The focus groups were conducted in the project communities with separate surveys set up for each community. The online focus group sent letters to randomly selected persons living in places where current new residents previously lived. If the new residents were interested in completing the survey, participants returned a form that included their email address. An email was then sent with the survey URL. Seven completed the Groton survey, nine completed the Hot Springs/Edgemont survey, 10 completed the Underwood survey, 11 completed the Stanley survey, 12 completed the Wayne survey (spring 2011), and 14 completed the Sidney survey (spring 2011). The local focus groups were conducted face-to-face with the participants including new residents in the community as well as others involved in local economic development. They were conducted in spring of 2011.


Purpose of Focus Group
  • What do people see when they look at images of your community?
  • The Internet allows pictures of your community to be used for marketing to new residents.
  • These pictures convey meaning to those viewing them. Are they seeing what you want them to?
  • Is there a way to help the picture carry the meaning you want?
Questions Asked
  • Rural community experience and impressions
  • Impressions of 10 pictures representing: Simpler pace of life, Quality time with family, Employment opportunities, Less congested place to live
  • Ranking 10 community specific pictures
  • Advice for community
Overall Observations
  1. Age, gender and ethnic diversity are noticed
  2. Intergenerational photo was interpreted positively
  3. Photo captions could help guide the viewer to the desired meaning of the photo
  4. Need a well-designed, well defined message of the concept you are trying to portray with the image and your image needs to be equally well defined and tested
  5. Pictures might say a thousand words, but not necessarily the same thousand words.

The next 10 pictures represented the top reasons (simpler pace of life, quality time with family, employment opportunities, less congested place to live) that new residents moved. Impression responses represent all six communities


Picture 1

"Family oriented, working class people. Enjoy the outdoors, farmers market available for fresh produce. Healthy community."

Described as:

  • Family oriented 58%
  • Rural 33%
  • Recreational 32%
  • Peaceful 24%
  • Safe 13%
  • Healthy community 12%
focus group pic 1


Picture 2
focus group pic 2

Established neighborhoods where there is mostly a pride of ownership and of the community."

Described as:

  • Well-maintained homes 55.7%
  • Clean environment 40.2%
  • Quiet 14.8%
  • Affordable housing 11.5%


Picture 3

"It looks like there is no cultural diversity. All white kids. "Looks like any suburban area." "It's a community with young families." "It appears to be an ideal and safe place to raise kids." "This looks like a middle class suburban area based on the children's clothing and accessories."

Described as:

  • Positive school 20%
  • Could be any community 20%
  • Safe 18%
  • Family oriented 15%
  • Middle class 12%
  • Predominantly white 10%
focus group pic 3


Picture 4
focus group pic 4

"Settings like this reminds me of old times when people just sat around and talked, shared ideas. It gives me a peaceful, fun feeling" "Neighborhood and parent participation happens, a good thing - need a father in that picture" "Could be anywhere...but they are close friends or family, Interested in teaching and/or entertaining the young ones...obviously mothers with similar lives and interests"

Described as:

  • Family oriented community 46%
  • Place where mothers can stay home with children 30%
  • Connected community 14%
  • Community that valued education 12%


Picture 5

"There is a place for the senior citizen in this community, and children have a socially healthy atmosphere to grow in" "It looks like the older people are involved in the community, not shoved away into a home" "The community is involved with the elderly" "In this community we see a young child taking the time to interact with the communities eldest citizens. This allows for the sharing of culture from one generation to the next"

Described as:

  • Community showing generational respect 77%
  • Community connected 10%
  • Quality elder care 10%
focus group pic 5


Picture 6
focus group pic 6

"Working class community. Education, pursuing advancement at the workplace." "Good chance for employment. Diverse options." "Multi-talented requirements in work force. Multi-level of positions. Good place to work. Work is respected. All-white community?" "Looks like there is a lot of diverse blue collar jobs, which is starting to become rare. Makes me assume the economics of the community are diverse, which is a good thing."

Described as:

  • Job opportunities 66%
  • Hard working, blue collar jobs 34%


Picture 7

"High tech and skilled tradesmen." "Technological advances and a good work ethic are important and companies looking to expand there. " "Industries into the rural community can expect a strong work ethic in these communities." "Many occupations open. Workforce is composed of trained and skilled workers. Good working conditions and atmosphere. Tools provided as required for the job. Seems advanced in technology."

