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PR + Social


Leveraging the long game to foster community and connection through public relations

PR + Social / 8.2.23 / By Courtney O'Gorman

With any campaign, there’s almost always a desire for instantaneous results. And while public relations can serve as a catalyst to garner swift results in a fast-paced news cycle, it’s often referred to as the “long game”—intentional execution and relationship building over a prolonged period to generate awareness, establish trust and bolster reputation. That’s exactly the approach we took with Roberts Wesleyan University.

Where We Started

Let’s set the stage. It’s May 18, 2021, and the sun is shining as Roberts Wesleyan University officials and Greater Rochester community leaders use branded shovels to break ground on what would eventually become the Golisano Community Engagement Center.

That moment not only marked an important milestone in the university’s 157-year history, but also kicked off a projected 14-month construction timeline to bring the 25,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center to life.

Roberts Wesleyan announced plans for the facility in August 2019, following a generous $7.5 million naming gift from community philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano. Once complete, the new addition to the campus would serve as a hub for connection, community interaction and student-life resources. It would also house the Community Institutes, Roberts Wesleyan’s growing custom training and certificate programs that provide community-focused educational solutions and resources to area businesses and organizations.

Our challenge was this: Before the university could realize this vision or fast-forward to the grand opening in January 2023, they needed a targeted and sustained media relations strategy. Why? To build momentum, generate excitement and spread awareness of the center’s purpose, including its significance to the campus culture and local workforce development.

Turning Strategy into Action

To bring those goals and objectives to life, DS+CO and Roberts Wesleyan worked together to find relevant moments in time and experiential opportunities to keep the center top of mind for the public.

Hyper-local media outlets and reporters were engaged throughout the year leading up to the project’s completion to help:

  • Tell the story behind the building’s significance
  • Highlight unique aspects of the building’s modern design
  • Showcase key community partners involved with the project
  • Reinforce an atmosphere of optimism, celebration and the spirit of community

One of our key coverage highlights included facilitating an exclusive hard-hat tour that led to an online and front-page feature story with the Rochester Business Journal. The interview not only showcased the building’s unique amenities and design features, but also included commentary from key stakeholders and partners, and touted the building’s purpose and promise—reinforcing integral key messages.

Roberts Wesleyan also hosted a beam-signing event, inviting students, staff and friends of the university to leave their mark in the form of signatures, messages or prayers by signing the construction beams inside the building. To go a step further, a cohort of art students at the university collaborated with local artist Shawn Dunwoody to create art installations for the new building, all centered around the theme of lifting each other up. Both occasions were ripe for media relations opportunities that continued building awareness and momentum for the grand opening in January 2023.

Celebrating Success

Now, let’s set the stage again. It’s January 23, 2023. Snow gently falls as Roberts Wesleyan University welcomes more than 200 guests—students, staff, local leaders, dignitaries, community partners and members of the media—to campus. The occasion? To celebrate the official grand opening of the $13.9 million state-of-the-art Golisano Community Engagement Center. An additional 266 individuals tuned in via livestream to observe and commemorate the occasion.

With awareness still at the forefront, the goals and objectives shifted to accommodate a strong showing from local media onsite and earned placements from top-tier media outlets in the area. Still leveraging public relations as a core tactic, more than 44 earned media placements were secured across nearly all targeted media outlets, including onsite attendance from all four major broadcast TV affiliates in the Rochester market.

As coverage rolled out across the region and on the university’s owned media channels, digital engagement started to climb, as well. In the end, news and content connected to the grand opening drove more than 500 views and clicks to the university’s website, doubled its average weekly new follower count on social media and led to more than 26,600 engagements across the university’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube channels post-event.

When all was said and done, the long game proved to be a strategy for success that exceeded our client’s goals and sparked the proper fanfare for a long-awaited vision that was “right for Roberts and right for Rochester.”


Courtney O'Gorman

Courtney O’Gorman is DS+CO’s public relations manager with smart strategies that make her clients stand out.