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The Colorado Community College System Establishes Its Reputation as a Leader in Post-Secondary Education and Driver of Colorado’s Economy

Evaluating the impact of journalism and communications
March 21, 2021

The Colorado Community College System Establishes Its Reputation as a Leader in Post-Secondary Education and Driver of Colorado’s Economy

Executive Summary:

Working with the Colorado Community College System’s director of communications, SE2 and our partner agency Interact Communications helped the system promote the positive and significant impact it has on the state’s economy. Our engagement included content development and ongoing earned media activities. Our efforts resulted in the development of several new pieces of high-impact, cornerstone content that Colorado Community College System (CCCS) can use for years to come to support its outreach and communications with key audiences. Through a regular cadence of positive stories in Colorado media, we reached policymakers and community leaders through the state.

 

Explore how we approached the project using our proven, four-part Changecycle™ process:

Investigate:

In early 2020, SE2 and our agency partner Interact Communications were selected through a competitive process to help support CCCS with a year-long grasstops communications and outreach campaign.

CCCS, which is made up of 13 unique colleges with 38 locations across the state, educates over 125,000 students every year. It does this important work despite Colorado’s higher education system being woefully underfunded relative to other states across the country (ranking 48th out of 50 states).

To protect the funding stream it receives from the state, CCCS educates and engages policymakers by sharing information about its important role as an economic hub in communities around Colorado and, more broadly as an economic engine for the state.

We worked closely with the system’s director of communications to identify strategic communications priorities for the year — including updates to the system’s key messaging, earned media opportunities to increase coverage of the system and highlight its talented leaders, creating new collateral and hosting events to raise CCCS’ profile.

Activate:

During our engagement with CCCS, Colorado’s economy was on fire. Skilled talent was in high demand, but the opportunity was not equally distributed around the state. While the Front Range (where 85 percent of Coloradans live) was booming, other parts of the state were in decline, including many of the communities where CCCS’ colleges are located.

We devised an approach that acknowledged this disparity and told the story of the role that CCCS plays in feeding the skilled talent pipeline on the Front Range through degree attainment and certification programs, and its role in sustaining and stimulating Colorado’s more rural communities (where the local colleges serve as an economic backbone).

Captivate:

We developed a slew of new content that would help bring the grasstops outreach strategy to life and increase policymakers’ understanding of the importance of adequate funding to the state’s higher education institutions, including CCCS.

To do this, our content team monitored state and national trending news and worked closely with CCCS’ director of communications to proactively identify opportunities to tap into these trends to secure earned media coverage.

Our creative and content teams also worked together to put on and cover several events, including CCCS’ yearly Day at the Capitol, where college presidents, administrators and student leaders are invited to meet with state legislators. During each event, we have a photo and video crew on location to shoot coverage from the day and turn it into nearly real-time content that CCCS can promote across its various platforms.

We also produced video content to tell the story of CCCS’ innovation efforts across the system, including promoting its efforts to reduce costs to students through its Open Education Resources and Zero Textbook challenge. In addition, we developed new collateral that administrators and leadership can use to support conversations with state and local leaders.

Radiate:

Our efforts resulted in the development of several new pieces of high-impact, cornerstone content that CCCS can use for years to come to support its outreach and communications with key audiences. We also secured a regular cadence of positive stories in Colorado media.

Our work to promote CCCS’ Zero Textbook challenge helped the system win the highest honor in Governor Polis’ ZTC Degree Challenge (winning the award for Overall Excellence in Open Educational Resources & Practices).

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