The following is a brief interview with Mary Gresch, director of marketing communications, regarding her response to this year’s public awareness telephone survey and the university’s integrated marketing efforts.
Q: Based on results from this spring’s survey, do you feel the integrated marketing program is achieving hoped-for goals at this point?
Gresch: We are very pleased with our progress at this point. The survey results confirm that our efforts are working and that the strengths of the university are becoming better known throughout the state, particularly with prospective high-achieving students, which are our primary target audience.
When I say our efforts I want to be clear — I mean everyone in the university who is working hard to be strategic and bring consistency to our communications, whether it is through the Web, publications, events, media relations, recruiting, student services or other ways. This is not about the marketing department. This is about strengthening our reputation by pulling the university together through focused communications work. Hundreds of people have contributed to this effort.
Q: Are you planning any changes in the integrated marketing or advertising strategy, based on recent survey results?
Gresch: Yes. The survey confirmed the need for a shift we were already making, which was to bring additional focus to audiences such as parents, donors, alumni and other influencers. We also are concentrating university efforts on very strategic, outcome-driven, one-to-one and event marketing. That effort will help bring the great strength of our faculty and students face to face with high-achieving students and influencers. The Regents Scholarship Program is a good example of that.
Once people interact with the university community, they want to be a part of it and support it.
Q: What is the most significant result or insight you and your team gained from this interim survey?
Gresch: We were quite surprised and pleased to see that the overall awareness of WSU now matches the UW’s in the minds of prospective students. That occurred much earlier than we expected, and we believe the advertising campaign played a major role in that, since people recall the ads not only very favorably but with great specificity about the “World Class. Face to Face.” message.
You need to remember, this is an interim survey, it is a measurement of how effective our efforts have been to date, and a guide to where we need to go next.
The 30 percent enrollment increase in high-ability students with a 3.6 grade point average or higher that is expected this fall is a true measurement of the success of our integrated efforts. What we all want is a reputation for WSU that matches the aspirations of the strategic plan — an outstanding research university providing the best undergraduate education in the state.
Q: Is there a new wave or series of advertisements that will be launched in the near future?
Gresch: We will be cycling in two new television spots this fall, focusing again on our excellent research faculty, and we will refine the existing print ads. We also will be doing more with public radio, as that has proven very effective with influencers and is very cost effective.
Q: When will the university conduct another major public awareness survey?
Gresch: We expect to do a comprehensive statewide survey with the initial audiences we benchmarked in 1999 in about two years. Our communications strategy is a very long-term process, and we believe that will give us enough time to justify a deeper analysis and then adjust our strategy based on both our market position and the ongoing implementation of the university’s strategic plan.