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From Strategy to Execution (case study)

Updated: Jun 23

Carol Reeve, Girl on the Roof founder and chief strategist, worked closely with Johnson University from 2009 –2017, serving as a consultant, outsourced department head, and adjunct faculty member (teaching an undergraduate Marketing & PR class in 2012 and 2013).


After losing their accreditation status due to financial problems, Florida Christian College approached Johnson University requesting a buy-out. After careful consideration and value assessment, Johnson agreed to pursue the acquisition and paid off the existing debt of FCC. Johnson approached Girl on the Roof only three weeks before the accrediting bodies were scheduled to approve the merger. Because the Advancement team had very limited PR experience, Carol Reeve stepped in as the project manager for the communications team comprised of members from both the Tennessee and Florida campuses.


Girl on the Roof quickly developed a detailed project plan, took the lead in the writing and layout of official statements, history documents, key staff and board bios on both campuses, talking points, media advisories, media event agendas, and post-event media releases. GotR supervised the development of regional, national, and trade press lists and served as art directors for the selection of photography, the compilation of electronic (thumb drives) and printed press kits, PowerPoint presentations, banners, and signage for both campuses. Girl on the Roof also developed and oversaw the execution of a social media strategy and website triage for the TN and FL campuses. The local, regional, and national media coverage (TV, online, and print including Associated Press) from the two media events was greater than any coverage the University had achieved in its 120-year history.


Once the acquisition was finalized, Girl on the Roof proposed to the Johnson University Cabinet the idea of a new Johnson University System brand, with the System being comprised of three campuses: Tennessee, Florida, and Online. Up to that point, Johnson offered some strong online programs (including a very reputable Ph.D. program), but the programs were not well supported through marketing and were difficult to find on the University’s website. The branding of an “Online Campus” significantly raised the profile of the online programs while strengthening the overall University positioning. Within 18 months, the enrollment in Johnson University Online had more than doubled.


As part of the branding efforts, Girl on the Roof facilitated an identity strategy session with the University Cabinet and drafted positioning statements for the System and the three campuses. GotR made recommendations around alumni communications and social media to strengthen loyalty and pride among current and former students of both Johnson and FCC. GotR developed website designs for the University System site as well as three campus websites and an athletics site. Girl on the Roof researched, drafted, edited, and optimized the website content for search engines — totaling more than 400 pages.


As part of the University’s Strategic Planning process, Girl on the Roof was contracted to champion the Strategic Marketing Imperative, the institution’s highest-ranking priority. The approach was as follows:

  • Phase 1 (Discovery) was comprised of asset mapping, a thorough brand audit, one-on-one stakeholder interviews, student focus groups, alumni surveys, competitive set identification and research, search engine ranking assessment, and a gap analysis. The 56-page report (accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation to the University Cabinet and department chairs) contained informed, actionable recommendations in the categories of institutional effectiveness, operations and resource management, academic offerings, admissions, advising, first-year student experience, student life policies, alumni relations, messaging (brand positioning), and marketing. The report and presentation were deemed by administrators to be “insightful,” “relevant and actionable,” “highly valuable,” and “exactly what we needed.”

  • Phase 2 (Strategy) leveraged the above findings with additional research (demographic and geographic data, generational characteristics, education and employment trends and forecasts, and audience decision-making processes related to both 4-year colleges and community colleges) to develop, among other strategies, a new positioning strategy and a list of new forward-thinking academic programs for the University System. Also in this phase came the data-driven strategy and recommendation for Johnson University Florida to set the goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution by 2020.

  • Phase 3 (Plan) involved the development of an integrated operations, advancement and marketing plan including competitive benchmarking, print media (content and design), website optimization, public relations, print and digital advertising, events, video production, and more.

Based on the success of the above process, Girl on the Roof was asked to facilitate strategic planning discussions for the launch of the school’s Online MBA program. GotR later developed the positioning and marketing materials for the program and implemented a very successful Google AdWords campaign that increased prospective student leads by 1200%.


When the University was presented with an opportunity to partner with a group of churches across the United States to provide degree programs, they once again turned to Girl on the Roof. GotR designed and implemented a program viability survey, made recommendations related to design and format of the program, and later developed the brand extension “Johnson University ExtendEd,” which applied to the four locations where the program launched. Girl on the Roof developed and executed a full branding and marketing strategy (digital, print, social, PR, partnerships...) for ExtendEd, once again expanding the reach and impact of the institution.


Later Girl on the Roof researched and developed an extensive, searchable database of 64 competitive colleges and universities. The database encompassed 96 attributes including positioning (vision, mission, messaging), enrollment, third-party rankings, reputation, faculty credentials, student::faculty ratio, accreditation, academic programs, competitiveness (entering student test scores), student demographics, student costs, financial aid, revenue, financial stability (endowment, alumni giving, etc.), facilities, athletics, social media analytics, and more.


"The work of Girl on the Roof for Johnson University has been exceptional. They have contributed significantly to our growth in new programs, especially our online degree offerings. We have found a true strategic partner in Girl on the Roof." – Dr. Gary Weedman, former President of Johnson University System


Johnson University print ad examples:


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