Increasing Public Support for UCF Life Sciences Innovation

Challenge

Since its inception, the University of Central Florida (UCF) Business Incubation Program has provided entrepreneurs with the resources to create successful, scalable companies by leveraging relationships within its network of experienced entrepreneurs, economic development partners and university experts.

As Orlando-area leaders looked to climb the ranks of America’s best cities for startups, partners from UCF, Florida Legislature, City of Orlando, Florida Hospital and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council collaborated to establish the UCF Life Sciences Incubator.

This innovative space would become one of only two wet-lab incubators in Florida and spark economic development to support companies that were lost to the state’s only other wet-lab incubator in Gainesville.

As construction of the highly sophisticated facility neared completion in December 2017, Curley & Pynn was enlisted to raise awareness of the UCF Life Sciences Incubator among potential tenants and publicize its impact on greater Orlando’s economic development.

The Strategic Firm® Approach

Through conversations with industry experts and secondary research, we identified the UCF Life Sciences Incubator’s unique value propositions, including: 1) proximity to highly skilled workforce at medical and research facilities in Lake Nona Medical City, 2) a vast network of entrepreneurial support programs and seasoned mentors with commercialization experience and, 3) support of influential community leaders and the nation’s second-largest public research university.

Our research also revealed suspicions among the general public about allocation of public funding for life sciences innovation, driven largely by a similar project that failed to achieve objectives after receiving significant investment.

We knew a combination of highlighting the incubator’s unique value proposition and securing the support of influential community leaders would be critical to building public trust. To do this, we focused on:

  • Planning and executing a celebration commemorating the milestone grand opening of an incubator with massive potential to transform the region’s economy;
  • Securing attendance of at least two public officials with influence to impact the allocation of funding critical to the incubator’s ongoing success;
  • Securing stories in the region’s major media publications, including the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal, as well as broadcast coverage; and,
  • Indirectly helping the incubator fill half of its available space within six months of opening.

Work began immediately to curate a regional list of potential incubator tenants, stakeholders and influencers for event invitations. Along with designing and overseeing distribution of invitations, our team was responsible for managing all event logistics, including catering, A/V and photography.

Simultaneously, our strategy consisted of crafting media materials about the incubator and designing testimonial boards featuring two tenant companies that  had already entered into contract with the incubator. We also developed a news release about the grand opening and crafted message points to address how this differed from the similar project had previously failed, if needed.

Our team also developed a run-of-show, drafted remarks for UCF Interim Provost Dr. Elizabeth Dooley and UCF Associate Vice President for Innovation and Commercialization Dr. Tom O’Neal, and engaged public officials to deliver complementary opening remarks. The remarks preceded a special grand opening moment in which a commemorative cornerstone plaque was unveiled to mark the occasion. Following, knowledgeable incubator personnel provided personalized tours for event guests. After the event concluded, we distributed a news release and event photos to media who could not attend, as well as a larger list of outlets with potential to reach our key publics.

Results

Despite competition for attendees with a major life sciences industry event just 90 minutes away, we secured more than 75 attendees for the event, including Sen. Victor Torres and City of Orlando Commissioner Jim Gray.

An Orlando Sentinel photojournalist captured our grand opening moment and the community’s Nonahood News sent a reporter to cover the event. We also landed an Orlando Business Journal feature story and Orlando’s ABC affiliate covered the incubator opening as part of an ongoing series on innovation beyond the region’s hallmark tourism industry. In all, our teams’ efforts resulted in 13 traditional and social media placements – including a retweet of an Orlando Sentinel post by Sen. Marco Rubio – immediately following the event and an additional 12 stories over the next three months, for a total potential reach of 10.8 million tied to this program.

By November 2018, half of the incubator’s available space was occupied.

This award-winning campaign was honored with a Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Orlando-Area Chapter Image Award of Distinction.

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