Publications & Products
Volume 4, Issue 5

Keeping "Community" in the College Name

A marketer at a two-year college in Virginia says the "community" in its name is an asset, not a liability.

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, recently underwent a rebranding campaign. Kelly Smith, director of marketing, worked with consultants to research perceptions about the college's brand. The research revealed that although local impressions of the institution were mostly positive, there was some confusion about its name and widespread inconsistency in how it was referenced-both by the public and those at the college.

"We saw our name used seven or eight different ways," Smith says. "We're named after a man—a late lieutenant governor here in Virginia—so J. Sarge is used as somewhat of a local colloquialism. Also, we saw Sarge, J. Sargeant, JSRCC, etc."

The consultants told Smith that the college needed more consistency in one universal name that would resonate with its constituents. After testing names, Smith says the institution's leaders decided upon Reynolds Community College. Although J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College would remain the institution's official name, this new shorter naming convention would be used in most communications from the college—including all marketing.

Smith says she was surprised to hear very little negativity expressed about the words "community college" during the research process. Consultants found that 94 percent of surveyed faculty and business leaders either had a positive or neutral reaction to it. One anonymous business leader said: "I've come to associate ‘community college' with hard-working, active community engagement of leadership and affordable education."

With this knowledge and support, the college's decision to keep using the words "community" was an easy one, Smith says. The decision, however, comes at a time when a number of two-year colleges around the country have shied away from using "community"—especially at institutions now offering some baccalaureate degrees on their campuses—as recently documented in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Smith says that no one answer is right for all community colleges when it comes to naming conventions.

"As a marketing director, do the research to find out what's resonating in your community," she says. "Each of our community colleges is so different, and our markets are so different. What works in Richmond, Virginia, might not work everywhere in the country."

The Reynolds Community College brand style guide is available online-including guidelines about the new naming convention, logos and other identifying information.

This article is from the November 2014 issue of the Community College Advancement News.

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