There's an old communication adage that states, "the only message that counts is the one that is received." No one knows this better than alumna Melissa (Gillim) Chowning, who received her B.A. in Communication Studies from UNT in 2005.
Chowning is a Digital Strategist, Audience Developer and Ecosystem Builder for D Custom, a full-service digital marketing agency founded in 2001 as the custom publishing arm of D Magazine. Chowning works with the agency's clients to help them tie together all of their audience development and communication strategies. More specifically, she bridges the gap between content development and content consumption by key audiences.
"A lot of our clients are doing content marketing. So, for some people that means having the agency produce content and putting it on the site, but without the necessary pieces of who should be reading it, how do we put it in front of that person, once that person gets there what do we want to do to further that relationship. So those pieces have been missing and that is part of what they brought me in to do."
In other words, she helps ensure created messaged are received and acted upon by the client's stakeholders.
Chowning's efforts have not one unnoticed. Paul Buckley, President of D Custom said, "Melissa has been a great addition to our agency. She has a keen grasp of the publishing world and brings that knowledge and experience into her role as Director of Digital Media Strategy. Her ideas and direction are yielding very effective strategies for how we align great content with our clients' target audiences to drive increased engagement and affinity for their brands."
Working for a company that sells "communication," it is no surprise that Chowning routinely uses what she learned in the Communication Studies department. She said she learned a lot about how to work in teams during her coursework, which has aided her tremendously in her career.
"There was a group of us and we all worked together and we all seemed to have a lot of the same classes and we would do projects that would have us involved with each other. That ability to work in teams (and) learning to work with different styles of personalities, learning to negotiate and working with different kinds of people. That's a hugely valuable skill when you go into the workforce, because you have to adapt yourself to your environment and recognize that other people work differently than you and respond differently to things. The way (the department) was structured and the group of people I was with and the teachers prepared me for that."
Chowning also highlighted the value of a liberal arts degree like Communication Studies. She said, "Everything changes so quickly and rapidly, and because innovation is at every turn, being a company's fastest thinker is incredibly valuable. Companies need people who are going to look at situations and kinda decide what route you're going to take with them or what does this mean for understanding the whole picture. Bigger picture thinking is massive right now for this company, because anything that changes and happens you really have to think about."
Chowning, who interned as a Production Assistant with the Pugs & Kelly show of CBS Radio, advised current Communication Studies students to find ways to gain experience.
"Internships are incredible valuable, there's not really a better way to get in and figure what you're getting into from a professional and personal perspective. Also if you have zero work experience coming out of college, that's tough on a resume. We want someone who knows how to handle themselves inside the workplace."
She added students should also "really pay attention to the field they want to go into. So really (students) should immerse themselves online in the network of the industry they want to go into. They should be tapping that now to see how much things are changing and seeing all the online conversations about it so when they're interviewing for a job, they can sound like they have some contextual information for why they are the way they are at that moment."
After graduating from UNT, Chowning began working as a Circulation Associate with D Magazine, the monthly publication that covers politics, food, fashion and events in the nation's ninth largest city. She relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and then Portland, Oregon, before working her way back to Texas. She returned to D Magazine, working as its Director of Audience Development for several years before transitioning to D Custom.
"I have had a good experience with D Magazine and D Custom," she said. "They definitely run the company in a very entrepreneurial style, and so I've been able to grown and learn and explore things over the last couple years. There's every opportunity to say 'Hey I've thought up this idea, can I try it? Yeah cool!' and then it works or it doesn't work and you learn something or you don't."
Chowning's career keeps her busy but she still finds time for regular spin classes and spending time with her husband John, four-year-old son Parker and two-year-old daughter Elliot.