Students competing in a national public relations competition canceled in-person events on campus and switched to online campaigning for the remainder of their events March 13.

The Bateman Case Study Competition – implemented by the Public Relations Student Society of America – gives students nationally the opportunity to apply classroom education and internship experiences to create and implement a full public relations campaign.

Last year, 66 teams from different colleges submitted casebooks, which detail research, implementation and evaluation. Only 18 schools received honorable mentions. The top three finalists were invited to New York to present their campaigns to a panel of judges comprised of Public Relations Society of America Foundation representatives and members.

Kent State has previously earned honorable mentions or placed in the top three for this competition six times. The university has two teams, Bateman Gold and Bateman Blue, allowing it more freedom to investigate the client from different perspectives.

This year, the client is the U.S. Census Bureau, the federal government’s largest statistical agency tracking information about the nation’s population and economy. Participants in the competition are challenged to develop and implement a communications campaign that complements the communications goals of the 2020 Census and the Integrated Communications Plan.

Goals from the Census Bureau include informing specified target audiences and breaking down misconceptions about the census, said Katie Null, a junior public relations major and Bateman Gold member.

“The Census Bureau wanted us to focus on the university community and it gave us a list of hard-to-count communities, which are people who do not normally respond,” Null said. “Those communities typically are undercounted because they end up being the ones to suffer most, whether it’s from funding not being distributed evenly or being underrepresented in the government.”

Linden Miller, a junior public relations major and Bateman Gold member, worked with her team to change their face-to-face objectives.

The team’s previous objectives were:

  • To increase the understanding of the census process within students living on campus. 

  • To build relationships with Kent State multicultural organizations and increase awareness of the importance of the 2020 Census. 

  • To motivate undergraduate students on Kent campus to formally pledge to take the 2020 Census.

  • To mobilize student leaders to help Bateman Gold create awareness and understanding among students.

“We’re trying to make the original objectives fit in a digital tone,” Miller said. “We are hoping to gain pledges through social media and have people reach our message through online efforts. We aren’t 100% sure how we are moving forward with that right now, but we will be addressing it more soon.”

Jada Miles, a junior public relations major and Bateman Blue member, decided to cancel her team’s events, but her team had some digital tools at its disposal.

“We already had a website created,” Miles said. “On our social media platforms, we encouraged people to visit our website. We’re really pushing followers to the website and trying to make sure that we spread awareness and educate people about the census.”

With the list of  hard-to-count communities, both teams had to determine student demographics to target their campaign toward. The Gold team chose to focus on students living in residence halls and multicultural students, while the Blue team chose student renters and international students.

Primary and secondary research, which included surveys, focus groups and intercept interviews, was conducted to uncover students’ knowledge about the census and better develop the teams’ objectives and target audiences, said Margaret Baah, a senior public relations major and Bateman Gold member.

Throughout the implementation period, Bateman Gold collaborated with student organizations to raise census awareness. This included residence assistants, the Kent African Student Association and the Spanish and Latino Student Association.

Meanwhile, Bateman Blue met with the Undergraduate Student Government twice to discuss the census. Two future informational events included delivering free Swenson’s burgers to three apartment complexes and a “Shape Your Future” event involving international students using clay to build items representing their futures.

“I was discouraged about the cancellations, but I knew it was necessary to keep everyone safe,” Miles said. “While we wanted to meet our objectives, our main goal was to make sure people were educated about the census. So, we provided a lot of information on our website and through emails to both combat the setback and to make sure that happened.”

Despite the problems coronavirus created for students, both teams feel their messages have resonated well with their audiences.

“It's important for all students who live in Kent, whether they live on or off campus, to understand that they are counted on the census as citizens of Kent,” Null said. “You can take this survey and know you made a significant change in your area. You can choose not to take it but know that later you might wonder why important issues are not being fixed or addressed; it’s ultimately because of you.”

The census can be taken by mail, over the phone or online. For more information on how to respond, visit the United States Census 2020 website.

Brady Warmbein covers CCI. Contact him at bwarmbei@kent.edu.

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