Lakers create survey for Kentwood residents

Drew Howard

The City of Kentwood is teaming up with students from Grand Valley State University to create a survey that will benefit the ways in which city officials communicate with residents.

GVSU students are helping to create the survey in two marketing research classes, both of which are taught by Dr. Kelly Cowart, assistant professor of Marketing.

“The two marketing research classes will work together to develop a single questionnaire to help the fire department, police department and the mayor’s office better communicate with city residents,” Cowart said. “In addition, students will work in teams to conduct other forms of marketing research such as observations and marketing for the city.”

The project was initiated after the Kentwood Fire Department contacted the GVSU Marketing Department for help in developing a marketing plan in 2014.

“After speaking with city officials, we determined that additional information was needed to assist with the development of the marketing plan,” Cowart said. “We recommended marketing research to gather that information.”

One of the reasons Kentwood is enlisting the help of GVSU students is for their expertise on all things social media, Cowart said.

“The City of Kentwood is interested in incorporating social media in its marketing plan,” Cowart said. “College students are among the heaviest users of social media and are well-suited to help identify how social media can be best used to meet the city’s objectives.”

Additionally, many cities are just now realizing the importance of younger consumers as direct and indirect influencers of popular culture, Cowart said.

“The City of Kentwood is quite progressive in its realization that the students of today are potential residents,” Cowart said. “It’s wise to identify this population’s preferences as a way of attracting new residents and better serving current residents.”

If all goes as planned, the results of the questionnaire will influence how the city communicates with the public, its service offerings and its operations in the future, Cowart said.

The project officially began after Cowart’s marketing research class met with the Kentwood deputy police chief, the deputy fire chief and the mayor on Jan. 28.

James Scott, a student in one of Cowart’s classes, is among a smaller group of students in the class who are working specifically with the Kentwood Fire Department.

“We did some calls with the fire department to talk about more specifics, like how they will work with us to help distribute surveys, making focus groups and what their target market is,” Scott said. “The police chief, fire chief and the mayor all had the same kind of focus as far as reaching out to the community.”

The final survey will consist of somewhere from 30 to 40 questions, Scott said.

“In my smaller group, we have 15 questions,” Scott said. “What we’re doing is generalizing all the questions and putting them it into one survey for the whole class.”

While students in the class will be focusing on different subject matter, the end result is still the same.

“What we’re hoping for is that we will find a way to efficiently reach out to the community and raise awareness of all the services they offer,” Scott said.

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