By Sara Hansen, Chair of the Department of Journalism
Mike Maddaloni recently gave an expert’s view of how “students as consultants” can deliver awesome digital projects in my course, J440 Application of New and Emerging Media. Clients expect the best from consultants who build websites or social media campaigns – and Maddaloni showed ways for them to deliver projects that get results.
Maddaloni is a familiar face to consulting with national and entrepreneurial firms (like KPMG and the American Dental Association), and he regularly gives guest lectures and assistance with journalism and interactive web management through the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Department of Journalism. This semester J440 is taking on four projects, including a new website for the educational nonprofit Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and web and social media work for UWO Biogas Systems.
A great aspect of Maddaloni’s lecture was a dose of humor to keep the students engaged as he covered consulting basics – making a first impression, solving the problem, meeting goals, thinking about creative approaches and aiding usability of the audience. These expectations hold true for J440 projects that involve designing websites, writing digital content, creating online graphics and developing integrated social media campaigns. All J440 students are HubSpot certified, and they apply their training to real organizations in this course.
In truth, Maddaloni said, exciting and not-so-exciting aspects of working on complex and creative projects are necessary. He described value-added services consultants can provide, such as capabilities and resources the organization does not have. Part of the student-as-consultant role is to provide expertise, and to deliver that expertise by interacting with clients in a professional and helpful way.
“There is an element of customer service in any of the jobs that we do,” Maddaloni said.
Listening improves the customer experience by creating interactions that help students really understand the client and the organization’s situation, he said. This work can be impactful for creating digital projects. In professional settings, consultants who solve problems for clients with good customer service may find even find future projects.
“When you meet with a client, you’re looking at someone who needs help, with deliverables and strategy,” Maddaloni said. “If they feel good about what you provide, it can lead to repeat business.”
He asked students about client interactions so far. Natalie Mast, a public relations major, said her team had its initial meeting with UWO Biogas Systems. She said her team prepared ahead of time with research to understand what may be best options for her client.
“I think we interacted well,” Mast says. “We had sources to back up what we were suggesting and reasons why we were going about it the way we were.”
This exchange helped Maddaloni emphasize other key points about consulting. Students need to make positive first impressions, by being informed and articulate like Mast, and taking notes during information gathering.
He mentioned the importance of status reports and project proposals – which are part of the class assignments – and how they may not be exciting but they are important to ensure good communication and expectations for the client. Students asked if he had to do status reports – and he did! Importantly, the deliverables they create with the project outcomes can be how others view their capabilities.
“Deliverables are your reputation,” he said. And when proposing work, he reminded students to edit down the proposal to enhance readability.
“Be sure your client reads the proposal and understands it,” Maddaloni said. “You want to write the proposal like you have competition for the work.”
He reminded students to focus on the target audience, and to factor in usability best practices. It is important, he said, to be user-centric in design by understanding all facets of the target audience consuming information, and how that relates to organizational goals.
Maddaloni will be touching base with J440 students on their projects this semester, and joining the class and clients on their final presentation day on Dec. 12. The department looks forward to welcoming him back to campus and appreciates his willingness to share his valuable insights with UWO students. Thanks for being a friend of journalism, Mike!