Skip to content

Every Project Needs a Watson and Crick

Growing up as a twin, I knew how to be on a team since the womb. Having someone figuratively attached to your hip for what seems like your entire life, 24/7, is great practice for any situation in life where you might have to work with another person. That being said, conducting research with someone else can be a whole new ball game.

Chelsea and I during the campaign’s initial client interview. | Source: Andres Warren

At the start of this semester, I was named BrandJRNY’s research director alongside Chelsea Harper. Prior to the start of the campaign, I didn’t know anyone on the team. That being said, because Chelsea and I were both research directors (the only position held by two people), I knew we would get to know each other well as we would be working very closely. As the entire team quickly jumped into the project, Chelsea and I got straight to work, especially with phase one of our campaign being heavily research-focused.

It’s often hard for me to warm up to others but with BrandJRNY being such a fast-paced environment, there’s no time for the usual pleasantries you’d find among a group of new colleagues. Within the first two weeks of becoming research directors, Chelsea and I had already spent a handful of evenings together scouring the internet and library books for secondary research.

Fast forward four months, where we are today, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to work on the research aspect of this campaign with someone. Aside from the personal benefits like the addition of a new, life-long friend, I’ve also gained an entirely new perspective on conducting research in the social sciences.

I’ve previously conducted a study on engagement on social media platforms, specifically within the technology community, as well as assisted on a few other studies during my time as an undergraduate. Nonetheless, I’ve never worked one-on-one with another person like I did this past semester with Chelsea, and it truly showed me that the saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is a saying that’s too on the nail. Of course, we couldn’t have done the work we did without the support of Carly Smith, account coordinator, or Dr. Colistra, BrandJRNY founder and director.

While only one person usually will be awarded a Nobel Prize, the efforts toward this achievement is almost always a collaborative effort. Teamwork and collaboration bring new ideas and perspectives to the table, allowing a situation to be seen through different eyes or with a new mindset. The ability to talk through a problem with someone or bounce an idea off a partner is underrated.

James Watson and Francis Crick, winners of the 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the double-stranded helix molecule of DNA are two of the most famous scientists in modern history for their work with genetics. The important thing to note here is that two people won the prestigious award, with the support of a team of fellow scientists that included Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

Chelsea and I at the Mothman Festival. | Source: Andres Warren

I’m thankful for the months I got to work with Chelsea as her fellow research director, as well as with the entire BrandJRNY team. Not only was I exposed to new experiences in the realms of research and academia, but I was also exposed to new parts of West Virginia, people, and so much more, thanks to a new friend. And what could be stronger than a friendship based on data?

Originally posted on brandjrny.com.

The Science Behind Surveys

Research is the backbone of any campaign, and the BrandJRNY team takes it just as seriously as programmer Ada Lovelace when she created the first algorithm for the modern computer. All of the research we conduct, collect and analyze lays the foundation for the rest of the work we do in our community branding plan. This research influences the creative portion of the campaign, including the creation of the logo and color schemes, as well as guides the strategies and tactics used to reach the campaign objectives.

Surveys can be a fantastic tool when conducting research that requires the opinions and insights of those who aren’t easily accessible. With various platforms in existence with the sole purpose of creating and distributing surveys online, like Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey, it’s easier than ever to reach these groups. That being said, there is so much more time and work that goes into creating a proper survey than one—including myself before starting this process—can imagine. Addressing these few steps are a great place to start if you’re new to the vast world of surveys:

1. What are you trying to get answered?

What is your study about? What are you seeking to learn about? Although this step sounds basic, it’s crucial to make sure your survey has a clear subject. Respondents of the survey will be thrown off if asked about more than one topic within a study and could even become frustrated by the confusion of it all.

2. Figure out your target audience.

Identifying who you want to participate in your survey is extremely important, as presenting it to everyone can skew your results or dilute the responses that you’re actually looking for. It’s more likely that you are only seeking a specific set of people’s thoughts and opinions on your research topic, which is why two steps need to be taken when reaching your target audience. The first step occurs while creating the survey. Setting up various display logic and respondent blocks will prevent certain people from completing the survey, depending on how they answer the initial questions. The second step is how the survey is promoted. Appropriate messaging is essential in social media posts, email blasts and all other forms of distribution to assure that the desired public is responding.

