Five public relations students at the Unversity of Nevada, Reno conducted a campus mental health awareness campaign as part of a competition. Madison Stiegel was one member of the team. More information can be found at www.ChangeDirection.org.
Who suggested this project?
Every year for the past five years, the journalism school has done the national Bateman Competition Team. There’s 120 teams that do it countrywide. Every year we get a new client, as well, and so the campaign will change directions.
What did you think when you got the assignment?
I was excited because mental health has always interested me and especially considering [we] were allowed to choose where we wanted to have an audience and where we would want to have the campaign based. I really liked the idea of bringing that to campus and to be able to open up that conversation at UNR.
And how did you and your colleagues carry the message?
When we started, it we didn’t really have a clear direction on how we wanted to go about it. It’s kind of a touchy subject. Mental health on campus is something that can be taken the wrong way. … So we wanted something that was unifying that would be more uplifting than clinical because that’s the way a lot of the campaigns have gone in the past. In general, when you’re talking about mental health, a lot of it is seeing the signs. We wanted to capitalize on the student government election because it was going on at the same time. And so we developed our “Vote for Compassion” campaign.
What was Vote for Compassion?
Right when we launched our campaign, a candidate running for president had some incriminating tweets found about him. Also, in the political climate, a lot of our students are uncomfortable [with politics]. There are five signs of emotional suffering that our client wanted us to be putting out. And we kind of decided that in order to recognize those five signs, you need to have compassion, and to show compassion in order to reach the people that you want to be reaching. And our audience wasn’t those people that are suffering. It was the friends of those people.
How did you get it out to students?
We launched a social media campaign to start. We got influencers on campus to help us put out our message. We gave them material and messages, and they had significant followings on their own social media that allowed us to reach a pretty wide audience on campus. And then we started aggressively reaching the campus with tabling and going into classrooms. We had teachers [give us] five minutes to give a little message. … It all snowballed.
I assume since the competition is over, the campaign is over?
We are stepping out of it, but there are some people who have expressed an interest in keeping it going, and I hope that is going to happen