This year, the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) Bateman competition, a national public relations competition for undergraduate students, selected the Campaign to Change Direction as its client. Change Direction is a wellness campaign dedicated to erasing the
stigma that is associated with mental illness, creating a common language to discuss mental health and assuring all in need receive the care and support they deserve.
The Belmont Bateman Team is composed of four undergraduate public relations students dedicated to the mission of mental health awareness. Juniors Savannah Bobo-Bressler, Jenna Corradeno, Megan Heiner and Kayla Orel made up the 2016-2017 team and worked to aid the Campaign to Change Direction by bringing the cause to Belmont in the form of their own campaign, #ItStartsWithYou. Research conducted by the team found one of the key aspects of mental health is peer support. #ItStartsWithYou focused on the importance of a supportive community that begins with the individual.
The campaign consist ed of multiple strategies and several events that both connected to Change
Direction’s five signs of emotional suffering and promoted the pledge to know these signs. Through these, the Belmont Bateman team aimed to spread awareness, create acceptance and inspire action among the student population at Belmont. Despite only having a few short weeks to enact a complete public relations campaign, the team met found great success.
Throughout the campaign, the team partnered with Music City Love on a Leash, a local non-profit pet therapy organization, for an interactive convocation. The dogs drew 250 students, and a press release written and distributed by the Bateman team landed the event coverage on the 6 p.m. Channel 5 News program.
Change Direction’s pledge to know the five signs of emotional suffering and change the culture surrounding mental health was one of the organization’s top priorities, so the team strategically developed a list of opinion leaders on campus to contact. Dr. Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University, signed the pledge representing the 8,775 students and faculty at Belmont. Campus leaders Emily Snyder, president of Alpha Gamma Delta, and Austin Coleman, president of Phi Kappa Tau, also took the pledge on behalf of their organizations.
“We identified who would be the best voices for representing our campaign and started building those relationships,” said Bobo-Bressler. “Knowing our audience and knowing how important mental health is on a college campus, both to other students like Emily and Austin and to Belmont’s leadership, helped us intentionally choose our partners.”
The team also created a comprehensive mental health training program that could be easily adopted into Belmont’s staff training programs like Resident Assistants, Tower Traditions leaders and Spiritual Life Assistants. The program contains information on the importance of mental health, the five signs, how to be an empathetic listener and mental health resources in the Nashville area. The directors of these programs are considering implementing the mental health training techniques shared by the Belmont Bateman team. “One of ours and the client’s goals was educating community members on what to look for and how to be supportive of people who are emotionally suffering,” said Orel. “We looked at Belmont and found the sources for spreading this education to where it would be the most effective in
actually creating change.”
Although the competition implementation period is over, the team hopes to leave a legacy. All campaign materials and contacts will be passed to Kelly Hagan, a member of the local Change Direction chapter, to continue the workthe team has begun.