Published on April 12, 2016, at 9:40 p.m.
by Kala Brumbaugh.
Are you a military veteran? If you aren’t, chances are you know someone who is. There are more than 440,000 veterans in higher education programs across the county supported by the Student Veterans of America (SVA). The main goal of the organization is helping veterans reintegrate and further their education.
PRSSA’s Bateman Case Study Competition has partnered with the Student Veterans of America (SVA), The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and Edelman to help raise awareness for the organization and its members.
Dr. Karla Gower, who has been in the advertising and PR department at The University of Alabama for 17 years and the director of The Plank Center for seven years, discussed why The Plank Center chooses to sponsor the competition.
“It all goes back to Betsy [Plank],” Gower said. “She really believed in students and the competition because it gives students practical experience. She was also a huge supporter of PRSSA and knew Carroll Bateman personally.”
Like Gower, Gary McCormick, director of corporate communications for Scripps Networks Interactive, was also heavily influenced by Betsy Plank and her work. Since joining PRSA in 1989, he has become an advocate for the competition and the benefits it brings for all involved.
“In the last couple years when they were having trouble finding sponsors for the competition, I went to the Plank Center board,” McCormick said. “I said that this was Betsy’s project, and we should look at supporting this again. It does bring leadership to students and gives them an opportunity for visibility.”
According to the PRSSA website, the competition was established in 1973 and was later named after Carroll J. Bateman. In recent years, the competition has partnered with nonprofit clients, such as Home Matters, Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Youth Bullying and, this year’s client, SVA. However, this was not always the case. In the early 2000s, the competition partnered with more corporations than nonprofits.
“Betsy was a huge advocate for PR for social change and responsibility,” Gower said. “She worried that the competition had become too commercial and marketing focused. She wanted it to get back to the nonprofit side of PR.”
McCormick also noted Betsy’s concern about the competition becoming more marketing focused.
“The Bateman Competition was supposed to be a national public relations campaign for students to get hands-on experience while serving clients a campaign from a PR stand point,” McCormick said. “It had moved to somewhat of a marketing competition for college students by companies, and Betsy wanted it to go back to being strictly a public relations competition. She thought there were plenty of places for marketing opportunities for students, but not for public relations.”
After the Plank Center board of advisors committed to being a sponsor, they asked Edelman, Plank’s former employer, to partner with them, adding support from a PR firm.
“For the last two years, the competition has been underwritten by The Plank Center and Edelman,” McCormick said. “It’s a really nice partnership for all of us to not only make sure that the Bateman Case Study continues and is enhanced, but also it gives us the opportunity to interact with students, to do the right thing and build leaders in public relations. It also provides Edelman an opportunity to support its philanthropic causes as well.”
This is The Plank Center’s second year of providing sponsorship to the competition. “The competition is administered by the educational branch of PRSA; we provide the funds and some of our board members judge the competition,” Gower said.
She also expressed the benefits sponsors receive from the competition.
“For The Plank Center, it’s great to see students get to work on teams, hone their leadership skills and gain practical experience,” said Gower. “For the client, they benefit from the great minds with creative ideas and the implementation. Edelman also gets to build relationships with really good students across the country.”
Similarly, McCormick discussed the benefits the clients receive, even years after the competition ends. For example, since serving as the competition’s client in 2006, Habitat for Humanity has taken all of the campaigns and integrated them into several aspects of its operations. Also last year’s client, Home Matters, is looking into ways it can use elements from the campaigns.
“The clients all are well-served by this Bateman competition, as much as the students,” McCormick said.
The Bateman Case Study Competition is a chance for PR students to show off their skills and experience by developing and implementing a full campaign for a client in one semester. Students must research, plan, implement and evaluate their campaigns within a five-month timeframe.
The months of November through January are dedicated to research and planning, while February and March are used for implementation of the campaign. The campaigns must be evaluated and sent to the PRSSA headquarters in April. After extensive deliberation from the judges, the top three teams will present their campaigns to sponsor representatives. This is a prestigious award and the top three teams receive prize money and a trophy or plaque.
The real prize, however, is the experience and knowledge students gain from participating.
“I think the skill set for students walking out is stronger than any internship you can get,” McCormick said. “You are actually doing a beginning-to-end campaign: design, implementation and review. It’s such a résumé and confidence builder and a chance to gain experience you’d never get from an internship.”
Gower also emphasized the experience students gain while working directly with real clients.
“It is very valuable for students to get to work on a real campaign with a real client,” Gower said. “Not every student gets the chance to do that, and with such a high level of competition, it’s a great way to compare yourself and measure where you are.”
From the standpoint of a professional, McCormick described the competition as a way to set oneself apart during the job hunt.
“When you see that a student has been on a Bateman team, you know that they understand how to support a client,” McCormick said. “To me, an internship is a great thing on a résumé, but to be on a Bateman team is a notch up. These students put in a lot of time and effort outside of the classroom to do this. It is recognized that you’ve gone above and beyond the work that a lot of people will do.”