Improving DC’s reputation – one tactic at a time

Carol Beam, Durham College's associate vice-president of communications and marketing is hard at work. Photo credit: Melanie Lennon

Durham College (DC) is just one out of the 24 colleges within Ontario – and it’s Carol Beam’s job to make sure the school’s initiatives are known throughout the province.

Beam, who graduated from DC’s public relations program in 1991, is the associate vice-president of communications and marketing. She has worked in the department for more than 26 years.

In her position, Beam, 51, is responsible for maintaining the college’s image and promoting its goals and projects to the public.

“[We] ensure that the reputation and the brand of the college is upheld,” she said. “Our job is to also market the college, to push key initiatives out to the community and also gain recruitment awareness.”

Fulfilling this role efficiently means Beam has her hands full on a daily basis. But, with an “amazing team” of approximately 20 people by her side, she said she’s able to get the job done.

Traci Ellis, the manager of marketing at DC, is one of Beam’s staff members. Ellis has worked at the college for 21 years, including four in her current role.

Ellis is responsible for everything public facing in terms of the college’s advertising and promotion. Ellis and Beam work together to certify the school’s initiatives are communicated both internally and externally.

“We market to our prospective student audience, our educators in the secondary school system and their influencers,” Ellis said. “We would include parents in that and their friends.”

Beam added, “We want to make sure that we have a presence in the media, that there is awareness out in the community about everything that’s going on at the college.”

Crisis communications is another key factor within the department. When dealing with emergencies or problems on campus, Beam said she’s committed to dealing with the issues as honestly and transparently as possible.

“[The team’s] commitment is to share information very quickly, continually and to ensure the safety of our campus community is first,” she said. “As soon as we know that there’s something that we need to share…within 10 minutes we have a message drafted and out the door.”

Both Beam and Ellis explained the most common forms of communication and marketing are digitally-based.

Although DC still utilizes things like billboards, posters and newspaper articles to market the school, the most popular methods are not what they used to be.

“We’ve gone from traditional media and outlets…to almost primarily social and digital marketing,” Ellis said. “It’s made our job a little more strategic in terms of where we spend our dollars, which is helpful to us because we know we’re not wasting money on showing our ads to the wrong demographic.”

The communications and marketing tactics used by DC may have changed throughout the years, but Beam said their level of importance remains the same.

“If you’re going to stay relevant then you have to have a strong presence in the marketplace,” she said. “You just have to keep improving and being competitive and figuring out innovative, new ways of reaching the target markets.”

Beam hopes to make the college’s experience even better through the introduction of their new Strategic Plan. After this year, she said the current plan is finished. This means a new one is introduced through feedback from students and employees.

“It’s basically our road map for the next three years,” Beam explained.

She said one of her favourite parts of her job is enhancing the college experience. Through communicating and marketing, she’s able to reach out and interact with students who are “launching into the next phase of their life.

“If we can make that better for [students] and help them along the way, I love that,” she smiled. “I want their experience to be great.”