Published on 2014/01/29
Creating A New Identity and New Efficiencies
Entering into a service partnership allowed college administrators to focus on their mission-critical tasks and create efficiencies within the organization.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is well-known and viewed favorably throughout the 10-county region we serve. However, over the past few years, we found many residents did not have a complete understanding of all of the educational and training resources we offer. Looking deeper into the issue, we found that our branding, which was developed several years ago, no longer stood out among other competitors available to potential students. We decided we needed a focused approach to create more public awareness, but we lacked the research necessary to make informed decisions on how to accomplish this goal.

Therefore, in early 2013, we developed a robust request for proposal (RFP) to find an integrated marketing communications firm to conduct comprehensive research involving HACC’s multiple constituencies and use that research to develop and execute an effective brand to recruit and retain students. We publicized the RFP nationally and had a number of proposals submitted from firms located in Central Pennsylvania and across the country.

A committee representing a cross-section of the College community reviewed and scored the submissions using a matrix that correlated with the requirements of the RFP. We invited the top-scoring firms to the College to make presentations and answer specific questions from the committee. The successful firm began working with us in July 2013 with the challenge to develop a new branding campaign to engage and retain students enrolled at HACC’s five campuses in Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York and through its global virtual learning program.

HACC’s Office of College Advancement and the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management worked closely with the integrated marketing communications firm over the next few months, re-evaluating the College’s advertising, branding, marketing and public relations efforts to adjust the institution’s approach and thinking in reaching prospective students and retaining the more than 20,000 currently enrolled.

Various forms of research were conducted to better understand the perceptions of HACC, including (1) on-site campus visits, (2) interviews with staff, (3) a competitor review, (4) a communications audit, and (5) focus groups with staff, high school students, working adults, community leaders, online high school students and community members of color from across the 10-county service region.

Partnering with a firm allowed our teams in the Office of College and Advancement and the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to focus on other, mission-critical tasks, such as implementing new recruitment software, restructuring the budgeting process for marketing and advertising and educating employees on the new processes.

Ultimately, our leadership team provided their feedback on the new branding concept in December 2013, giving us the chance to provide our feedback on the initial direction. In early 2014, we presented the new branding to all of our employees and board members. The campaign is set to debut in March 2014 with an aggressive effort for fall 2014 enrollment; a fitting way to celebrate our college’s 50th anniversary.

Through this intense process, we have gained a more thorough understanding of HACC’s diverse audiences which, in the end, will help the College in meeting its goals to increase enrollment. We also created processes and procedures to forge a stronger partnership between the Office of College Advancement and Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management teams to achieve those goals.

This is a major effort to help realize our mission of being our service region’s first choice for quality and accessible higher education opportunities.

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Readers Comments

worried prof 2014/01/29 at 11:56 am

This is a really interesting perspective on how efficiencies were created in-house by partnering. I wonder if people were fired to create these efficiencies, though.

Were there in-house branding people who had that responsibility before the marketing firm was brought in, and lost their jobs after the partner? Or were they allowed to focus on new things?

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