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My name is Nathan Pohl (Calvin ’21). Being home from school right now, I don’t miss studying for tests or the long lines in Commons. But I do miss my friends, hockey, and most importantly, making connections.

Accelerated by COVID-19, many students and alumni alike are experiencing changes when it comes to internships, job offers, and expanding our networks in general. From West Michigan and beyond, it’s so important that we continue to grow in both our personal and professional worlds.

As a student and intern focused in marketing, development, and strategy, I’m always looking to expand my knowledge. With education being one of Symposia’s core values, we’re dedicated to sharing knowledge and resources, and we want to continue this into the greater Calvin marketing network.

With that in mind, we are officially kicking off the Calvin Marketing Professional Network group! 

We have three goals for this group:

1. Connect alumni and students in the marketing space to unite organizations with potential interns, help students find opportunities, and simply make new connections.

2. Share marketing stories of alumni and students, their experiences, how they’ve grown, and how they’re making a positive impact in the world.

3. Strengthen the Calvin University professional marketing community by sharing tools, tips, and resources from experience in the industry to grow as individuals and increase our impact.

Will you join us? 

To start, connect with our LinkedIn group!

We’re excited to announce our first event, and we’ll also be sharing information on how potential interns and organizations can connect for the very first time. 

I’m excited to watch this group grow as we grow and thrive as marketing professionals.

Go Knights!

Our Alma Mater

Sometimes I wish I was back at school, strolling through the Pine Grove on my way to class. I learned a lot in college and made even more memories. While I don’t miss the homework and essays, I love that learning and connecting with people doesn’t stop after four years are up. 

When I graduated from Hope College in 2008, I had a BA in Sociology and I thought that I’d be a teacher or an accountant. Three years later, I realized that my true calling in life was marketing – a space that allowed for me to combine my fascination with technology, my heart for education, and my obsession with the way groups of people think.

But how to get a job in this world? I used LinkedIn to find Hope alumni and I cold-emailed them begging for coffee and advice. My calendar filled up, and my freelancing career was born. Eight years later, I have an entire business (Symposia) built around this career path.

Education is one of our core values. We’ve led marketing workshops, hosted networking events, and even taught a couple of digital marketing bootcamps for current Hope students. We’re dedicated to sharing knowledge and resources, and we want to continue this into the greater Hope marketing network.

With that in mind, we are officially kicking off the Hope Marketing Professional Network group! 

We have three goals for this group:

1. Connect alumni and students in the marketing space to unite organizations with potential interns, help students find opportunities, and simply make new connections.

2. Share marketing stories of alumni and students, their experiences, how they’ve grown, and how they’re making a positive impact in the world.

3. Strengthen the Hope College professional marketing community by sharing tools, tips, and resources from experience in the industry to grow as individuals and increase our impact.

Will you join us? 

To start, connect with either our Facebook group or LinkedIn group (or both)! 

We’ve already had our first (successful!) event and we’ll also be sharing information on how potential interns and organizations can connect for the very first time. 

I’m excited to watch this group grow as we grow and thrive as marketing professionals.

Go Hope!

The last few years have seen our growth go from slow and steady to fast and explosive.

This is the aspiration of all marketing agencies. But – managing the challenges that come with this kind of expansion presents a string of hurdles.

Traditionally, our ability to generate transformation and achieve remarkable results is the benchmark that we have used to measure our performance.

We have been relentless in our commitment to staying ahead of the curve through the use of innovative technologies.

But – being committed to innovation means that we must also be committed to confronting harsh realities.

Digital marketing is important but cannot function in a silo disconnected from the bigger picture.

If offline and online campaigns don’t complement one another, our clients miss the opportunity to create cohesive experiences that engage their customers.

So rather than simply applying digital marketing to already existing systems, we need to take a step back and have a fresh look at the systems themselves.

It is no longer enough for us to produce creative elements without diving deep into exploring the data that informs our decisions.

Sure, in the past we may have taken on clients who were not as invested in this idea as we are – but, that will no longer be acceptable. We must now hold ourselves to a much higher standard.

The fact is – data can guide us toward understanding audiences in a way that seems almost magical, and when this is married with analytics and strong creative, we can speak to audiences in a way that is undeniably human.

So it’s time for change.

Creating conversations that change minds is the mandate that is embedded deep into the core of our ideology.

