Category Archives: Teacher Responses to Student Writing

Dealing With the Challenges to Market Research: Teacher Response to Module #3

Business Keeping

Grades and individual feedback on Blackboard.

This is a good time to start looking at your overall grade on Blackboard if you haven’t yet. Don’t wait until the end of the class to come to me with any concerns.

Key learning from this module

Market research findings =

background (why you conducted the study and how it meets client goals)

+ method (what you did and why you did it that way)

+ trends

+ consumer segments

+ prescriptive actions

Use precise language

Clients want reports so they don’t have to go through the data themselves, but they want precision so that they can feel confident that they’re getting the full story.

“A substantial portion” = “31% of participants”

“About 70% of participants” = “68.5% of participants” (no need to go past the first decimal point, as a rule)

Recruitment when you’re not paying customers is always difficult

The secret behind market research is that a lot of major companies provide incentives. I just recently was on vacation at Universal Studios, for instance, and I walked out from a restaurant and a woman asked me if I’d be willing to take a brief survey for a $25 gift card. That’s how valuable market research is: $25 per participant is not an exorbitant rate. I’ve heard of rates as high as $100 per hour per participant for more involved research.

Those of us who have lean budgets, however, such as consultants like myself who often work for small businesses and non-profits, have to be a bit more inventive. You might ask the client for one $50 Amazon card that will be given to 1/20 participants, for example.

I also like to use the “snowball method” to solve this problem: I talk to one person I know who fits the demographic, then I say: “hey, do you know anyone else?” Then I approach those folks, etc.

Power, Privilege, and the Professional You: Teacher Response to Homework #4/5

General Business Keeping

Grades on Blackboard. The following is a response to Homework #5. We’ll discuss Homework #4 as we start Module #3.

You don’t have to agree with other people’s life choices and experiences, but you do have to respect them

Everyone has had different experiences and have made different choices in response to those experiences. Many of those decisions are made on the relative amount of power and privilege individuals experience. It’s easy to judge someone who is homeless or in poverty as a failure, but we don’t know what experiences led them down that path. We don’t know what obstacles they faced along the way.

Don’t assume you understand someone else’s identity

Even if you share certain aspects of your identity with someone else, don’t assume you understand their experience of that identity. This is what conversation is for. When you assume you understand someone else’s identity, you risk offending them and, worse, making them feel unwelcome in a professional environment. If you have a question about identity, always ask permission to ask about it, and if permission is granted, be kind and inquisitive, not judgmental.

If you respect others’ life choices and experiences and don’t assume you understand their identity, you will be a good partner

All the tips for being a good partner boil down to this: be respectful, be inquisitive, and meet people where they’re at. Though most of us want to rule, the current economy is largely based on service: customer service, client service, inter-departmental service within organizations. What do all those things have in common? SERVICE. And being good at service means being good at being respective, inquisitive, and meeting people where they’re at.


Use MAST Goals

Your goals should follow the MAST model: Measurable, Achievable, Simple, and Task-Oriented. Notice how this writer follows this model:

  • I will post articles through LinkedIn at least 3 times per week until I gain 100 connections
  • I will attempt to create connections by sending friend requests to at least 5 people per week until I reach 100 connections
  • I plan to reach a large audience of my peers by posting content that targets our similar interests and is easily relatable

Each of these goals are measurable, achievable, simple, and task-oriented, meaning this writer is more likely to succeed at their goals.

Flesh Out Audiences

Your audiences should be detailed depictions of key representatives of each audience. Notice how this writer creates a persona for members of the business community that they’re trying to reach:



Business Owner
Basic Demographics:
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Location: Greenville, North Carolina
Donation: $1,000

Volunteer Habits: John is a member of Jarvis Methodist United Church and fundraises for canned food every Saturday morning for their church in front of different grocery stores such as Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Wal-Mart, and Target.

John first became involved with Jarvis United Methodist Church 17 years ago when he first moved to Greenville to attend school at East Carolina University. He joined the College Sunday School class while at ECU and has been a member of the church ever since. He graduated from ECU with his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and opened up his own business detailing cars, buying and selling cars through his dealer’s license. Him, his wife Ann, and his three children, Paul, Mike, and Elizabeth all fundraise for canned food every Saturday morning at different grocery stores for The Community Crossroads Center.

This writer has a good sense of who they’re marketing to: a real, live person.

Align Goals With Audience Values

You also need to make sure the values these audience members hold align with your goals, however. If your goals don’t line up with what your audience wants, you won’t be successful. Given the above persona, Bob the Business Owner, you have to think about what overlap there is between his values and your goals.

If there’s no overlap between your audience’s values and your goals, you need to either adjust your goals or find a new audience.

