From shots of stunning sunsets to breathtaking images of wildlife, Wyman Meinzer captures images that elude many talented photographers. What’s his secret? Meinzer, the only official state photographer of Texas photographer and an instructor at Texas Tech University, often tells his students, “Your eyes may be better than mine, but I can see better than you.”

Meinzer was the opening presenter at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) Annual Conference held March 24-26 in the Texas Hill Country of San Antonio. As coordinator of media relations at Springfield Technical Community College, I take photos of a variety of campus events, so I was excited to hear Meinzer speak at the conference about how he was able to create such beautiful images. It’s often a matter of being at the right place and at the right time. That could mean getting up at 3:30 in the morning and driving hundreds of miles to capture a moment. (See some of Meinzer’s favorite images).

But the conference – titled “Hitch Up the Brand Wagon” – offered much more than a chance to learn the secrets of a top-notch photographer. It was also a chance for community college marketing professionals to share their ideas.

In my role, I craft press releases, take photos, and manage STCC’s social media, among other responsibilities. I wanted to hear what other community college marketers do in roles similar to mine. So, I chose breakout sessions that were in my wheelhouse.

One session was designed to help us find the best ways to reach students – and prospective students – through digital marketing. The presenters, who worked at a college in Texas, suggested conducting surveys of students. Invite them to sit down for pizza and understand their point of view.

Another breakout session examined how to find the right students to promote your community college. While we have thousands of photos of students in our marketing files, we need to constantly update the images, and finding the ideal “model” student can be a challenge. Some students are reluctant to be photographed. In other cases, a student might be willing to be in a photo, but a month or so after the shoot he or she might transfer to another college. There are any number of scenarios that could create a problem with a photo.

The presenters shared their idea of creating a “Hollywood casting call” to find the right students to promote the college. At the beginning of the fall semester, they asked students to apply to become models for photos. Interested students would face an interview process. They also would need to ask a professor, staff member or employer to write a reference. After the interviews, the Marketing Department would choose their models and set up a photo shoot for later in the semester. This is a day to hit different classes and parts of campus to capture images that could be used for promotion.

In addition to attending other breakout sessions and round-table discussions, I was able to chat with colleagues from across the country about a range of challenges we all face. We shared ideas about how to put the best light on a story idea so it gets picked up by the media. We talked about how to manage communications when the college is facing a crisis.

As the conference concluded, we headed back to our respective colleges with some fresh ideas and new connections. We look forward to another exciting year telling the stories of our respective institutions.