By Hope Gallagher (’17)
When JMU students go head-to-head in a national competition, two things happen: great work and great experience.
Before the judges even look at the entries, this makes the prestigious Bateman Case Study Competition a win-win for the JMU Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members.
The Bateman competition is an annual, nationwide campaign that began in 2011. They ask teams of four or five students to create full public relations campaigns through research, strategy development, implementation, and evaluation.
And for the first time in program history, SCOM students are competing. Because one team would be too predictable, two teams from PRSSA are entered in the 2016-2017 competition.
The top three teams receive monetary prizes, and get to pitch their idea in-person to the judges.
The winner’s campaign becomes the inspiration for a real-life campaign by Bateman competition. It’s an incredible opportunity, and not one to be taken lightly.
The competition begins today.
Earlier, I spoke with Laura Wenzel (’17) and Sam D’Addario (’17), two senior public relations majors in the competition. Each represents one of the opposing teams, and they let us into the competition process.
The first challenge? The client.
This year’s competition client is the Campaign to Change Direction (Change Direction). Change Direction is a White House initiative that seeks to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health.
“I was nervous at first because Change Direction is such an important cause, but that’s also what makes it exciting to work on,” says Laura. “We have to be careful researching because of the sensitive nature of mental health. I think it’s something that isn’t talked about, and we’re asking people to open up and share their experiences. It’s not the same as asking peoples’ opinions of Pepsi.”
Sam reminded us, though that “every client will have its challenges no matter who they are. I just want our work to be tasteful, from both teams.”
The research is hard, but the teams are more worried about their time getting cut short in the spring. Between February and March they will have a window of just four weeks to implement their ideas on campus, but one of those weeks is JMU’s spring break.
“This is a disadvantage for us, especially against schools who will have the full four weeks to do work. Installing social media platforms also take time, so getting a large amount of active participation in that time will be a challenge,” says Laura.
Even with the pressure of the competition, Laura and Sam both feel well-prepared. The two required SCOM research courses and their work in PRSSA have been highlights for them.
“I was able to take 388 campaign research for my advanced research class, which helps this competition not feel so overwhelming. I feel like I am prepared to do this in the professional world now,” said Laura.
Sam, also President of JMU Chapter of PRSSA, adds that “PRSSA has been preparing me for something like this since my first meeting. Every semester we visit agencies who work with campaigns like this one. My PRSSA experiences have given me and my team the confidence we need.”
Recently JMU Chapter of PRSSA won the star chapter award at the national PRSSA conference, a big milestone for the organization, founded in 2008.
“After winning star chapter, I want JMU to stay at the top of their list,” said Sam.
Even though Sam is competing against her own peers and organization members, she is proud of both teams, and is excited to see what the results could bring to JMU’s public relations program and PRSSA chapter.
“The fact that we have two teams participating in the Bateman competition for our first submission ever is incredible. Everyone involved is putting in a ton of extra hours and work to make their campaigns successful. I’m mostly just really excited to represent our chapter and our school to the best of our ability.”
No matter what happens in the spring, both teams will have accomplished something incredible for undergraduate students. Not many students get to do research as part of their program, and even less get to pitch to a real client before they graduate. Let alone one of Bateman competition’s stature.
Maybe in April we’ll see a headline that reads, “JMU Takes First and Second in National Competition Sweep!” Until then, watch for Change Direction campaign materials and events that start today (Feb. 15) and continue until March 15.
JMU PRSSA: http://jmuprssa.weebly.com/
The Bateman Case Study Competition: http://prssa.prsa.org/scholarships_competitions/bateman/
The Campaign Change Direction: http://www.changedirection.org/
JMU Public Relations: http://www.jmu.edu/commstudies/Public_Major.shtml