By Maddison Cervantes
Each February, public relations students throughout the nation are given the opportunity to put their education and strategic communication experience to the test.
The Public Relations Student Society of America holds the Bateman Case Study National Competition every year, in which five students from different universities are chosen to participate.
The University of Nevada, Reno Bateman team has been handpicked by Strategic Communications professors at the Reynolds School of Journalism. The Bateman team for 2015 consists of seniors Mary-Kate Reilly, Lauren Huneycutt and Allison Ford, junior Jamal Barghouti and account executive of the team, Shelby Wilburn.
Each team is required to create a public relations campaign for a national client. For 2015, the UNR team’s client is Home Matters America, a nationwide movement designed to guarantee that every American citizen lives in a safe environment with access to education, healthcare and community services.
Wilburn stated that Home Matters spotlights the importance of supporting people’s identities, as well as protecting and nurturing families, by providing essential links to communities and serving as the base for a stronger America.
“This is such an incredible issue that our team has realized is overlooked in Northern Nevada,” Wilburn said. “Having Home Matters America as a client has shifted our perspectives and made us all re-evaluate the importance of home. So, now we’re fueled to do the same.”
Wilburn explained that the team’s task cannot be accomplished without Northern Nevada’s support. Every voice ¬– politicians and students – plays a central role in the campaign’s success.
The team will build a united front against the local housing crisis, in hopes of future growth on a national scale. Wilburn stated that they are working to collaborate with local leaders and the public to join everyone in the movement.
Wilburn’s teammates are enthusiastic about the opportunities to come. Going into Bateman, Huneycutt was unsure of what to expect, but she is thrilled with the hands-on experience that has already become beneficial to her public relations training.
“We are not only creating an entire campaign, we are actively working to implement our plan,” Huneycutt said. “It has been so wonderful and challenging at the same time, and I am just so grateful to be a part of it.”
Like Huneycutt, Ford was a bit hesitant prior to the competition. Having a news emphasis in the Journalism School, Ford was unsure about public relations in general, but she stated that working with Home Matters has made a lasting impression on her.
“Through this competition I actually feel like I’m making a difference,” Ford said. “Our goal isn’t to fundraise, it’s to raise awareness for a really great movement and our team has had some really innovative ideas. Even if we don’t win I’ve learned a lot simply from competing.”
While Huneycutt and Ford are catching a glimpse of the competition’s influence, teams in the past have already been impacted by the experience acquired during Bateman, such as senior Matt Lush.
Lush participated in Bateman 2014. He and his teammates brought the competition back to the University after seven years of absence.
Lush’s team created and implemented a public relations campaign for Popmoney, an online personal payment service that allows users to send, request and receive money directly from their bank accounts. The goal of the team’s campaign was to educate UNR students on Popmoney by partnering with organizations and classes on campus.
The 2014 team’s tactics included ads, social media competitions and class presentations, which are very similar to the strategies that will be used by the current Bateman team.
“We exceeded our objective and overall adoption of the Popmoney brand,” Lush said. “Although we didn’t win, we gained invaluable experience planning and implementing a public relations campaign for a national client, and we also represented The Reynolds School [of Journalism] on the national level.”
The 2015 Bateman team’s campaign is less focused on the student body and more focused on the city of Reno. Wilburn trusts that the team’s participation in the competition will present an opportunity for prosperity throughout the city.
“We believe Reno can stand as a model city, igniting awareness and leading the housing revolution,” Wilburn said. “As a leader, I always aim to empower the people around me. Of course, we are in it to win it 100 percent, but the experience is what will transcend past any title.”
The team will compete throughout February, then three finalist teams will be chosen on April 13. The teams will build a final presentation of their campaign and present it to the judges. According to the PRSSA website, a date has not been decided on to announce the winning team.
Wilburn’s expectations for the competition are that the team will embrace the upcoming challenges and improve their abilities. She stated that regardless of the result, her participation in the 2015 Bateman competition will be a central highlight of her college career.
“Most importantly, I want us enjoy every moment of it and build memories to look back on,” Wilburn said.
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madcervantes.