]I think a great example of a brand that has successfully utilized digital/social media to build brand equity is none other than the master’s program I am currently enrolled in – the WVU IMC program!
My first exposure to the program came way back in 2007 after I discovered it in a Google search. At that time, the program website was very different from what it is now but it still outshined competitor brands such as the online IMC/marketing programs at EMU, Golden Gate U, and Southern New Hampshire U, etc. Today, many more competing programs in IMC and Communications (including Northwestern, Marist, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, FSU, etc.) have entered the online space but the WVU brand continues to project a powerful presence in the marketplace. The WVU program was the first of its kind in the nation, and has served as a template for other programs to follow. My first direct encounter with the WVU IMC brand was when I registered for an online information session. At that point, it had been eighteen years since I finished undergrad, and quite a lot had changed. I figured that the ‘online’ info session would be a good trial-run to see if I was comfortable with an online environment. Sure enough, it was a very informative and helpful session and the technology never got in the way of the interaction of the attendees. After taking off for Morgantown and attending the 2009 IMC Weekend Conference (now called ‘Integrate’), I decided that when the time was right, I would give it a shot and apply for admission. Three years later, I applied to the program and enrolled in Aug. 2012. With all that said, however, it was the compelling program website that made me want to take the six hour drive to WVU to see things for myself. The website was much more comprehensive than any other program by far. The highly informative content (detailed course information, admissions procedures, faculty bios, knowledge base videos, etc.) really ‘sold’ me on the program. Even though I did not apply to the program for several years, I really got a feel for what the program was like, what it offered, and what the expectations of its students were. I seriously looked at three other schools, but their static, one-dimensional webpages were not even close to providing the quality content that I was looking for. The other thing that I was impressed with is the fact that the IMC program website and social pages are continually updated and refreshed. Here is a link to the program website if you are interested in learning more about it: http://imc.wvu.edu/ The student bloggers and video testimonials served as very powerful ‘proof-points’. It is one thing to read a ‘fact-sheet’, but it is quite another to hear multiple students tell their stories and ‘meet’ some of the professors via their online videos. They sold me on the quality of the program. In early 2010, the program created a Facebook page which now has almost 2500 likes. The page offers an array of posts featuring links to student blog posts, job listings, announcements, and links to helpful articles. They also utilize the page to highlight student and faculty achievements, promotions, etc. The program created a Twitter page in May 2009, and it follows a content strategy similar to that of its Facebook page. To date, there are over 1500 followers of the page. There is also a LinkedIn page which has almost 1600 members. The program also boasts a YouTube and Vimeo channel, where it features videos of student testimonials, instructor and course introduction videos, as well as clips from prior presentations at Integrate. Here is the latest storytelling video promoting the program:
Finally, the program does a good job at ‘being found’. Just for fun (marketing geeks do this) I used search terms on Google like ‘online masters in integrated marketing communications’; ‘online IMC programs’; and even ‘masters in IMC’. Each time WVU was at the top of the organic search results. Depending on the search terms, there were also instances of paid-search links to the program homepage as well. In short, the program practices what it preaches – it utilizes an IMC approach with a unified brand message across many differing platforms via its website, social media sites, the online-information sessions, the Integrate conference, and its print collateral as well. The emerging media landscape has changed the nature of marketing forever. The program’s coordinated efforts relating to owned, paid, and earned media have paid off handsomely for the brand, as it is one of the largest and most respected IMC programs in the country. The program successfully employs an ‘outbound’ strategy to generate interest and engagement, and the rapid growth of the program is a testament to its effectiveness. As I noted earlier, the WVU program has served as the model for a number of other online programs that have recently been developed, so that too speaks volumes. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the program, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. For my classmates, I’d love to hear what suggestions you have for the program to improve its marketing and branding efforts. This will be the last blog post for my Emerging Media class. Thanks for reading and digging into the topics I explored on this blogging adventure! I’ll leave you with this song. Happy Trails!!