Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chapter 53

      Once again, a loss on the gridiron this Saturday. I don’t know how much more our fans can take. I really thought they’d win this one, but the Red Raiders faltered at the last minute. Luckily it was out of town, so we didn’t have to walk home from Jones Stadium in misery. 
And then Baylor crushed Oklahoma... and we play Baylor next week. In Dallas at Cowboys Stadium. I wanted to go, but the family has planned on coming to Lubbock for a Thanksgiving weekend, so we’ll just watch it on television and hope for the best.
About a month ago, I helped Sharon with a project, but forgot to mention it in this blog. Here’s what happened:

“I don’t understand kids today,” Sharon said in exasperation as she and I shopped for more “treasures” at our favorite thrift store in early October. “Well, maybe I do, but it’s frustrating.”
“What’s frustrating?” I asked as I looked over the latest shipment of furniture. I’d brought a full-size mattress and box springs from Dallas for my master bedroom, but wanted an interesting headboard, and hadn’t found one yet. 
  “I’ve been put in charge of Civil Engineering’s once-every-four-years student survey. Lucky me!” she said rolling her eyes. “But we aren’t getting much response from kids at all. I know they’re busy, but the results of the survey could actually help them, so it’s frustrating not to get more participation.”
   “How are you marketing it?” I asked as I wandered the back aisles, Sharon right behind me.
   “The usual way. I put fliers up on all the bulletin boards and asked professors to mention it in classes.”
“How can they participate? Online? Hard copy?”
   “Hard copy. Why?”
“How easy is it to put online? And what type of a deadline did you give them? Any incentives?”
“Fairly easy, I’d say. No deadline. We’re stopping when we get enough, and the incentive is that it will help with the next long-range planning for the department, which ultimately helps the kids.” 
  “How many is enough?”
   “How many completed surveys do you want before you stop?” I asked as I spotted a headboard possibility. “Come look at this one ... it’s heavy, and I like the lines. It might work. Did you bring the measuring tape?”
  “A good engineer is never without a measure of some kind,”  Sharon said as she pulled a miniature tape out of her purse and laid it against the headboard, leaning close to see the tiny print. “Five hundred.”
  “It’s five hundred inches wide?!” 
  “No, silly. Five hundred surveys is enough out of our two-thousand students. The headboard’s the perfect size for your mattress.”
  “Good! I’ll take it, and I’ve got some ideas for your survey. Let me talk with my staff on Monday and we’ll work up a plan. What’s your budget for it?”
“Budget? I don’t have a budget for it ... but I’ve got about $1,000 of discretionary funds I could use. Will that be enough?”
   “More than enough. Help me get this thing up to the front. It’ll need a good sanding and a coat of paint, but should be perfect if you measured right, Phelps,” I said teasingly.
   Sharon gave me her own version of the evil eye but laughed as we dragged the new acquisition to the counter. 

   On Tuesday, Sharon arrived at my office to hear an overview of the marketing ideas, instantly agreeing to everything the Communications team had planned. “Looking forward to it,” she said. “I’ll have the survey put online in a couple of days and we can get started.”
   We began early the following Monday morning by putting red eighteen-inch square posters with a large black question mark in the middle of every wall in the Civil Engineering Building,  making students and faculty alike wonder what they were for. On Wednesday, second squares were put up next to the first ones ... these said, “Whadya.” Nothing more, just that. On Friday, a third square appeared overnight that read, “think” with another large black question mark. I had explained we were dealing with a perceptive audience. “So, let’s intrigue them a little. Give them something to think about talk about ... to puzzle about ... and gradually, give them the answer.” 
   Over the following weekend, the square posters were replaced with huge red and black posters saying, “Whadya think? Let us know through the Student Survey, hard copy or online. All participants will be entered into a random drawing for two cash prizes of $400 each.” 
   “That gives this smart group of kids a more instant incentive, and drives them to the website or to the office to fill out the form. Next, in the second week, we’ll hit them with more.”
    For the next strategies, the Communications team procured permission from the university Facilities Office. As students walked to the engineering building, they had to pass a series of six posters on stakes driven into the ground, about the size of residential For Sale signs, placed one after the other in rows. Reminiscent of old Burma Shave signs placed along highways, the signs had rhymes printed on them in sequence, once again, leading students to information about the student survey. Another rhyme was printed on the back for students leaving the building. A different set of rhymes was placed at each of the four entrances to the building. 
   An additional clever rhyme was sent once every other day to students’ e-mail addresses as reminders. Normal communication routes of blogs, tweets and texts were utilized. 
Students were hit with the message in classrooms, too. Ricky and Susan created a 3-foot by-4-foot old-fashioned sandwich board sign to match the big posters and we paid a few students to take turns for two days walking the halls of the engineering building wearing it. They carried hard copies of the surveys. During each shift, the hired student donned a red body suit and a tall red and black Cat in the Hat felt chapeau, looking perfectly ridiculous, but garnering the needed attention. Poking their heads into classrooms before professors began their lessons, they presented a free Texas Tech pencil to anyone quickly filling out the survey — engineering students loved pencils. 
   The next day, in the dean’s office where the stacks of hard-copy surveys were found, dozens of sugar cookies decorated in red with black question marks were offered for completion of a survey on the spot. Word spreads quickly about free food, and the office staff had to print more surveys to fill the demand before they ran out of the treats. 
  Two days before the end of the survey campaign, at daybreak, my staff gathered at the Civil Engineering Building with colored chalk in hand. We wrote short sayings and messages on the sidewalks and steps leading to all the doors, with and without stick-figure pictures. Steven drew a full-sized hopscotch board, that read, “One, two, here’s what you do. Three, four, fill out the form. Five six, you might get picked ... to win $400!” 
Another sidewalk graffiti said, “Dear Son, Please fill out the  student survey.  Love, Mom XOXOXO.” And another, by Susan; “Dude, you got $400 just laying around somewhere? Fill out the survey!” And my favorite, from Ricky wacky brain, “40,000 pennies for your thoughts!” 
   It didn’t hurt that the Daily Toreador picked up the story and had a front page photo of  Steven’s hopscotch graffiti the last day of the survey. 
   After the two weeks of marketing, Sharon happily reported participation by 82 percent of her engineering students, making it the largest response in the history of the department. Other areas of campus heard about the success, and much to our delight, asked the Communications office for assistance on several different campaigns. 
   I detailed all this in my weekly e-mail summaries to Boyle, which I knew he never read, and that undoubtedly President Parker never saw. This, of course, was before our move out from under Bennet Boyle’s wicked hand. 

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