Education

Using Research to Gain Constructive Feedback

Overview

CFM Research School District

A Washington State school district was struggling to get community input about tough budget choices. Using online and traditional research tools, CFM helped the district expand community participation from less than 100 to more than 3,000 residents in less than six weeks.

Challenge

After months of work and analysis by district administrators, citizen committees and consultants, a Washington school district wanted community guidance about two proposed levies and one bond. Each proposal had five options that offered more services and benefits, but at higher costs. Initial engagement efforts consisted of community meetings at local schools. Few people attended the meetings and comments were narrowly focused on a few projects.

Approach

The district approached CFM to conduct a telephone survey to help assess the funding options. CFM partner Tom Eiland recognized the issues were too complex to test over the phone. He suggested taking the questions online where constituents could ponder the implications of the proposals, consider alternatives and provide feedback. Eiland recommended using the district’s parent email list as a first step and follow that with a phone survey. In about a week, Eiland and district leaders developed an online questionnaire. The District used its survey tool to run the survey and, within seven days, nearly 3,000 parents had participated. Results enabled the district to narrow the focus to three financing options, not the original 15.

Result

Using the online data as a guideline, Eiland prepared a questionnaire and conducted phone interviews among a representative sample of 400 residents to assess opinions about two levy and one bond proposal. The phone survey was used to gather information the entire community, including those who no children in schools.

Using a multi-modal research design, CFM helped the school district engage more than 3,000 residents in less than six weeks. The effort allowed the district to obtain constructive feedback about complex issues and provide statistically valid data for its decision-making.

Pacific University: Making a Major Celebration Notable

Overview

Pacific University: Making a Major Celebration Notable

Can you say sesquicentennial? CFM did when it was retained to sharpen the focus of public relations efforts by Pacific University.

Challenge

Although it wasn’t hired to plan sesquicentennial events, CFM selected the private liberal arts college's 150th anniversary as the fulcrum for an integrated set of strategic communications initiatives. There was little time left for planning as the anniversary year (1999) approached.

Approach

CFM developed key messages and produced events, such as a series of town hall forums – the Pacific Questions – on current hot topics. A revised Web site became the vehicle to consistently deliver those messages. The revamped site emerged as a test bed for new Internet-based uses, such as online course information and registration, automated student applicant inquiries and a robust alumni networking service.

Result

The campaign substantially increased news coverage about Pacific University and contributed to a 15 percent increase the following year in full-time student enrollment. The number of public inquiries about college events and publications increased. And contacts with corporate and alumni donors went up, yielding an increase in annual fund contributions.

Manufacturing 21: Suite of CFM Services Drives Coalition's Success

Manufacturing 21: Suite of CFM services drive Coalitions success

A CFM survey identified a serious problem for the region’s manufacturing industry: It had a Rodney Dangerfield challenge — no respect. Although manufacturing made up nearly 20 percent of the region’s economy and employed 14 percent of the workforce, its contributions were little appreciated. A handful of companies, working with the Portland Development Commission and Clackamas County, turned to CFM to create the Manufacturing 21 Coalition.

CFM services played a vital role:

  • Public Affairs: CFM organized the Coalition, which grew from a small core group to more than 80 members. CFM Partner Norm Eder has served as the Coalition’s executive director and the firm has provided support services.
  • Research: Early in the process, CFM assessed manpower, training and skill-set needs among Manufacturing 21 members to shape an agenda. Research consisted of one-on-one executive interviews and an online survey.
  • State and Federal lobbying: Once formed, the Coalition turned its attention to key industry concerns, such as encouraging public investments in industry-scale applied research and workforce training. CFM won local and federal appropriations to support the R&D and worker training agenda. State lobbying secured additional support.
  • Public Relations: To give the Coalition a voice and tell memorable stories, CFM created a website and conducted media relations.

Results: Since the Coalition was formed, it has raised millions of dollars in federal support, as well as creating partnerships with the region’s colleges, universities and worker training centers. The Coalition has become the go-to voice for the manufacturing.

Helping Fund Innovation at Oregon Institute of Technology

Overview

Helping Fund Innovation at Oregon Institute of Technology

When the Oregon Institute of Technology needed federal funding to build a Geothermal Power Generation Facility, and construction and equipment for the new Center for Health Professions, the CFM Federal lobbying team answered the call by delivering more than $4.5 million.

Challenge

Over the last three years, federal funding for congressional earmarks has become more competitive, and the number and amount of earmarks has been reduced.

