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Interactive Media program hosts panel discussion of digital workplace

Power is shifting in the new media world and successful practitioners must meet their audience in the arenas in which those users communicate. Five panelists reflected on this topic and other issues related to the culture of the digital workplace in a Thursday afternoon discussion sponsored by the Interactive Media program.

Panelists represented advertising and public relations agencies, web publishers and traditional media companies that have embraced new media practices. Some companies are local to North Carolina and others have international offices.

“Everything has to be about the end user. We have to be where they are. It’s all about their life and what they’re doing during the day. That’s where we need to be,” said Misty Zelent (’93), senior vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, an international public relations and marketing firm.

Even just a few years ago, publishers and CEOs had more opportunities to dictate how the public received information and advertising. As communication channels expand and diversify, consumers have more options to select what information they want to receive and now have the added opportunity to interact with those messages.

In many cases, that means finding the target audience on Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and blogs. It’s also important to remember that other audiences prefer traditional print communication.

“Advertising is a conversation,” said Jean Cormier, a recruiter for Durham-based advertising agency McKinney. “We intentionally blend interactivity into our work.”

For example, Cormier referenced a campaign for client Travelocity. Facebook users have the chance to weight in on where to send the company’s popular Roaming Gnome and in doing so become part of the brand communication.

Kwanza Nunn Quartey, a recruiter for Media General, reflected on the changes her company has made in its 150-year history. In the past, Media General’s broadcast stations and publishing organizations operated as silos, but as the communication paradigm has shifted so to have daily operations.

“The biggest challenge we face now is finding the right people – those who have a variety of skills and are open and adaptable to change,” she said.

The panel offered advice to Interactive Media students as they prepare for graduation. Excellent writing skills, confidence and experience are important, but passion is perhaps the most crucial attribute needed to succeed in this industry.

“You have to have a fire in your belly,” said Chris Cashdollar, creative director for Happy Cog Studios. “This industry changes way too fast. If you don’t have a passion for the work, you won’t make it.”

Following the discussion, moderated by Connie Book, associate dean of the School of Communications, Interactive Media students presented portfolios and print collateral representing their work from the past year. Elon’s Interactive Media master’s degree program enrolled its first class in 2009 and will graduate those students next month.

The Culture of the Digital Worksplace Panel
• Senior Vice President, Misty Zelent (’93) Fleishman-Hillard
• Senior Product Manager, Jack Beitler, Comcast Interactive Media
• Recruiter, Jean Cormier, McKinney
• Creative Director, Chris Cashdollar, Happy Cog Studios
• Recruitment Manager, Kwanza Nunn Quartey, Media General

Katie DeGraff,
4/23/2010 10:30 AM