Erin Edlund: NCMPR Communicator of the Year

Erin Edlund

Honored as top two-year college marketing professional in nation

Erin Edlund, director of institutional advancement at Dakota County Technical College, was named the 2012 Communicator of the Year by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations at the organization’s annual conference, “Golden Connection,” March 11–14, 2012, in San Francisco, Calif.

The NCMPR Communicator of the Year Award honors a two-year college marketing professional who has demonstrated special leadership or ability in college communications. Edlund qualified for the prestigious national award after she was recognized as NCMPR District 5 Communicator of the Year in September 2011. She was one of seven nominees representing each of NCMPR’s seven districts at the national conference.

DCTC President Ron Thomas was present at the awards luncheon Monday, March 12, at The Fairmont San Francisco. He was delighted to see that Edlund’s dedication to her profession was recognized at a national level. “Erin has a natural gift for communicating,” Thomas said. “She is a strategic thinker with a bold imagination and a compassionate nature. That’s a rare combination. She also loves our college. As the saying goes, she bleeds blue. This is not only a great honor for Erin, but also for Dakota County Technical College.”

A native of Burt, Iowa, and graduate of Algona High School, Edlund elected to attend Drake University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication as an advertising and marketing major with an art concentration. She went on to earn her Master of Business Communication from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

After six years as marketing and communications director at DCTC, Edlund was promoted to a key position as director of institutional advancement. In her new role, she oversees not only the college’s Marketing and Communications department, but also the DCTC Foundation, alumni relations, grants and sustainability, and legislative affairs. Her expanded responsibilities are the result of her remarkable accomplishments within her campus and local communities and at the state level.

Scholarship in a Haystack

Scholarship in a Haystack

From the outset of her career at DCTC, Edlund focused on transforming the college’s image through increased public awareness and understanding of the college’s industry-connected academic programs and longstanding mission of delivering education for employment. She built strong internal support for marketing and PR through transparency and open dialogue with campus stakeholders.

She attends monthly faculty department chair meetings to share and exchange ideas; she established an Institutional Advancement Steering Committee to increase collaboration and communication regarding external relations; she created a Marketing and Communications department page on the DCTC intranet to give faculty and staff access to a variety of resources, including market research, images, logos and Web update request forms.

Early on as a strategic initiative, she deployed a nimble, influential social media presence to engage students. Thanks to Edlund, DCTC now has a sizable following on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr. Through social media, she has increased student participation in campus activities and encouraged perennial loyalty to the college. She shifted the college president’s print newsletter to an online blog format via WordPress. She created and launched YouBlue, the college’s first news blog, also via WordPress, and established program and department blogs as do-it-yourself marketing tools for faculty and staff.

Flaminko Plinko

Flaminko Plinko

Again thinking strategically to advance her institution as a whole, Edlund implemented a brand update that included smartening up the college logo, infusing a brighter, friendlier color palette, and crystallizing a new line of message points. She established an original video library with more than 50 professional videos illustrating college services and academic programs. She spearheaded a campus-wide aesthetics campaign that included installing professional wall photography, new interior directional signage, exterior banners and outdoor monument signs.

She directed a top-to-bottom overhaul of the college’s main website—a project that earned her department an NCMPR Gold Paragon Award. She turned the DCTC ho-hum course schedule into a full-color magazine with feature stories and departmental news flashes—an endeavor that won two Gold Paragons.

Gold or No Gold

Gold or No Gold

Edlund’s imagination took center stage when her marketing and communications team was called on to breathe life into two annual college events—Showcase and Septemberfest. For the former, she devised live game shows complete with emcees, student contestants and thousands of dollars in scholarship giveaways. Flaminko Plinko employed a gargantuan, handcrafted Plinko board while Gold or No Gold featured a posse of staff and faculty as “briefcase security.” Both games captured extensive media attention. Scholarship in a Haystack, another Edlund invention, premiered at Septemberfest and attracted dozens of students who searched like crazy for scholarship medallions hidden in a mammoth mound of fresh-cut hay. Haystack has grown into a DCTC event hosted at a local horseracing track.

Under Edlund’s leadership, new events, ones with sharply defined goals and target audiences, are succeeding the outworn standbys. True Blue Gala, Winter Wonder and DCTC Night at Canterbury Park are designed to raise funds for the DCTC Foundation, enhance alumni relations and increase public awareness of the college.

Edlund with Environmental Science Instructor Dan Stinnett

Edlund with Environmental Science Instructor Dan Stinnett

At the state level, Edlund has been active with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Two-Year College Marketing Association. She served as co-president for the last two years and before that as secretary-treasurer for three years. She has also chaired the association’s annual conference for the last five years. She played a key role in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systemSingle Search project, which developed a Web-based search tool that allows students and parents to easily locate course information at the system’s 31 colleges and universities.

Edlund has made a name for herself within the ranks of NCMPR. For every one of her seven years as a member, she has attended a regional or national conference. She has presented at the local and national levels. She is finishing the last year of a three-year tour of duty as the District 5 Medallions coordinator.

Dewey Price, NCMPR District 5 director, also attended the national conference and helped out by demonstrating an Internet trend (in his case “planking”) during Edlund’s acceptance speech. “Erin has a passion for the industry and it shows in her work,” said Price, who serves as director of creative services at Butler Community College in Kansas. “She possesses all the characteristics of a great communicator, leader and friend. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious accomplishment.”

Edlund’s tireless service extends to her community. She is an exceptionally active member of the Rotary Club of Rosemount, serving as the club’s fundraising and public relations chair. Through Rotary, she mentors local high school seniors and participates in a variety of service projects. An avid runner, she takes part in numerous charitable races to support local causes. Through it all, she finds time galore to care for her devoted husband Jeff, a DCTC student majoring in Information Systems Management, 18-month-old daughter Evelyn, and devilish yellow lab Lucy.