During my time at St. John Fisher, I found a club that aimed to emulate a real-world marketing agency. The PRIMA Group, as it was called, was attractive to me because they worked with actual clients, so I figured it would be an opportunity to network and produce quality work (for this portfolio) while focusing on my education. Win win.
PRIMA impressed me from the get-go and I soon asked for an increased role within the club. I was granted both the title of Creative Director and was given an account where I would be working with Rochester Regional Health ("RRH"). Needless to say, I was excited to have found this unique opportunity to connect with such an influential company via a school club.
Beyond working with such a high-profile client, I was excited to manage a team of incredibly talented students and really flex our creative muscles. Going into the project, we were told that we were going to be promoting RRH's "Healthcare for the Homeless" program, but were given few guidelines on how to go about it. We knew we needed to get the word out, educate the public, and on top of that, we wanted to raise some funds for the cause, but what resulted from our efforts was bigger than we could have imagined.
...Our budget for the project was limited (more accurately, virtually non-existent)...we needed to get creative about raising money - not only for the cause, but also to actually put on the event.
The overall challenge was to promote RRH’s “Healthcare for the Homeless” program, and specifically, their Mobile Medical Unit – a large bus that has been renovated to include medical equipment, allowing Rochester Regional Health staff to provide on-site medical and dental care to the homeless. However, with a project so open-ended, and with only St. John Fisher’s student body as our audience, we faced unique challenges:
Prior to my taking over the account, PRIMA pitched an event to RRH wherein Fisher students would sleep outside for a night to simulate a night without a roof. Due to safety and public relations concerns, that event did not go through. With this in mind, it was all the more important that we ‘Wow!’ the client with our new idea. It needed to be something unique that drew students in, and once their attention was grabbed, educated them about the cause.
During the brainstorming phase, it was brought to my attention that Fisher students are notorious for not attending on-campus events. Therefore, we needed to make sure that our event was exciting enough to draw people in. It needed to be unique, fun…and there probably needed to be free food because college kids tend to flock towards free food.
PRIMA is a school club and the clients were not allowed by pay us per school rules, so our budget for the project was limited (more accurately, virtually non-existent). There were club funds that had been allotted for PRIMA by the school’s Campus Life offices, but these funds were limited and already stretched thin. Therefore, we needed to get creative about raising money – not only for the cause, but also to actually put on the event.
It’s no surprise that college kids tend not to have a lot of money, and of the money they do have, they rarely willingly donate it. If we wanted to benefit the Healthcare for the Homeless cause beyond educating the public, we needed to come up with ideas that would actually convince students to open their wallets (or provide something tangible).
Younger people love live music. It's just a fact. And when that live music features people they know, they will go to see the show. That was our line of thinking when we developed the idea for exactly what we would be doing for RRH: A benefit concert featuring acts comprised solely of St. John Fisher students, faculty, and alumni. The concert would be called "Roc for the Homeless", and it would be the first in an annual concert series with each iteration being titled "Roc for [a specific RRH-based cause]". This way, the concert would be appropriate for any cause championed by RRH, not just homelessness.
With the concept in place, we discussed opportunities for when and where it could take place. We knew that it needed to be unique enough to attract students, and that it needed to take place at a time when students were ready to enjoy themselves at an event on campus. After some brainstorming, we decided that an outdoor music festival at the end of the Spring semester checked both boxes. An outdoor music festival is fun and unique, and who isn't ready to let loose on the last day of classes?
The outdoor venue had added benefit, as we decided that the Mobile Medical Unit could be on site during the show, with students allowed to take tours. In addition to having someone come out between each set to educate the crowd on Healthcare for the Homeless, these tours would go a long way in educating people on exactly what RRH is doing for Rochester's homeless population.
Next, we turned our attention to the most important goal of the project: Raising funds. As we already realized, college students don't tend to fork over money very easily, so we knew this could be tough. In the end, we decided that our primary method of raising funds would be through merchandise sales at, and leading up to, the concert.
While brainstorming the merchandise, I had the idea to base the designs on classic music festival deigns (like Woodstock). As Creative Director, it was then my job to turn this concept into a reality and use it on designs for the merchandise (including t-shirts).
Again understanding that college kids don't really have money to donate, an item donation drive was planned to benefit the cause in a non-monetary way. With the event taking place at the end of the school year, it was likely that kids would be quickly emptying their dorms, and potentially tossing clothing that could be used by the homeless. We would provide an alternative by placing donation boxes in the dorms while students moved out, encouraging them to donate winter hats, gloves, socks, and other items to help Rochester's homeless bear the harsh winters.
We knew the overall idea for Roc for the Homeless, but we didn't know the details. This phase involved planning the specifics including where on campus the event would be held, who would provide concessions, who would perform and for how long, and other logistical details to make sure the concept was completely fleshed out. The result of this planning would be a presentation that could be taken to the head of PRIMA, then to the client (RRH), and finally to the school (which included administration, student life, and security). If all parties approved the idea, we'd be full-speed ahead.
Upon receiving initial approval from all parties involved, I put together a preliminary budget that outlined how much it would cost to rent event materials, secure concession providers, book talent (if necessary), and included a goal amount to donate directly to RRH. My team then brainstormed ideas for raising the funds necessary and ultimately decided that, by partnering with organizations throughout the school, we could make this a purely Fisher event, and we could increase our promotion by involving more groups of students.
