Using Our Secret Weapon to Achieve Marketing Goals

by Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR
HAAC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
Harrisburg, PA

At HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, we are fortunate to have an Office of College Advancement (OCA) team full of high performers. The OCA team handles many functions, including advertising, alumni affairs, branding, fundraising, grants, graphic design, marketing, photography, public relations, videography and Web development. We have talent, creativity and a strong work ethic.

We also have a secret weapon – one that we used strategically in 2014 when we celebrated the college’s 50th anniversary. It’s our college president. We call him Dr. Ski, which is short for Dr. Sygielski.

Dr. Ski is an awesome leader – intelligent, progressive, approachable, down-to-earth, positive, courageous, creative, bold and supportive. He is not your grandmother’s community college president. When you have a president as awesome as ours, it would be a disservice not to use his talents.

In addition to his many qualities, Dr. Ski is an avid biker. Therefore, we encouraged him to take an idea he implemented at another community college several years ago and take it to a much higher level at HACC. The adventure exceeded our expectations. Intrigued? Here’s what we did.

Dr. Ski biked more than 170 miles to all five HACC campuses during a three-day period. At each campus, he was greeted by hundreds of people, including students, employees, alumni, donors, board members and media professionals. At all five campuses, he gave away $1,000 scholarships, bikes and other gifts donated by donors. Yep, he gave them away on the spot! Hundreds of students had completed brief forms and put them into a box, and we randomly drew names. You should have seen the faces of current and prospective students who received scholarships and brand-new bikes. Their expressions were priceless! There were cheers and, yes, tears of joy.

We promoted the bike ride heavily and garnered tons of media coverage before, during and after it. Who wouldn’t want to cover the story of a community college president biking almost 200 miles to give away $41,000 in scholarships, 23 bikes and more than 50 other items? Everyone benefited from using our secret weapon in this way.

This year, we will continue to use our secret weapon and match his interests and gifts with the college’s integrated marketing communications goals. While doing so, we will not lose sight of the fact that this journey is about HACC and not Dr. Ski.

You can do the same. Interested in learning more? Please visit

Linnie S. Carter, Ph.D., APR, is the vice president of college advancement at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and the executive director of the HACC Foundation. 

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