Public relations students participate in the annual nation-wide Bateman Competition.

This competition is put on by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and is for all public relations students to have real-world experience in making and implementing public relations campaigns. The competition takes place every winter and provides an opportunity for students to use their learned skills in helping a cause or company.

This year’s nationwide campaign is to promote mental health.The PRSSA has teamed up with an organization called Change Direction to influence public opinion concerning mental health, according to the PRSSA website. They want people to be more aware of the signs and to help those who are suffering from mental health issues.

“It’s a capstone class,” said Joseph Hicks, a public relations communications faculty member. “It’s a capstone for public relations. It’s the last class you take after you have all your public relations classes.”

Hicks said that students find their target audience, come up with strategies and tactics, plan the budget, create a timeline, develop key messages, put together communication vehicles and implement their plan.

“They are put into teams of four or five,” Hicks said. “And they actually make the campaign happen, which has been different from what they have been doing in all the other classes. A lot of classes they’ve written plans; they create proposals; they create news releases and media kits that could be used. They are not actually used in the previous classes for the most part. In this class, it’s actually used.”

Hicks said the Comm 435 class, which participates in the competition, is not structured like other classes. There are no assignments due, no textbooks to read, no quizzes to take and no tests or exams.

“This class is just one project,” Hicks said. “You work on a public relations campaign. That is what you do the whole semester. I coach them along, and we talk about how to get the campaign in order; but they have to write a complete comprehensive plan about how to change public opinion about something.”

Hicks said that three of the challenges that students face are working with a real client, finding out how to apply what they learn to a real situation and using an actual budget. People are imperfect and it is a learning experience for students to work with actual people instead of in a hypothetical situation. They also learn that not everything from the textbook works out all the time when it comes to an actual campaign. Most students are surprised how much it costs to actually implement something.

“In this class, what it seems like is we could produce a campaign that is a good campaign in terms of a grade and get a good grade and pass the class,” said Adam Jackson, a senior studying communication. “But with the Bateman Competition being attached to it and real life causes being attached to it, you don’t just want the grade. You want to do something that actually has an impact.”

Jackson said that he and his group are in the Comm 435 class this semester and are participating in the Bateman Competition to improve the public’s view on mental health. They have been learning more about working as a group. The focus of their group work is not on the grade, but on their plans to help the cause.

“It hasn’t really felt like an assignment,” Jackson said. “It’s felt like I’m doing work for somebody. In this case, I’m a little lucky in that I have a personal investment in the cause of helping mental health; but even if you don’t have a personal connection to whatever your class is assigned to, really care about it. You’ll find that you get passionate about what you do. You’ll want to do it more and your group will want to do it more. Just come to the class ready to care.”