3. Craft your questions and their responses carefully.

There are many rules on how and how not to create the perfect survey, and each platform has its own list of how you should tackle it, like Qualtrics’ 10 Commandments which I highly recommend giving a read.

A few best practices when crafting the survey questions is to try and keep it as concise as possible, while still gathering as much information as possible. In longer surveys, you will see a drop off of respondents at some point in the survey due to the diminishing attention span of users.

4. The metadata is mega important.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s all in the details,” and this time, it’s true. Metadata, or a set of data that gives information about other data, is crucial to the makeup of your survey. It determines aspects like how the survey will appear to users in their email inboxes and on social media platforms. The metadata also affects the more simpler things that most people wouldn’t even think of, such as the name shown in the tab at the top of the browser. These details might seem small, but it’ll go a long way to making your survey seem more thorough and professional.

5. Check, check and re-check. Then check again.

I cannot stress enough how important this step is. Even when you feel like you’ve reread and tested your survey so much that your eyes could roll out of your head, you should probably check it a few more times. Once that’s done, have someone else look it over. They’ll be more likely to catch a mistake that you missed because you’ve become so familiar with the content. There’s nothing worse than publishing your survey and then seeing all the mistakes you didn’t catch before people started taking it.

Another tip that wouldn’t hurt to try out would be to print off a copy of the survey and read aloud from the physical copy. Reading your work out loud will help you hear the flow of each question and response, making sure it all sounds natural and won’t confuse the reader.

6. Sit back and watch the data roll in.

Congratulations! Now that your survey is out in the world, you can finally breathe and relax as the responses start to come in. Watching your hard work come to life might be one of the best feelings if you’re a true data-loving nerd like many of us on the BrandJRNY team.

Originally posted on brandjrny.com.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone—And Into Mothman’s

Looking back at the Mothman Festival, a lot of it seems hard to remember. The few days we spent in town were just one huge whirlwind of awesome costumes, beautiful art, social media-worthy moments, surveys and so much more. That being said, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had to date, both professionally and personally. 

We spent one full day at the festival, and during that time our primary focus was to get as many surveys completed as possible. As one of our team’s two research directors, I felt an even greater sense of responsibility to achieve this goal. On top of that, I was also tasked with running the WVU Reed College of Media’s Instagram story. The purpose of this was to give a glimpse into what BrandJRNY is like as a capstone class and what we’re working on this year. Being an introvert, and the type of person to shy away from initiating conversation or being in front of the camera, this seemed like (and was) a monumental task that would require a lot of willpower and courage on my part. 

AF912C31-19CB-485F-A79C-FBB2454198BE

Me, in costume, on Point Pleasant’s Main Street during the Mothman Festival. | Credit: Andrés Warren

Yet, walking through the streets of downtown Point Pleasant in a very elementary Mothman costume with a shirt that read, “Mothman is real and he’s my boyfriend,” I couldn’t help but begin to feel a sense of ease. The festival attendees gave me smiles and words of praise for my outfit, and that helped me to stand taller as I walked through the crowds with my clipboard in hand. People would stop and ask to take my picture and young children would wave to me from across the street, bringing a huge smile to my face every single time. With each small encounter, I grew more and more confident in my ability to approach people and ask them to take our survey. The survey was brief and asked respondents about their thoughts and opinions of the event they were currently at. Not surprisingly, many people were happy to do so.

Throughout the day, I grew bolder and bolder to the point where, by the end of the day, I was yelling to strangers from behind the BrandJRNY booth as I eagerly waved my aforementioned clipboard, attempting to attract festival-goers to stop by, take our surveys and learn more about the work our team does. At one point, my mother—a fellow WVU advertising alumna—texted me after seeing a video on Instagram of my antics to ask if I was alright because there was no way she could believe that I would act like that in my normal state of being.

I will definitely give credit to the power of a costume, as it’s been proven that what you wear can influence your confidence levels. That being said, I also have to give myself credit where credit is due. I put myself out there, pushing myself to do things I used to think I would never—and could never—do. When I’m passionate about a project, the way I am about BrandJRNY and the City of Point Pleasant (yes, already!), I do my best to set aside my anxieties and put all of my energy, excitement, and myself into my work.

I heard countless times throughout the day that attendees come back year after year because they felt accepted and welcomed by others at the festival and the Point Pleasant community. I understand that feeling, too, now.

