For more than five decades, the Coachella Valley’s community college experienced growth in enrollment, academic programs, facilities and campuses in response to growing community needs and demands for a skilled workforce. And yet the community at large remained largely unaware of and lacked understanding of the benefits of the college.

Kay Hazen and Company (KH) was hired initially by the college to undertake a communications audit and develop and implement a strategic communications program to support the long range plan of the college. College of the Desert Foundation agreed to assume leadership of the comprehensive effort to refresh the image of and raise awareness and support for the College.

Working with multiple marketing partners, KH began implementing identity refresh, enhanced communications guidelines and tools and a two year phased campaign built around high profile college success stories – Step Up for COD.


College of the Desert stories were at the center of the creative strategy – real people with real success stories highlighting how COD opened the door to job, career, success, advancement, enrichment, lifelong learning and more.

By highlighting the stories and profiles of alumni, current students, faculty, staff, donors and partners the college and Foundation sought to celebrate the diversity, modern learning environment, program pillars, success stories and link the college more directly to community success.


The marketing team created a refreshed logo and identity guidelines that utilized the existing logo and which returned to the college traditional and original colors. A new look and feel was developed, along with new websites and banners, collateral material, fact sheets, posters and flyers to promote the outreach effort.

The campaign included special TV and newspaper ads specifically designed to promote engagement, including calls for action “Tell Us Your Story” and “Step Up for COD” launched during Homecoming Week on campus for internal audiences and a month later more broadly to the community and media for external audiences.

The college and marketing team were able to secure celebrity alumnus Carson Daly to tell his story and join the campaign during the first phase, along with supermodel and businesswoman Kathy Ireland.

Barry Manilow joined local donors and business leaders telling their stories in the second phase of the campaign.

Each promotional story in the effort was punctuated with a strong invitation to step up – first targeting alumni to tell their story on a special website “” created to collect stories and later to give to support College Foundation programs and events. Radio and television ads reinforced campaign images and messaging, gave the campaign focus, led people to re-engage with their college and step up with support.

The campaign was also spurred on through social media, online advertising, print, radio, TV, e-newsletters, and e-mailed invitations to events.

During the first four months of the Step Up for COD campaign the campaign website attracted 7,297 total visits from 5,629 unique visitors and 22,928 page views. Over 150 individuals shared their personal story on the “StepUpForCod” website in the first six months. Over the same period Foundation website traffic tripled.

Both the College and Foundation Facebook accounts experienced significant increases which can be traced to the timing of the Step Up campaign push increasing postings by both CODF and COD and increasing engagement and promotion of the pages in general. College Facebook followers increased by over 33%. Over the same period, the number of Foundation Facebook followers tripled.


The Step Up for COD campaign brought to life the passion, success and community connection of the college through defined and consistent identity and messaging – including refreshed logos, marketing materials, and a new Web site for both the college and Foundation – aligning the college and its affiliates and raising awareness and understanding to build engagement and support.

In subsequent phases, integrated slogans and campaigns on both the college and Foundation side continued the strategy incorporating new slogans and taglines, adding targeted appeals to students for enrollment and to donors for support, but continuing to use the creative story platform.

Four years later, the Step Up website continues to log story submittals and serve as a resource for press releases, program support and to enhance the ongoing college and Foundation communications efforts.