Final Step for Module #2

6) 9/29/16 by midnight ET >>

Revise all documents you’ve created. The point of these reviews is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to Eli is the same as the draft you hand in as your final (and end up eventually showing to your community partner). Revise, revise, revise.

Be sure you log in to Eli to see what you reviewers said about your draft as you work on your final draft. Listen to your reviewers and make critical choices to improve your documents based on what they say.

Post your Cover Letter and Social Media Strategy to Blackboard.

Your LinkedIn Profile Needs to Stand Out From the Crowd: Teacher Response to Module #1

General Business Keeping

Grades on Blackboard, as per the norm. You also receive individualized feedback on modules, however, so be sure to check for that and make changes to future documents based on my feedback to avoid future grade penalty.

Key learning from this module

An effective LinkedIn profile =

an appropriate professional photo +

a catchy headline that explains your professional goals +

skill sets that are marketable in your field +

a summary that prioritizes skill sets +

work experience that prioritizes these skill sets

Keep on top of skill sets in your field

If I haven’t made this clear: the job market in most industries extremely competitive right now. Hiring managers want to hire people who have the skill sets they are looking for. Take a look at successful people in your network, mine their profiles for skill sets, learn these skill sets, and add them to your profile.


Update your LinkedIn profile regularly

You are also dead in the water on LinkedIn if you never update your profile. At minimum you should be:

  • Adding new positions as soon as you receive them
  • Updating your skill sets as soon as you acquire new ones
  • Adding new connections each week
  • Endorsing other people for their skill sets so that they’ll endorse you
  • Asking for recommendations from past employers

Digital Vs. Traditional Marketing: Teacher Response to Homework #3

General Business Keeping

Grades on Blackboard.

Please remember to put your link to your website posts in your homework assignments on Blackboard.

Your posts for homework assignments are exercising in blogging

Blogging is one of the hallmarks of digital marketing. Blog posts show search engines you have fresh content, gain you followers on social media, and gain you subscribers to your blog feed. They allow you to include new keywords in your website without peppering existing pages with them (which can get you penalized by search engines).

The most important part of a blog post is the title. Without a catchy title, no one is going to read your post, especially if they encounter it over social media.

Tips for effective blog titles:

  1. Don’t bury the lead. Include the juiciest part of the story in your title.
  2. The main keyword for your title should be the first part of your title.
  3. Don’t use non-specific filler words like “something.” Tell your readers what that something is.
  4. Use a number whenever you can, i.e. 3 Tips for Effective Blogging.
  5. Think about your title as a value proposition. What value are you providing to your reader that would induce them to read your blog post?
  6. Make it unique to your blog post. Don’t rip off titles from other bloggers. You can use keywords from other bloggers, however, especially if you link to their post.
  7. Your title should be no more than 70 characters (including spaces), or it won’t display correctly in search engine results.

Example pretty good title:


Better version:

Slight Decline in ECU Ranking in US News and World Report

You’ll learn more about blogging as we go along, but in the meantime: try to improve the title of your next post to the website using the above guidelines.

Digital marketing is essentially the antithesis of traditional marketing

I’ve always been a good marketer. I was the kid who could outsell everyone else when my school made me do a fundraiser. But that work always felt unethical to me, like I was trying to force someone to do something against their will.

Over the years, I’ve sold:

  • Candy bars
  • Knives
  • Kids educational books
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Social media services
  • Websites
  • Full-blown digital marketing packages

Guess which ones I feel the best about? The thing with digital services is that there are so many to choose from that pressure sales tactics don’t work. There’s no door to knock on. The foot-in-the-door has been replaced by a digital advertisement or a search result.

Digital marketing is about making connections between consumers and products you’re passionate about. That’s it. The difference between the physical things I used to sell and the things I sell now is that I did give a crap about the physical things. I never read the magazines I was selling. They were crappy magazines. The knives I tried to sell probably couldn’t cut through quarter and then still remain sharp. They were products built on lies.

The products I sell now are the absolute best I can make them. If I make a website for an organization, it is worth far more than what they paid me. If I help an organization to reach new audiences, I better be okay with supporting that organization’s goals, because I am promoting those goals by helping them communicate more effectively.

People who get paid to do social media aren’t just tweeting all day

The other lesson I’ve learned about digital marketing is that it’s waaaaaay more complicated than traditional marketing. This was my process for selling a knife:

  • Travel to neighborhood with relatively new houses, indicating customers had money for “luxury” items (like knives they probably didn’t need)
  • Knock on doors with cars parked in driveway (indicating people were home)
  • Lie and say I’m not selling anything (or they would slam the door in my face), but just want to give them a free demonstration of the knives
  • About 60% of people would slam the door in my face anyway
  • The other 40% were my leads. I could probably talk them into a demonstration.
  • About 10% were my customers if I played my cards right.