This event was not only a colossal step for me personally, but also professionally. It showed me that I am capable of going outside of my comfort zone, even if it was hard in the past and even if it still seems intimidating at the moment.

Originally posted on brandjrny.com.

I Didn’t Want to Go to WVU & Now I Can’t Imagine My Life Without It

The night before National Decision Day, I cried thinking about my future and the college I would eventually end up at, realizing that that place would be West Virginia University.

Picture1Like most high school students, I began my college search during my junior year. I didn’t have much of an idea of what I wanted to do and it never helped that my twin sister knew exactly what she wanted to do. After sitting down one night for hours scouring various undergrad programs and a broad set of majors offered at almost all universities, I came to the conclusion I wanted to go into communications and journalism.

The summer before my senior year I began touring colleges and seriously thinking about where I would be finishing my education. I’m from Ohio and there is definitely no shortage of higher education institutions all across the state but the first schools I toured were in Chicago, IL.

My mother is an alumna of WVU—more specifically the Reed College of Media—herself so like anyone with any kind of pride in their alma mater, I had to look there too. Because my sister’s major is so specific and only offered at a few universities in the entire country, not including WVU, she escaped our mom’s persistent pressure to apply.

After all was said and done, I applied to five schools, two in-state and three out of state. I never really considered WVU as an option and only applied to appease my mom, making it last on my list.

Months went by and I found myself at the end of my senior year and high school career. I still hadn’t made an official decision of where I would be attending school in the fall but I had a general idea. I had been accepted to all my schools but it was fairly easy to rule out three of the five.

Picture2.png

My mom was always there in the background pushing for WVU. The more she did, the more opposed I grew.

I love my mom a lot and she’s one of my biggest role models, but with that said, we’re the exact same person and it gets to be too much sometimes. We have very similar personalities and despite having a twin, she is the most relatable person in my family. We either completely agree on something or fight adamantly over another thing because we’re so stubborn when it comes to our opinions. The thought of going to her school to pursue her major was overwhelming, especially after how my life had already seemed to emulate her young adult life.

Looking back now it seems ridiculous but we argued so much over how I felt that she was trying to relive her college experience through me.

It was nearing the deadline to accept a college offer and I was still so unsure of where I would be going. My top choice school was extremely expensive and despite all the scholarships I got, their program for what I wanted wasn’t worth what I would be paying off for the rest of my life. It was hard for me to accept that I wouldn’t be going to a school I had fallen in love with, but now I see that I ended up exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Picture3

One of the deciding factors that made me choose WVU was the media college’s Scholars Program. Because of this program I have met so many amazing other students who share a love for media like I do and strive to be the best in our field.

I might not have originally wanted to go to WVU, and I wasn’t even happy about it for a while but the summer before college I grew to be more and more excited about the prospect of it all.

Once I got here and started classes, I quickly realized that WVU was the perfect school for me and I found my home in the Reed College of Media. I joined Martin Hall Agency and learned a lot about my major and future career path in such a unique setting.

Picture4.png

Being a dramatic high schooler was all a part of my process of getting to WVU and I’m thankful my mom kept pushing me to step outside of my comfort zone, even when I pushed back hard. I can happily say that I walk the campus and attend classes in the same lecture halls of Martin that she did thirty years ago, all while wearing her sweatshirt from when she was a student.

I didn’t want to go to WVU and now I can’t imagine my life. This school has brought so many good things into my life that I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.

 

How I Ran a Half-Marathon in 21 Days

Yes, you read that correctly. 21 days as in three weeks. You’re probably thinking, “Who on earth decides to run a half-marathon with only three weeks to train?” Well that person is me, apparently.

Let me start this off by saying that I’ve been a runner for the past eight years of my life so it’s not like I started this completely out of nowhere. It’s always been a goal of mine to run a half-marathon ever since I really started to get into the sport my underclassman years of high school and I watched my teammates and coaches complete them. Although I’ve always wanted to accomplish this distance, I never ran more than nine miles consecutively during a practice and then, the injury.

broke af

The summer before my senior year of high school I broke my ankle, completely shattering the tip of my fibula. Devastated, I was out for almost my entire season. (Refer to the picture of me fake smiling though ugly crying in the emergency room). Towards the end of the season and a few months after the injury I started to get back on my feet (pun intended) and doing a few low mileage runs when the pain wasn’t too unbearable. After months of what should have been a fairly easy heal I was still experiencing a lot of pain in my foot and ankle. Fast forward a few doctors’ visits, tests and x-rays, I learned I had nerve damage as a result from the break. Beautiful. I sat my entire senior track season in the announcer’s booth instead of on the track racing like I should have been. I spent the following summer leading up to college in physical therapy to try and combat the nerve damage but made little progress in the few months I had before I went away to school.

