WSU students received honorable mention for national public relations competition

Students’ campaign called WA for Civility ran from Feb. 8 to March 8; team’s four keys of civility were listen, acknowledge, empathize, respect

54 teams competed for the 2021 Bateman Case Study Competition.


54 teams competed for the 2021 Bateman Case Study Competition.

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

A team of four WSU students are awaiting their score sheets after their public relations campaign won an honorable mention for the 2021 Bateman Case Study Competition

Emily Harris, Bateman competition team leader and senior public relations major, said it was amazing to get recognized, especially because there were 54 teams nationwide.

Sherwin Francies, writing and research director for the Bateman competition and senior public relations major, said he was still sleeping when he received a call from another team member, Steffi Ludahl, social media coordinator for the competition and senior public relations major. 

“The first thing she said was, ‘We didn’t place, but we got honorable mention,’” Francies said. “And it was bittersweet because we were really expecting to place, but we still received an honorable mention, which is huge.” 

Francies said the team will receive the judges’ scorecards today. 

Harris said their adviser, Chelsea Newman, scholarly assistant professor for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, told them the difference between placing first, second and third or getting an honorable mention will probably come down to small errors the team made. 

The team’s campaign, named WA for Civility, was launched Feb. 8 and continued until March 8, Harris said. She and her team began planning the campaign in September after receiving their case brief. 

The Bateman competition is hosted by the Public Relations Student Society of America, which is an organization that provides opportunities for students to gain experience in public relations. This year’s client for the competition was the Public Relations Society of America, and student teams were required to create a public relations campaign that promoted civility in online public discourse, according to a Daily Evergreen article

Harris said the team came up with the four keys of civility: listen, acknowledge, empathize and respect.

“There’s still so much you can learn from those civil keys and just try to use civil conversations in your everyday life,” she said. “I still stand behind our campaign and I will always.”

Francies said he will continue to use the keys in his everyday life, and he hopes other people will as well. 

About 170 people took a pledge to use the keys of civility during public discourse, Harris wrote in an email. 

Looking back on their campaign, Harris said she wishes they had tried to reach out to Washington politicians sooner. While planning for their campaign, the team met some resistance from politicians in the state because the team was not able to fully disclose their campaign per the competition’s rules. 

The team also struggled with social media ads, Francies said. They had ads on Facebook and Instagram, but their Facebook ads were blocked by the network because they were political. He thinks that hindered their ability to reach more students.

Getting an endorsement from WSU President Kirk Schulz helped their campaign as they reached the end of it, Harris said. He wrote them a letter of endorsement that they posted on their website. 

Harris said the team was able to host one last event toward the end of their campaign that hosted a panel of politicians in Washington. Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson was one of the guest speakers. 

Creating three target audiences — WSU students, Pullman community members and politicians in Washington — was one of the team’s strong points, Harris said. 

“I kind of miss it. I kind of miss reaching out [to] the politicians and creating these kinds of events that people can show up to and learn from,” Harris said. 

She said it was weird to no longer upload continuously on social media or write blog posts after the campaign ended March 8. 

The team had over 68,600 social media impressions, Francies wrote in an email. They reached over 12,000 people through Facebook and Instagram, and there were over 3,200 views on their website. 

“We’d have meetings at least once or twice a week, and that’s been continuous since … fall 2020,” Francies said. “So, then suddenly, it being over just feels surreal.”

But the team still had a heavy weight on their shoulders because they had to write up a 40-page report, which was time-consuming, Francies said. He remembers a night toward the end of March when the team was on Zoom working on the report around 3 a.m., and they were all talking and laughing at random things. 

The team contributed evenly to the report, Francies said, but he knows Melina Ernst, Bateman competition creative director and junior multimedia journalism and public relations double major, had to do a lot of the work with their appendix.

Harris said she has learned so much from the campaign, including organizational skills and valuable leadership qualities. She also plans to keep in touch with her team members as they made plans to attend a WSU women’s soccer game in the future. 

Francies said he and his team are incredibly proud of their work, but they are also happy it is over. 

“And I think in the end, it feels like, right now, it definitely feels like it’s worth it,” Francies said.