Marketing 101: Know your audience. The end.

by Kelley Deal
Nash Community College
Rocky Mount, NC

As community college communicators, we are all challenged by limited resources and increasing competition. We must continue to be creative and deliver results-driven campaigns with less money, less time for implementation and minimal staff, all while balancing many other projects.

A few years ago, Nash Community College realized the need for something fresh and bold. It was time for us to get creative, to stop doing all of the talking, to really get to know our audiences, and most importantly, to listen to them. We needed to let our students, alumni, friends and community tell our story.

The “I chose Nash” slogan and an accompanying image package were born to continue the student focus of Nash Community College’s advertising and marketing while enhancing the branding with a fresh, cutting-edge look and feel. The timeless slogan ties in to a benefits-driven campaign requiring little explanation and can be used across all advertising and marketing mediums.

As the new campaign launched, we discovered that by building rapport with our stakeholders, they began to tell the story the college needed to convey. Among our top takeaways:

Many times, communication officers want to connect with other departments on campus but struggle to do so. This is your chance! First, enlist the support of the people on the front lines. Get past the silos. Visit departments. Highlighting students and what your college does opens lines of communication with other departments.

Second, don’t underestimate the power of a marketing collaboration to show your internal partners what your department does. Once they realize you do more than create the occasional ad and write press releases (yawn), then they will start to embrace your services, and you will begin telling your college’s story together.

Next, get to know your students. Talk to them. Call them by name. Remember their name the next time you see them. Help them. Ask about their classes. Take an active role in making them feel connected to the campus. Remember, your role in marketing is not separate from student life. Know your audience.

The truth is we are in the life-changing business. With the “I chose Nash” campaign, we tap into that. We don’t use actors, and we generally steer clear of stock photography. Enlist the support of real, live students and friends of the college who tell the truth. After a few years, not only do the students come to us now, but the faculty also contact us with student recommendations. They want to tell their story.

Let the students speak in their language. Do not try to change or tweak their uniqueness or fashion in the photos. The experiences and stories they share are more authentic when you don’t over-edit to fit your PR mold. When you engage students and partners to share their stories and successes, they become eager to tout the benefits and positive experiences they found at the college. There is no need for a script.

Kelley Deal is senior director of marketing and communication at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. 

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