United Way of New York City (UWNYC)

Case Study: Strategically Addressing Multiple Service Areas Via Public Relations


As the agency on record for legacy nonprofit The United Way of New York City (UWNYC), Wakeman implements an ongoing, robust public relations campaign focused on reinforcing the organization’s mission, by providing strategic guidance, garnering media coverage, creating messaging, providing fundraising strategy and other efforts aimed at elevating its role as a powerful advocate and convener working to create economic stability for New Yorkers at the lowest income levels.

Our public relations efforts center around raising visibility for the organization’s programs focused on a variety of issue areas, from health equity to criminal justice reform. We also work closely with the CEO’s office, helping to craft messaging, perform media training and deliver strategic guidance that leverages communications that build thought leadership. Most recently, Wakeman has played a pivotal role in advancing key initiatives, including:

  • The Launch of the True Cost of Living Report documents the COVID-19 pandemic’s profound economic impact on New York City households. The Wakeman team has been garnering widespread coverage for the report since its April 2023 launch, including The New York Times, Crain’s New York, Politico, ABC-7 TV, FOX 5 TV, BBC News, WPIX TV, Washington Examiner, NY Daily News and many more. We also crafted the talking points and an outreach strategy in support of this past November’s elections ballot initiative that educated and empowered voters about the true cost of living in the New York City region.
  • Crafted announcement and developed a communications strategy for the Emergency Assistance and Community Needs (EACN) Fund. EACN Supports community based organizations working with newly arrived asylum seekers. We announced the formation of the fund and have helped shift the conversation toward a better understanding of how local organizations mobilize and support immigrants within sanctuary cities. Key press coverage has included New York Times, Gothamist, WPIX-TV and more. Due to the fluid nature of the crisis, our work on EACN required us to create and execute a communications plan with little details or advance notice.
  • Raising visibility for Black-owned businesses through Together We Thrive (TWT). TWT is a coalition that provides access to capital, social networks and technical assistance to support the survival, success and sustainability of Black-owned businesses in New York. Tapping into relevant news topics, we monitor and pitch TWT stories on an ongoing basis, as news trends allow for relevant story ideas. Recent highlights include a CBS New York  story on a trio of HBCU graduates sharing their story of perseverance and relevance to the community as Black business owners and highlighting the ways in which the TWT program has assisted their efforts and a New York Times placement profiling Sudsy Waters founder and budding entrepreneur, LaChena Clark, who founded the laundromat and dry cleaning business in Harlem after losing her job in the 2008 recession.
  • Creating thought leadership visibility within the food justice conversation through the FeedNYC Food & Benefits Advocacy initiative. Our team provided recommendations to UWNYC that would establish the organization as a leader in the conversation regarding food security for New Yorkers, showcasing input from local partner organizations throughout the five boroughs. To highlight the concerns felt by New Yorkers who are food insecure, we contributed to the development of a questionnaire related to food access.

Our team has also been integral in establishing the strategic communications foundation for the organization’s new President and CEO, Grace Bonilla, by building a messaging strategy for her that has positioned her as an expert in human rights advocacy, working to provide equitable access to critical services for all New Yorkers. We also direct media relations for the CEO’s office, garnering high profile coverage for Ms. Bonilla, including an appearance on CNBC, a cover story in City & State New York, coverage in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, NY1 and an interview with Fox 5’s Street Talk public affairs show that demonstrated the passion, vision and depth of consideration held by UWNYC’s leadership toward the welfare of all New Yorkers.

Our work with UWNYC is a strong example of Wakeman’s ability to seamlessly juggle an urgent agenda of competing priorities that call for a nuanced weaving of messaging architecture, media prowess and creative conceptualization of ways to garner visibility that continually feels dynamic and relevant and that advances progress on the issues the organization champions.

Contact us to explore how our strategic communications expertise will help shape the trajectory of your organization’s work towards meaningful impact.