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IMC students' work provides insight for American Red Cross

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The Integrated Marketing Communications program at West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism has partnered with the American Red Cross, giving students the opportunity to research and design integrated campaigns that address real-world concerns.

Through the Red Cross partnership, students taking the capstone course produced integrated marketing campaigns designed to encourage 18- to 24-year-olds to donate blood.

Peggy Dyer, chief marketing officer for the Red Cross, said she appreciated IMC students’ unique outlooks on the target market.

“It was wonderful to get a fresh perspective on this market and possible tactics,” Dyer said. “The IMC students’ passion came through in their campaigns, and their work exceeded our expectations.”

Each student had a fictional budget of $20 million to develop an integrated campaign and find unique ways to reach their audience. They were asked to identify barriers to communication and create messages that resonated with their target market.

Ray Gillette, professor for the capstone course and former president of the advertising agency DDB Chicago, praised the research outcomes and unique tactics his students developed.

“The students’ research produced some interesting insights into the young adult target and their media habits,” said Gillette. “They used the information to create very targeted, innovative ideas. The students also developed media plans that took advantage XBOX, Facebook, YouTube, email and blogs to effectively and efficiently reach the Millennial Generation.”

Recent IMC graduate Kevin Beatty conducted focus groups and found that many 18- to-24-year-olds are anxious to volunteer but don’t consider blood donation a form of volunteerism.

“This presented an opportunity for the American Red Cross to harness the energy of its target and build a message that would create an emotional connection between volunteering and blood donation,” Beatty said.

Beatty’s campaign, called “America Needs My Type,” proposed using Web sites, online advertising, targeted ads on Facebook and a partnership with FOX’s “American Idol” to get his message across. In addition, he suggested distributing vehicle magnets, putting posters in fitness centers and creating a 30-second public service announcement to be shown in movie theaters and on television.

Chad Mezera, IMC program director, said the Red Cross partnership presents a great opportunity for students to work with a respected, prominent organization.

“The capstone course is designed to allow IMC students to create top-quality professional portfolios,” said Mezera. “Our partnership with the American Red Cross enables the IMC program to offer a unique opportunity for our students to expand their skills and gain valuable career experience, while working with a high-profile client.”

Students who participated in the first run of the course last fall agreed.

“It was amazing to be able to work for the American Red Cross as a client,” said Shalane Tharp, a recent graduate. “The experience gave me the ability to put everything I learned in the IMC program into action for an excellent cause.”

Beatty said the course gave him a unique perspective on his own day-to-day work.

“As a business-to-business professional, working on the IMC campaign for the American Red Cross gave me the confidence to know that the skills I developed throughout the WVU IMC program are highly transferrable across market segments,” he said.

Graduate Jen Wood credits the course and the entire IMC program for her career growth.

“I attribute the advancement of my career in recent years to the IMC program, the experienced faculty and my very talented classmates,” Wood said. “It amazed me that I could learn about a topic one evening and apply it at work the next day. This program is the epitome of real world knowledge and application.”

Read the official release on WVU Today.