IMC Plan

The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Plan describes an evolved approach to the College’s overall marketing and communications strategy based on five key messages: affordability, transferability, flexibility, quality, and relevancy.

This plan serves as a guide for Marketing and Communications, and the College as a whole as it seeks to build regional brand awareness and increase enrollment. It is derived from the College’s history, discussions within the Marketing Workgroup including Student Services and the President’s Office, personnel feedback, competitor analysis, market surveys, technological advances, best practices, and the College’s Operational and Strategic Plans.

Below, you will find the highlights from the current IMC Plan. The full IMC Plan includes a SWOT Analysis, Creative Strategy and Statements, Objectives and Strategies, Advertising and Media Usage, Public Relations and Press Coverage, and Measurement and Evaluation.

To access the complete IMC Plan and talk with a member of the team about the plan, please contact us at marketing@pennhighlands.edu.

  • Creative Strategy

    What is our brand?

    To understand a creative strategy there should be an understanding of what a brand is. Some say it could be the name, slogan, trademark, logo, etc. However, if you look more closely, it goes far deeper. A brand is a cluster of ideas that, if successful, is evoked by any or all of the above. Brands live in people’s minds; it is the mental packaging that ties everything together.

    Pennsylvania Highlands is a regional community college that positively impacts the lives of those that serve in and around its communities. Specific messages have been chronically inherent in our brand: affordability, transferability, flexibility, and quality.

    In recent years, we have strived to make our programs relevant to both the people and the businesses of our region, making us an economically viable institution for regional growth and success. Penn Highlands is an economic leader of the Southern Alleghenies region, and that should be represented in our messaging.

    Our brand now follows five essential ideas that should be apparent in our messaging: affordability, transferability, flexibility, quality, and relevancy.

    Who is our audience?

    We target individuals throughout the Southern Alleghenies region deemed traditional students, nontraditional students, and their respective families.

    Traditional students are recent high school graduates looking to begin their collegiate career. Most traditional students are between the ages of 17 and 24 and often associate themselves with Generation Z. This generation is different from the rest as they tend to be less focused (continuous updates in quick formats) and are considered better multi-taskers (enhanced technology leads to multiple tasks
    at once, mixing work and play).

    Non-traditional students are either looking for a new career path or are looking to enhance their current skill set in an effort to advance in their current career. Most non-traditional students are over the age of 25 and often associate themselves with either Generation X or the Millennial generation.

    How do we connect our brand with the audience?

    PROPER STORYTELLING. We will convey the ideas of our brand by creating strong narratives that highlight a clear beginning and promising ending. Societal and technological trends have made storytelling more complicated in recent years as messages need to be delivered quicker. There will be a focus on shortening the length of our creatives so that audiences will be more connected, thus
    creating a greater impact.

    To do this, messaging will highlight pertinent statistics, student stories, and ‘to the point’ statements about how obtaining an education, or specific credential, will better the lives of our region. The audience must be made aware of how an education from Penn Highlands will help them succeed and provide a positive outcome. By making things clear and simplistic, Penn Highlands will keep up with trends as we now live in a fast-paced, need-to-know right now and move on, type of culture.

    EMPHASIZE RELEVANCY. To do this, we must focus on our programs and program pathways, and how they will provide a career that not only grows our region, but provide a more financially stable future for our students and their families. This can be done through highlighting data derived from our Career Coach web system, focusing on what they can become and will earn if they start their educational journey at Pennsylvania Highlands.

    Career Coach offers a wealth of data that shows our relevance to the region and to the students that rely on us to provide them with an education. It is consistently updated (every three months) and shows what students can become if they attend Penn Highlands Community College. Not only that, Career Coach also highlights wages and salaries, thus truly highlighting the small costs of an education from Penn Highlands versus what a student can make in the future. This data shows the true value of an education.

    Additionally, relevance must be shown online after prospective students visit our website. This is something that can be done by showing what final results could be, such as places that hire in this field after graduation locally. A need to tie our programs with successful employment in our region is a must.

    ADD DEPTH THROUGH A MEANINGFUL TAGLINE. For the past several years we have not invested a great deal of energy in taglines. Rather, we focused on the messaging of affordability and convenience, all while encouraging people to “learn more” or “discover more” by visiting a location or our website.

