PR students win statewide organ donation campaign

Michelle Bender

Kent State public relations students put their knowledge and skills to use, beating out 13 other universities to win the Do It Now Competition in May.

The campaign focused on raising the number of organ and tissue donors in Ohio and was funded by the Second Chance Trust Fund, which is a statewide fund created from donations made when individuals renew drivers licenses.

“I don’t know of any other project that could be more meaningful than saving lives,” said Chuck Heald, manager of Media Community Affairs for LifeBanc and a Do It Now Competition judge.

According to a press release, Kent State registered more than 12,500 new organ and tissue donors to win the competition.

“It was not the easiest project for students,” Heald said. “But it was one in which they could help people to understand and impact people in the state of Ohio now and 10 years from now.”

The Kent State Donate Life Ohio team was awarded $5,000 for winning the competition. Michelle Ewing, assistant professor and faculty adviser for the team, said the award will be donated to the Kent State chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America.

The group still has to decide what it is going to use the money for, but some possibilities include conferences, programming, networking events and a scholarship.

Julie McKinney, Kent State PRSSA vice president and a Kent State Donate Life Ohio team member, said the project was time-intensive but really increased awareness. The team presented their project at basketball games, FlashFest and large classes to get the message out. It had drives almost every day, which included tables with volunteers asking people to register.

The team’s volunteers included athletes, fraternities, sororities, and PRSSA members.

“It was a melting pot of people who had some sort of story or connection wanting to make a difference,” McKinney said.

Ewing said the flash mob was the Kent State Donate Life Ohio team’s hallmark tactic. The event kicked off the campaign and involved more than 60 students, staff and faculty members freezing in place for five minutes while on campus. Ewing said the flash mob took weeks to plan but was very successful and launched the momentum for the campaign.

“We tried to be anywhere on campus to get people talking,” McKinney said.

Ewing said registering people to be organ donors was not an easy sell for the students.

“People believe in organ and tissue donation but don’t want to think about it,” Ewing said. She also said collaboration with social media outside of public relations made the difference in the team’s plan.

“We used any resource we could think up,” McKinney said. “Advertising students designed T-shirts. We had coverage from TV2 and the Daily Kent Stater and public service announcements on Black Squirrel Radio.” McKinney also said President Lester Lefton mentioned the campaign in his weekly e-mail.

Heald said even though Kent State didn’t register the most donors, the reason the team won was its overall campaign and the leadership and advice of Ewing.

“It was the entire package Kent State brought to the table,” Heald said. “It was more than an awareness program. It was a strong call to action.”

Ewing said the public relations program isn’t going to use the campaign again next year because it will be participating in the Public Relations Society of America Bateman competition, a national case study competition.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Michelle Bender [email protected].