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Chat with Jeff Morris

This is the official chat transcript from November 17, 2010. It reads top-to-bottom.

Danny Unruh Welcome to the online chat with VP Jeff Morris. Question submission can now begin!

John Lantz asks:How would you describe K-State's brand, and how will we go about promoting that nationally and internationally?

Jeff Morris K-State has a strong brand in the state and region. We're known as the "friendly, purple family." This is great, but reflects an inside/out viewpoint. In other words, it's hard to explain our greatness to people who haven't had the K-State experience. As we go to national and international markets, we'll need to craft a story that is relevant to those who don't know much about us. We are currently conducting research to find the right words to describe our brand to these audiences.

Emily Lehning asks:I've seen many high schools use the PowerCat as their logo. What are the rules for this?

Jeff Morris In the past we have allowed this and will continue to do so for the schools who have adopted the logo. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Schools that want to use the PowerCat need to work with our licensing office, they pay a very nominal fee.

Matthew James asks:The recent Privilege Fee contract for KSDB does not allocate funding to cover part of a Dole Hall engineer’s salary for the different engineering services required by the station. Will the University or the School of JMC be stepping up to supplement that cost?

Jeff Morris Good question. In our discussions with the Miller School, we have agreed to provide support for engineering services via the division of communications and marketing. As we move toward a true media convergence center, it's important to us that we share resources to create the best learning environment possible. These are not flush times and we need to be creative in finding ways to serve our students.

Matthew James asks:One of your initiatives this year is to start the Integrated Marketing Team to facilitate marketing, branding, and other communication activities at Kansas State University. Can you address the specific issues this committee will be making decisions on and who all will serve on it?

Jeff Morris The IMT, as we call it, is developing a brand platform for Kansas State University, which includes our graphic identity (logos) and the words we use to describe the university. The group serves as an advisory council, and is one of several groups we have. Task forces also are working on our social media strategy, our web strategy, our PR strategy, and our advertising strategy. The process has been to spend a lot of time listening and building consensus. With regard to the composition of the group, we have SGA representatives, faculty representatives, and members from the key areas that do a lot of communicating: Alumni Relations, Athletics, Research & Extension, KSU Foundation, and Continuing Education. At the end of the day, the IMT will help define our brand elements.

Cole Cooper asks:What advantages does using "K-State" over "KSU" give our brand?

Jeff Morris K-State is distinctive and unique, which gives several advantages in branding. KSU is used by other universities, which may cause confusion. This gets technical, but there is significant research showing that names with hard sounds (t, K, etc) are more easily remembered.

Emily McIntosh asks:Have you considered including the student radio station (91.9FM) or the Collegian as a part of this centralized media convergence center?

Jeff Morris It has been discussed over the long term. There is some benefit to the public presence of the radio station in the Union, but we could see consolidation on the production side in Dole Hall. I would encourage a dialogue between students and faculty to determine the best way forward. In my day, the Collegian was not a separate entity, the current structure provides more independence for the paper, as I understand it. There would be real synergy in having, print, broadcast and web co-located in the same facility. Great thing to talk about!

Emily McIntosh asks:What will be the title we use for this branding: K-State, KSU, Kansas State University?

Jeff Morris Depending on the audience, we may use all three. Within the state of Kansas and the region -- defined as Big 12 country -- we are K-State. It's the idiom and has been used for generations. This won't change. When we market the university to those outside the region, such as the coasts or international markets, we plan to use Kansas State University. Our research shows K-State is not how people outside the region refer to us. The third moniker, KSU, is not used as much for the reason it is also used by Kent State, Kennesaw State, Kentucky State and others. There's only one K-State!

Andrew Morris asks:In follow up to my previous question: How can we expect to manage this new "graphic identity" amongst all of the different colleges that make up K-State? It is a well known fact that these different colleges tend to change the K-State identity in "fun" or "creative" ways, which end up destroying the singular brand image. What can be done about these rogue marketers?

Jeff Morris We will have to have buy-in from the colleges, plus the understanding that we all benefit from a stronger brand for the university. In my discussions with the various colleges they are willing to support our efforts and work toward one voice for K-State.

Andrew Morris asks:That sounds great about promoting our brand nationally, but with all of the different logos that exist and different website designs, how is one supposed to have any sort of consistent brand identity?

Jeff Morris We don't have consistency at this time. One thing to think about, every logo is designed to tell a story. With 35 to 40 logos in use, we are trying to tell a lot of stories to people who may not be all that interested. Strong brands have a singular graphic identity and exercise a lot of discipline to build the brand. We are working toward a stronger graphic identity for K-State.

Danny Unruh We are half-way through the chat! Keep the questions coming for the next 30 minutes.

Steven Freeman asks:Referring to the song again, I noticed it had 20,000 views in short timing. Do you think it has potential to become a new KSU 'tradition?'

Jeff Morris I think 20,000 views makes it a tradition already.

Cole Cooper asks:What sort of strategies are being considered when it comes to promoting the K-State brand with social media and the web in general?

Jeff Morris We recently hired a full-time manager to help with social media (a K-State grad). The goal is to use social media to help build the brand and communicate with our many audiences -- all while obeying the implicit social covenants of the medium. Our web presence needs a lot more work, to be frank. The web is now the number one marketing medium for universities, we are working on revising our site(s) and becoming a lot more aggressive in the online advertising arena.

Steven Freeman asks:How Do you feel about the new 'KSTATE Stand Up' Song that has been going around manhattan?

Jeff Morris The song is catchy, although I had to listen to it three or four times to get all the lyrics. There were some issues with the video clips used with regard to copyright and NCAA regulations. We are meeting with the authors tomorrow to help resolve these issues on their behalf. We love the creativity and enthusiasm on display in the song.

Danny Unruh Friends, it is time to conclude our chat. Thanks to everyone who participated, and thanks to VP Morris for joining us. Go Cats!

tikity33 asks:Do we get the different departments of the school working together as one to solve issues around the world and in the school?

Jeff Morris One way is to have a plan, such as the K-State 2025 initiative launched by President Schulz. If we want K-State to be a global leader, then it will need to happen by plan, not by accident. A strategic plan pulls people together for a common purpose. We have a visionary president and a great team, the next step is to put the plan in place.

Tyler Sharp asks:What long-term changes are being planned to make Dole Hall a true media convergence center?

Jeff Morris First, we plan to paint even more walls purple. Very soon (Dec) we will be creating a converged newsroom for students, plus expanding the area allocated for video editing suites. The next step is to develop a studio that supports live student newscasts. Our production equipment will be converted to high definition by January. Longer term, we hope to expand the building and make more spaces for students, faculty, and professional staff.

Jeff Morris These are great questions, although I expected no less from K-Staters. Please don't hesitate to ask us questions at any time, we are here for the students!

Andrew Morris asks:In response to the question about making Dole Hall a media convergence center, how do you plan on staffing this? I fully support live newscasts, but as a JMC student I realize that sufficient faculty does not exist to adequately instruct current TV production classes. How do you plan on teaching students how to use a convergence center without teachers who know what they're talking about?

Jeff Morris There are currently searches underway for a news director and additional faculty members with this experience. In addition, we have professionals at Dole Hall who can lend expertise in the classroom. Lastly, we have a cadre of superbly educated graduate students who can also assist.