni L. Wise, iMedia Class of 2013

I worked for a newspaper for three years, reporting, writing and updating the website every day. I thought I was busy, but I didn’t really know busy until my 25 classmates and I stepped onto the second floor of Powell on Aug. 28.

Reading. Blogging. More reading. Coding. Cursing the computer. More reading. Typing a paper. Forgetting to eat dinner.

Mama, said there’d be days like this.

To be more accurate, iMedia alumni did.

They warned that we would miss sleep and suggested that we make Mr. Coffee a good buddy. (Hey, Joe.)

But they also gave me plenty of tips on how to succeed (and remain sane) in the program. I’m grateful for their help.

Here’s a roundup of the top tips:

MANAGE TIME

*Work ahead early on what you can (blogs, readings, etc.) It will give you more time later on for intensive projects.

*Prioritize according to how important [each] project is and how in line each one is with your interests. If you try to complete everything as 100%, everything will be mediocre. 

MANAGE STRESS

*Make time to chill out once a week. You will still probably be burned out; but that will help.

THINK AHEAD

*… make sure that you do all of your school work with getting a job in mind. You will be tempted to half-ass stuff. But if you try to make everything fit for a portfolio, it will help a lot.

*Think about your personal design/branding style during first semester so you won’t be starting from scratch second semester.

TEACH YOURSELF

*Google it first. Ask your cohorts the question second. Run crying to Brad Berkner third. Go to an alum fourth. Drown your sorrows at Town Table negative oneth.

*Document your design process. Document your thinking. Use the knowledge and experience of your professors (not just for minor assignment questions or when you’re stuck with code). Get in the habit of teaching yourself.

LEARN FROM CLASSMATES 

*Ask for feedback from classmates constantly, it will make you see things you missed before.

*Find someone to compete (friendly competition) with. It sounds dumb, but if you find someone pushing as hard as you, it’ll make you want to push harder.

*Listen to your classmates – they’re among the most talented people you’ll ever meet.

*Rely on each other for help, but not to do everything for you. The latter breeds dislike and lowers your chances for getting help again. You are going to have to love each other during the fly-in, and the better you are at helping each other now, the easier the fly-in will be.

TRUST YOURSELF

*Be true to your own design aesthetic. It’s always great to get feedback and ideas from other people but at the end of the day your work is a reflection of who you are.

*If you have a vision for any project, and people, including your professors or classmates, tell you that you can’t do something, you shouldn’t always listen to them. Listen to your gut instinct and follow through with your plans, starting over and over again (especially on your portfolio and capstone projects) can really set you back. When developing your ideas, put them all out on paper and follow through. You can really do anything you set your mind to, and this program really helped me realize that!

DO EXTRA PROJECTS

*Don’t be afraid to use your equipment on the weekends to get familiar with it. Good photography/videography will go a long way.

*Do extra projects outside of class if you can -it goes a long way in interviews, especially if it’s for nonprofits and good causes.

NETWORK

*Casually stalk potential employers now. Even if you don’t know what you want to do yet, take a guess and start stalking (it’s good practice).

FAIL

 *That’s okay! Iterate your ideas and projects based on your failures.

Dioni L. Wise is a former newspaper reporter who wants to enhance her skills in multimedia storytelling and digital media strategy. She has a knack for doing cartwheels and turning mundane phrases into songs.