Strong digital marketing, when done correctly, is in and of itself transformative.

If a client isn’t willing to embark on a journey of transformation then we are not the agency for them, and they are not the client for us.

One of Symposia’s core values is education. When we work with anyone – whether client, student, or public – we’re devoted to walking alongside you to teach the skills and knowledge that will create meaningful results. Over the last few years, Symposia has been hosting educational sessions and webinars, offering strategy sessions, providing learning opportunities for interns, and more recently, building a digital classroom. We’re always looking for ways that we can not only grow as digital marketing professionals, but also pay it forward and share our knowledge with others.

In October of 2019, Symposia’s founder Tim Haines returned to his alma mater by providing Hope College students with a full day of learning. Dr. Steve VanderVeen, a business professor at Hope, brought the opportunity to his marketing students and made it possible. Outside of regular school hours, 40 dedicated juniors and seniors spent a large portion of their Saturday in another class on campus, this one put on by Symposia.

This pilot event was dubbed our “Digital Marketing Bootcamp.” The session focused on digital marketing as a whole, as well as specific and important factors relating to the industry. These topics included the digital marketing mix, user experience, website optimization, marketing personas, attribution, pay-per-click advertising, keyword research, email marketing, and more. Students were given presentations, tools, case studies, and other resources. They participated in deep dives and simulations and even had the opportunity to look at a few of Symposia’s current clients and their strategies.

Amy Dykstra, currently a junior at Hope, was one student that attended. She said that “The bootcamp was a great opportunity to learn about innovations in digital marketing that we have not learned in classes. This was helpful because we took the information we learned and applied it directly to business models we are familiar with.”

Being a recent Hope alum myself, I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that I had during my time there. Amy agrees that, “Hope works hard to give students an education that prepares them for real life experiences, such as the digital marketing bootcamp.”

Although I was never able to attend an event like this as a student, I’m excited that Symposia will be hosting another session in the early spring of 2020. We’re looking forward to continuing to make meaningful connections with the Hope community as well as giving students a more in-depth look at digital marketing. This new decade will inevitably bring change and innovation to the industry, and we can’t wait to tackle those alongside students who are interested in learning.

Sometimes you get thrown into something and think, maybe this is the future. Digital media is EVERYWHERE today and it fits right in with communications, public relations, and marketing.

I have been in the communications industry since 2000 and when I graduated from college I was still faxing press releases and information to the media. I remember the first glimpses of social media and how I never thought at the time it would catch on. It did. My first “ah-ha” moment came around 2005 when I saw a Honda car TV ad that featured their MySpace account URL instead of their website. Whoa.

In the past 10 years, social/digital media has gone from a tactic to a legitimate profession with thousands of tactics itself. Heck, 20 years ago what was social media? It was not here yet.

Digital media came and hit me like a freight train, and I was hooked. I successfully received my master’s degree in 2013 and my school immediately asked me to teach a class. Still to this day I teach undergraduates and master’s students about digital media and how they can harness the power today, both personally and professionally. At that time I had my online web show and bi-weekly television segment called DoItIndy that had come of age from social media to a blog website to then on television. This never would have happened unless I had been active and very responsive on social media. But what I was figuring out in 2012 was that things were starting to change, new platforms were beginning to evolve. I had to learn. I had to keep up with all the new changes and implement them myself in my own show.

Fast forward to today, July of 2019. Digital media is not only EVERYWHERE still, it follows you now. Digital media advertising and social media listen to you, they analyze you, they give you an algorithm that is tailor made for your tastes. What’s hot on social media seems to change daily now, not every few months or years as in the previous decade. Live-streaming, Stories, Instagram, TikTok, and more seem to be in our faces every single day. Go for it, try to harness that power for yourself and/or your business.

We talk so much today about digital and social media that at times traditional media gets left out of the picture. Yes, the print ads, billboards, mass mailings, television and radio ads and more. There is still a place for traditional media today (I will admit that the need tends to be shrinking) so look at your audience. Not every demographic sits on social media, and plan on that for at least another 15-20 years. Previously I worked in the healthcare industry, where newspaper ads and billboards still did amazingly well. On the flip side I am proud to say that before my 80-year-old great aunt passed away in 2012, she was on Facebook and interacted with family. You can’t discount Instagram today either – it is a platform that does a good job of hitting all demographics today. (I love it, it works, use it now!)

