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Understanding DU

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Renea Morris

Renea Morris

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The University commissioned a reputation strategy project to truly understand and define DU’s personality and grand narrative. Being able to gain a specific understanding of our institutional identity will enable us to communicate accurately and consistently.

The first phase of the work that Carnegie Dartlet embarked upon was a series of research strategies to gain an understanding of DU’s core personality through the perception of internal and external stakeholders as well as through our academic peers and competitors. An online personality survey, virtual message workshops, and a competitive audit will enable us to gain insight into DU’s personality as well as inform our grand narrative (how we tell our story) and how to position it in the marketplace.

Online personality survey

Online deployment of the personality survey included the voice of internal stakeholders—both those on campus and remote—including, but not limited to, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and/or community members.

The online personality survey engaged internal stakeholders in answering the question, “Who is the University of Denver?” through data-driven exercises. Participants identified whether the lens through which they see the University is primarily undergraduate or graduate so that the data could be analyzed separately and collectively. Augmenting the live, virtual workshops with the survey increased the volume of participation in the process and ensured those not able to attend a virtual workshop could have a voice in the research. The survey provided Carnegie Dartlet with an understanding of which personality archetypes, traits, and faults may be most important to understanding who the University is. The most relevant data carried over into the live, virtual message workshops.

Virtual message workshops

Live, virtual, interactive workshops designed to collectively define our grand narrative leveraged the findings of the online personality survey. Twelve workshops were conducted—six  with participants who view the institution primarily through the undergraduate lens and six with participants who view the institution primarily through the graduate lens. These distinctions allowed Carnegie Dartlet to evaluate the data separately and in totality, with the goal to ultimately determine if there is differentiation or alignment within the personality and resultant grand narrative(s) related to the lens through which internal stakeholders view the University. The frameworks in the workshops tested dominant and recessive personality traits, explored root meanings of ideas through collaborative investigation, identified core dimensions of the University's personality and its narrative, and explored the ideas that define DU above all else.  

External perception research

In addition to engaging internal stakeholders, Carnegie Dartlet also conducted a quantitative perception study to evaluate what selected markets believe about the University and a list of top competitors, including measures of awareness, reputation, and perception of personality. The results provided comparison to the competitor set for context to where DU stands in relation to its peers. The markets evaluated were Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Portland, and Chicago.

Competitive audit

The competitive audit encompassed an investigation of DU’s competitive set, and examined positioning and storytelling tactics, language themes, tone, style, visual identity, technical considerations, realities, and quality rankings. The same competitive set that was evaluated in the external perception research was evaluated in the competitive audit, allowing for an understanding of how DU and its competitors influence market perceptions and personality understanding through its strategic communications expression. The institutions which made up the competitive set included American University, Brandeis University, Boston University, CU Denver, Colorado State University, Santa Clara University, Syracuse University, TCU, University of Colorado Boulder, and University of San Diego. The audit provided critical detail on potential positioning strategies and strategic communications tactics to differentiate DU from its competitors.

Through 12 virtual workshops and three online surveys, Carnegie Dartlet facilitated interpersonal conversation, group deliberation and quantitative measurement with more than 1,600 DU stakeholders—faculty, staff, students, alumni, and leadership—to discover the authentic personality and story of DU at its best.