Kent State Students Recognized for Public Relations Campaign Promoting News Literacy
With fake news running rampant across the country, organizations like the News Literacy Project are on a mission to create better informed, more engaged and more empowered individuals. This spring, Kent State public relations students earned national recognition for their work creating a campaign that advanced this non-profit’s mission.
The students’ work was part of the Bateman Case Study Competition, a national competition sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Kent State students (Bateman Gold team) earned an honorable mention, placing them among the top tier of teams nationwide. This is the tenth time in 11 years that a Kent State team has earned recognition in this competition.
The honorable mention winning team’s campaign, “Defeat the Deception,” targeted Gen Z and Millennials in rural communities near news deserts. Junior public relations major Katherine Masko, ‘24, served as the team’s account executive.
“I decided to do Bateman because it seemed like the natural next step in my (public relations) journey at Kent State,” Masko said. “I’ve always been super involved, and Bateman is one of the highest things you can do and one of the most challenging things you can do, so I thought it would really help my professional development and give me a good sense of what goes into a public relations campaign.”
The Gold team’s main tactic was getting people to sign a “Defeat the Deception” pledge with built-in fact-check resources. They reached rural populations by going to Kent regional campuses, writing op-eds in local newspapers and talking to journalism professors and professionals to establish what it means to be literate with the news.
“We started to do secondary research; we did a lot of research into how rural Americans get their news and how they consume it. ... We even looked into media psychology,” Masko said.
The implementation stage lasted about four weeks; throughout it, the team also implemented digital and social media focused strategies.
Masko and her peers participated in the competition through a class taught by Stefanie Moore, professor in the School of Media and Journalism.
“As the Bateman advisor, I guide each team in their research, planning, implementation and evaluation of a public relations campaign,” Moore said. “I challenge the teams to back up their ideas with research and to be both creative and realistic with their tactics. I also stress the importance of evaluation and make sure they can explain how they will measure success.”
Students on the honorable mention winning team included Masko, journalism major Alexandria Manthey, '24, public relations majors: Casisdy Grentz, ‘24, Camryn Lanning, ‘23, Sage Mason, ‘24, and advertising major Travis Chambers, ‘24.
Each member of the team had their own roles, but worked collaboratively to research and execute their campaign and produce their casebook.
“I've always heard that Bateman is hard … and can be a lot of work because it's something you've never done before in the program,” Masko said. “It makes me have more appreciation for those who have done Bateman in the past.”
Moore said the effort put in by students is what makes it worthwhile.
“I enjoy watching the students execute their ideas and learn everything that goes into a PR campaign,” Moore said. “It’s exciting for all of us when they get media coverage for their work. I also love watching the students gain confidence and build long-lasting relationships with their teammates.”
Manthey has a minor in public relations and enrolled in the Bateman competition to further her experience in the public relations curriculum.
“(The News Literacy Project’s) mission is something I was really interested in so I decided to go forward with it,” Manthey said. “It’s an entire public relations campaign so it’s a lot of work.”
Earning honorable mention recognition left Masko speechless and proud of herself, she said.
“I wore a smile on my face for the rest of the day,” Masko said. “It felt like we were being rewarded for all of the really hard work we did, and it gave me some sense of purpose in the competition which was lovely.”
Six other Kent State students (Bateman Blue) participated in the Bateman competition for 2023: public relations majors Alex Zito, ’25, Mia Cadle, ’24, Macy Rosen, ’24, Grace Kindl, ’24, Madison Goerl, ’24, and advertising major Laina Rayman, ’23. They spread awareness around campus on social media, events and through the mascot, “Fact Check Frankie.”