PRSSA teams up with Census to educate, motivate students

Rabab Al-Sharif

The Kent State chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America Bateman team kicked off a month long campaign to promote the 2010 Census last week.

The PRSSA Bateman competition is a national contest that gives groups of public relations students from all over the country an opportunity to create and implement a public relations plan for a real-world client.

This year, the team has been challenged to educate and motivate Kent State and the Kent community about the U.S. Census, said Michele Ewing, faculty adviser for PRSSA and the Bateman team.

Team member Aubrey Haskins, who switched her major from broadcast journalism to public relations last year, said she was unsure when she first heard who their client was going to be.

“At the time, I was kind of nervous about our client because the last time the census did come out (students) were all between the ages of 8 and 12,” Haskins said.

Team member Erin Orsini said that she had a general idea of what to expect going into the project, but actually doing it was the best opportunity for the whole team.

“Not only are we doing something that’s going to benefit Kent and the whole nation,” Orsini said, “we’re also getting that experience of the real PR world that we’re going to be using for the rest of our lives, and that’s probably one of the greatest things that’s deriving from this.”

The team, which is made up of five junior public relations majors, has been planning their campaign since January and began implementing it this month.

Team members said they spend anywhere between 15 and 20 hours together a week making plans for their campaign.

Ewing said one of the team’s key strategies is to integrate their efforts with both regional and national outreach efforts.

The team coordinated an event coinciding with the 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour, which features 13 vehicles that travel throughout the country making stops at events including the Super Bowl, NASCAR Daytona 500 and the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.

The tour was scheduled to stop at Kent State, but because of weather conditions, the bus was forced to leave shortly after its arrival.

“We were disappointed that it didn’t work out, but a lot of students were there. It was pretty crowded so we just kept going,” Haskins said.

Curious students crowded their table set up in the lobby of the student center to sign a pledge to fill out the 2010 Census.

Free goodies donated by regional and national Census outreach programs were given out as incentives.

For simply signing the pledge, students were given a 2010 Census bag and cup. To win bigger prizes like travel mugs and hats, students could play a game of Plinko by answering a question about the Census.

Throughout the day, the team collected more than 200 pledges from students and community members.

Ben Holbert, senior partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau for Northeast Ohio, said it is important that every person is counted because census data are used to apportion seats in Congress and figure out how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed.

The data affect many college tuition grant and loan programs, as well as determine locations and planning for new roads, schools and hospitals.

“The money we get from everyone that fills it out tells us how long the streetlights are allowed to stay on,” Haskins said. “It just impacts every little thing.”

Team members said that it is important for students and community members to become educated and fill out the Census so the Kent community doesn’t miss out on federal funding.

“It’s only 10 questions. It’s only going to take 10 minutes. It’s confidential and it’s going to help us out in the long run,” said Orsini.

Last year Kent State’s Bateman team placed within the top 18 of 77 teams from all over the country receiving an honorable mention.

This year, the team hopes to place in the top three and present what they have done in Washington D.C.

Pledge forms will be available at all Bateman team events or can be filled out online.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Rabab Al-Sharif at [email protected].