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John Tyler Community College knew it was more than just an affordable option. But how could it get diverse audiences — students, businesses and donor prospects — to see its real value?

Lead with quality. By touting modern programs like cybersecurity, impressive industry partnerships, small classes and a supportive environment to succeed in college, Tyler doesn’t just outshine two-year competitors. It unexpectedly takes on four-year competitors, showing how it creates life-changing experiences and drives the local workforce.

Tyler’s bold “Next up” brand concept reinforces the college’s life-changing impact through flagship stories that highlight Tyler’s impressive Fortune 500 partnerships, the contributions graduates make in the workforce, and the chances for students to define success in their own terms.

Whether a working mom making a career leap from hairstylist to industrial welder or a NASA intern finishing a biomedical engineering degree with honors at VCU, “Next up” shows real examples of how Tyler helps people soar.

Represent Tyler consistently


  • Represent Tyler consistently across diverse audiences.
  • Align new brand with recruitment and major gifts campaign efforts.
  • Position Tyler to shatter misperceptions about community colleges in general — and help people see Tyler’s impact.
  • Compete with more than 25 four-year and two-year institutions in the area.


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Aligned brand position for all student prospects. A survey uncovered that high schoolers and working adults want similar things from Tyler.

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Developed a new brand platform that serves as the playbook for all future communications with key audiences, from high schoolers and working adults to area businesses and donor prospects.

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Internal Tyler stakeholders embraced its bold new brand that pushes conventional higher ed design to show Tyler as a modern, relevant and pioneering force in its marketplace.

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Align what student prospects want with what you do best

Tyler has much going for it: It’s a large institution offering in-demand programs — from career credentials to two-year degrees to transfer agreements with top four-year institutions. Its two campuses thrive in a population center embedded among big industry partners that advise on Tyler curriculum and employ Tyler grads.

So why not take the traditional approach? Market short-term, career-building credentials to working adult prospects who have busy lives. And push four-year degree paths to traditional high school students who are still exploring.

Screeeech. Hold up. It’s time for a reality check.

A brand survey of Tyler’s student prospects revealed working adult and high school prospects are shockingly similar. They both want long-term career prep and skills that employers want — and they both want to pursue four-year and two-year degrees.

Tyler’s new brand concept leverages this alignment between high schoolers and adults, and presents two-year and four-year paths to all student prospects — regardless of age, work experience or education status.

UnifY content strategy across the college

From Tyler’s signature student recruitment tool to its major gifts campaign case for support, “Next up” success stories become flagship content deployed across audiences, featuring traditional and adult students taking both degree paths. For example:

  • An IT manager redirected her 15-year career to pursue an associate degree in nursing — then a BSN — leading to the life of her dreams.
  • A high school dual-enrollment student launched his career in residential drafting after completing an industry-specific two-year degree.
  • A mechanic-turned-IT-consultant snagged a role with global firm KPMG via Tyler and Virginia Tech.

Build a brand fit for a major gifts campaign

Tyler’s major gifts campaign — focused on changing lives of Central Virginia citizens — is rooted in the new brand.

But rather than resorting to the usual higher ed pattern — subduing colors and watering down the brand for a donor audience — Tyler’s case statement boldly shows why Tyler is a good investment. The brochure leads with powerful hero shots and the college’s bright color palette.

It also debunks the myths about community colleges by elevating Tyler as the lifeblood of the community — the difference between people existing and excelling, between getting by and thriving. “Next up” stories illustrate for local business partners and prospective donors how Tyler alumni are entrenched in the community and drive the workforce as their caregivers, educators, manufacturers, business managers and more.

Plan shoots like a pro

How did Tyler attract 75 students for its brand-launch photo shoot? Not by randomly roaming the halls.

It kicked off photo shoot planning with a campus-wide casting call. A photo shoot invitation — available digitally and also as old-school campus bulletin board posts — asked students to submit a headshot and info about their majors, availability, interests, future plans and favorite things about Tyler.

After promoting the casting call through the website, social media and across campus, Tyler received an overwhelming response. The casting call provided the much-needed information to map out each time slot for the shoot. With student photos and interests also in hand, the planning team envisioned multiple setups and groupings that would best represent the Tyler experience.

And because Tyler included questions related to its “Next up” concept, asking students to share their future goals, the team created a great pool of brand stories for the future.

Go behind the scenes with Tyler’s Creative Services Manager Heather Busch to learn more about creating a brand-driven casting call.

What Zehno did

  • Brand audit and strategic recommendations.
  • Brand platform.
  • Brand vision.
  • Flagship content including profiles and photo shoot.
  • Student recruitment brochure.
  • Major gifts campaign case statement design.
What Zehno did

Tips for your team

  1. Think beyond admissions to leverage your brand investment across the whole institution.
  2. Kick off your photo shoot planning with a casting call. There’s no better way to find students whose stories best represent your brand — and who’ll actually show up when you need them. Read all about it here.
  3. Don’t forget about your current students when promoting a new brand. As a thank you to photo shoot participants, give them a swag bag of items that reflect your new brand and boost their pride.

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