FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2009
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
Study: Waverley most favored new name; agency to conduct additional research
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Results from a stakeholder opinion study conducted by The Cirlot Agency found that Waverley University was the most favored new name for Mississippi University for Women. However, the survey also revealed that a fourth contender—Welty University—could not be ignored.
After The Cirlot Agency’s recent presentation to the MUW Naming Committee, several of the committee members suggested that Welty be researched as a stand-alone name. As a result, the university has asked The Cirlot Agency to conduct additional research regarding the name choices Reneau, Waverley, and Welty. This research will be consistent with the research conducted to date.
In stating her support for additional research, MUW President Claudia Limbert said, “The information gathered in the original opinion survey is invaluable and will be carefully considered. As we look to the university’s future, we know that doing this right is more important than doing this quickly. The Cirlot Agency’s additional research will
yield important information as this process continues. All the information gathered during the MUW 20/20 process related to the name and the university’s brand development, as well as The Cirlot Agency’s research, will be available to the Leadership Committee as it evaluates the evidence and makes its recommendation to me.”
Overall, 2,034 people participated in the initial stakeholder opinion study. Of those, 43 percent liked Waverley University, 33 percent favored Reneau University and 24 percent chose Welty-Reneau University.
The methodology used by The Cirlot Agency involved a three-fold study, which included two online surveys and one focus group study. The MUW Community Opinion Survey sought input from key stakeholders within the MUW community—faculty, staff, alumni, students, prospective students and interested citizens. The Student Recruit Survey was available to students on the university’s recruit list. The High School Student Focus Groups were conducted by agency staff in-house at 10 Mississippi high schools in the university’s key recruitment area. Measures were in place to not allow multiple votes from the same computers.
When looking at name preference by classification, of those who preferred Reneau University, 50 percent were alumni while 14 percent were interested citizens, followed by twelve percent student recruits and 11 percent MUW students.
The numbers were more balanced when considering Waverley University. The breakdown: 29 percent alumni, 24 percent interested citizens, 19 percent student recruits and 17 percent MUW students.
As for Welty-Reneau, alumni favored it at 46 percent. The next largest group was interested citizens at 19 percent and student recruits at 17 percent.
Alumnus Liza Cirlot Looser, who founded the Jackson-based agency, took time to discuss the difference between branding and positioning with the group, reminding the MUW Naming Committee that the Identity Committee decided that the university’s central message or core value is leadership.
“There are three elements to branding—trust, promise and perception. It is important to have a balance of all three,” she said.
Colby Kaminer, who is an account executive with The Cirlot Agency, presented discussions that came out of the focus groups. Students thought the name should be changed because they do not like “for women,” but that it is important to keep “W” in the name. They also preferred that Mississippi be in the name or in some graphic symbol.
Barbara Coats, who is a communications strategist at The Cirlot Agency, said, “If you are looking at the numbers alone, Waverley is the obvious favorite. But, we found that many respondents said that if you took out the hyphen from Welty-Reneau and just offered Welty, they would have favored it.
“We weren’t charged with finding a new name, but we just couldn’t ignore the fact that this trend came up across every group we studied. As for our professional opinion to you, we think Waverley starts you on first base, but Welty starts you on third base. Whatever name you choose, we think it should include Welty in it.”
The Cirlot Agency’s report will be forwarded to the MUW Leadership Committee, which is comprised of presidents of the Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Student Government Association, Alumni Association and chair of the Board of Directors of the MUW Foundation.