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National Council for Marketing & Public Relations Paragon Awards Entry


Submitted by Portland Community College (PCC)

TITLE: Launching the PCC CLIMB Center for Advancement

For nearly five years, Portland Community College has been trying to launch a single point of
contact for its continuing education and business services offerings. The challenges were great:
internally, bringing together a set of siloed departments, who each considered themselves to have
unique audiences, posed great internal political difficulties. Externally, PCC was competing
against long-established for-profit business training organizations with solid reputations, as well
as the nearby university.

This year, the effort was brought to the college’s Marketing Office to develop a solution. The
result was the launching of a highly unique brand, and the development of the support from the
college community for one concerted department dedicated to serving the needs of businesses and
working professionals.

Objectives were two-fold:
• To develop a new name for a single professional and business-service entity. Formerly,
the group had tried to go with names like “The Center for Business and Industry” and the
“Business and Professional Development Center” – but neither one reflected the full
audience the staff was concerned about reaching, nor were they very unique or
• To launch a unique creative approach and campaign that creates awareness for this
important professional service. Previously, all the ads for this unit featured stale stock
images of people in business suits shaking hands and holding briefcases – not reflective
of the PCC “community” brand in any way. Enrollment was sustained in some area;
struggling in others.


Developing the name

We realized that to be successful in creating a single, memorable unit for the college, we had to
come up with a name that achieved several things:
1. It had to reflect the three similar—but different—audiences this group was trying to
reach: working professionals seeking continuing education, managers of teams who could
buy training for groups, and business owners who sought consultation or training
2. It had to reflect—rather than fight against—the PCC brand: known as an affirming,
committed college in our community.
3. It had to set our services apart from other professional training resources in the area.

We developed an acronym to serve as the new name: CLIMB. CLIMB stands for “Continuous
Learning for Individuals, Management and Business.” Not only did it address all audiences
targeted by this unit, but it presented an inspirational title in keeping with the PCC brand. CLIMB
is about reaching your summit – whatever that may be – and reflects PCC’s strong commitment
to helping everyone achieve their dreams. Finally, no other entity in Portland had a name quite
like this. It was memorable because it set us apart as not just another business-person-in-suits
kind of approach.

Launching a Creative Approach and Awareness Campaign

To develop the creative, we held multiple meetings with staff and focus groups with clients and
students. We decided to represent CLIMB with a hiking metaphor: working professionals,
dressed in traditional uniforms, were outfitted with climbing rope and boots so that the viewer
could immediately see that we were speaking to professionals – but in a pretty unique way. Our
focus groups told us that businesses in particular appreciated this kind of outreach because it
conveyed not just the tangible benefits of going to school and furthering training, but the
intangible benefits of striving to reach a goal.

The awareness campaign was a huge undertaking involving an incredible array of tactics. This
1. Rededicated a building as the new CLIMB Center for Advancement. First, we
realized that in order to truly create the awareness of this as a major service in support of
our economic community, we needed to establish a physical location. Previously, the four
departments that comprised this unit were scattered throughout the district. The
Marketing Office put together a proposal for the PCC Board of Directors that we re-name
an existing building as the CLIMB Center and move personnel there. They approved the
proposal – the first time something like this had ever been done in support of a re-
2. Developed an extensive ad campaign to launch the new center. Using our creative
approach of photographing working professionals carrying mountain-climbing gear, we
advertised with full-color ads in a wide variety of business publications included Oregon
Business Magazine and the Portland Business Journal. We also developed a set of five
radio commercials which aired on news stations. A transit advertising campaign gave us
“billboards on wheels”: we wrapped an entire MAX train (our public light-rail) with a
CLIMB ad and purchased “Michaelangelos” for the ceilings of buses and mini ads for
bus and train sides. We also dedicated an ENTIRE issue of the college’s quarterly
magazine—which circulates to 300,000 homes—to the new CLIMB Center.
3. Developed extensive collateral. The CLIMB Center needed all new letterhead, business
cards and other materials to support its new structure. We created these along with a
glossy set of product brochures and a large fold-out glossy overview folder which could
be used by sales people within the organization. We also redesigned all schedule covers
for the product lines within CLIMB so there would be consistent branding throughout.
We developed PowerPoint presentations and trade show materials for use by the staff.
Finally, we overhauled the website – combining the previous four departments into one
major section of the PCC website, a HUGE endeavor that took many hours of meetings
and creative work.
4. Staged two grand opening events. We chose to hold two grand openings: the first was a
private reception targeting a smaller set of business leaders who represented current
clients and nearby associations, namely the Central Eastside Industrial Council. The
second was a large public event inviting all current students and clients, as well as
potential clients, business and civic leaders to attend. The large grand opening was a
major undertaking involving product demonstrations on every floor, tours, speeches, a
ribbon cutting, food and drink, and an incredible aerial dance performance featuring
dancers “climbing” off the side of the building. We created videos to promote both of the
events and to showcase the great results.
Because our objectives were based on perception, measurement of our goals relied on subjective
measures. But we chose to evaluate this campaign based on indicators like exposure,
participation, internal embracing of the new center, and profit as a result of the campaign. We
faired extremely well on all counts:

• Through our advertising efforts, train wrap, new website, magazine, and media coverage,
we have reached literally thousands of people with the new CLIMB Center for
Advancement brand.

• Our grand opening event hosted more than 200 people. The Portland Business Alliance
executive leadership attended and presided over our ribbon-cutting ceremony, and many
potential clients dropped off business cards and met with sales people. We earned media
coverage from five outlets as a result of the grand opening, including a television news
story (a rare success in our market).
• Internally, what was once a contentious struggle for unity became one department, with a
single Executive Director, working as a team. The name CLIMB has become fully
embraced by the staff.

• Projected income generation this year is $555,000—with $333,000 going back to the
general fund to support other activities at the college. Prior to this year, this unit has not
been able to demonstrate a consistent profit, and all profits have been closer to the break-
even point.
• CLIMB just landed a contract to train TSA officers in homeland security at PDX
airport—about 450 employers—in a multi-year contract. Several other big contracts
about to close as well.
• CLIMB was awarded a $4.8 million dollar grant to train individuals in healthcare this
• Next year, based on sales so far, the center is projecting an income generation of $1

We advertised in a variety of ways

to generate brand awareness in the
external community as well as the
internal PCC community.

s Transit advertising, including a full-side MAX (light

rail) mural, “Mini-MAX” ads and “Michelangelos”
s Print advertising in publications such as the
Portland Business Journal, The Oregonian and
Oregon Business Magazine
s Lightpole banners in the CLIMB Center parking lot
s Testimonial posters for the inside of the
CLIMB Center
Transit Advertising

MAX (light rail) train full-side ad

Transit Advertising

Michelangelo ad (on the ceiling of the MAX train)

“Mini-MAX” ad
Lightpole Banners in Parking Lot
The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) partnered with CLIMB to
implement a multi-year management development program. “CLIMB’s
programs offer us the opportunity to be strong and vibrant as an organization,”
said Director of Human Resources Toni Jaffe. The program resulted in increased
confidence of managers, improved consistency of processes and heightened
employee satisfaction and engagement.
Grand Opening Event

The grand opening introduced the

new brand to the public and featured
activities that brought the brand to life.

s Performance by the A-WOL aerial dance troupe

on the front of the CLIMB Center building
different CLIMB programs and classes)
s A re-dedication of the building as the “PCC
CLIMB Center” and ribbon cutting ceremony with
the Portland Business Alliance
s A CLIMB stainless-steel water bottle with
Event Displays
& Signage

PCC and CLIMB-branded

stainless steel water bottles
were used as giveaways/favors
for the event. The carabiner on
the water bottle cap perfectly
The Program


The program concluded with a performance by the A-WOL aerial dance troupe across the
ground as the dancers rappelled down.
Party Time!

The website was completely

re-designed and the URL was changed to

s Main Page that features all four product

lines, links to testimonials, and CLIMB-
the PCC District President, Dean of Workforce
testimonials from CLIMB clients and alums
s Product Line Pages for each of the four areas
Website Main Page
“Learn More”/Location Page
Profile/Testimonial Page
Profile/Testimonial Page
Health Professionals Page
Small Business Development Center Page
Professional Development Page
Contract Training Page
Individual Product Page
Profile/Testimonial Page