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Hacienda La Puente Adult Education: A Case Study in Effective Storytelling

People love a good story. Stories create emotional connections. They make information memorable. Read on to learn why you should pause to ask: What’s my organization’s story, and how are we telling it?

People love a good story. Stories create emotional connections. They make information memorable. In fact, shares in this article that people retain 70% of information through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics. That’s because “the brain releases dopamine into the system when it experiences an emotionally charged event, making it easier to remember and with greater accuracy.” (To better understand, check out Mention’s infographic showing how storytelling affects the brain.)

That’s a pretty strong case for pausing to ask: What’s my organization’s story, and how are we telling it?

It’s a question that leaders at Hacienda La Puente Adult Education (HLPAE) asked themselves last summer, when they came to us for help in trying to increase their visibility in the community. We were more than happy to partner with them to help them identify and shape their adult school’s story. Before you can storytell, your organization must do the work of identifying your authentic story. 

Located about half an hour east of Los Angeles, HLPAE offers high-quality academic and career programs in state-of-the-art facilities. Their training programs lead to entry-level careers and eligible students can receive federal grant money to help cover the cost of the program, and yet enrollment isn’t where school leaders want it to be.

So, we headed out to their main campus, at the Willow Center in La Puente, to learn more about their work and see their programs in action.

Where do you find your story?

A number of factors go into identifying and shaping your organization’s story, but one good place to start is by taking a step back and reviewing your offerings from a student’s perspective. Or better yet, enlist the help of your students and partners to help you understand the things about your organization that most stand out.

During our visit to HLPAE, we were able to see their culinary students in action, practicing their cooking and baking skills using commercial-grade tools and equipment in a state-of-the-art kitchen that is part of the Culinary Arts Academy. Students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience through an externship and get help with finding a job afterward. In less than a year, adults seeking to launch a new career can become a professional trained chef for less than $5,000 – and eligible students can receive federal Pell Grants to help cover the cost of career training.

HLPAE also offers training for trade careers, such as automotive technician, and health careers such as the nationally accredited registered dental assistant program.

In all, the school offers some 20 programs that lead to entry-level jobs or help current workers upskill. They also offer something few other adult schools do: an on-site America’s Job Center of California (AJCC), which provides resources and assistance to job seekers, helping to create a seamless transition from school to work.

Hacienda La Puente Adult Education offers an array of career training programs. Those shown in the images above include (clockwise): culinary arts, automotive technician and registered dental assistant.

Rolling Out Your Organization’s Story

In our research and during our visit, we found HLPAE had a lot to offer that would benefit the adult learners in their community. Last fall, we conducted market research and used it to develop a brand narrative, logo and tagline. We also conducted a communications audit to understand their current communications situation and where improvements could be made.

With our research completed and their story clear, we launched a landing page to recruit new students that highlights several of their career education offerings.

Hacienda La Puente Adult Education landing page

We’re now  in the process of developing a digital campaign that focuses on their career programs to roll out their story to the right audiences.

Do you feel like you have a good story to tell but just aren’t sure where to start? We can help you identify and shape your organization’s story in an authentic way, so you can better connect with your target audiences. I’d be happy to chat with you. Just drop me a line at

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Lead Generation Got You Down? Pivot to Building Brand Awareness to Boost College Enrollment Numbers

Is college worth it? That’s a question more and more people are asking themselves – and that is creating a need to rethink lead generation campaigns and take a step toward building greater brand awareness for your college.

Is college worth it? That’s a question more and more people are asking themselves – and that is creating a need to rethink lead generation campaigns and take a step toward building greater brand awareness for your college.

It used to be that college was perceived as the best path to a good future. But perceptions of higher education have been changing for some time now and inflation, coupled with the rising cost of tuition, are just some of the latest factors impacting enrollment, as covered last fall in this NBC News story, “Growing Number of Americans Questioning the Value of College Degree.”

The Hechinger Report’s “How higher education lost its shine,” published around the same time, shares that “Americans are increasingly dubious about the need to go to college. Fewer than one in three adults now say a degree is worth the cost, according to a survey by the Strada Education Network.”

The article goes on to explain that some of the reasons for this, as gleaned from focus groups and public opinion surveys, is widespread and fast-growing skepticism about the value of a degree, impatience with the time it takes to get one and costs that have finally exceeded many people’s ability or willingness to pay.

Add to those perceptions the fact that other educational options are increasingly available. This Inside Higher Education story covers the findings of a study on higher education enrollment declines and touches on some of those options.

“The respondents were also taking advantage of, and saw value in, alternative modes of education outside of pursuing a degree, according to the study,” the article reads. “Almost half of the group, 47 percent, reported they had taken or were currently taking classes on YouTube. Roughly a quarter of respondents had participated in courses to receive a license, and 22 percent participated in classes to earn a verified certificate.”