Everything seems to be changing, right? So what are some good resources to follow? Please see my list below of digital resources to help you stay informed. I read/browse the internet every single day to stay up-to-date on what the public wants and is using.

Here are my top five digital resources:

  • Social Media Examiner – Blog and podcast.
    ANYTHING and everything social media that is relevant, from beginner to seasoned pro. One of the first digital, legit organizations out there – this team knows what is up and help immensely.
  • Ad Age – Blog and magazine.
    One of the earliest contenders that used to be called Advertising Age – started in the early 1900s. I love to subscribe and get this in the mail which features different content than the online editions. A mix of it all.
  • PRSA Content Connection – Blog.
    The Public Relations Society of America is a PR organization, but they embrace so much more. Today, you have to know a little about it all. Content Connection gives you the information you need from staff writers and guest blogs across the country. I suggest subscribing to their newsletter for a good email.
  • TechCrunch – Blog, events, podcasts.
    Digital. Techy. Anything. The TechCrunch Battlefield is an amazing competition that brings people together from all over the world to talk tech, communications, marketing and more. Their online content is top notch.
  • Hootsuite – Content Management System, certifications, blog.
    I love the Hootsuite platform and use it personally and professionally every day. Hootsuite went a step beyond and offers certifications (I have my college students take it) and a plethora of information on their blogs and social media.

What will the future hold? The future is starting to show itself now. Virtual Reality (VR) is here and has started to be used not only in digital media but in traditional business and healthcare. Automated Intelligence (AI) can listen to you and give personalized recommendations. I use my Alexa hub every day for my smart home to turn on the lights, play music, give reminders, etc. Everything digital will become more personalized. Every day.

As you have read, it is important for you to stay informed of the realm of communications as it continues to evolve faster and faster. Stay on top of the trends, read blogs, watch videos, follow a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram and be vigilant. The need to learn will only become greater as more platforms arise and the older population adapts to the digital landscape.

Writing has consistently been something I enjoy, but I never considered that to be a path worth pursuing for my career. I am studying business, which I always associated more with numbers and dollar signs rather than words and content creation. However, after starting my internship at Symposia and getting the opportunity to work with our copywriter, I have discovered that the digital marketing world of technology offers many more opportunities for creating content than I ever imagined. 

The most obvious opportunity for writing content within the scope of digital marketing is ad copy. It is the copywriter’s job to work hard to capture the voice and message of the client while piquing the interest of the audience with strategically worded ads. This is no small task, and I am eager to develop skills for ad copy.

Ad copy, however, is not the only area that requires a great deal of writing in digital marketing. Website audits, blog posts, and even notes from meetings have given me a plethora of opportunities to exercise my writing skills. Whether it is deciphering pages of miscellaneous notes from meetings and turning them into organized documents of client requests and future action steps, or combing through websites and documenting opportunities for strategic improvements, there are certainly opportunities for writing within the field of digital marketing. 

One of the most challenging tasks with content creation is translating word vomit into copy. Here are the top 3 tips I have learned to help transform jumbled up words into effective content:

  • If the customer cares about it, you care about it. Even if it seems unimportant or irrelevant, our objective is to help our clients so understanding and communicating what they provide their customers is crucial. Sometimes that means including content that you otherwise may not have.
  • Consistency counts. It is important to take the time to learn about your clients. When creating content for them, you want to match their voice and capture their message. 
  • Less is more. Many people are busy and will not take the time to read lengthy advertisements, websites, descriptions, and notes. It is often essential to pare down the information and only display what is really important, in order to keep the attention of your audience. 

With these helpful tips, you can transform any word vomit into copy that people will be excited to read. The digital marketing world needs writers.

Life at a digital marketing agency can get rather hectic. With a growing team, schedules constantly changing, and new projects always on the horizon, it can be easy to get lost in the mix.

With so much activity going on, I have found that there are two keys needed in order to balance the chaos, and they go hand in hand: communication and organization. 

Just as a talented sports team will inevitably fall into confusion and failure when lacking communication, so will a digital marketing agency. Productivity is greatly inhibited when you are constantly having to ask who is doing what. As schedules are disrupted and plans are changed, projects can slip through the cracks and tasks can easily be forgotten. Every member of Symposia’s team plays a unique roll, but we strive to be one united team. This requires everyone to clearly communicate what they will be responsible for handling and what they may need help with, in order to serve the client the best that we can. 

