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Journalism and marketing students place second in national competition

Nov 16, 2023
4 min Read
Molly Garriott
Creighton students gathered at NODAC competition

It’s a repeat showing for Creighton in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition.

Team Creighton in on a roll. The “Live on BlueJays” campaign garnered a second place showing in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition (NODAC), following up 2021’s second place win with the “Be Creighton, Be a Donor” campaign.

Rowan University sponsors the national competition through the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). The competition spreads awareness about the need for organ donors while simultaneously bolstering PR campaign creation and execution skills in students.

Since 2021, students enrolled in Public Relations Campaigns have participated in the competition. They’ve produced nationally recognized campaigns both times the class has been offered.

Team members and Public Relations Campaign professor, Peggy Rupprecht, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, Design and Journalism, traveled to Nashville over fall break to be recognized at the PRSSA/PRSA International Conference. The team attending this year’s conference included two journalism and two marketing students.

Experiential learning provides invaluable skill development

Creighton students at breakfast event.

Rupprecht joined Creighton’s faculty seven years ago, bringing with her decades of public relations and broadcast journalism expertise. She infuses classroom instruction with her professional experiences and adds experiential learning components to the curriculum. For Public Relations Writing, her students work with nonprofit clients to provide promotional and other PR materials often beyond the client’s resources.

Two years ago, Rupprecht developed Public Relations Campaign, the culminating class for journalism students on the PR track. It requires students to produce a strategic PR campaign that promotes organ and tissue donor registration within the college student demographic. Upon completion, students have campaign booklets to add to their portfolio of work to show prospective employers of internships or post-graduation employment.

“These experiential opportunities have been win-win experiences when working with our nonprofit clients,” she says. “Students have the opportunity to live our Jesuit mission and gain professional experience in public relations. Our clients receive PR support to help with the important work they do in the community.”

For the NODAC, student teams of eight are required to create a campaign and host a day-long event. Local public relations professionals help judge the final presentations and campaign books.

Rupprecht believes the competition aspect of the project incentivizes students to produce their best work. But while only one campaign is sent to nationals for judging, all students benefit from having high quality campaign booklets in their portfolios to present to prospective employers.

“The campaign books demonstrate the students’ ability to put together a strategic public relations campaign,” Rupprecht says.

Plus, she adds, “The campaign aligns well with the Jesuit charisms of men and women for and with others and cura personalis.”

Students have the opportunity to live our Jesuit mission and gain professional experience in public relations. Our clients receive PR support to help with the important work they do in the community.
— Peggy Rupprecht, associate professor, Department of Computer Science, Design and Journalism

Live on BlueJays 

Second place certificate

The patients in need of organ and tissue transplants far outpaces available donors. In fact, the number of Americans on organ donation waitlists could fill the largest U.S. football stadium. This disparity is why public awareness campaigns are so vital.

Live on BlueJays took a two-pronged approach to spreading awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation: a social media campaign with the slogan “Birds of a feather register together” and a Tree of Life live event at the Skutt Center.

The in-person event included a tree cutout to which existing donors and newly registered donors added leaves or butterflies with their names. The inspiration for the tree was the massive wall decoration in the home office of Live on Nebraska, the organ procurement organization with which students partnered.

In addition to the creative messaging of Live on BlueJays, team member Aiden Barger believes the campaign’s success stemmed from their targeted approach and cohesive use of different platforms. “The continuance of our theme was clear throughout the digital media and in-person interactions we had,” she says.

Like any comprehensive communication campaign, there were challenges. The timeline was accelerated, says Barger, and they had to work without the luxury of a budget.

“Creighton had a plethora of resources that we were able to utilize, but we had to think outside the box when it came to creating content and the items we could hand out from the table” at the Tree of Life event, Barger continues.

Teammate Emily Unsen thinks the inexperience of the team was, surprisingly, an asset. They were free to take unconventional approaches, like using the collection of signed Tree of Life leaves and butterflies as their campaign’s success metric instead of a more traditional survey.

“None of us had worked on a campaign before, and so we no preconceived notions of what it had to look like,” Unsen says.

Both Barger and Unsen believe the hands-on experience the course provided – including the campaign books for their portfolios – is invaluable. In fact, Barger says she was able to share the NODAC experience during the interview process of her current internship.

Cross-college collaboration 

Increasingly, Heider College of Business students are enrolled in courses within the Department of Computer Science, Design and Journalism – either as minors or through the Kingfisher Concentration, a minimum of three courses in an area of concentration in the College of Arts and Sciences that is required of all business students. Similarly, many of Rupprecht’s public relations students, like Barger who plans to pursue an MBA, are opting for business minors.

This cross-pollination makes for interesting class discussions, and Rupprecht appreciates the mix of perspectives and experiences. “Students ultimately benefit when we provide opportunities for them throughout the University,” she says. “They can draw on the strengths of a variety of Creighton classes and programs, which allows for an even richer experience.”

Please join us in congratulating this year’s winning team: 

  • Aiden Barger – senior journalism major  
  • Hailey Douma – junior marketing and management major and journalism minor  
  • Naomi Heu – junior marketing major and journalism minor  
  • Emily Unsen – junior journalism major and graphic design and cultural anthropology minor  
  • Olivia Dixon, BA’23, journalism  
  • Max Fritsch, BA’23, journalism 
  • Sophie Green, BA’23, political science 
  • Collin Stilen, BA’23, graphic design