Brand in Action: Tony Carrell, Indiana 4-H

By National 4-H Council September 15, 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. In this first installment, we feature Tony Carrell,  4‑H Youth Development Specialist at Purdue University in Indiana.

Describe your role as a 4‑H youth development specialist at Purdue University? How long have you served in this position?

Tony Carrell (TC): I’m currently working on my fifth year in this position on campus. Prior to that I spent 15 years working at the county office in a county educator position. My duties at the state office currently include oversight for all of our non-animal projects and exhibits. I also coordinate all of our national trips, work with our scholarship and awards program, coordinate staff development, our 4‑H roundup, and our band and chorus.

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

TC: With all the things that 4‑H offers, we don’t feel like we are getting enough youth involved in our program, so we want to expand the program. We hear from our partners in other state agencies and collaborative groups that they didn’t know anything about 4‑H, or when we meet with others on campus outside the College of Agriculture, they are amazed that we have 4‑H as part of the university process. So we need to do a better job of telling our story and being able to get more youth involved with our 4‑H program. That is why we are excited about the 4‑H Grows {Engagement} campaign. It matches up really well with what we are trying to do in Indiana.

Can you describe your recent efforts to align Indiana 4‑H marketing efforts with the national 4‑H Grows Engagement Campaign?

TC: Quite honestly, we’ve never had a real focus on marketing and it’s just been hit or miss. We are excited about the new 4‑H Grows partnership with National 4‑H Council. We are going to continue to put the word out and continue to provide resources to all Indiana counties. We are actually working with our Ag communications folks right now to put our brand on the 11×17 posters that you made available on the 4‑H Marketing Online Resource Center. We are going to provide all 92 counties with two complete sets of the posters.

We are also looking to expand the digital billboard campaign with the 4‑H Grows materials that we started this summer. In August, we purchased a billboard on the state fairgrounds — one of the most heavily traveled avenues in the city of Indianapolis.From a marketing perspective, we are utilizing the billboards to keep the 4‑H name and emblem out there in front of the public so that as they continue to see 4‑H they will become familiar with it and those that aren’t familiar with it, then it might strike up a conversation about it. The more we can put the [4‑H] name out there in front of the public long-term, the better off we are going to be in terms of being able to grow our program. Not only growing it in terms of numbers but in terms of reaching new audiences.

Purdue University (Indiana 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?

TC: We want to utilize this campaign to be able to reconnect with 4‑H alumni in a positive way, not only for fundraising purposes, but also to reconnect alumni to keep them informed on some of the changes that are going on within our 4‑H program and let them know that healthy living and science are areas we are focusing on. To let them know that while we are still maintaining some of the good programing that they experienced when they were in 4‑H, we want them to know about today’s environment and today’s youth and how we are meeting their needs and growing the program to meet those needs and keep families involved. Hopefully we are keeping our alumni connected not only to have them donate to the foundation and to National 4‑H Council but there’s also most importantly the connection to give back, which is one of the things we strive for in our 4‑H program, which is teaching people to give back to their community. So maybe we will be able to increase our 4‑H volunteers with our alumni connections.

I’m going to challenge National 4‑H Council to look at audiences beyond alumni in terms of growing our program. There’s a push with the Hispanic community to reach those communities. We have a staff member in Marion County in Indianapolis that has been able to get into the Hispanic audiences, oh my gosh, it’s amazing. They are just as thirsty for our program, if not more, for our program than our Caucasian population is. Now that we have the material and templates in place, let’s get those into Spanish so we can start providing promotional materials to our county staff so they can target the Hispanic audience. The diverse audiences are a high priority for us in Indiana.

Are you satisfied with the progress of this 4‑H partnership and work to date?

TC: Oh yes. If it weren’t for having [these creative materials] already put together by National 4‑H Council, we would still be working on creating our own stuff or continuing to use someone else’s stuff. So I think as far as “are we satisfied by where we are at?” Absolutely we are. We didn’t pay the many thousands of dollars [in this campaign] to just sit back and watch it being used. We are paying so that we could actually use it and get as much bang for our buck out of it as we can.

In addition, we’ve seen a significant increase in our social media followers since we launched our Facebook page in 2013. In June, we were ecstatic when we broke 5,000 followers on our Facebook page. Now we are up to close to 5,500 followers. It’s amazing how that has continued to grow. It’s growing faster now. We also know that the key is to post there on a regular basis and to make a concerted effort.

What are you most excited about as it pertains to this new 4‑H campaign?

TC: I guess the real excitement for me is that National 4‑H Council has already done a lot of the legwork and now it’s just me being able to take this and put it into play. It’s just incredible the time it takes to get something put together before it can even be utilized and now all we have to do is figure out how to best utilize it.

Ultimately when we look back in 3 to 4 years, I hope that we will be able to see an increase in our program numbers. Otherwise, I hope that we can see that we are reaching new audiences and that we have gotten those folks involved in our program, and I hope that we would start to see an increase in the number of volunteers who were once alumni, or once members of our program, who come back as volunteers.