Communicating across divisions

When people work in silos, so many opportunities are lost. More gets accomplished when collaboration reigns.

In higher education, I’m convinced we can move the needle that much more on positive student outcomes when we work outside of silos and concentrate instead on working together – across divisions toward common goals that are aligned with our core values.

Breaking down silos is an important emphasis at South Louisiana Community College (SLCC), which has 10 campuses covering 6,500 square miles. A great example of cross-divisional work came in the form of a rural marketing campaign at SLCC last fall and spring that showed impressive results.

This article is part of a bimonthly series provided by the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR), an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). It previously was published in NCMPR’s Counsel magazine and is reprinted with permission.

The communications and marketing office teamed up with campus directors from SLCC’s rural campuses to develop an ambitious enrollment campaign. Campus directors felt passionate about highlighting students in the campaign and wanted to localize ads with familiar faces in the community.

The marketing team went to work by hiring a professional photographer to capture photos of students while also documenting their personal stories. Campus directors helped by arranging student schedules and by participating in the photo shoots as well.

What resulted was an in-depth advertising and marketing campaign that resonated within each community served by the college. Captivating photos of students were plastered on billboards across Acadiana, placed in television commercials that aired on local stations and on social media, and featured on pop-up banners used for recruitment at local high schools.

Return on investment

South Louisiana Community College’s “Learn. Burn. Earn.” ad promoting its welding program. (Courtesy of SLCC)

Marketing metrics showed a good return on investment. In particular, ads about welding (“Learn. Burn. Earn.”) and nursing (“Nurses Have Heart”) were especially effective. Pageviews and “Contact Us” form submissions saw increases, and the college’s overall enrollment saw an uptick. This spring, in fact, college enrollment is up 6 percent, bucking the national trend of declining enrollments.

Best of all, the campaign created an unexpected outcome – something a little harder to quantify but perhaps more important than numbers. Students felt a new sense of pride in themselves, in their campuses and the college as a whole. Likewise, a newfound sense of pride rose among faculty and staff.

We moved the needle on enrollment and college pride. There were no silos. Cross-divisional planning was key. And the collaboration didn’t stop there.

Working together on marketing

Each month, the communications and marketing office hosts working meetings with key leaders in the college’s credit, noncredit and adult education divisions. Cross-selling programs, developing personas for each market, and defining features and benefits of each division are just a few of the topics they tackle.

From these meetings come the next marketing campaigns – in addition to increased collaboration, innovation, trust, service, accountability, respect and integrity. These also happen to be the college’s core values.

The communications and marketing team has extended its cross-divisional planning efforts to include both academic and nonacademic divisions. For example, team meetings between marketing and accounting have both groups working together to analyze data in ways they never have. They look at program costs and drilldown on break-even numbers. Together, they examine how much is being spent on advertising compared to these numbers.

Most recently, marketing, accounting and the purchasing office have begun work on a rebranding initiative that will touch all aspects of the college and its campuses. From collaborating on the request for proposals, to awarding a contract and launching a new brand, these teams will work side by side for the entire process.

Without a doubt, this kind of cross-departmental work can be difficult initially, but in the end, it pays dividends for all involved. Especially the college.

About the Author

Natalie Harder
is chancellor of South Louisiana Community College. In 2019, she was named NCMPR’s National Pacesetter of the Year for her leadership and support of marketing and public relations.