How do individuals view Geneseo? What do they like? What don’t they like? What perceptions do they have of the town? Do those perceptions differ if the person is a lifelong resident verses a newcomer? Do business owners see the town differently from visitors who come to town to shop?

How do individuals view Geneseo? What do they like? What don’t they like? What perceptions do they have of the town? Do those perceptions differ if the person is a lifelong resident verses a newcomer? Do business owners see the town differently from visitors who come to town to shop?

Geneseo officials hope a new survey will help answer those questions and more.

A community-wide effort is underway to help brand Geneseo. As part of that effort, surveys about the town have been e-mailed and shared on social media with hundreds of individuals.

Paper copies of the survey also are available at the Geneseo City Hall and the Geneseo Library. Electronic versions of the survey can be found on the city’s website, www.cityofgeneseo.com.

“We’re trying to get responses from everybody: men, women, young, old, people who’ve lived here their entire life, people who are new, business owners, people who don’t own businesses, people who work here but live elsewhere or people who’ve been here to visit,” said Geneseo City Administrator Lisa Kotter.

“We’re trying to pick peoples’ brains about what our brand looks like to them,” she said.

Surveys were initially distributed on Jan. 6 and will continue to be accepted through Jan. 20.

The entire process started more than a year ago when a small group gathered to try and find the best way to market Geneseo.

It was decided a collaborative approach would be best, and city officials were joined by representatives from other taxing bodies including the school district, hospital, library and park district as well as the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce.

Initially, the group wanted to discover how communities like Geneseo – those located outside a metro ring, but not part of the metro area itself — marketed themselves.

“We weren’t successful in finding what we were looking for,” said Kotter. “We figured what we needed to do was blaze our own trail.”

Professional help was needed, four different marketing firms submitted proposals. Ultimately, MindFire Communications, of LeClaire, Iowa, was selected.

MindFire officials previously worked with the Quad City Convention and Visitors Bureau to create the “Marvels on the Mississippi” brand used to promote tourism.

“We always recommend an organization starts with brand research,” said Lynn Manternach, Phd., MindFire co-founder and president and brand arsonist.

“To best articulate what Geneseo’s brand is, we need to start with the people who know it best,” said Manternach. “We need to know why they think it’s a great place to live, work and play.”

Manternach said her company uses census data to try and determine an ideal survey response rate.

In Geneseo’s case, Manternach said she was initially hoping to receive a 10 percent response rate from Geneseo’s 6,000-person population.

“We were hoping for 600 surveys, but we’ve already received well over 1,000,” she said. “We’ve been very impressed with the response rate. It shows people are very engaged with Geneseo.”

Although the data obtained from the survey “can be looked at in a lot of different ways” Manternach said she’s primarily looking for common ties and “the big picture.”

The surveys can be filled out anonymously, but those including their names will be entered in drawings to win one of several prize packages.

“MindFire will be the only ones to see the names. Nobody from the city will know who said what,” said Kotter.

Once prizes have been awarded, “all names are stripped from the data and that information is destroyed,” said Manternach. “It truly is confidential. Names aren’t connected with anything.”

Even the ultimate results presented to the city will be in the form of aggregate data.

“What we’re reporting back is big picture stuff — What business owners think, verses what residents think,” explained Manternach.

“We’ll pull together a summary of the results and what they mean for Geneseo. The next step will be the brand development process,” said Manternach.

“We want to look at the key message and figure out how to shape that into a brand. How do we talk about Geneseo in a consistant, relevant and compelling way?” she said.

Prior to this task to find a community-wide brand for Geneseo, Kotter said marketing approaches tended to vary by entity. The park district would market the community differently than the library or hospital.

“We’re looking to think outside the box and find ways to work collaboratively,” said Kotter. “What’s good for Geneseo is good for all of us.”