The factors converge to make it necessary for community colleges and college programs to evolve to survive, and they must rethink their brand in the process – who are they now and what do they offer that competing educational modes don’t?

People Need to Know You Before They Can
Trust You

Digital marketing and social media are important distribution channels for building brand awareness. You might think of them primarily as vehicles for lead generation, good tools to help get users to sign up for an upcoming event or capture their information so you can send them promotional emails in the future.

Social media is a good tool for lead generation, but it is also important for building brand awareness. The Digital Marketing Institute shares that brand awareness, as opposed to pure lead generation, is becoming a greater focus on social media. 

So, what is brand awareness? Brand awareness focuses on making your target audiences familiar with your brand. You are letting them know you exist and what you are about. Your audiences can then form an opinion about whether they want what you have to offer. Once they are aware of your brand, and trust it, then they are in a position to take action.

Here’s another way of describing brand awareness, courtesy of this LOCALiQ article:

“To put it in terms of another analogy, brand awareness helps you grease the wheels when it comes to getting new customers. When a person is already familiar with your business, they’re more likely to click on your ads, give you their information, or become a customer. In fact, one study found that when searching for a business, 82% of people clicked on a result from a brand they were familiar with.”

This Wordstream by LOCALiQ article provides some good tips and examples of brand awareness.

Taking the time to build this awareness is an important part of any campaign. Before you ask a prospective student to enroll or sign up for an event, you want to spend 4-6 weeks running awareness ads, so prospective students have a chance to get to know you before you ask them to take action. So don’t forget when planning for your next campaign to dedicate a portion of your budget to brand awareness.

But First, Get Clear on Your Brand

Do you know what your college’s share of voice and sentiment are, for both specific classes and the college’s reputation overall—especially against those of your competitors?

Given the shifting views about higher education and its value, before you even start planning a brand awareness campaign, it’s important to understand how your current brand is being perceived within your unique market.

You can certainly gather this information by monitoring conversations around your brand on social media, Google alerts, reading online reviews of your organization and/or conducting surveys. At FCM we offer a full service brand sentiment analysis where we use listening tools that allow us to track brand mentions and conversations happening around topics important to your college.

Our tools have robust features that allow us to analyze all the collected data to understand customer trends, build campaigns backed by data, gather competitor intelligence, and support search engine optimization strategies.

Having this level of data and detail has been an eye opening experience for many of the colleges with whom we are working. One college was attempting to be known for its career education certifications in both its health and business programs.

The brand sentiment analysis revealed that while the college was doing pretty well in how health programs were being perceived within their market, business classes were being dominated by a local for-profit school.

The data gleaned from the analysis will ensure the right keywords and phrases are being associated with the college’s programs and backlinking on the website to support SEO, brand sentiment and visibility. The college will use public relations and organic digital strategies to lay the necessary foundation for a robust fall lead generation campaign. 

If your organization is struggling with getting enrollments, let us help you get the right data to develop a smart rebranding strategy that garners high results for your lead generation campaigns.  You can sign up for a  complimentary consultation at

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3 Marketing Trends to Embrace
in 2023

If you jumped into the new year without much chance to focus your marketing efforts in 2023, don’t worry. FCM reviewed this year’s predicted marketing trends and compiled some of the top trends in the list below to guide (or refine) your planning.

1. Short-form video and live streaming

In this piece, the Digital Marketing Institute identifies TikTok, originally a platform for short-form video (less than 60 seconds), as a hot social media platform for 2023. According to the article, TikTok generated $4.6 billion in 2021, a 142 percent increase year-on-year. The platform has 1 billion active users each month, according to a recent article by Demand Sage. Demand Sage also reports that 35% of TikTok’s users are aged 19-29 and 18% are aged 30-39, making it an attractive option for community colleges, adult schools and workforce development boards who serve individuals who are in early adulthood or early middle age

The Digital Marketing Institute writes that “the platform is focusing on usability for businesses and improving targeting options for advertising which will make it a bigger and better platform for brands in 2023.”

Some 86% of businesses use video in their marketing efforts, according to Blogging Wizard. However, workforce and education organizations can also benefit from video by using visual storytelling to build their brand and position their organization within the community by producing videos that speak to the audiences they want to engage, such as youth, job seekers, adult learners, and employers.

MediaTool echoes the Digital Marketing Institute on the popularity of short-form videos in 2023. 

“Whether creating unique branded content, using user-generated content (UGC), or partnering with influencers to promote your brand, short-form videos are a tested way for brands of all sizes to reach wider audiences and build meaningful connections,” MediaTool writes.