    To add significance to our messaging, we started focusing on tagging our external messaging with the phrase “Discover You” in mid-2018. This moniker was, and is, designed to show our audiences a sense of hope and optimism about their futures. It is meant to be a call-to-action that can fit any of our messages or audience members.

    Conceptual meaning of tagline:

    “Whether you are a high school student trying to determine your future path, an adult student trying to go back to college to rediscover a new career, or you are already a successful person just trying to test how far you can go intellectually, Penn Highlands will help you discover your strengths and your weaknesses. Penn Highlands will help you surpass your limits, and ultimately find your true potential. What is college really? It is a place where self-discovery is at the foundation of everything you do. Discover what your future holds, discover what you can achieve for you, your family, and your community… discover you at Penn Highlands Community College.”

    After we started utilizing “Discover You” in conjunction with other advertising and website initiatives, we saw an increase in web inquiries (roughly 181.3% as of 6/12/19, over an 8-month comparison of current versus previous periods) and overall inquiries/applications to Penn Highlands (16.6% as of 6/12/19). The tagline is resonating, and a belief of continued use over a well-established period of time is beneficial to the brand.

    The concept of “Discover You” is vitally important. Even if we show audiences the relevancy of our brand (see “Emphasize Relevancy” section on prior page), that is sometimes not the factor for ultimately attending Penn Highlands. In a survey of our student population, 70% of our students chose Penn Highlands for its cost and convenient location, while only 2% chose to attend because of career preparation or potential (Media Prefs, 2018). Given these numbers, “Discover You” has the potential to bridge the gap of why someone may attend, thus increasing our likelihood of increasing our student population by reaching new audiences through messaging.

    STREAMLINE DIGITAL TRENDS. Over the past year, we have advanced our efforts in the digital realm with geographic and psychographic digital targeting, search engine, YouTube, and streaming radio advertising options. This is an effort that needs to continue as access to devices with internet functionality has become the norm.

    A national study reinforces this by stating that 88% of students that attend community college have at least one internet accessible device in their home that they use (Media Prefs, 2018). This number increases to 93% when referring to our local student population (Media Prefs, 2018).

    We have a strong social media presence as it has grown in recent years; however, there is always room for extended growth. Our Facebook and Twitter have a strong presence in relation to the non-traditional market; whereas Instagram is stronger in the traditional age market (Sprout Social, 2019). All of our social media is strongly influenced by the female population (Sprout Social, 2019). With these statistics in mind, we must continue to deliver messaging that resonates with non-traditional females, but also must attract other audiences.

    As we continue to grow our digital footprint and keep pace, a focus will be on maximizing our relevant outreach by analyzing what we have done and consolidating our efforts to the digital media outlets and trends that we have already seen success in. For example, search engine advertising could move from being program-specific to focusing on program pathways by analyzing the data over the past year.

    REGIONAL FOCUS & CONCLUSION. Penn Highlands Community College must remember that it is a regional college. All locations are equally important and our brand must reflect this. When building campaigns, messaging and efforts should take all locations into account as each provides its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

    Our brand ideas and messaging will focus on the collective strengths of our facilities and how an education from Penn Highlands will help people find the career they want. Our brand messaging will push Penn Highlands Community College forward through compelling and concise storytelling with more impactful messaging across multiple platforms.

  • Creative Strategy Statements

    Traditional Student Statement

    Advertising and messaging will convince traditional students and their families that Penn Highlands offers programs and services essential to having a successful career in and out of our region. The College will guide them in their pursuit of an advanced degree, industry credential, or immediate placement into the workforce. All options lead to future strength.

    The support for this will come from the transferability of programs/course credits, quality of programs, new and revamped programs allowing for industry credentials, and by highlighting the earnings of what can be obtained by starting at Penn Highlands.

    The tone will be of welcoming simplicity. This shows a sense of sophistication through easy-to-interpret lenses. We want everyone to feel welcomed.

    Non-Traditional Student Statement

    Advertising and messaging will convince non-traditional students and their families that Penn Highlands is full of opportunity. Penn Highlands is continuously evolving to fit the needs of individuals that have been out of education for a period of time, attending other colleges, or are looking to advance in their current careers. Our messaging will show that Penn Highlands evolves just as society does and continues to be relevant.