Described as:

  • Jobs are available 75%
  • Jobs in technology 25%
  • Community with strong work ethic 9%
focus group pic 7


Picture 8
focus group pic 8

"Traditional. Safe. Picturesque." "Good moral values. With a touch of our midwestern past included, because the church is an older building." "The church is well taken care of, which indicates both strong faith-based history, and the community places value on historic preservation." "A small town place of worship. This is a beautiful and ideallic image, with the snow, the bright day and the lovely little church. It immediately gives the subliminal impression of community, stability and morality. A very positive photo." "An old and unused church as the snow has not been moved"

Described as:

  • Place of worship, respect 27%
  • Traditional 21%
  • Community gathering place 18%
  • A calming, quiet place 13%
  • Very small, rural community 12%
  • Potentially abandoned place 10%


Picture 9

"Happy. Modern. Appreciative. It looks like everyone gets alone and is a proactive community. It looks like most of the people take time to participate in the community and care about it."

Described as:

  • Community connected & pride in community or business 73%
  • Generational demographics 9%
  • Lacking diversity 6%
focus group pic 9

Picture 10
focus group pic 10

"A calm, beautiful lakeside sunset in a rural community. I say this because of the more flat landscape and the sparse amount of trees. This is a strong image for selling the ideals of a rural life."

Described as:

  • Peaceful, quiet 51%
  • Recreational opportunities 22%
  • Picturesque 20%

Pictures were selected to represent characteristics that were identified by new residents to the communities. The characteristics represented a combination of the top reasons new residents moved to the community and the top community assets identified by the new residents.


Quality Time with Family

"I think pictures of families in parks having a picnic. Pictures of families in small town events like parades, county fairs, outside dances, etc."

Pictures effectively depict quality time with family by showing:

  1. Family activities (families doing things together)
  2. Community amenities for family outings
  3. Show whole families (include Dads!)
  4. Quiet family time
  5. Demonstrate full range of family opportunities

Pictures do not effectively depict quality time with family by showing:

  1. No family unit
  2. Was either kids or adults but not both


Less Congested Place to Live

"A street in the town that show Main Street with the businesses and that it is comfortably full, showing ample spots for other cars to pull in and shop or eat."

Pictures effectively depict less congested places to live by showing:

  1. Main streets of communities (minimal traffic/congestion)
  2. Outdoor scenery & macro aerial views
  3. Families participating in activities without congestion
  4. Kids playing in parks, ect., pedestrian friendly environment
  5. Panoramic perspective


Pictures do not effectively depict less congested places to live by showing:

  1. Zoomed-in angle or perspective
  2. Telescopic perspective(micro views)


Simpler Pace of Life

"Smaller community. Opportunities for outdoor activities. Less concrete."

Pictures effectively depict simpler pace of life by showing:

  1. Scenery
  2. Time for family & friends
  3. No or little traffic

Wide variety of images were rated positively

  1. May be a function of the phrase "simpler pace of life" being so broad & perhaps vague
  2. Not clear why some images that would intuitively do well were not rated higher
simple pace


Affordable Housing/Cost of Living

Pictures effectively depict cost of living by showing:

  1. Full range of available housing (new/old development)
  2. Neat & tidy yards and neighborhoods
  3. Cost of living comparisons with other communities
  4. Community amenities
  5. Day-to-day activities

Study pictures did not effectively depict affordable housing or suitable housing & neighborhoods. No feedback on what resonated with respondents to show that affordable or suitable housing is available. These pictures were uneffective.


house 2

Job Opportunities

"Your picture of the varied industries was good or pictures of laborers in a succession of ever-increasing skilled working positions."

Pictures effectively depict job opportunities by showing:

  1. Images of workplaces, not just people
  2. Diversity of employment options & ranges
  3. Images of residential neighborhoods (good available jobs)
  4. Economic prosperity
  5. "jobs in line with my skills" depends on individual

(The study did not clearly illustrate examples of images that effectively portray job opportunities. More research is needed in this area.)


Environment for Raising Children

Pictures effectively depict environment for raising children by showing:

  1. Outdoor family activities highlighting children
  2. Positive environments (school & church)

(Study was not clear on why certain pictures did not rate high in this category)

Safe Place to Live

Pictures do not effectively depict safe place to live by showing:

  1. Potentially dangerous activities (rodeo)
  2. Potentially unsafe environment (carnival midway)
  3. Buildings with no point of reference
Advice for Attracting New Workers & Residents
  • Illustrate diversity of employment opportunities (agriculture, blue collar, professional, health care, etc.)
  • Available services and amenities such as recreation facilities, health care, schools
  • Illustrate range of available housing
  • Images that illustrate multi-generational and inter-generational interaction
  • Images that capture local flavor, landscape and surrounding area
Advice for All Pictures (All Themes)
  • Images must be authentic!
  • Demonstrate full range options regardless of the theme. No cherry picking!
  • Images of families doing things.
  • Use images that people can relate to such as everyday activities like grocery shopping, kids walking to parks, dad mowing the yard