MediaTool also shares that live streaming is becoming increasingly popular. Organizations can use live streams to give audiences a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes or host Q&A events, as just a couple of examples. It offers up a more personalized experience for your audience and builds trust as they engage with you in real time. The next time your organization hosts an event, conducts an orientation or demonstrates what learners will be doing in the classroom, consider live streaming.

2. Content Creators

Do you see social media mostly as a vehicle to get more sign-ups for events or to boost program participation? You’re not alone. Other organizations use social media this way, too. However, the Digital Marketing Institute shares that brand awareness, as opposed to pure lead generation, is becoming a greater focus on social media.

“Marketers need to find creators that have a voice and fan base (small or otherwise),” O’Brien writes in the Digital Marketing Institute article. “It can be a challenge for brands to create content that engages customers in a time-starved world. That’s where content creators come in and that doesn’t mean high-level influencers.”

Don’t be scared off by the term “content creator.” A content creator is someone who creates content that you share. You likely already have content creators within your organization. You can enlist the help of your employees or staff members to produce content because they are subject matter experts in helping your students and learners succeed. (Keep in mind that you can also share curated content on your social channels, your organization does not have to create every piece of content it shares.)

Additionally, you can ask students or program participants to create user-generated content (UGC). UGC is an effective way, says MediaTool, to market to Gen Z.

“With UGC, brands can leverage the opinions and recommendations of their consumers to build trust and credibility among younger audiences. This may involve partnering with social influencers or encouraging customers to create and share their product reviews, testimonials, photos, or videos,” Media Tool shares in this article.

3. Influencers

Some people may think influencers and content creators are the same thing? They are not. As web influencer Neil Patel explains in this article, content creators create content for blogs and social media platforms while influencers leverage their substantially large followings to promote brands and lifestyles. You’ve probably seen influencer chefs, makeup artists and comedians while scrolling through your social media feed.

According to Hubspot, influencer marketing is expected to grow in 2023: 89% of marketers who currently use influencer marketing are expected to maintain or increase their investment, and 17% of marketers are planning to invest in it for the first time.

As with content creation, you don’t have to have a large budget to use influencers as a part of your marketing strategy. Entrepreneur suggests you consider nano influencers who might already be in your network. Do any of your organization’s partners, students or program participants have a large social media following? Would they be willing to team up with your organization and leverage their influence? As you consider your workforce and education marketing strategy in 2023, it’s important to leverage those relationships your organization has worked hard to build over the years. As David Mazza writes in the Entrepreneur article:

“Cultivating these relationships and organically tapping into influencers’ networks can help you get more exposure exponentially and build brand equity.”


Full Capacity Marketing, Inc., is a full-service marketing agency that collaborates with workforce and education organizations across the country to expertly and effectively communicate their value to customers and stakeholders.

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#MoveAheadWithAdultEd Celebrates 1 Year and Thousands of Adult Learner Leads

During the height of COVID-19, the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education and Full Capacity Marketing partnered to develop a national campaign to address plummeting enrollments in adult education programs.

During the height of COVID-19, the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE), the National Association of State Directors of Adult Education and Full Capacity Marketing partnered to develop a national campaign to address plummeting enrollments in adult education programs.

Fast forward a year, and #MoveAheadWithAdultEd has built awareness for over 5 million potential learners through national and local campaigns and resulted in more than 5,000 new adult learners added to the student pipelines of 12 adult education organizations. In addition, 2,300 participating schools nationwide have boosted their visibility via a school locator map on the campaign website and on their social media pages, using the campaign’s free student recruitment toolkit, and by using the #MoveAheadWithAdultEd tag.

To reduce substantial enrollment declines as a result of the pandemic, Full Capacity Marketing worked with COABE to offer schools and consortia the opportunity to leverage the national effort with local, paid digital adult learner recruitment lead generation campaigns in multiple languages. The campaigns have allowed FCM to create digital profiles of the various segments of adult learners and to gain valuable insights for effective demographic and behavioral targeting, messaging, creative and best practices on capturing underserved audiences who can benefit most from participation in adult education programs.

The effort is getting recognized! In the past year, #MoveAheadWithAdultEd has earned two global Davey Awards for integrated campaign, which included the student recruitment toolkit; the campaign website and the locator map. The partners used a digital campaign, covered by a $120,000 Google Ads scholarship, to drive prospective adult learners to the locator map.

If your organization serves adult learners and you want to list your services on the campaign locator map to receive free referrals, or if you want to run a localized lead-generation campaign with Full Capacity Marketing, go to  Adult learners interested in finding their local adult education programs can check out the campaign website at

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