By Tayler Shaw (Jour, Span’21)
Photos by Kimberly Coffin (CritMedia, StratComm'18)

On a heavily traveled path to campus, faculty and students encountered something unexpected underneath the Broadway bridge last spring: A sheet of plexiglass covered in purple and red splotches that said, “This can be your blood. It’s cancer.”

Nearby, a TV camera crew stood in the February sunshine and captured their reactions. That’s when strategic communication student Keleigh Andrus (StratComm’22) asked them what they knew about lymphoma, one of the most common forms of blood cancer that impacts the body’s lymphatic system.

The art installation was one strategy implemented by strategic communication students participating in the 2022 Bateman Case Study Competition, a national competition executed through the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). All student teams were assigned the same client, the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and challenged to spread awareness of the cancer among those ages 15 to 39.

“(The art) was supposed to be as invasive as lymphoma is in the systems of patients and survivors,” Andrus said. “It gave us the opportunity to speak to people and further educate on what this was about, what it was intended for, and really talk about our campaign.”

Andrus and her three peers developed their campaign, called Through It, as part of their senior capstone course, the Bateman class. The yearlong course, taught by Assistant Professor Jolene Fisher and instructor and CU Boulder’s PRSSA faculty advisor Dawn Doty, is for a select group of public relations students who are also members of PRSSA.

“It truly is the crème de la crème competition for public relations students in the United States,” Doty said. “And what separates it from other types of programs or classes is that students actually take what they’ve learned in the classroom and their internships, and they create and implement a full public relations campaign from start to finish with a real budget.”

Four student teams represented CU Boulder in this year’s Bateman competition. Each was given a budget of $300 from the College of Media, Communication and Information to implement campaign strategies, and teams were able to raise $1,000 from in-kind donations.

One team, The Flatiron Firm, focused most of its efforts on hosting a gala, called Red for Research, which featured four speakers sharing information about lymphoma.

Nearly 60 people dressed in red, one of the primary colors of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, attended the event.

“We really wanted people to come and be educated, but also hear firsthand stories. One of the people on our panel is a professor at CU who is a two-time lymphoma survivor,” said Chris DeLuca, one of the four Flatiron Firm team members. “It ended up being really successful for us. We were really happy.”

Students involved in The Flatiron Firm and Through It garnered media attention for their unique projects from 9News, Rocky Mountain PBS and other news outlets. Although the four teams did not formally place in the Bateman competition, the experience has paid off in other ways, as the recently graduated seniors are now impressing future employers, Doty said.

“They all are getting really great jobs because of it,” she said. “I’m so proud of each of them because they all worked so hard.”

Discussing the Bateman experience during job interviews was especially beneficial to Nicole del Cardayre, a member of the Through It campaign.

“Every single person I’ve talked to has been absolutely impressed with what Bateman is, the campaign implementation and the media coverage that we were able to secure,” said del Cardayre, who recently became an associate at Golin Health, a global health care communications agency.

“I think it’s just a great testimony toward what this class and competition can do for students.”