Knowing that Student Government Association ("SGA") is the largest (and best funded) club on Fisher campus, I decided to connect with them first by reaching out the SGA President directly. With her blessing, I presented the idea to the rest of SGA and proposed that we host the event in conjunction with one another. In this agreement, PRIMA would promote, plan, and execute the event while SGA funded it. In return, SGA would gain from the positive PR of hosting an event benefiting the homeless, and they would receive a no-hassle event that they could tout as one of their year's accomplishments. We had an agreement, and the event was funded.
The next step was to reserve all the materials needed to put on a concert (stage, speakers, lights, tent, etc) and book talent to perform at the event. For the materials, we knew that our budget was tight, so again, I had to get a little creative when coming up with funds. For this challenge, I went directly to the school's administrative offices because I knew that they needed some of the same materials for an event they had planned for the day after our event. Once again, I proposed an agreement: We rent the equipment together and whatever items are needed for both events get paid for by the school (since the school would benefit from both events). In the end, we did not need to pay for a majority of the items needed for the concert out of our own budget. This cleared funds that would be donated directly to RRH.
Booking talent was a tricky, and I will admit that I got lucky. First, because my account team consisted of some very social people who know a lot of students on campus. These members of my team did a great job in securing most of the acts, but we were still a few performers short of our goal. To attract more performers, I designed and printed flyers to be hung around campus, but the real boost came when I met a student who was planning a similar event to Roc for the Homeless. After some discussion, we decided to combine our events and he would bring the acts he had scheduled for his show over to our concert. It was a perfect marriage, and we had nearly a full bill. All we needed was an emcee for the event and a headliner.
For the emcee, I approached one of St. John Fisher's professors who had a connection with the owner of a local comedy club in Rochester. Upon receiving his information, I contacted the comedy club owner and asked him if he knew of any comedians who would be interested in performing at our event. To my surprise, he said yes. This is how we got up-and-coming comedian, Sean Day (winner of 2019's Rochester's Funniest Person competition), to host our event.
For the headliner, I had heard about a group of St. John Fisher teachers that had a very good band. A band that actually performs at legitimate venues throughout the City of Rochester. Recognizing this as an opportunity that couldn't be missed, I set up a meeting with the teachers and pitched them my idea. They signed on immediately, and also offered to provide help on the equipment setup - a true bonus since I am not familiar with that process at all.
So with some outside the box thinking and a little luck, this digital marketing professional stepped out from behind a screen and completed a number of face to face meetings to book talent. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't very proud of my efforts on this part.
As Creative Director of PRIMA, I needed to make absolutely certain that the creative for Roc for the Homeless was top-notch, and with the concepts developed during brainstorming with my team, we knew it would be. First, we needed to create posters that would promote the event around campus. Three posters would be created, the first as a call for performers, the next to promote advanced merchandise sales and item donation drive, and the third as a last minute promotion for the event itself. Next, signs needed to be developed for display at the event including a stage banner, signs directing people to the show, and posters with merchandise pricing. Third, a web page was to be created for Roc for the Homeless on the PRIMA website, and as manager of the website, I was to put this together. On this page, we would have information about the event, and the ability to purchase merchandise in advance.
Once the creative was completed, merchandise needed to be ordered and printed. To do this, I worked with CustomInk, who provided amazing service. In fact, they even made a mistake on our order, but to make things right, they replaced the mistake item with a better product and rush shipped it so it arrived for the event. Shout out to CustomInk.
Finally, with everything in place, it was time to promote the event - not only on campus, but to the media so that we could garner earned media coverage at the event. To do this, we produced a Press Release that was submitted to local media personalities and stations.
To promote on campus, we continued hanging posters throughout campus, but also visited classrooms and spoke to students about the event and worked with the school's IT department to have promotion for the event displayed on all closed circuit televisions and computers throughout campus. Roc for the Homeless pages were also created on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and members of our account team (and PRIMA as a whole) were encouraged to share announcements about the event to further reach among their friends.
...and, in the end, all of these efforts would lead us to the Roc for the Homeless event!
On Friday, April 26, 2019 – the last day of Spring semester classes at Fisher – we put on the first ever Roc for the Homeless benefit concert!
The event was a success despite foul (Rochester-style) weather due to the fact that students were ready to unleash in any way possible. To increase our crowd, a last-minute connection was made when I introduced myself to a staff member of the St. John Fisher football team who was planning a kickball tournament on campus the same day as our event. Following our introduction, we worked together to promote each other’s events, and many of the kickball tournament participants came over to our event as a result.
The show featured 8 acts, all comprised of Fisher students and/or faculty and lasted 3 hours.
The following were available for concessions and attractions:
Roc for the Homeless was the first-ever outdoor music festival on St. John Fisher campus, and it was a success. We ended up raising over $1,500 for Healthcare for the Homeless through student donations, campus club donations, and merchandise sales at (and leading up to) the event. Additionally, two large tubs of clothing were donated to Rochester Regional Health to be passed along to the Rochester homeless community.
In all, over 150 students attended the show despite cold and rainy (and windy) weather, a turnout considered very impressive by Fisher on-campus event standards.
In the future, the hope is to grow on the success of the first Roc for the Homeless and provide Rochester Regional Health a vehicle to promote their many causes on the Fisher campus in the future. And for the students, they now have the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor music festival that can grow in size and scope over the years. As head of the group that put on the first Roc for the Homeless, I hope it does continue to grow and look forward to seeing what it has become in the future.
We ended up raising over $1,500 for Healthcare for the Homeless through student donations, campus club donations, and merchandise sales at (and leading up to) the event.