Brand in Action: Karissa Dishon, Oregon 4-H

By National 4-H Council October 12, 2016

“Brand in Action” is a series of interviews with 4‑H leaders in states nationwide who are investing in the 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign to grow awareness and reach of 4‑H programming. This month, we feature Karissa Dishon, 4‑H Youth Development Educator at Oregon State University.

Tell us about your involvement in 4‑H youth development at Oregon State University.  How long have you served in this position?

Karissa Dishon (KD): I started with OSU extension and Oregon 4‑H in 2010 as a part-time Education Program Assistant, but I truly began my 4‑H career in 1990 as a 4th grader. My nine years as a youth in the program and over 15 years as a volunteer/educator have shaped me as a person, and created career opportunities greater than I could have imagined. I am now an Assistant Professor of Positive Youth Development, and lead the Deschutes County 4‑H program in Oregon. In addition to the county program, I assist with statewide marketing and co-branding initiatives, and am heavily involved with the horse, livestock, and communication project areas.

Why is it important to Oregon State University to grow awareness of Cooperative Extension’s 4‑H programs in counties across the state of Oregon?

KD: In many ways, Oregon 4‑H is a well-kept secret and keeping it a secret is the last thing we want to do! While every 4‑H agent and staff member in Oregon wants their program to grow, succeed and develop, we aren’t very good at telling our story. Our biggest challenge in Oregon is to get our message out into the community and past our membership boundaries. Our program’s members, volunteers, sponsors, and staff know how great Oregon 4‑H is, it’s the community members who haven’t experienced 4‑H, or only have a hearsay idea of what it is, who don’t know our story. Like many states, 4‑H’s legacy of agriculture programming is deeply rooted and entrenched in the minds of alumni, members and volunteers. Our mission to grow awareness of the 4‑H program includes celebrating where 4‑H started, but also sharing what 4‑H looks like now. The options within the 4‑H program have never been more varied than they are today, and we are poised to serve ALL of today’s youth. To engage them though, we have to share our program beyond our membership.

Can you describe your recent efforts to align Oregon 4‑H’s marketing efforts with the national 4‑H Grows Here branding initiative? Please give examples (e.g. digital, billboard, fair activations) of these marketing efforts, including the target audience(s) and strategies.

KD: Our engagement with the 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign started last year, when we hosted the National 4‑H Council marketing team and the production team for a photo shoot. This was just the spark our program needed to bring marketing back to the table and energize efforts across the state. In addition to the 4‑H Grows campaign, Oregon 4‑H is also working with the University’s marketing department to create co-branding policies and templates. These two efforts in combination will set Oregon 4‑H up for continued success, and bring new members and donors to the table.

Our efforts have spanned most media platforms, and we have intentionally tried to widen our reach beyond typical communication outlets. Working in conjunction with a television producer in Washington state, our Brand Essence video has received excellent airplay in Oregon and Washington. We have also held mini campaign pushes over Facebook and Instagram. For the initial 4‑H Grows rollout, we had 90% of our counties engaged over social media. Outside of digital platforms we have also used the 4‑H Grows marketing resources to market our program at county and statewide events.

Are you satisfied with the results to date?

KD: Yes, but there’s always room for improvement, and it’s always hard to be completely satisfied. I believe we’ve come a long way in a very short time, but we also have a long way to go. I’m most proud of how often and openly marketing is discussed now – just a few years ago marketing wasn’t such a hot topic, and the lack of awareness of our program showed it.  With progress comes even bigger goals so our aspirations are huge, and with the combined support of our university and the 4‑H Grows campaign, the sky is the limit!

Oregon State University (Oregon 4‑H) is one of nearly 30 universities that is making a long-term investment in the 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign to build the brand and raise resources to help grow the 4‑H program and positively impact more kids in the future. Can you tell us more about your marketing and alumni engagement plans in the coming months? What are you most excited about as it pertains to this new 4‑H campaign?

KD: The quality of the resources and the support to use them. With this campaign and the other marketing initiatives we are currently focused on at OSU, my motto is “We have to make it easier to do it right than it is to do it wrong”. We have a long history here of “Going Rogue” when it comes to marketing, so to change that culture, marketing efforts have to be complete, easy and effective. If not, our very busy agents and staff will continue to do it how they have for decades because it’s easier. The 4‑H Grows marketing deliverables are extremely well done, excellently polished, and very easy to use. This makes my job of promoting the resources MUCH easier. I live and breath marketing and am easily excitable, but my colleagues are much more reserved generally. I’m proud to say that the 4‑H Grows campaign has managed to get EVERYONE excited, and we are making progress!