Describe your role as 4‑H Director and Assistant Dean at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? How long have you served in this position?
Lisa Bouillion Diaz (LBD): I have worked with Illinois 4‑H for almost 11 years. I started as a 4‑H STEM Specialist and later took leadership responsibility for our statewide 4‑H Metro Initiative. I have been in my current role as the state 4‑H Director for two years.
Why is it important to the University of Illinois to grow awareness of Cooperative Extension’s 4‑H programs in counties across the state of Illinois?
LBD: In Illinois, it is our vision that all youth in our state are prepared for success in their futures. And we know that 4‑H has the programs and youth development supports to advance that vision. As an organization with over a 100-year history, we have worked hard to build on our long-standing success while also innovating to stay relevant to the needs of today’s youth. We are everything people remember from their days in 4‑H and MORE!!! But we recognize that for many alumni – 4‑H seems frozen in time. And for those who have never participated in 4‑H, we have to work hard to build awareness about who we are and the many things we have to offer. In both cases, we have to be diligent in raising awareness about today’s 4‑H and how we are impacting issues that matter to Illinois.
Can you describe your recent efforts to align your state’s 4‑H marketing efforts with the national 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign?
LBD: Illinois 4‑H enjoys a robust marketing strategy through our newly-designed website and active social media footprint. We have integrated the “4‑H Grows Here” tag line and messages within our print and online marketing strategies. We have also actively promoted the brand activations, including “Raise Your Hand” and complimented them with local alumni activation events such as a “tell your story” and an alumni t-shirt giveaway at the Illinois State Fair.
The University of Illinois is one of 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?
LBD: We have recently created an Illinois Alumni Association that will receive a quarterly e-newsletter communication. With names identified through the national campaign, we hope to see this association continue to grow. We are also working to develop targeted impact stories and press releases that align with the “pillar peak activities” as outlined in the National 4‑H Brand Calendar. In April, for instance, we are organizing 4‑H service activities across the state to promote in conjunction with the 1st annual National 4‑H Day of Service.
Are you satisfied with the progress of this 4‑H partnership and the work to date?
LBD: Our state has a dedicated 4‑H Marketing and Communications Specialist, and prior to this campaign, we had marketing strategies and materials designed specifically for our state. So many of the early tools and support offered as part of the partnership were not immediately applicable. But National 4‑H Council has made an intentional effort to meet with us, listen to our needs, and help identify targeted support that builds on what we’ve already done. In the coming months, we are excited to be working together on two target priorities: 1) an alumni identification campaign in our largest metro area, and 2) designing a statewide marketing campaign to recruit corporate volunteers and mentors.
What are you most excited about as it pertains to this new 4‑H campaign and Illinois 4‑H?
LBD: Illinois initially invested in this national campaign, not because we didn’t already have a marketing specialist, but because we believed that it would strengthen and promote the 4‑H brand. A strong 4‑H brand recognition, positive association, and awareness of today’s 4‑H are outcomes that will benefit us all. I know we all have cases in which we’re talking with an individual and get the opportunity to build awareness about 4‑H. It’s always so satisfying when someone leaves the conversation with the comment, “Wow, I didn’t realize 4‑H offered so much!” This national campaign amplifies those opportunities in a way we could never achieve individually.