10th-annual IMC TalentQ Expo connects students with industry professionals

Keynote speaker helps students understand the power of relationships in marketing

Connecting to industry professionals is one of the hallmarks of the Northwestern Medill integrated marketing communications (IMC) master’s program. That was the goal of the 10th-annual Medill IMC TalentQ Expo November 7 in Chicago. With sponsorship support from Leo Burnett and Weber Shandwick, the event drew a crowd of nearly 300 for an evening of networking, engagement and idea sharing about the event’s theme: Relationships in Motion.

Medill alumna Kary McIlwain (MSJ86), senior vice president, chief marketing and communications officer of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was the keynote speaker. She is responsible for marketing and external communications for the hospital and its fundraising foundation.

McIlwain spoke about the importance of relationships in life, and in the world of marketing communications as it related to her career path. While there are many ways to connect with consumers, she explained, there are timeless insights that remain true.

“Regardless of how connections are made and how they change, there are things that remain constant,” she said. “Our job is to make these relationships as seamless, truthful and consistent as possible.” She shared an example campaign that Lurie Children’s Hospital created to convey the caring relationship between their doctors and patients, a key element of the hospital’s brand.

McIlwain said her relationship with Medill was instrumental in her career today. “I am so happy to give back to Medill because I had a great time in the program and it absolutely launched my career. And, I love the theme of this event, Relationships in Motion, because it truly is all about relationships,” she said.

Medill Dean Charles Whitaker praised the event for not only discussing relationships but giving students, alumni and industry professionals a chance to build them. “In my estimation, there is not a more significant IMC event than TalentQ due to the ingenuity of the talented group of students who organize and participate in this special night,” said Whitaker. “It is an opportunity to come together to showcase the amazing range of tools, techniques and principles that brand IMC as a dynamic place of thought leadership and innovation.”

The first part of the program was a presentation by a group of IMC full-time students who are in their last quarter of the program. The students were members of a team that earlier this year, won the Medill Brand Activation Challenge, which brought together four marketing companies with students to solve real-world challenges. The winning team created an IMC strategy for Bayer’s One A Day multivitamins. In their research, they uncovered an insight about the relationship between mothers and their children who are going off to college. They presented a creative plan to reach mothers and ultimately drive sales growth to a younger demographic of college students. The competition was judged by industry professionals and Medill faculty.

Sofia Kuta graduated with an undergraduate degree in communication studies from Northwestern in 2018. After graduating with an IMC master’s degree in September, she started that same month as a marketing coordinator at Grubhub. She came to the TalentQ Expo to support the students and make new connections.

“IMC really helped me be more confident and truly understand the importance of the intersection of data and creativity,” she said.

Medill professor Candy Lee attended the event and said, “This is a superb opportunity for students and faculty to learn from each other about future trends and skills that are changing the face of marketing communications.”