Berry College has earned a national award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for “Experience it Firsthand,” a creative marketing campaign developed in collaboration with the Blue Sky Agency of Atlanta. The initiative, launched in fall 2008, captured a gold award in the 2010 CASE Circle of Excellence Contest, topping 11 other entries in the Institution-Wide Branding Programs category.
“We were extremely pleased to learn of this recognition,” said Jeanne Mathews, assistant vice president for public relations and marketing. “It affirms our belief that the ‘Firsthand’ campaign has been successful in bringing the Berry story to life for a 21st century audience.
“Firsthand” places particular emphasis on the hands-on nature of Berry’s nationally recognized educational experience. It encompasses everything from the amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation available on the world’s largest college campus to the personal interest faculty and staff members take in the success of every student. The “Firsthand” philosophy of education is most evident in Berry’s Work Experience Program, which guarantees every student the opportunity to complement their classroom education through a paid position on campus.
“The ‘Firsthand’ brand is a consistent and effective part of the language we use to recruit students,” explained Brett Kennedy, director of admissions. “The challenge to ‘Experience it Firsthand’ captures in a simple and accessible way those core elements that are distinctive about the Berry College student experience.”
The focus of the ongoing campaign was identified through intensive research conducted by SimpsonScarborough, a team of nationally recognized marketing strategists. Armed with the results of that study, the Blue Sky Agency crafted a new tagline that captured the essence of a Berry education in three short words, “Experience it Firsthand.”
Once the tagline had been approved, Blue Sky’s creative team collaborated with Berry’s public relations and marketing office to bring the brand to life through printed publications, electronic and Web based communications, outdoor advertising, and other outlets.
Because the work program is such a powerful differentiator for Berry, the “Firsthand” message has been especially effective when directed toward prospective students. Despite the challenges posed by a struggling economy, Berry welcomed one of the largest first-year classes in its history in 2009. This year, an even larger group is expected to report for classes next week.
“We have seen the message resonate with prospective students and parents,” Kennedy stated. “As director of admissions, nothing makes me feel better than to see the ‘Firsthand’ message as the closing words of an essay explaining why a particular student wishes to attend Berry.”
Although she is extremely pleased by the positive recognition “Firsthand” has generated for the institution, Mathews is quick to share the credit with others on the Berry campus and beyond who played a critical role in bringing the brand to life.
“This has been a collaborative process since the beginning,” Mathews remarked. “From the initial research – which focused on students, faculty, staff and alumni, among other constituents – to the creative implementation, we have constantly sought input from other voices in the Berry community. An incredible group of diverse and insightful individuals helped to shape the message, and I am pleased to see Berry reaping the rewards of such collaboration.”
Founded in 1974, CASE is a professional association serving educational institutions and the advancement professionals who work on their behalf in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. CASE helps its members build stronger relationships with their alumni and donors, raise funds for campus projects, produce recruitment materials, market their institutions to prospective students, diversify the profession and foster public support of education. The organization serves more than 61,500 advancement professionals on the staffs of member institutions and has nearly 22,000 professional members.