Published: May 8, 2023

Approximately half of Americans distrust national news to the point that they believe news organizations are intentionally seeking to misinform their audiences, according to a survey conducted by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

This year, two teams of public relations students from the College of Media, Communication and Information helped combat this concerning trend as part of the annual Bateman Case Study Competition—which is organized by the Public Relations Student Society of America. 

False Creative team members ran under the slogan “Think Before You Share.” The Daily He(a)rd team members encouraged their peers to “Stop the Rumor Ripple,” and their campaign earned them a second place finish out of 49 teams nationwide.

“It was a joy to see our PR students earn this second place award,” said Dawn Doty, a teaching associate professor in the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design. “It is a testament to their smart, creative work and faculty our college employs to prepare them for this moment.”

The campaigns were for the News Literacy Project, which seeks to promote critical evaluation of the media and dissuade misinformation from spreading.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to compete in the PRSSA National Bateman competition representing CU Boulder and CMCI,” said The Daily He(a)rd team member Jack Forman. “I am so proud of all the work we put in and everything we accomplished with our campaign.”

Before executing their plans, False Creative and The Daily He(a)rd conducted research to understand what the perceived problems are with misinformation, the best ways to reach their target audiences and more.

After surveying approximately 300 people and conducting three focus groups, The Daily He(a)rd found that while many people recognize misinformation as a problem, they don’t seem to know how to combat it. Similarly, False Creative found that news literacy education is often lacking. Somewhat surprisingly, they also found that most of their survey respondents said they trusted Twitter and Instagram the most for news.

The teams were given a $300 budget–with the option of raising in-kind donations to help supplement their funds–for marketing tactics like giveaways and events for their campaigns, which ran from Feb. 6 through March 6.

Both groups primarily used social media to connect with their peers, and False Creative garnered media attention from a number of Colorado news publications, including the Daily Camera, The Durango Herald, Aspen Times and others.

“Our most successful marketing tactic so far has been our op-ed. I recently wrote an article on the ‘Importance of News Literacy’ directed toward rural communities,” said Cassidy Davis of False Creative. “We pitched it to over 70 newspapers across Colorado and have been/will be published by around 20.”

In addition to media-related outreach, the groups also used in-person components like tabling in the University Memorial Center, informational events and giveaways to encourage student engagement. Notably, The Daily He(a)rd organized a trivia night and a screening of an award-winning media documentary called Trust Me.

“Our most successful marketing tactics have been giveaways,” explained Bailey Ghashghai from The Daily He(a)rd. “We are trying to make things digestible and approachable for our audience and encourage participation. Doing this through incentives has definitely helped to attract more people.”

After the campaigns ended in early March, Bateman teams evaluated their experience into a summary report—considering research, objectives, tactics, etc.—which was sent to Bateman Competition judges. Teams who placed first through third, including The Daily He(a)rd, were invited to give a presentation and received a monetary award.

Doty noted that the competition is an invaluable experience for students because the communication and public relations industry they will enter after graduation is competitive.

“It is always exciting to see students create campaigns and have a real-world opportunity to test out how they actually work,” Doty said. “I think CMCI should be proud that we give students this opportunity in their senior capstone.”

In mid-April PRSSA announced the top three finalists: University of Colorado Boulder - The Daily He(a)rd, University of Florida (first place) and Louisiana State University (third place). Notably, CU's team is the first to represent not only the school, but also the state of Colorado. These three teams then presented their pitches to the Bateman judges Thursday, May 4, and the winners were announced in the early afternoon. 

“The Daily He(a)rd is thrilled with our achievements throughout the Bateman competition,” said team member Erin Bauman. “Being the first team from the state of Colorado to make it to the finals was an honor in itself. Placing second in the nation was the cherry on top. With help from our advisors, we created a successful campaign and encouraged so many people to Stop The Rumor Ripple.”