The Free Speech Center

First Amendment News and Insights from MTSU

George Mason University 2021

1 for All Grant from Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University

Presented by adjunct professor Christina Tyler Wenks

Overview

With the guidance of adjunct professor Christina Tyler Wenks, four Public Relations Campaigns online teams developed a 10-day student-led 1 for All campaign in Spring 2021 semester to raise awareness of the five freedoms addressed by the First Amendment. Each team created on informational and experiential tactics to generate engagement among George Mason University students.

During a distanced-learning semester, COMM 331 researched their Mason audience and evaluated creative ways for outreach, focused objectives, created messaging strategies and tactics and evaluated how to measure success. Creating owned media became priority while assessing paid, earned, and shared media to reach the audience with messaging relevant to their lives and future careers. 

While most campaigning students had social media experience on personal platforms, the 1 for All Campaign was the first exposure to creating public relations strategy, tactics and timeline, graphic design, copyright, print publication specifications, pitching for media and marketing, budgeting, creating news stories, creating voice-overs, public service announcements and more.

Growth through challenges

Working with a budget and calendar was valuable. Socially distanced campaign distribution required shipping some deliverables to students, so a third of the budget and time was set aside for postage, delivery, and safe distribution. In addition to team projects, students created independently produced tactics shared online.

Students created a campaign landing page. George Mason University’s Office of Student Media, which hosts multiple campus news media outlets and works with student journalists, agreed to post the campaign information via online message boards as a resource for future communication students building similar PR tactics or campaigns. 

Proposed tactics met challenges, such as an ad campaign discouraged by the Office of Student Media due to lack of staffing, but the proposal identified a need for ad-package updates for fall semester. COMM 331 focused energy creating owned assets, such as a campaign landing page and social media accounts.

Students learned about marketing, branding, logo-specific colors and size considerations on various types of products — especially as logos relate in size and distance from other logos. The poster creation became a launch pad for students learning about using copyrighted images a trademarked logos. COMM 331 became acquainted with graphic design, photo editing software, RGB/CMYK resolution differences for printing posters versus sharing themed digital assets via social media. 

 

Connecting with the Audience

Via surveys, COMM 331 teams gauged student understanding of the First Amendment and evaluated — in a socially distanced semester — how to best reach students safely.

Many felt strongly that giveaways, such as branded hand-sanitizer supporting safe assembly, could strengthen messaging through an experience, conversation, or attached learning resources. Students residing on campus knew how and where they could safely distance and connect.

Pens, buttons and information cards were provided to the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Student Society of America as well as in welcome spaces in the Office of Student Media and the Department of Communication. Information cards designed by students direct students to the campaign landing page that contains First Amendment history, current issues, learning resource links and student-produced infographics and more.

Students wrote and produced public service announcements that air indefinitely on WGMU Radio. PSAs share First Amendment history, encourage listeners to learn about the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and share the landing page URL. 

Branded 1-ounce hand sanitizers were given out in places students visited on campus, such as the mail room, Student Support and Advocacy Center, and the Office of Financial Aid. During distanced conversations or small in-person meetings, reusable canvas totes, pens, buttons, hand sanitizer, and message cards designed by students were provided to those engaging safely in conversation. Students felt their conversations generated more authentic engagement and conversation — and resulted in stronger friendships.  

 

Tactics include:

 

Campaign delivery

Press release delivered to campus organizations and media
Posters hung in dorms and strategic places on campus
Pens, buttons, bags delivered with messaging, landing page and learning resources to Society of Professional Journalists, Public Relations Student Society of America, Office of Student Media, Department of Communication and distributed at the mail room, office of Financial Aid, libraries and more
QR code rocks placed around campus for socially distanced scanning and learning
Tactics shared via campaign landing page, campaign social media and students’ personal social media 
WGMU public service announcements run indefinitely 
Landing page provides resources for future semesters http://1forall.onmason.com/

 

Results:

Measurable and organic reach

Student understanding of First Amendment

Confidence building and executing campaigns

Student portfolios 

 

Testimonials:

“Throughout this campaign, I have furthered my understanding of the First Amendment. Prior to the campaign, I already knew the rights it provided and protected, but now I have a deeper understanding of the First Amendment and how it is vital for our democracy.” - Emily

“The process and steps of becoming a public relations professional for this campaign taught me how to learn from a unique perspective. The First Amendment as a client was unexpected but allowed creative elements to understand its message and objective as a whole.” - Victoria

“This real world experience of implementing a public relations campaign was very rewarding. I am confident about the campaign that I will work on throughout my career as a communication professional. I am thankful for learning how important my First Amendment freedoms are as an American and as a public relations pro - Lauren 

“This campaign has showed me how much work really goes into a public relations campaign. The First Amendment was a unique and fun client to work with. I am excited to enter the workforce with the knowledge I hav gained.” - Karena

“There could not be a more worthy client than the First Amendment. I have learned the dedication and extensiveness required to create a successful campaign. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and share the importance of the First Amendment through this campaign.” - Paris

"I learned so much about the differences in platforms and audience reach. I was most surprised by sharing the poster on Instagram and gaining a different audience than we anticipated -- gamers, who thought with the QRcode, the First Amendment was a game to play. If I were creating a follow-up campaign, I'd consider creating a game.” - Rachel

"I learned that many students don't know their freedoms, which makes me wonder whether that is the case with other audiences, too. Students didn't understand that freedoms have limitations or what those limitations are, such as the freedom of religion is not unlimited.” - Hugo

"I learned the importance of staying within budget, getting quality and quantity of deliverables produced within a short timeframe." - Chico

"This was my first time creating a media list and learning how to connect with open dialogue.” - Margaret

"An advantage of this campaign was learning to budget. Everyone needs this lesson.” - Esmeralda

 

 

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