Southern higher education institutions tap agencies

WASHINGTON: Two southern higher education institutions have hired agencies to overhaul their images following competitive bidding processes.

WASHINGTON: Two southern higher education institutions have hired agencies to overhaul their images following competitive bidding processes. 

The Alabama Community College System's marketing and branding committee has entered into a $900,000 contract with Big Communications from Birmingham, AL.

“The company has experience working with other higher education institutions in the state and is the creator of the very successful ‘Go Build' campaign for the state of Alabama,” said Janet Kincherlow-Martin, chair of the committee.

Big Communications will work to create a strategy that will convey a single, unified system message for ACCS' 21 community colleges and four technical colleges, according to the RFP.

Big Communications is in the planning stages of launching an advocacy campaign, assisting in a system website redesign, and developing a 50th anniversary effort.

The community college's image has taken a beating in recent years after a former chancellor was fired and later pleaded guilty to 15 counts of conspiracy, bribery, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.

Since then, more than a half-dozen people have rotated through the role of chancellor or interim chancellor, as ACCS has struggled to find a good fit in its top position.

“Part of our mission is to deliver tomorrow's headlines,” said Robin Oliver, VP of PR at Big Communications. “We have to give the reporters that cover Alabama's community colleges a new story. They have truly moved past a lot of the things that happened years ago.”

The firm plans to emphasize how ACCS can qualify the state's residents for jobs resulting from a boom in manufacturing opportunities in the region, Oliver said. Sometimes two-year colleges actually have more relevant options than four-year universities when it comes to jobs in this industry, she added.

Meanwhile, North Carolina State University granted Educational Marketing Group a $198,000 contract to help it clarify the school's brand promise to internal and external audiences and improve its position against regional and national peers.

“The committee agreed with EMG's approach of focusing first on research that drives strategy before developing creative,” said Brad Bohlander, associate vice chancellor and CCO at the university. “EMG's work will focus on two phases of the project that we feel are vital to its long-term success.”

Phase one includes on-campus collaboration, consensus building, situational analysis, online surveys, phone surveys, focus groups, and individual interviews. Phase two will include the strategy focus areas of positioning, developing a brand platform, and creating a marketing plan, Bohlander said.

The need for the image tire-kicking comes as the university has found itself in “an environment of decreased funding and increased competition.”

“NC State is one of the world's great research universities, and this project will result in a powerful branding strategy and platform that consistently conveys NC State's leadership position and the transformational impact it has on students' lives, as well as on state, regional, and national economic growth,” said Educational Marketing Group president Bob Brock, via email.

This story was updated on February 19 with comment from Brock.

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