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In Age of Reform, College Gets an Image Makeover

By Sonya Stinson

Solano Community College launches a PR campaign to recruit and retain students.

Administrators at California’s Solano Community College (SCC) have a lot to be excited about. In February, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges reaffirmed the institution’s accreditation, acknowledging a series of improvements and rescinding a prior warning issued by the accrediting body in 2013.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time. The college recently won approval of a major bond measure and next year marks its 70th anniversary.

To capitalize on all that good news, SCC recently launched a five-month $75,000 rebranding and image campaign.

We felt that the momentum was here, and we wanted to run with that.

“We felt that the momentum was here, and we wanted to run with that,” explains Shemila Johnson, outreach and public relations manager for the college. The decision comes, as SCC, like a lot of community colleges, seeks to redesign, reinvent and reset its core mission and values in light of sweeping educational reforms.

Johnson says the campaign, organized by KPS3 Marketing in Reno, Nev., should boost recruitment and retention and remind community members of the college’s role in workforce training and education.

The Solano Community College Educational Foundation will contribute $50,000 to the project. The remainder will come out of the college’s general fund.

The first phase of the rebranding effort is research. Everyone from current and prospective students to faculty and staff to local employers to postsecondary administrators will be asked to share their impressions of the college.

“We want to hear from our local high school counselors to help us determine how they view the college and where we need to improve, so that they’re excited to send a student to us,” Johnson says.

The rebranding effort kicked off in earnest in August, with a three-hour fact-finding session with the marketing team and college administrators.

The next three phases of the project will focus on brand development, visual imagery and marketing strategy.

One aim is to create a consistent look to the college’s marketing materials. Another is to examine how the college is viewed in the community. Administrators say they will consider everything, including possibly dropping the word “community” from the college’s official nameplate.

“That’s something that we want to look at in this process,” Johnson says, who adds, “We want our overall brand to be recognized and held in high regard.”

Accomplish that and, according to Johnson, “The enrollment increases will come — because parents and high school counselors and principals will want their students and their children to come here.”

Has your college ever undergone a rebranding campaign? Share your biggest PR challenges in the Comments.

Sonya Stinson

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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