Public Affairs PR

Client Challenge
The Illinois Community College Board lacked the bandwidth and expertise to create a comprehensive public communication and media strategy that would effectively reach media outlets on a consistent basis and communicate its value, specifically during an unprecedented global pandemic that created elevated challenges for community college faculty and students across the state.

Client Objectives

  • Help the Illinois Community College Board find its voice by create strategic messages around the challenges and solutions being implemented by the Illinois Community College system to help faculty and students make informed decisions about their near-team higher education futures.
  • Elevate the leadership position, expertise, and value of the Illinois Community College Board to its member schools, public and decision makers.
  • Identify, create and capitalize on opportunities to insert the Illinois Community College Board into public conversation strategic through earned and owned media

Our Process:

We use a four-step process to help clients achieve their goals:
Analyze – Strategize – Execute – Amplify

Analyze: We began our work with the ICCB by analyzing their current situation to create a baseline position before starting our efforts. We evaluated:

    • Current communication methods
    • Communication frequency
    • Most recent messaging
    • Press releases and other communication tools
    • Media coverage over the previous 12 months

From that evaluation, we identified the ICCB’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to help us begin building out a 12-month communication strategy.

Strategize: Our initial analysis drives our subsequent strategy. In this case, we used our initial evaluation and the client’s goals for PR to identify short- and long-term needs and build out a comprehensive public communication strategy around the elevated value of community colleges during the pandemic.  The strategy focused on the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the ever-changing restrictions that left many students contemplating their short-term collegiate future.   We helped the board identify the benefits of using community colleges rather than taking a “GAP” year to continue studies in 2020.  These benefits included cost savings, ability to live at home while studying.  Smaller class sizes with remote learning options.  We also identified the community college value to communities and regions of the state.
From this strategy we developed:

    • New strategic messaging creation around the benefits of students continuing their higher ed studies at a community college while in person learning was in flux
    • Traditional and social media announcements that highlighted community colleges value to students and communities
    • Strategic PR calendar to organize a steady flow of organic opportunities
    • Created new strategic partnership opportunities with Illinois Community Colleges
    • Used current events as the backdrop for Op-Ed creation and individual media pitching 

Execute: Once the strategy was built, we immediately transitioned into the execution phase by identifying strategic media targets and audience channels to effectively communicate with.  As we looked for media opportunities, we simultaneously began media training sessions with the client to ensure people with public speaking roles were prepared to deliver newly developed messaging around the pandemic and other areas of focus.   

Amplify: Once a steady stream of organic and current event media opportunities began to flow, we then turned our attention to creating ways to amplify the ICCB story to the public.  Working with the client, we created an online video series of “Collective Conversations” which allowed the ICCB to discuss important topics with Illinois Community College Presidents.  Those conversations were shared with key internal and external audiences through a variety of communication channels.


After 6 months, we were able to significantly increase the amount, frequency and quality of favorable media coverage throughout the state to elevate the ICCB’s position as a valuable resource for community colleges and the general public and highlighted solutions to unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also were used as a crisis communication resource for individual colleges for consultation, issue framing and public communication around pop-up crisis issues that were resolved positively for those colleges.

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