    The support for this will come from the quality, affordability, and relevancy of the academic programs provided by each of our outstanding facilities. This includes new programs, revamped programs, flexibility with scheduling, career data through Career Coach, general career data based on market potential, and the general positive atmosphere of Penn Highlands.

    The tone will be of welcoming simplicity. This shows a sense of sophistication through easy-to-interpret lenses. We want everyone to feel welcomed.

  • Objectives & Strategies

    These objectives and underlying strategies will move our brand in a positive and more recognizable direction. The objectives are based on discussions between Marketing & Communications and the President’s Office, with the Marketing Workgroup, and through directives laid out in the College’s Strategic and Operational Plans. The strategies are based on a number of factors: our budget, media pricing, institutional research and statistics, national data, local data, and staffing.

    Objectives are based on the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive).


    Objective One: Boost overall enrollment by increasing outreach and brand recognition to prospective
    non-traditional students between the ages of 26 and 40. Work to increase the number of inquiries and
    applications for this target audience.

    • Advertise on local radio stations that attract this target audience. Local radio becomes dominant after the age of 30 (Media Prefs, 2018).
    • Maintain a relevant prospective student page with specific calls to action that can be used as a true landing page for multiple platforms and campaigns.
    • Utilize television advertising across all regional territories. Refer to Media Prefs survey data to help determine preferences among community college students.
    • Utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) effectively. See objective four for details.
    • Create a long-form booklet that discusses career potential, jobs, available pay and more. A lot of information can be derived from Career Coach.
    • Place advertising on YouTube that resonates with this audience through poignant messaging and proper ad targeting. YouTube is a favorite among local community college students in the traditional age range (Media Prefs, 2018).
    • Market open houses and other events accordingly.

    Objective Two: Maintain and increase brand recognition levels to prospective traditional students between
    the ages of 16 and 25. Work to increase the number of inquiries and applications for this target audience.

    • Advertise on streaming radio via the Spotify platform. Spotify is the dominant player in streaming radio and music to this audience (Media Prefs, 2018).
    • Utilize television advertising across all regional territories. Utilize Media Prefs survey data to determine preferences among community college students and advertise accordingly.
    • Maintain a relevant prospective student page with specific calls to action that can be used as a true landing page for multiple platforms and campaigns.
    • Utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) effectively. See objective four for details.
    • Work with faculty to pinpoint successful students and graduates to feature through relevant storytelling.
    • Market open houses and other events accordingly using both traditional and emerging media outlets.

    Objective Three: Promotion of academic programs, particularly new programs, and their relevancy within
    our region to generate new leads (i.e. inquiry and application).

    • Objective Focal Points – Primary: Program Pathways with an emphasis on Computer Information Sciences & Health Professions, Online Programs, and Certificate Programs.
    • Objective Focal Points – Secondary: New Programs that include Bookkeeping, Engineering Technology, Paralegal Studies, Patient Care Technician, Substance Abuse & Addiction Technician, and Sustainable Hydroponic Agriculture & Rural Entrepreneurship.
    • Utilize Constant Contact email marketing to alert previously interested prospects to the new things happening and current slate of program offerings.
    • Create a year-round Google AdWords campaign focusing on search engine advertising relevant to program pathways.
    • Utilize billboard advertising to show career potential and the market place (same as objective five).
    • Oversee program-specific multi-point digital campaigns targeting those prone to enrolling via geofencing, psychographics, website retargeting, and website conquesting.
    • Produce in-house, short program videos that can be displayed on program web pages and on our social media channels.
    • Utilize social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) effectively. See objective four for details.
    • Conduct interviews (live or recorded) across our social media platforms with relevant faculty, staff, and community members.

    Objective Four: Grow our digital footprint by increasing followers and engagement across all sustainable
    social media outlets.

