Hale named National Communicator of the Year, region winner

March 27, 2024 | 12:17 am

Updated March 26, 2024 | 11:43 pm

Bernie Hale

For more than two decades, Bernie Hale worked as a staff of one at Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC) leading the school’s marketing department before eventually helping it grow. Her passion and leadership in the area of college communications has now landed her a prestigious honor: National Communicator of the Year.

The award is presented by the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR). Hale, OCTC’s Director of Marketing and Communications, was recognized at the NCMPR conference earlier this week.

The award honors a 2-year college marketing professional who has demonstrated leadership and ability in the field. It is awarded annually in each of NCMPR’s seven districts — Hale won the District 2 award in October — and those recipients automatically qualify to compete for the national award. 

“I am excited about this award because it shines a light on OCTC and on the marketing team,” Hale said. “I love my job because marketing is in a unique position. We serve as the voice of the students, the voice of the employees, and the community. We get to share the stories of our students, and it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Hale has been at OCTC since 1999, and for many years she was the only one who officially worked in the department. A release from NCMPR said she “made do solo for so long by making it easy for marketing-friendly folks to volunteer their time.” She convinced other college leaders to let their employees help out with events or graphics. Dr. Kevin Beardmore, the then-vice president of student affairs, even agreed to share an employee half-time.

“The more that people helped, the more people got used to nice stuff and more stuff, so we grew from there,” Hale said in the release. “Dr. Beardmore was a good advocate with the rest of the leadership team to encourage further investments in marketing.”  

The marketing staff has since grown, partially thanks to OCTC’s enrollment numbers.

A release about Hale earning the District 2 Award said she “has been instrumental in executing the college’s digital enrollment program, which resulted in over 38,000 prospective student leads for the entire [community and technical] college system in Kentucky. Initially, there was resistance from many of the colleges to allocate the majority of their marketing budgets to lower-funnel digital efforts, but (Hale) provided the leadership to bring all colleges on board.”

Hale said in the release: “Even though community college budgets are always tight we were able to make the case that digital marketing and marketing in general is something the college needed to invest in.”

Hale is the primary driver and leader of Kentucky’s systemwide marketing director peer team, where she serves as chairperson. This team consists of marketing staff from each of the system’s 16 colleges, plus system office, and develops and executes all systemwide marketing strategies, branding, creative, PR, and crisis communications. 

Katie Powers, OCTC marketing coordinator for recruitment, said in Hale’s nomination form for the District 2 award: “Bernie sees in others what they don’t see themselves. She aims to bring out the leader in all of us.”

Following Hale’s national honor, OCTC President Dr. Scott Williams said her work is a testament to Hale’s leadership at OCTC.

“We are extremely proud of Bernie and her many accomplishments,” he said. “We cannot be more pleased that the national committee honored her this way, and no one is more deserving.”

March 27, 2024 | 12:17 am

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