A Tuscaloosa-area native, Michael Nix grew up just a short drive from The University of Alabama’s campus. After graduating from Brookwood High School in 1998, he continued his education at Shelton State Community College and later at UA where he studied Telecommunications and Film, since he had long dreamed of working in television.
While at UA, Michael worked for WVUA-TV as a student employee. When he graduated with his bachelor’s in 2004, the station hired him as a full-time television newscast director. Within a year, his talents had been noticed and he was hired by the Birmingham station CBS 42 as a news assignment editor. In his time at CBS 42, Michael played a critical role in their coverage of stories like armed robberies, crooked politicians, abduction cases and most memorably, ravaging storms. In fact, he was recognized by Media General Broadcasting (CBS 42’s then parent company) for his “outstanding dedication and commitment during the storms” of the 2005 hurricane season.
“I’ll never forget that season. I was shipped out to Panama City in July to cover Hurricane Dennis, and they evacuated our hotel so I had to sleep at the station at least one night, if not two. Then in August, Hurricane Katrina hit and I was sent to Jackson, Mississippi, for that. I had to sleep on the floor there. At least in Panama City there had been a hammock in the office!”
As technology continued to advance, so did consumer interest and dependency on internet media sources. Less than a year into his tenure at CBS 42, Michael moved into a new role as online producer. Within five years, his work had won the station two Best Web Journalism awards from the Alabama Associated Press and then an ABBY (Alabama Broadcasters Association Best in Broadcasting) Award for Best Website. “It was the first time someone in Birmingham won the award,” he said.
Even with the accolades and recognition for his good work, the constant demand of working in the news wore on him, so in 2009, Michael made a switch. A former boss, Neal Fondren, was now in leadership at Intermark, a national full-service ad agency in Birmingham. Neal recruited Michael to work in search engine optimization (SEO) for Intermark. Michael accepted the role and continued wearing the “web guy” hat there, working with clients to improve their websites through analytics and digital advertising tools.
Two years later, Michael accepted his current role as internet communication specialist for UA’s College of Continuing Studies (CCS), where he serves not only Bama By Distance but several other groups within CCS as well. By 2020, after nearly a decade of working to optimize the marketing and web presence for UA’s online degree programs, Michael had been well exposed to the flexible graduate programs available. “I’d been debating a master’s for a few years, but nothing ever really interested me,” he said. When the 100% online MS in Marketing offered a concentration in Digital and Social Media, all that changed.
“A friend of mine said, ‘Hey, take a class with me,’ so I enrolled as a non-degree seeking student and took the one class. It had been 16 years since I did college work, but it was a really smooth transition. It felt like I glided right back into it,” he said. “After I made an A in that one class, I realized I could do it, so I applied and was accepted into the program, and now I’m halfway to my master’s.”
So far, Michael has continued earning straight A’s, and the knowledge he’s gaining is helping him at work. “The advanced analysis class was really helpful for me to better understand regression analysis. And Dr. Arthur Allaway‘s a hoot. I’ve learned more about how to analyze digital marketing for performance even when you may not be able to see a direct and trackable ROI.” Other courses have focused heavily on external certifications in Google Ads, Google Analytics, Hootsuite and other digital platforms that are useful in the industry. “Some of these I knew about already, but now I have official certifications,” he said.
Michael’s classes have even included group work with some high-profile UA football players. He’s on track to finish the program in May 2022, and he’s grateful for the friend who invited him to take that class and for his boss’s invitation to be “the web guy” for CBS 42 all those years ago. “I probably wouldn’t be doing any of this – degree-wise or job-wise – if it weren’t for Neal Fondren,” he said. Michael’s excited about the future and how the master’s degree will help him continue to fundamentally improve all aspects of digital marketing, from how the advertising looks and sounds to how its success is tracked for data-driven decision-making and maximized ROI.
“Generally, if you have the skills, you can get a job in the field. But this master’s will be the piece that says I have a degree in Marketing, and it’s specific to digital and social media. Now the education section of my resume will match and back up the experience section with more legitimacy and authority.”
Published: May 25th, 2021