Poor organization results in more time spent sorting through and prioritizing the work rather than actually doing the work. It is also difficult to communicate your work to other team members when you are unsure of what you should be working on yourself. Prioritizing your tasks will keep you on track and ensure nothing important is forgotten. Keeping your work organized will help you and your team stay on the same page and function smoothly. 

While you certainly cannot control everything that gets thrown into your schedule, it helps to stay on top of your responsibilities so that when something unexpected comes up, you can easily adapt and adjust to accommodate, rather than adding to the chaos.

Before interning at Symposia, I had a very limited perspective about what digital marketing entails. Beyond social media advertising, digital marketing also includes: search engine optimization, PPC (pay per click advertising), content marketing, marketing automation, email marketing, online PR, and more. After stepping outside of a classroom, I found that much of this was new to me, and about a month ago, I would not have been able to tell you what any of those terms mean.

As a business student, I was curious as to why I had not been introduced to the field of digital marketing in my classes. This made me think that perhaps digital marketing cannot thoroughly and effectively be taught in a classroom. As trends and technology continue rapidly changing, digital marketers are tasked with adapting and innovating in order to stay ahead. With this in mind, it is easy to see how a digital marketing classroom textbook would quickly become outdated. 

Additionally, unlike many other subjects or industries, digital marketing does not always have right and wrong answers. It is often a complex strategy, requiring trial and error, and constant efforts to improve. There is not one universal formula that provides a solution to every problem. Each client requires a unique and personalized equation in order to achieve their specific goals. 

With that said, you may be wondering: what is the best way to learn about digital marketing? You can certainly learn a lot from talking with experienced professionals in the field, or by dipping your toes into the world of digital marketing to discover it for yourself. As a student, I strive to take advantage of real-world opportunities offered outside of the classroom, such as crash course sessions taught by professionals, Q&A panels with experts, internships, and any other hands-on learning experiences. Either way, just remember that whatever you learn today could change tomorrow.

When I first started in the field of digital marketing (we just called it social media marketing back then), I was a lone wolf. Growing up as an only child, I found that a natural place to be. Me. Myself. I.

But then a vision started to unfold. I came to understand that if I really wanted to create digital transformation of any kind, it wouldn’t be possible with just one person. I needed help ‘painting the fence.’

One talented person at a time, the Symposia team began to build up. We collected around a shared mission of leveraging the power of digital marketing to further the message of organizations here in the Midwest.

And slowly but surely, I realized that my role was to be the leader of that team.

Without a great coach, even the best sports teams tend to produce more failures than wins. As a team, Symposia is knocking our wins out of the park this year. However, as a leader, I have my own list of failures that have become more clear as our team has grown and daily pressures have increased.

Personally, I am wildly enthusiastic in general and extremely comfortable with conflict. These attributes, like any, are often a double-edged sword. Below are my two biggest failures so far this year as a leader–and how I plan to learn from them to the betterment of our team.

Pushing the Wrong Way
It is important to be able to move things forward. Sometimes the team, an individual, or a client needs a bit of encouragement in the right direction. But I have found that sometimes I go about this the wrong way. In my determination to get something to move forward, I can forget the value of gentleness and kindness; doing so undermines the entire objective. If you are careless, you can hurt someone, causing their natural response to stop and react to that aggression rather than moving forward on the issue. When done right, pushing can be very helpful–and I am learning how to encourage the right way.

Forgetting to Celebrate
My wife and I recently purchased and moved into our first house in Holland after living in Grand Rapids for a few years. In preparation, I had been on a mission for three solid weeks to get things done. Between all the packing, paperwork, and phone calls, it occurred to me that we’d never celebrated the fact that we just bought a house. We hadn’t really celebrated the great time we had living in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. As a leader, I’ve made this same mistake far too many times.

When the entire team is working toward an important milestone, I sometimes forget to celebrate reaching it. There are always going to be more tasks on the to-do list. There are always going to be more goals to reach. But it’s important to stop and celebrate. A true leader takes pause to note what has been accomplished before just moving to the next thing.

So take the time to celebrate the successes, the milestones, the joy. It makes the journey sweeter.