I went on to start college that fall at West Virginia University in a completely different state than I had always known and basically gave up on running. Mountain life was not the easiest transition for me and even harder for my ankle.

Months went by, I grew more accustomed to my new home and its landscape but I still wasn’t ready to get back in my sneakers.

IMG_2057Towards the end of the semester when my stress levels hit new records I knew it was time to get back out there, so I did. What a feeling that was.

I probably only ran a handful of times my entire freshman year of college but that was all it took for me to realize what I had been missing for the past two years.

Summer came and I ran exactly one time. Whoops. But I was determined to fix that when school started. It also helped that my sister took my old pair of running shoes with her so I was “forced” to get a new pair. As if anyone has to twist my arm to do that.

Sophomore year of college started and that was a whole other story in itself. I needed running more than ever so that’s exactly what I did. Nothing too crazy but I always made sure to run two to three times a week.

As I said earlier, it’s always been an aspiration of mine to run a half-marathon and eventually go on to run more than that. For some reason I started really thinking about doing one sooner than later; nothing serious but it was always a nagging thought in the back of my mind.

How I Did It

Like I already said, I’ve been running for the past eight years and even though I had a major setback and wasn’t where I use to be, I was still running a few times a week. When I decided to run the half-marathon with only three weeks of training, I was extremely over-confident.

Thankfully I have the best support system ever that encourages any idea I have, no matter how insane it is. There’s no way I could have done this without the people in my life, guiding me through a brand new experience or encouraging me when I got cold feet and began doubting myself.

Because I am so lucky, my best friend turned roommate’s mom is a half-marathoner herself and last time she visited us she promised to send me her training schedule. With the help of her program and another one that I found online, I was set.

The only problem was that these were 18 and 12 week programs and I had to do it all in three. Good luck to me, right?

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

In the end, I mostly just winged it, combining the two plans and doing what I thought felt best for me personally as a runner. I alternated between longer and shorter runs, generally getting around four to six miles on an average run.

I had my longer days where I would run between eight and ten miles but the run that made me finally realize that I could do this half-marathon was the Sunday two weeks before the race when I ran 12 miles for the first time in my life. I’ve never run that far before and it’s probably one of my top favorites runs to date. You really can’t beat West Virginia scenery.

The second week of my training proved to be a challenge because that’s when I could feel all the injuries coming. I felt guilty giving myself a rest day since I was so behind in training but I knew if I actually wanted to make it to the race I was going to have to take a few days off. Out of the total 21 days of training I didn’t run four of those and that was probably my saving grace. It was hard letting myself sit and rest but I know it would’ve been harder if I hadn’t.

Diet wise I didn’t change mine much. Of course, I tried to eat somewhat healthier than I had been but I’ve never been good at forcing myself to stick to a regulated plan. I was hydrating more than ever (like I should have been prior to this but we’re not perfect people) and drinking less of others things, but over all my training focused more on running than my nutrition.

The biggest thing that got me through all of this was my drive. I haven’t wanted something this badly in a long time and that’s how I actually did it. No matter how much training, how much dieting, how much preparing you do, none of it matters if you don’t want it. 

But More Importantly, Why

I’ve talked about what led me here and I’ve talked about how I did it but I think what the most important thing is why I did it.

Yes, I’ve always wanted to do one, but that’s every runner’s goal. As stubborn as I am, I feel the need to prove myself. Not to other people but to myself. I wanted to show myself that I could come back from a devastating injury stronger and better than before.

Thanks to the Columbus Marathon and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I finally had a place to do that, not to mention an even better cause to support while doing it. I’ve always been interested in philanthropy and plan to pursue it as a career after college so it’s only right that my first half-marathon be dedicated to the amazing children fighting for themselves every day.

I’m extremely grateful for this experience and can definitely say, like others, I’m officially addicted to the marathon life. Who knows when I’ll do my next one but there will be a next one, I know that much.

Oh, and I totally did it for the medal.

IMG_4263