I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.
In the old joke, that’s one of the the “3 Great Lies.” But for so many Americans in these troubled times, mistrust of government is no joke at all. Officials at the U.S. Census Bureau worry this mistrust along with overall low awareness, could prompt citizens to ignore the national headcount that begins in March.
As part of a nationwide PR campaign to promote the census at the grassroots, Kent State’s 5-person Bateman launched its 2-week PR campaign in the midst of the season’s worst snowstorm on Feb. 11. The campaign, which relies heavily on face-to-face tactics and word of mouth, has team members crisscrossing the city — seeing the people and telling the story.
And while there’s no advertising budget for the campaign, the Bateman team did secure a few days of exposure on Kent State’s most famous rock. Does that thing have a name? You’d think I’d know after 20 years, huh?
Social media includes a Facebook page and an aggressive messaging campaign on Twitter. With each event, each story, and each impression, more folks in Kent, Ohio, are learning why it’s important to be counted.
Traditional publicity efforts earned coverage for the story in the Record Courier and Daily Kent Stater newspapers, Kent State TV2, the Kent Tree City Bulletin and the Kent 360 Blog and Kent State’s E-Inside.
We’ll know more about the impact on awareness once the team does its post-campaign surveys and compares them to the benchmark research.
This year’s Bateman team includes Aubrey Haskins, Rachel Polchek, Erin Orsini, Stephanie Mathias and Katie Young. They are one of 85 teams in the competition.
Why does it matter? Congress uses census figures as a guideline to distribute federal funds and also to redraw congressional districts to reflect shifting populations. But did you know that resident students in a college town are eligible to be counted as part of the local population? I learned that tidbit from a video clip from a presentation by Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaefer. She, too, is helping the Bateman team drive home the message.
“College students are a hard-to-count population,” said Bateman team member Katie Young. “We want to be sure to we communicating in all possible venues.”
Face-to-face encounters included information tables with games and prizes, set up in the student center, residence halls basketball games and most recently at the Jay Sean concert where Batement team members filmed a rap video promoting the census, performed by a local hip-hop group.
The team made short presentations in big-box classes like Intro to Sociology and Media Power and Culture. Their pitches included a 2-minute video and census-related trivia quizzes and prizes for the winners.
This weekend, street teams plan to mingle with downtown shoppers, then hit the bars on Friday and Saturday nights. Let’s hope they brought their snowshoes, eh? Seems like every event Bateman schedules in this campaign comes 3 hours into a major winter storm.
The Bateman Case Study Competition originated in 1973 as the National Case Study, a program that enabled PRSSA members to exercise the analytical skills required for public relations problem solving. In 1983, the competition was named to honor the late J. Carroll Bateman, a past president of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) who was instrumental in the founding of PRSSA. Bateman case clients pay a $25,000 sponsorship fee to cover costs at the national level. Local chapters are responsible for funding their own campaigns. By rule, out-of-pocket spending can’t exceed $300.
For some reason, PRSSA has requested that social-media elements be taken offline this coming Monday. We assume that order came down from the client. It underscores something I’ve known since 1977: Clients just don’t make sense sometimes. But this client, the U.S. Census, is sure getting a lot of mileage from a very small budget.
(Note: A good chuck of that boilerplate on Bateman comes from the PRSSA news release on the topic. I did edit it to cut the fluff.)