This is my process for selling a digital product:

  • I’m on social media all the time talking about social media, digital marketing, UX, and related topics
  • Someone already in my professional network asks me for advice about their social media, website, or mobile application
  • I tell them I can probably help them (if I can’t, I tell them up front) and let them know I do consulting on a topic related to their problem; I offer to send them a proposal
  • I write a proposal and send it to them; about 90% of the people who get to this stage end up working with me

The lesson is: social media is the new word-of-mouth. People want to buy from brands and people that were recommended by someone they personally know. Why? Because people have learned the hard way that buying a knife from a total stranger that is supposed to cut through every substance known to man is just bad business.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Final Steps for Module #1

Liam Neeson saying "I don't know who you are, but I will look you up on LinkedIn and I will find you"


Avoid photoshopped pictures, “glamor” shots, or pictures with copyright symbols on them.


Also avoid red-eye photos or photos with other lighting issues:


Also, avoid photos at odd angles:


You can do worse than to take a selfie with your computer that is simple, in good lighting, and uses no effects (but shave after having the flu):


Or, if you want to get real fancy, you can do some slight cropping and editing in Preview (Mac) or whatever Window’s people use or Pixlr, a free online photo editor.



Your headline is what most LinkedIn users will see first. It should bridge what you’re currently doing with what you want to do.

Sales Support, Accounting, and Merchandising Intern at Jayden Star LLC, New York, NY

This means you need to summarize what you’re doing now quickly to get to the what you want to do:

Merchandising Intern at Jayden Star, LLC | Looking for full-time accounting internships starting March 1, 2017

Consider my own.  I these are my full titles:

Assistant Professor of Technical and Professional Communication at East Carolina University; President and Founder at Content Garden, Inc.

That’s a mouthtful, and leaves out the most important part. So, I shortened it to the most relevant information for my target audience, which are small business owners who are prospective clients:

College Professor; President at Content Garden, Inc. | I help small businesses reach new customers online


Let’s talk skills next, because this will influence your summary and experience. You need to focus on including the threshold skills for your field. And my rule is: fake it ’til you make it. If you know something about a skill, and it’s important to your field, put it on your profile. Then learn as much as you can about that skill to earn its place.

Throwaway skills like the following are not bad to include, but every job seeker will have them:

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Social media
  • Microsoft Office (i.e. Word, Excel, etc.)
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Public Speaking

You need to isolate 5-10 core threshold skills you want to feature in your profile. Here are mine:

  • Technical Writing
  • User Experience
  • Usability Testing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Strategy
  • Editing
  • WordPress
  • SEO
  • Digital Marketing


Once you’ve isolated 5-10 threshold skills, you need to use them throughout your profile, starting with your summary.

My professional mission is to work for a retail company in Greenville, NC in a marketing[,] public relations[,] e-commerce[,] social media[,] or event coordination entry level position. I can do the following for this organization, experience with social media platforms, research and assist with developing marketing material, and develop promotional social media campaigns to engage users and build followers. I believe my pertinent skill sets would be a good fit for this position.

Those 5-10 things you mention better be in your skills section.

The best way to get endorsements and recommendations for skill sets is to endorse and write recommendations for other people on LinkedIn.



Your experience section is your chance to highlight actual experience in each of your core skill sets. And yes, you really do want to get experience in each of your core skills by the time you graduate, whether that’s through actual work experience, volunteering, service-learning, or interning.

Besides highlighting your core skills, your experience section is a chance to show that you have the ability to create outcomes for organizations. You need to include measurable, quantifiable impacts for each past job:

Logistics Executive Team Lead Intern


June 2015 – August 2015 (3 months)Goldsboro, North Carolina Area

Executive intern for Logistics department

– Learned process, execution, and management of store with sales of 27 million annually
– Created new process to better stores out of stock percentage by over 2% month to date
– Managed a team of 35 logistics team members
– Provided feedback, directions, and problem-solving techniques to increase sales

Cover Letter

The cover letter is a document you will write for each module in this class that is a letter to me, your instructor, discussing your writing process for that module.

There is a page on the course website devoted to cover letters that explains them in more detail.

Essentially, though:

  • They are about your writing process for completing your module.
  • They are informal letters to me, your instructor, pointing out key elements of the work you did in creating your module.
  • Their purpose is to give me context for the deliverable I’m creating. Often, the work involved in a written document is not visible from the document itself.
  • They are a best practice in many industries. Project managers, bosses, and clients often want a cover letter to orient them to the documentation you have created for them. These letters tell the audience what went into the creation of the deliverable to demonstrate the value-add of the deliverable. They also orient the audience to what they are about to read.

