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Sustainability: Yeah, it’s great, but what is it? Miscellaneous

Today’s announcement that RIT has launched The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is terrific news. Tom Golisano’s continued generosity—$10 million in this case—has meant great opportunities for RIT and the entire Rochester community.

In preparing for today’s announcement, my goal has been to clearly communicate why this initiative is so important. Many of us that work in the academic arena have been discussing concepts related to sustainability for years. As a result, it’s easy for us to lose perspective and forget that the rest of the world isn’t quite as plugged in on the sustainability buzz.

With that in mind, hats off to my friend Diana Palotas from R News. Diana was one of the media members in attendance at today’s announcement. After a lively and information-packed event, she stood up to ask the question I’m sure many others in attendance could appreciate. “Can you please explain sustainability?”

Mr. Golisano offered a great response, simply saying “the preservation and reutilization of natural resources.”

Diana’s question in no way put down the performance of today’s presenters. It was just a great reminder that we can sometime get too close to a topic and forget that others, due to no fault of their own, lack the fundamentals to truly grasp the significance of our activities.

I took some time to go back and look at my press release for today’s announcement. The struggle often with creating such a document is the need to satisfy various parties who have a stake in what you write. The result can often be language that doesn’t necessarily translate well to a general audience. Overall, I thought I did a pretty good job, but upon further inspection I identified some language that was overly dense.

It’s always a balancing act when you serve various clients, but the media is one client who can help us connect with a broader audience. That’s why those of us in the PR field need to do whatever it takes to ‘help them help us.’

Terrific news, perhaps, but it doesn’t mean anything if nobody knows what the heck you’re talking about.

  1. Mike Saffran
    Sep 12

    You got that right, Paul! It's a point you and I both have previously emphasized to students in our classes. To quote from a previous post of mine: "One of the most important jobs of public relations is to explain complex issues in simple terms." So, I add my kudos to Diana for asking THE question on the minds of many in attendance for today's announcement. In fact, she asked me the same question prior to the ceremony. As I had done some research on sustainability for a News & Events story a year ago, I generally grasped the concept and didn't do too bad providing an answer. I described it in my N&E lead as "providing for the needs of the world’s current population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." All in all, it was another great day for RIT! (And, I'll add, it was nice seeing former President Albert Simone "back home," as Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Morley put it).

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