by Anne Krueger
Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
El Cajon, CA
This month marks my five-year anniversary as communications and public information director at the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in eastern San Diego County, California. After 30-plus years as a newspaper reporter, I never thought I’d find another job I loved as much as my work in journalism. I’ve discovered that working at a community college is just as satisfying – if not more so – to someone who enjoys telling stories and making a difference in the world.
I had a skewed view of public relations people when I worked as a reporter. I thought they spent all day writing press releases, bugging me to run their press releases, and sitting by their phone hoping a reporter would call them about a press release.
Yes, I write press releases in my current job, but I find that’s just a small part of my day. I spend much more time on internal communications, marketing our colleges, advocating with government officials, attending lots of meetings, and all the “other duties as assigned” that come with the position.
Although my job has been far broader than I was prepared for, I’ve found that the skills and talents I developed as a newspaper reporter have translated well in my current position. I’ve just had to make some adjustments to use those skills in a different way.
Storytelling remains a key part of what I do, except now my stories are about outstanding community college students, alumni and employees. Hearing about the obstacles many of our students overcame to succeed at community college still fills me with awe, whether it’s the story of a Grossmont College student who is excelling at football while essentially homeless, or a Cuyamaca College student who was valedictorian of her class 10 years after she fled Iraq and came to the area speaking no English.
The biggest difference is the way the stories are told. As a reporter, my job in writing a story was solely to inform the public; any good that occurred as a result of having an article in the paper was a bonus. As a marketer, my intent in telling the stories is to create a positive image for our colleges and demonstrate the many wonderful things we are doing. I can guarantee that any story we use will have a glowing quote about our colleges.
I’m still writing and editing as much as I did as a reporter, but now I’m involved in a much wider range of communication – everything from a monthly newsletter to a staff message to our district’s strategic plan. Instead of one general audience, I have to think about who will be reading the communication and what language and terminology they will understand. As my colleagues will tell you, I can be brutal when it comes to editing jargon and acronyms and incomprehensible educators’ gibberish.
Despite the occasional frustrations of the job, I feel fortunate that I get to spend my day promoting our colleges. There is no better job than what we as community college marketers do – telling the world about our amazing students and colleges!
Anne Krueger is the communications and public information director for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in eastern San Diego County, California. She previously worked as a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Palm Beach Post.