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Graduate Students Help Appell Center “Tune into York” with Marketing Plan

An Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student on stage smiling for her photo with the theatre seats behind her

After the Appell Center for the Performing Arts had to temporarily close its doors due to COVID-19, a group of York College of Pennsylvania graduate students stepped up to help the nonprofit connect with its audience.

Sarah McCauley '15/'21 remembers the first time she logged into a Zoom call with the executives of the Appell Center for the Performing Arts. After COVID-19 forced the theatre to temporarily close its doors, the leaders at the helm had a unique opportunity to look inward. What should their mission look like? Who did they want to serve? How could they better impact their community?

As a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communication program at York College of Pennsylvania, McCauley was part of a team of students ready to help. In their Campaign class, students partnered with area nonprofits to help them develop marketing campaigns around particular causes.

For the Appell Center, that meant helping the organization ramp up for Give Local York, a 24-hour day of giving set for May 7, 2021. The event is one of the largest fundraising opportunities for many nonprofits in York, and for the Appell Center, it was a chance to get in front of their audience again.

“I’ve always known of the Appell Center, and I’ve been to my share of shows,” McCauley says. “It was really eye-opening to see how they wanted to use the opportunity that the pandemic presented to make sure they were doing the best they could to serve the community.”

Building the stepping-stones

McCauley received her undergraduate degree in Public Relations from York College in 2015. As a full-time Marketing Content Coordinator at Kinsley Construction, she prioritizes print and digital content for the growing company. When she came to speak to a class of students at York College about working in the industry, she heard about the new Integrated Marketing Communication program.

“It seemed like the perfect time for me to go back to school and do this,” McCauley says. With Kinsley’s support, and York College’s hybrid program she could balance her class schedule with working full-time.

A capstone class, the Campaign assignment tasked McCauley and her classmates, Charlie Winters, Travis Yaga, Karla Tolan, and Bailey Doan, to help the Appell Center fill a gap in marketing, an area that was in need of some heavy lifting. In the past year, the Appell Center had leaned into Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility, creating a new committee of community members to take a hard look at this topic. It also restructured educational programs and hopes to become a hub for local high school students to be able to perform and showcase their talents.

The theme for all of this hard work was right in front of them. As part of a small fundraiser, the Appell Center created T-shirts that read, “Tuned into York.” With that phrase in mind, McCauley and her classmates built a theme that covered each area of focus for the Appell Center, including “Tuned into Education” and “Tuned into Community.”

A lasting impact

The five graduate students working with the Appell Center created a landing page dedicated to “Tuned into York” and the focus areas that fell under it. They also wrote social media posts and e-newsletter content that could be used to help promote Give Local York.

One of the most satisfactory aspects of the project, McCauley says, is that the branding they developed will be evergreen for the Appell Center. The organization plans to use it going forward as a theme for messaging related to its work.

“I’ve always appreciated that York College is connected to organizations in the community so we can do projects like this,” she says. “It makes you feel like there’s a purpose to what you’re doing. It isn’t just a school project, but it’s a way to help an organization. I love that about York College, and that’s why I went back.”