    • The top three social media sites used by community college students • nationally include Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube; with Twitter rounding out the top five (Media Prefs, 2018). We have a strong presence on these four compared to other platforms, and must continue to focus on these areas.
    • Focus on delivering content between the hours of 6pm and midnight (Media Prefs, 2018).
    • Increase content on YouTube. Utilize technology to create podcasts and videos that tell our story. This can include program shorts, events, interviews, walkthroughs, introductions, and more.
    • Run a series of Snapchat geofilters at pre-determined times throughout the year. Snapchat is a popular platform among prospective audiences (Media Prefs, 2018).
    • Our ’Faces of Penn Highlands’ campaign has been highly successful. We would like to see it continue and expand. In the next phase of this campaign, we will look to intertwine student profiles with the current style of faculty/staff profiles.
    • Produce more relevant, time-sensitive Facebook and Instagram Stories.
    • Utilize Twitter and Instagram to show student life across multiple facilities.
    • Post more content that highlight outcome-related facts and statistics in relation to our programs. Post program-related content at least every other week.
    • Utilize Facebook as a secondary newsfeed in conjunction with our standard methodology.
    • Focus on and optimize our Buffer system to allow key Student Service members and student leaders the ability to submit content via an approval system. This includes all site directors.
    • Utilize Sprout Social and Hootsuite whenever possible with scheduling long-term campaigns, recognizing that each system has its limitations.

    Objective Five: Improve external communication efforts to build authority within the education sector and
    become a workforce and education leader in our area.

    • Maintain an effective advertising/marketing mix via annual contracts with both traditional and emerging media/digital delivery platforms.
    • Utilize our video and audio technology to create a podcast series in conjunction with the Chamber that tells our story in combination with the region’s story.
    • Work to enhance our Workforce Training section of the website. This includes adding more career-relevant information to our program pages.
    • Work to enhance our Pay For College section of the website.
    • Utilize billboard advertising to show career potential and the market place (same as objective three).
    • Focus a minor campaign on the 25th anniversary. This campaign will work on getting the message across that we are “the community’s college.”
    • Curate and distribute at least one positive press release per month in addition to our standard press releases.
    • Provide newsletter articles when appropriate for local chambers where a facility resides.
    • Conduct interviews across our social media platforms with faculty and staff so the region can see our expertise while getting to know the people that make Penn Highlands an expert in the education industry.
    • Market open houses and other events accordingly using both traditional and emerging media outlets.
    • Work with faculty to pinpoint successful students and graduates to feature through relevant storytelling.
    • Invest in community sponsorships that elicit both ROI and brand recognition/recall.
  • Measurement & Evaluation

    These measurement and evaluation methods will serve as a way to analyze our objectives and strategies for effectiveness. Each method will help with future adjustments to campaigns, objectives, and strategies, allowing us to make adjustments on the fly.


    Method One: Web Analytics

    Utilizing Siteimprove, we are able to track all information related to the College’s web traffic. These reports will highlight, but will not be limited to, the following –

    • Total Visitors
    • New vs. Returning Visitors
    • Top Pages Viewed
    • Entry Pages
    • Visitor Locations
    • Traffic Sources
    • User Journeys
    • Event Tracking
    • Internal Search Tracking

    Method Two: Inquiry Reports

    This report is requested by Marketing & Communications, but ran by the Admissions Office at the end of each term (fall and spring). This report indicates the total amount of inquiries received and where they heard about the College. This information is derived from both online applications and the printed inquiry cards/applications that each location utilizes.

    Method Three: Weekly Numbers Report

    This report is supplied by Admissions on a weekly basis. This report indicates the inquiries received, applications received, and applications accepted. It shows current year versus prior year.

    Method Four: Institutional Research

    Utilizing the College’s Institutional Research area, we are able to receive detailed reports on specific items. An example includes our Online Campus, where we asked for, and was provided, a detailed list of those students that are enrolled in o Online Campus environment.

    Method Five: Sprout Social / Social Media Analytics

    This is a reporting system that focuses solely on social media, more specifically Facebook and Twitter. These reports highlight impressions, viewers, engagement, influence, sharing, and more. These reports show the effectiveness of our social media efforts.

    Method Six: Constant Contact

    This is a reporting system provided by Constant Contact. Reports by Constant Contact provide percentage/number of clicks, opens, and bounces.

    Method Seven: Source-Generated Reports

    These are the reports supplied to us by those that we advertise with, such as Google or other agencies. These reports show the effectiveness of our campaigns.

    Method Eight: Student Survey (Media Prefs)

    This is an online questionnaire done annually in conjunction with Interact Media. This survey would look at research from current students and determine what types of students we attract, and what types of media outlets they utilize. It would be distributed to all current students in the fall and spring semesters. The survey will consist of 215 questions spanning everything from traditional media to new
    media. Additionally, we will gain access to national data dealing with community college students.