Winona State students explore ways to attract millennials to Rochester

“A City Made for You,” “Picture Yourself Here,” and “Heart of Opportunity” were key messages from a group of students at Winona State University (WSU). Their mission: to devise a communication plan to attract millennials to Rochester.

In a partnership between WSU and Destination Medical Center (DMC), the students were instructed to create a comprehensive communication strategy and pitch their final presentation to DMC communications director Mary Welder, WSU associate vice president for academic affairs Jeanine Gangeness, and Post-Bulletin publisher Randy Chapman.


Muriel Scott, professor of WSU’s Public Relations Planning class, said her students were eager to tackle DMC’s challenge. “They learned so much,” she says. “The students focused on how to rebrand a city in a way that met needs and interests of millennials in choosing where to live.”

Scott’s student Caylee Alves enjoyed teaching herself how to be creative in a different way. “This was the first class where I actually got to work with a real client,” she says. “It made everything much more real than work I’ve done in other classes.”

Being millennials themselves, the Winona State students could clearly relate to their audience, but the strategies they presented demonstrated they were thinking like seasoned communication professionals.

“With this project and this client, I had to think outside of the box in so many different ways,” Alves explains. “I’ve never brainstormed so much and spent so many hours re-thinking ideas for a plan.”

The students were divided into three groups but their work shared a common theme: create a sense of community among millennials and residents.

Team Revitalize noted how coffee shops give the feel of warmth in the community. Their idea was to create events around a cup of coffee and generate ideas and discussion through gatherings and social media. Just like your own special cup of joe, Rochester is “A City Made for You.”

Team Impress noted that 90% of millennials say they would relocate if the right opportunity came up. By using interactive kiosks throughout the country, this team’s strategy was to rebrand Rochester, changing the city’s reputation from being known as a cold city in the North to being a warm community with opportunity and heart. In fact, nothing says “Heart of Opportunity” more than the idea they had to build a giant heart sculpture in the heart of downtown Rochester – where healthcare meets hospitality.

Team Operation DMC’s “Picture Yourself Here” strategy suggested launching a bus tour around the country equipped with virtual reality goggles. The bus would tout everything Rochester has to offer from arts offerings to outdoor spaces to job opportunities. Rochester is the perfect place for a “selfie.”

Community input, just like the ideas provided by the students at WSU, is and will continue to be core to the DMC vision. These are just a few creative ideas on how to attract millennials to Rochester. Do you have an idea of what millennials want in Rochester? Share your thoughts with us at [email protected].