Kent State Public Relations Students Create Census Campaign
Since October 2019, select public relations students at Kent State University have been working hard to complete a campaign for the 2020 Annual Case Study Bateman Competition client: the United States Census Bureau.
The National Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) hosts this competition each year challenging participants to develop and implement a comprehensive communications campaign for a client.
“In teams, students research, plan, implement and evaluate a PR campaign for a national client,” said Stefanie Moore, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and faculty advisor for the Bateman competition.
As mandated by the United States Constitution, the census counts everyone living in the United States every 10 years. The 2020 Census presents a unique opportunity for students to assist the Census Bureau in its efforts to reach individuals across the country to encourage them to participate, with the goal of counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.
Kent State houses two of the 75 teams competing from universities across the nation.
“This competition gives students an opportunity to learn the importance of research and planning and the ability to adapt and be flexible,” Moore said. “It’s an experiential learning opportunity for students where they get to apply what they are learning in the classroom.”
Although both teams are working to create their own campaign and a 58-page case book for the client, Moore explains the overall goal of both campaigns is to create awareness about and encourage participation in the 2020 Census among Kent State students. The competition requires each team to focus on its college community as a whole but also to choose from a list of unrepresented, hard-to-count communities.
The Bateman Gold team created the “You Represent Kent” campaign to educate on-campus students about the Census process and to create awareness among African American and Hispanic males.
The team includes juniors Linden Miller, Katie Null and Samantha Farland, and a senior Margaret Baah.
“For on-campus students we want them to understand that the university automatically counts them in the 2020 Census,” Null said. “Students do have the option to opt-out, but we want to educate students on why it’s important that they don’t opt-out and to limit any misconceptions they may have about the census.”
To reach on-campus students, the team held events in residence halls educating students about the census: what’s in it for them and how they are being counted by the university. The team also partnered with multicultural groups on campus.
“We want minority students to know why they should take the census, what it proposes to them, and how it affects them,” Miller said. “We also want to stress the importance of funding for the community.”
As for Bateman Blue, it launched the “I Belong. I Count.” campaign to reach student renters and international students.
The team includes a sophomore Hailey Barnett, juniors Jada Miles and Jorden Shevel, and a senior Kayla Proctor.
“Our main goal for student renters is to educate them about what the census is and to tell them where they live most of the year is where they count in the census,” Miles said. “Our goal for international students is to change their attitudes towards the census and to limit any mistrust they may have.”
Bateman Blue partnered with apartment complexes near campus, Undergraduate Student Government, The Global Office of Education and other organizations to do info nights and tabling events.
Both teams had several events planned for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, but they were cancelled as the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the United States.
“Teams must finish all of their work remotely,” Moore said. “The team’s face-to-face tactics had to be canceled and shifted online as best as they could, and their campaigns were essentially shortened.”
Communicating by Facetime and group messaging, both teams implemented their campaign digitally through social media and the website.
“Professor Moore has been such an amazing resource throughout the whole campaign and has helped us get in contact with some really helpful people,” Null said. “She's almost like a mom to us in this competition and has been there to help us through the whole semester. Especially now.”
Moore expressed that although she is sad to see students’ work be cut short, she is proud of everything they have accomplished already.
If Kent State makes it to the top three finalists, they will be notified by PRSSA on April 23 and the finalist teams will present their campaigns to judges May 14-15. Kent State has earned national recognition in this competition six out of the last seven years: second-place in 2018 and 2013, and honorable mentions in 2019, 2017, 2014 and 2016.
This year the winning teams will be recognized on Oct. 26 during the awards ceremony and dinner at the PRSSA 2020 National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.