Approach

CFM worked with OIT to showcase the unique nature of its requests and demonstrate the exciting benefits that could be derived from federal investment. The Geothermal Power Generation Facility would be the first of its kind on a university campus. The Center for Health Professions project would address the health care workforce training and education shortages that will plague the entire state of Oregon for the next two decades. These two projects are emblematic of the progressive, problem-solving spirit that Oregonians appreciate.

Result

Working with the Oregon delegation, CFM helped OIT secure $3.6 million over three years for its Geothermal Power Generation Facility and $950,000 over three years for the Center for Health Professions and health related equipment. CFM also crafted language and included authorization for a $2 million grant program for the Geothermal Power Generation Facility in the 2007 Energy bill. 

Oregon University System: Seeking Information with Technology

Overview

Oregon University System: Seeking Information with Technology

On the surface, it was a classic business-to-business survey – a manufacturer asking end-users about product quality and market conditions. But in this case, the "manufacturer" was the Oregon University System's Vice Chancellor for Engineering and Computer Science, the "customers" were business professionals from around the state of Oregon and the "product" was recent engineering, computer science and technology graduates from Oregon's public universities.

Challenge

On one hand, the client needed to get customer feedback to plan programs and refine curriculum. On the other hand, the customers would be hard to reach and pressed for time.

Approach

CFM's conducted an Internet-based survey, and the results were impressive. Almost two thirds of those contacted participated in the survey. Industry professionals gave good grades for graduates' skills in a variety of areas such as teamwork, computational skills, the ability to solve problems and the ability to collect, analyze and report data. However, Oregon's business professionals were less impressed with graduates' oral and written communication skills, their familiarity with new technology and their ability to work in large teams.

Result

Engineering educators stepped up efforts to teach basic business communications skills. In the meantime, the survey gave hope to students. Oregon business professionals confirmed that jobs would be there for graduates in engineering, computer science and technology. Roughly four in ten said their organizations would increase hiring in engineering and technology fields over the next year, and more than half said hiring would remain the same. 

Seattle Northwest Securities, Inc.*: Assessing Information Sources for Public Education

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*Seattle Northwest Securities, Inc. is now PiperJaffary.

Overview

Since 1992, CFM has tracked opinions about public education in Washington. A client wanted new information to help school districts communicate better with communities.

Challenge

Determine changes in communication sources about education and identify if Washington voters are using new social media tools to get information.

Approach

New questions were added to a statewide survey to assess how voters are getting information about education.

Result

The survey found information sources have fractured. Voters continue to use traditional media – newspapers, TV, radio – to get information about schools, but other sources have entered the mix. Word of mouth, Web sites and social media are sources people are using to learn about activities in schools and form opinions about education. CFM recommended that school district communication campaigns need a more complex strategy to be effective, using both traditional and new media.

Oregon Independent College Foundation: Investing in Students

Overview

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Oregon had one of the worst records nationally for spending on need-based student aid.

Challenge

Oregon's independent colleges retained CFM to build long-term support for higher levels of student aid. The challenge was to do it without picking a fight with state-funded public universities and community colleges.

Approach

CFM launched an Investing in Students campaign that was anchored by a series of profiles of students who attended an independent college in Oregon and received need-based financial aid. The profiles were short, first-hand accounts of why the students attended college, their life goals and the importance of student aid in making their choice of a college. The profiles were used during the 1999 and 2001 state legislative sessions.

Result

Much of the Investing in Students legislative package was adopted, including renaming need-based student aid as Opportunity Grants. In the 2001 session, the governor and the legislature boosted student aid, while enacting spending cuts for state universities. 

Private K-12 School: Managing the Unthinkable

Overview

It was the last place many parents would think their children would fall victim to a rapist. But the administration of a private K-12 school found itself in that unthinkable position when a 27-year old teacher was arrested and charged with raping two young girls and molesting another.

Challenge

Stunned by the seriousness of the situation, the school board turned to CFM for crisis communications help.

Approach

CFM immediately established three guiding principles: 1) Be open and candid; 2) Address the fear and anger of parents; and 3) Begin a process to prevent this from happening again. Hours after learning of the arrest, school officials were the first to notify parents and staff of the charges and ongoing investigation. They were invited to an emergency meeting. To keep the commitment to be open and candid, CFM established an opportunity for the media to meet with school officials prior to the parent meeting.

Result

Once the situation was publicly discussed, it was time to turn attention to assuring the future safety of students. A parent and teacher task force was assembled to look at school policies and procedures and recommend changes. Hiring practices were examined and a new policy requiring background checks for all school personnel was implemented.