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Lara Caughman

IMC 636 Capstone Project

Completion Date – Summer 2016

Client – The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation

Residence – Chattanooga, Tennessee

Previous Degrees – Bachelor of Science, Social Work, Brigham Young University

Misc. Facts – I’ve been incredibly lucky to spend the last 20 years of my career using communication to change lives. There is nothing like creating a spark that grabs hold in an audience when your message connects on a personal level. The challenge of creating and sustaining those sparks still inspires me every single day.

I came into marketing communications sideways. Isn’t that often how the best things in life come about?  I began my career as a social worker before moving into nonprofit leadership roles for global and regional organizations. Along the way, I realized the power found in communication is one of the greatest predictors of success or failure for any type of project or campaign that involves behavior change. After all, getting an audience from Point A to Point B, involves the same principles whether you are a social worker, leader of an organization or a marketer. The message and tactics are different but the principles of human nature are always the same.

The WVU IMC program was the perfect opportunity to build on my strengths and deepen my ability to scale-up the reach of mission driven, socially conscious organizations. The program exponentially connected my strategic planning abilities with my love of audience insight and messaging with the power of emerging media.

Capstone Experience -When I started the program, I imagined the capstone class to be the top of the mountain I was scaling in the IMC program. When I reached Capstone, I realized I was wrong. Capstone was actually its very own entire mountain range; a fact I found both daunting and exhilarating all at the same time. I’ll admit it, almost nothing inspires me more than a huge challenge.

Coming from the nonprofit sector, I was extraordinarily familiar with the difficulties of creating marketing campaigns with limited resources and intensified pressure for ROI. Having focused on industry segments that didn’t include nonprofits in most of my IMC classes, I wondered how my capstone campaign would compare to my pre-IMC program nonprofit campaigns. I knew capstone would truly test the strength of what I had learned.

It was incredibly rewarding to see how my new level of knowledge combined with my past experience in the creation of this campaign. The end result produced a campaign that addresses and solves very real issues for the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and will allow the organization to gain much needed relevance and engagement.  

A tip for future capstone students is to remember the high value of both audience insight and an understanding of what is at the heart of your client’s brand. Everything in your campaign will be based off of these two elements. The better you know your audience and client through primary and secondary research, the stronger your campaign will be. This knowledge is the filter that you should constantly run every aspect of the campaign through. If your filter is weak, your campaign will flounder.

Be brave, be bold and enjoy the journey. 

Executive Summary

Caughman Executive Summary

IMC Plan Highlights

Caughman SWOT

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