Survey says: Park Blocks defining feature of college

A marketing survey of the Portland State community drew an unexpectedly heavy 3,500 responses and established the Park Blocks as the university’s most identifiable image.


A total of 2,100 responses were by undergraduate students.


Lauer and Associates developed the survey to conduct a marketing audit and recommend a marketing program for the university.


Kelli Horst, a senior associate with Lauer and Associates, called the undergraduate response “phenomenal.”


Horst felt the results showed heavy interest in all sectors of the community, since the survey was open for responses for 39 days. Alumni responses were separated from undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff and were not represented in Thursday’s raw data tally.


“These results are not necessarily guidelines,” Horst emphasized. “We are going to take this to the faculty, students and community leaders.”


She called the results a very representative sample.


“It gives you a lot of confidence that the results are valid,” she said. “It’s an example that the university has a pretty good sense of its identity.”


That opinion was seconded by Julie Smith, senior marketing assistant in the office of marketing communications: “We did an informal survey in 2002 and the results were almost the same.” Smith acted as survey coordinator in the current survey.


The survey results showed the three most favorable perceptions of Portland State. They were that the university combines involvement and expertise in the urban community with a passion for sustainability, the university is located in one of the nation’s most livable cities, and the university is an engaged learning community connected to the city and the region.


The least-chosen option among the favorable impressions was that PSU attracts uncommonly creative faculty, students and staff.


When it came to phrases that communicate the essence of Portland State, the word “urban” was the winner by far with faculty and staff, with slightly less enthusiasm from graduates and undergraduates. Second most popular was “community centered.”  Ranking third was “diverse and fourth was “engaged.” Some words got no responses at all. One of these was “international.”


The South Park Blocks ranked far ahead of any other choices as the image that evokes Portland State. More than half the faculty respondents named this as first choice and a quarter more ranked it second choice. Again, undergraduate students ranked the least enthusiastic, with only 39 percent ranking it at first choice.


Ranking second with all groups was Portland Cityscape, followed by the sky bridges. Least popular choice of any that drew positive responses was the Portland Streetcar.


Horst emphasized that this is raw data and remains to be analyzed and correlated in depth.


In summary, the report showed that the university’s commitment to diversity and community engagement, location in Portland and its urban setting distinguish it from other institutions.


A drawing among participants in the current survey produced two winners of iPod nanos. Vincent Fritzsche, a programming manager in extended studies, won the iPod for faculty, staff or alumni. Ken Ray won the student iPod prize. The office of institutional research and planning declined to identify Ray other than by name. The drawing was performed electronically by Rosanna Carpenter of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.


Results of the survey were revealed at a noon meeting Thursday of the President’s Task Force for Integrated Marketing.


Horst will meet with various groups to discuss the preliminary results in sessions through Friday. Among them today are a faculty discussion from 2 to 5 p.m. and a student meeting from 6 to 8 p.m., both at the Native American Center.


Friday, she will work with students from11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and faculty at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. also in the Native American Center.


The survey marked another step in President Daniel Bernstine’s program last spring when he formed the task force for integrated marketing. He charged it with engaging the campus community in an authentic process to translate the university’s mission, vision and values into a set of key messages and a visual identity program.


Responsibility for translating the president’s dictum into action fell to Cassie McVeety, Vice President for University Relations. She became chair of the task force.


The first step in realizing Bernstine’s vision took form in April and May, when Lauer and Associates conducted focus groups with faculty, students and other campus groups. The meetings contributed to a detailed marketing audit of the university, followed by recommendations for developing a marketing program, known as the “message on a page” concept. The firm also emphasized the need for “branding” the university.


The firm in its final audit report recommended a central intelligence function with the authority to supervise all brand marketing and communications by the university.


McVeety later confirmed this will likely be the pattern, with marketing and communications separated but “all merging into one communication function.”