Fall 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 3 // Feature Articles // 3FEA3

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Our Task Is Clear


F. Richard Rohs
Extension Education and Staff Development Specialist
Department of Personnel and Leadership Development
University of Georgia-Athens

Leaders aren't very effective without followers. In fact, many followers would make good leaders if given the proper training. Such is the case in many rural communities. Local leadership often lacks many of the skills to mobilize citizens to address community concerns.

A recommendation in the 1987 Future Task Force Report to ECOP says:

    Extension programming for communities must be knowledge-based and designed to help communities cope with issues related to the ever-changing socioeconomic environment, as well as to develop the necessary skills for dealing with these issues.1

Our task is clear. Extension programs must equip local leaders with skills to manage and direct change in their towns and cities.

This article reports on a marketing strategy used to implement a Community Leadership Program in rural Georgia counties and the benefits achieved.

Marketing Strategy

Effective marketing of educational programs requires the public be informed about the program, how it can satisfy a need, where it can be purchased, and how much it will cost.2

To effectively market the Community Leadership Program, four marketing strategies were developed: (1) product strategy-developing a program that satisfies a need, (2) promotional strategy-informing the public about the program, (3) place strategy-listing where the program will be offered in communities, and (4) pricing strategy-indicating how much it will cost.

Product Strategy

Based on preliminary needs assessment and input from local advisory committees and county Extension personnel, a 12-session intensive leadership training program was developed. The strategy was to have the first unit focus on developing an individual perspective on community leadership dealing with values formation and leadership styles. A second unit emphasized participative community leadership from a group perspective. This unit stressed the knowledge and skills needed by individuals to function effectively as a group and as group members. The last unit focused on applied leadership from a community perspective, focusing on collecting and analyzing community data to implement social and economic change. After the program was tested in two rural counties, it was ready for distribution.

Promotional Strategy

Program brochures were prepared and sent to mass media outlets. Additional brochures and program announcements were included in Chamber of Commerce newsletters and merchant circulars. Portable billboards promoting the Community Leadership Program, along with bumper stickers, leadership t-shirts, balloons, and buttons helped gain attention and promote interest and participation. Personalized letters were also sent to all community organization officers encouraging their participation. A slide-tape set was available for promotional use.

Place Strategy

Each county was encouraged to hold its 12 classes in different locations. This strategy helped to acquaint many participants with unfamiliar communities and facilities. Such a strategy also helped to build a sense of community spirit among participants. Locations included hospitals, banks, schools, business and industry facilities, nuclear power plants, and churches. Before the beginning of class, a brief history of the facility was provided to participants, accenting its benefit to and place in the community.

Pricing Strategy

Charging for materials and services hasn't been popular in Extension. However, planning committees felt that charging a $28 registration fee would mean a stronger commitment to the program. If additional funds were needed for meals or refreshments, nontraditional Extension contributors were approached by advisory committee members for financial support.

The Participants

During 1987, 26 counties participated in the Community Leadership Program. A total of 870 individuals enrolled in the program, with a limit of 40 participants per county. Waiting lists for a second round of leadership classes were circulated in several counties. The average attendance was 34 people and one county had an average of 38.

Participants had varied occupations, including teachers, ministers, judges, tax commissioners, social workers, Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Authority personnel, farmers, public officials, attorneys, newspapers editors, volunteers, retirees, and a host of others.


How has this program changed people's lives and their communities? Participants said they:

  1. Further developed their basic community leadership skills.
  2. Became better informed on local issues.
  3. Gained a broader perspective of their counties.
  4. Took an active role in improving their communities.

As a result of taking active roles in improving their communities, community leadership participants have:3

  • Obtained $1.3 million in water/sewer grants.
  • Formed committees to address community issues (teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, adult illiteracy, economic development) identified by participants during the 12 classes.
  • Conducted countywide needs assessments.
  • Published a county economic development guide.
  • Accepted leadership roles in a newly organized youth leadership association.
  • Helped Board of Education in getting volunteer partners.
  • Been elected as first-time candidates to local offices.
  • Conducted a county auction to raise funds for a second leadership class.
  • Secured radio air time to broadcast an issue forum, developed questions, got panel members, and staffed telephones for call-in questions.
  • Developed a mission statement encouraging local officials to involve the leadership class in providing education on critical issues.
  • Formed a leadership alumni.
  • Hosted countywide forums on local issues such as sales tax referendum, land use, zoning.
  • Organized a study group to determine need and support for a Chamber of Commerce.
  • Been instrumental in having local Board of Education reinstate a vocational educational program.
  • Participated in recruiting and hiring a new city manager.
  • Gotten county commissioners to enforce an old law in support of an industrial authority.
  • Supported construction of a speculative building for economic development.


To ensure Extension's future, quality programs must be developed and marketed. Extension can't afford to be shy. Our current funding will be small compared to future program needs. If we're to survive, quality programs must be developed to help people meet their everyday needs.

The list of community leadership accomplishments was only partial. The Extension Community Leadership Program served as a catalyst to develop individuals and improve communities. Such programs play an important part in improving Extension's image and generating grass-roots support for Extension.

As one participant commented about the Community Leadership Program, "I've helped build a better life for myself and my community and the Extension Service helped me to do it."


1. Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, Extension in Transition: Bridging the Gap Between Vision and Reality (Blacksburg: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1987).

2. Robert Topor, Marketing Higher Education: A Practical Guide (Washington, D.C.: Council for Advancement and Support of Education, 1983).

3. Melba Cooper, "Community Leadership Program Summary" (Athens: University of Georgia, 1987).