Olivet PRSSA Chapter Takes Two Awards at National Conference

10,343 impressions, 69 new organ donors, and 287 people pledge to talk to their families about organ donation.

While most students went home or went on road trips for fall break, Olivet Public Relations students attended the National PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) conference held in Boston, Mass. from Oct. 6 to 10. It was at this conference that Olivet’s PRSSA chapter took home two awards.

Olivet has a new Public Relations (PR) Strategy and Implementation class. “The point of the class is to plan and strategize a full-on PR campaign. You’re not just planning it like we’ve done in the past; I’ve planned plenty of hypothetical campaigns. You have to then implement it,” Inspired Strategies Agency Director, Kate Cox said.

The class was split into four teams. There were three PRSSA NODAC (National Organ Donation Awareness Campaign) teams, and one team that worked towards helping Olivet’s PRSSA sponsor chapter with the recruitment and retainment of members. Olivet won two awards for the NODAC competition. The competition was sponsored by Rowan University and was started several years ago because the president of their chapter was in need of an organ donation.

“[Rowan University] thought ‘we can kill two birds with one stone: We can raise awareness for organ donation, something that affects people whether they need it or they have a loved one or whether they are giving one. We can affect change that way. We can give also give PR students an opportunity to harness their skills and actually implement something,’” Cox said.

The three NODAC teams planned the campaign, strategized, implemented their plans, took their work and formed it into case studies, and submitted it to Rowan University. One of the Olivet campaigns was named Share Life K3. Brooke Fraley, a spring 2017 graduate, seniors Hayden Keifer, Lindsy Hentschel, Steven Case, and junior Ailis Bull, were a part of the team that won the honorable mention award out of over sixty schools.

Olivet’s ‘Recycle Your Life Away’ won first place. “It was definitely one of those surreal moments where yes, it represents our school and chapter as a whole, but it also means their work didn’t go unnoticed. It was a reassuring moment. We don’t go to a big-ten school. To hear our name called that we won an international competition and to share that moment with someone on the team was very life-affirming. Small schools make big waves, too,” Cox said.

Juniors Baylee Harrison, Helen Berdebes, Sarai Guerrero, Danielle Snuckel and senior Julie Hogan were on the first-place team.

“My team had many different facets, including the use of a social media scavenger hunt as well as its own page. We utilized Dr. Bowling in chapel to announce the campaign and spread awareness of organ donation. We also used bracelets and stickers as a symbol of our campaign and a pledge stating they would pledge to talk about organ donation with their family and friends. Our campaign created 10,343 impressions and 69 new organ donors and 287 people to pledge to talk to their families,” Harrison said.

This is Olivet’s first year attending the conference as a nationally affiliated PRSSA chapter. This was not the first time that Olivet’s PR chapter students have attended the PRSSA conference, though. In 2015, PR professor, Elizabeth Kerns, attended the national conference with now senior, Rachel Schramm. Olivet is now in its third year of having a public relations chapter, and they have attended the yearly conference every year since becoming a recognized PR chapter. According to Cox, around nine or ten students attended the conference last year in Indianapolis. The conference is geared towards national and international college PRSSA chapters. Cox stated that there was even a chapter from Peru that attended the conference. A rally was held to acknowledge all the PR chapters. When each chapter was called, the members would do some sort of cheer.

The conference was broken down into breakout sessions. Mornings began with hearing from keynote speakers. Student then got to choose from a variety of sessions related to their interests, such as crisis PR, politics and PR, sports PR, and many others. Certain sessions were geared towards specific PR roles, such as agency directors. Olivet PRSSA president, Jessie Kilbride, attended the presidential luncheon. Olivet’s PRSSA board was able to meet with other board members who hold the same positions.

One of Cox’s favorite sessions was a panel discussion called “Navigating Fake News.” “It was all about how fake news is not something that is new, despite what our president is trying to say,” Cox said.

An accomplished investigative journalist in Miami who now teaches at Boston University, a professor from Boston University, and the editor of the front page of the Boston Globe were on the panel.

“I geeked about it since I know the history of the Globe and the impact that they have had. He actually handed out stickers that said #FactsMatter, and I sure did run up and grab it,” Cox said. She appreciated the emphasis on how citizens owe the journalists of our time a subscribtion to a newspaper, as she is in the process of deciding which newspaper she wants to subscribe to herself.

PRSSA president Kilbride stresses that you don’t need to be involved in the PR major to be in PRSSA. “We’re working on trying to let people know that it’s for anybody who wants to become a well-rounded young professional. It’s open to anyone.”

On October 31, PRSSA is hosting a Halloween Jeopardy Night. It will be focused on what PR is and also historical facts about the holiday; lots of candy will be provided. Senior Rachel Schramm will be speaking to the club on Nov. 7 about the different, unexpected areas students go into with their majors. PRSSA meets on Tuesdays in Weber 306 from 6 to 7 p.m. All students are welcome. To learn more about Olivet’s PRSSA visit https://olivetprssa.wordpress.com/ and to learn more about the NODAC competition see PRSSA National’s website at http://prssa.prsa.org/national-organ-donor-awareness-competition/.

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