By Patrick Fitzgerald
City College debuted its “Standing Tall, Moving Forward” spring 2015 marketing campaign starting the week of Nov. 3, a comprehensive and assertive plan publicizing that the college, despite accreditation issues, is accepting applications and ready to educate students.
“The main message of the campaign is that we are strong, we’re here, and we have unique City College offerings,” Executive Director to the Chancellor & Governmental Affairs Jeff Hamilton said.
City College will spend approximately $400,000 on the spring campaign that has two elements, Hamilton said. One is just mainstream marketing to a general audience. The other is a targeted campaign for chosen demographic groups.
“Yes, I believe it’s imperative to have a campaign for City College. This is the mecca of community colleges,“ Audray Rogers, a City College graduate said. “It is the stepping stone to the future. A lot of programs are very beneficial in today’s workplace.”
The spring campaign is about two and one-half months long, about one month longer than the last spring campaign.
The purpose of the marketing campaign is to mitigate and stabilize enrollment. Internet click-through rates will measure the campaign’s success for reaching targeted groups.
“Last year we surpassed the national average in terms of effectiveness on the click-through rate,” Hamilton said. “That tells me that there is interest and that the message is compelling enough to get their attention.”
Advertisements will appear in a wide variety of media including television, radio, newspaper and on public transportation. More personal promotions consist of time-released, targeted messages, targeted emails, digital messages on Facebook and postcards.
“(City College is) moving away from saying ‘open and accredited’ which reminds people of that issue to ‘standing tall, moving forward’ which resonates more with people’s personal aspirations while paralleling the college’s situation of overcoming obstacles,“ Hamilton said.
Specific targeted groups are those who are close to graduating, high school graduates, others who passed their GED, community-college dropouts and people who applied but did not register.
“We need more advertisement for those that need to know that City College is open,” student Vivian Chau said. “I would feature more classes, more opportunities for those students who need to transfer faster.”
Another aspect of the campaign is focusing on a media relations component that mines the campus for stories that showcase students, programs, success rates and unique cultural or historic aspects of the college which are then pitching to the media.
“We found out that the Giants mascot goes around in an electric scooter built and maintained by CCSF automotive technologies,“ Hamilton said. “We have all these amazing assets, strengths and students.”
During the campaign, Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow will release his ruling on the validity of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ decision to pull City College’s accreditation.
There is no predetermined tactic City College intends in responding to the ruling but the Chancellor’s office and the City Attorney’s office will respond pragmatically depending on the ruling.
“We believe and we are confident that we have a way forward in terms of retaining our accreditation,” Hamilton said. “We can make that argument regardless of the ruling.”
Plans for City College’s 80th birthday celebration were not completed in time to synch up with the spring 2015 campaign but Hamilton said the anniversary will be appropriately recognized.
Looking longer term, the chancellor is trying to create more integration between the website homepage, the marketing effort, and the admissions and records processes. The college is also focused on streamlining the enrollment process by looking at it holistically.
City College is facing another significant headwind besides accreditation. The College is competing against a low unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When people are working, they are less likely to go to school.