Friday, July 07, 2006

CMNU914: We Made It!

We made it!

We survived what may have been the first academic class specifically devoted to Word-of-Mouth, Buzz, and Viral Marketing Communication (and the brutally intensive, 7-week, 4-days-a-week, 100-minutes-per-session term).

I want to thank all of the students who made this class very special. I know there was a lot of work involved but I've heard from many of you that you found it very rewarding.

I'd also like to thank the companies and amazing individuals who contributed case studies for us to evaluate and their time to talk with each of the student groups:

- Brains on Fire -- Geno Church and Spike Jones
- BzzAgent -- Matt McGlinn
- Church of the Customer -- Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell
- Matchstick -- Matthew Stradiotto
- M80 -- Joe Muran and Dave Neupert

I'd also like to thank our incredible guest speakers, who not only were insightful, but saved the students from just having me in the classroom every day. They are:

- Steve Curran from Pod Design
- Brad Fay from The Keller Fay Group
- Brian Kenny, Alyssa Meritt, and Ann Comer from Northeastern University's Office of Marketing and Communications
- Jim Nail from Cymfony
- Dave Balter from BzzAgent

I would also like to thank the folks from Northeastern University's Office of Marketing and Communications for participating as clients: Brian Kenny, Ann Comer, Alyssa Meritt, and Bianca Whitworth (from NU Athletics).

Finally I'd like to thank my research assistant, Jenn Oles, for her wonderful assistance with the class.

And here are some things I'm taking away from this class and will consider as I teach in again in January 2007 ("Spring" 2007):

- Keep the main projects. Students loved analyzing an actual WOM marketing program and then designing their own. Many commented how they felt empowered that the clients took what they had to say so seriously. Students definitely rose to the occasion!

- Students really enjoyed the guest speakers and the practical experience they had in the industry. It also gave them a good sense of the different career options available to them. They found some speakers and topics more dynamic than others, but always learned something, even if it was what they didn't want to do.

- Students liked the flow and the sequencing of topics. The only exception was that they wondered whether we needed a special class on WOM ethics since we discussed ethical issues all the way throughout the term in the context of different kinds of WOM programs. Their point wasn't that ethics wasn't important, but just that by the time we got to the "ethics" class it was repetitive with material we had already discussed.

- Tone down the readings. There wasn't enough time to get to them all and some of them were repetitive (in an unproductive way). I was able to learn specifically which readings were the most helpful and which were less so, so I'll be able to adjust accordingly the next time around.

- Keep the class blog and continue to require students to post, but don't require so many comments. Also, build in check points for when students should have the blog entries completed by.

- Although we didn't get a lot of outside people commenting on the content of the class blog I did learn that people are reading it. When I go to presentations I'm pleasantly surpirsed when I hear that people are indeed reading it and that they enjoy what the students are thinking about and what we are discussing in class.

- Do more with the Word-of-Mouth Episode and reflection essay (where students reflected on their own word-of-mouth episodes throughout the term). Discuss this earlier in the class and make it more of a diary where students can look back over all of their WOM episodes as they look for patterns (this time around I had students enter them into an online survey but they didn't have access to what they recorded once they submitted the survey).

- They loved the room environment, so be sure to schedule the class in Behrakis again!

- I learned how to incorporate student suggestions from my teaching into my research and thinking about the industry.

- I learned more about Johnny Cupcakes than I care to admit!

- But the most important thing I'm taking away is that students felt they were a part of a new and emerging industry and that they could make valuable contributions to it. I think they sensed my energy, excitement, and passion, as well as those from our guest speakers, and they fed off of it and made it their own.

Thanks again to everyone for an amazing class. I can't wait to teach it again next Spring and make it better than ever!