By Farhin Lilywala
Over the past two or three years, GPC’s enrollment decreased. There is a smaller high school pool to bring students in from. The economy is soft, and people have fewer dollars to spend. According to Barbara Obrentz, Director of Marketing and Chief Public Information Officer, all of these factors began the conversation for GPC’s new recruitment campaign: Better Way Forward.
Moreover, shadowing events in the recent past such as the money deficit and a scandal revolving around the college’s former president could have affected the reflection of the college in the media.
When asked about the effect on enrollment, Obrentz said, “Yes, when anything happens where that is casting a shadow of doubt, you have to think that there are some people that would just take that at its face-value and not investigate further. I have no data to say that this impacted us any more or less than the other situations that I have described to you.”
In the eyes of the marketing team, it was time to take action for the sake of the college.
“It was really important for us to redefine our brand and who we are,” Obrentz said.
To begin this process, Obrentz’s team conducted focus groups to assess whether this new strategy would work. Five groups of students were taken into consideration: prospective students who had inquired, first year students, students beyond the first semester, students who had been admitted but didn’t enroll, and high school students who had not inquired.
“We really wanted to get student opinion, because the adults speaking to one another is just perception. So, we specifically went to focus groups that we felt were the most appropriate,” said Obrentz.
After receiving encouraging results from the focus groups, the marketing team proceeded with implementing the new strategy. To make the adveritising paraphernalia (i.e. cards, flyers, banners for buses and trains), the new campaign cost approximately $200,000 to $250,000 through allocated Marketing and Communication operating dollars.
As a part of the process, the marketing team redesigned the GPC website homepage. According to Obrentz, the next steps are redesigning the rest of the website as well as incorporating the GPC Mobile App and social media.
Through this consistent advertising approach, Obrentz and her team hope to fight the misleading perceptions of community colleges and the students that attend them.
Obrentz said, “I think that we need to get over the negativity of the perception that it’s for dummies or for students who have problems or students who flunk out and come back. So that’s what we’re finding. We have an uphill communications challenge.”