Final Step for Module #1

6) 9/8/16 by midnight ET >>

Revise all documents you’ve created. The point of these reviews is to help you improve your writing. This process will be negated if the draft you submit to Eli is the same as the draft you hand in as your final (and end up eventually showing to your community partner). Revise, revise, revise.

Be sure you log in to Eli to see what you reviewers said about your draft as you work on your final draft. Listen to your reviewers and make critical choices to improve your documents based on what they say.

Post your Cover Letter and a link to your updated LinkedIn profile to Blackboard.

Getting a Job: Teacher Response to Homework #2

Grades will always be posted to Blackboard. Check for them there.

It’s tough out there, but it’s also easy to misunderstand what is expected of you

This all boils down to the expectations on your generation of job seekers, which are high. Whereas previous generations received jobs without college degrees or with few skill sets, your generation is expected to perform in a dizzying array of communication venues, from social media to face-to-face meetings.

In every communication situation, however, there are always expectations, or conventions, to follow. You may not know what they are, but you can figure them out if you pay attention to social cues and do some research beforehand.

Getting a job = solving problems

Last, but not least, I think a lot of first-time jobseekers misunderstand what is expected of them in the current economy, which is to solve complex problems. Organizations want self-starters who can immediately begin to add value to their organization with very little training. The more you can legitimately present yourself as the solution to problems the organization is facing, the better chance you have of landing that first career-launching position.

What Exactly Is Business 2.0? Teacher Response to Homework #1

Grades will always be posted to Blackboard. Check for them there.

Everyone handed this in. Good.

One thing to note on this assignment is that several of you forgot to submit a link to your introduction on the course website with your homework assignment. When I ask you to post to the course website, I also ask you to submit a link to your post to Blackboard along with your assignment for grading purposes.

So, to use Kristin’s post as an example, she would just submit this link with her homework assignment:

This enables me to make sure you completed the full assignment. You will only be asked to post to the course website for homework assignments, and will always be prompted to do so within the assignment itself (i.e, the following is from Homework #1):

  1. You should have already received an email containing your username and password for the course website.
  2. Use it to log-in and make an introductory post on the course website…

8. Post all your writing (including the link to your post on the course website) in one document to the Blackboard assignment for Homework #1 (Content>Assignments>Module #1 Assignments).

Digital technologies have increased the speed of business processes

One of the first things I want you to learn in this class, is that the digital world has sped up the pace at which we do business dramatically. Social media allows real-time customer responses. Social commenting platforms like WordPress enable customers to get in touch with organizations 24/7. Products can now be ordered via e-commerce sites like Amazon and shipped all over the world in a matter of days.

Digital technologies have increased the level of social engagement required by business organizations

All this new technology has also upped the threshold for customer engagement on every front. If someone Tweets at your organization that they are ticked off because they ordered a product and it isn’t working, your organization needs to handle that. Employees from different departments (e.g. marketing, product development, shipping, customer service) need to work more collaboratively than ever before. Today’s customers expect a high quality experience at all levels of purchasing, from finding information about a product to support after they have made their purchase.

Organizations who don’t understand or have access to digital technologies are doomed to fall behind

Most of my work as a consultant has stemmed from the thousands of organizations out there who have fallen behind in the digital realm. Organizations ranging from homeless shelters to media outlets have hired me to help them do everything from social media engagement to web design. The one thing all my clients have in common is that they are struggling to keep up with the demands of an increasingly digital economy. They don’t understand how to engage people in this new economy, and how to respond to the shifting paradigm of customer experience I described above.

Good Social Media Strategy Is Goal-Oriented: Teacher Response to Module #2

Grades and individual feedback on Blackboard.

Key learning from this module

Social media strategy =

clear, measurable, and achievable goals +

authentic (real), focused, and consistent presence +

maintenance tasks +

triggers for when tasks are to be performed

Make sure your goals are MAST

If you set clients up with goals that aren’t measurable, they won’t know when they’ve achieved their goals and you’ll end up looking like a failure in their eyes. You also need to make sure their goals are achievable, however, or the same result can occur.

Make sure your tasks are completely clear

It’s also important to use language that makes all elements of your strategy clear. Language like “create consistent page activity,” for instance, isn’t useful, because it doesn’t explain what to do in a clear, consistent manner. You need to include what this activity looks like with language that is native to the platform you are using (e.g. “post a video to YouTube about X,” “post a Tweet on Y topic,” etc.).