By Published: March 2, 2022

A team of four undergraduate students at CU Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI) is competing in an advanced public relations capstone project to help raise awareness among young adults about lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

CMCI student team

From left to right: Brianna Baker, Chris DeLuca, Claire Wernick and Aidan MacAdam 

Claire Wernick, Aidan MacAdam, Brianna Baker and Chris DeLuca are seniors majoring in strategic communications with an emphasis in public relations. They are researching and developing an awareness campaign for the Lymphoma Research Foundation focused on lymphoma in young adults ages 15 to 39, their own demographic.

“We learned that our age group has a sense of invincibility about our health,” DeLuca said. “We don’t think anything will happen to us. We’re not thinking at all about any bad outcomes or examining the invincibility we think we have.”

The yearlong public relations capstone class, called the Bateman Competition, is sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America, which is connected to a professional PRSA Colorado chapter.

All teams competing throughout the country have been assigned the Lymphoma Research Foundation as this year’s client.

Calling themselves The Flatiron Firm, they are one of four teams representing CU Boulder in the competition. This team of four undergrads is working to create a comprehensive public relations campaign for the Lymphoma Research Foundation, a nonprofit research organization striving to eradicate lymphoma and raise awareness among adolescents and young adults, who are particularly susceptible to lymphoma. Their PR advisor is Anna Ritz.

The three other CU teams are:

Flatiron Communications

  • Lily King
  • Syona Morrison
  • Alex Burger
  • Clara Johnston
  • PR advisor: Bailey Gannett

CU Golden Buffs

  • Lauren Story
  • Ashley Davison
  • Claire Boyle
  • Lizzy Chester
  • PR advisor: Jane Dvorak

The Storytellers

  • Nicole del Cardayre
  • Keleigh Andrus
  • Jessica Curley
  • Isabella Silber
  • PR advisor: Danielle Kraycik

Their campaign’s goal is to educate CU Boulder students and other young adults in the area about what lymphoma is, why it is relevant to their age group, and how they can manage their own health.

Instead of the traditional capstone project undertaken during the last semester of college, theirs is a more challenging version.

“Normally, with a traditional capstone you only do research and plan a campaign,” DeLuca said. “The difference with the Bateman Competition is that in the spring, the winner actually executes our campaign with the foundation.”

The campaign includes building an Instagram page, a GoFundMe site, social platforms, and hosting informational booths around campus and a virtual panel featuring physicians and a fundraising event. All of that is built around the campaign theme Put Your Health First.

Many of the symptoms of lymphoma are similar to symptoms of other illnesses, which can make the lymphoma illness difficult to diagnose.

“In the brief, the client stressed what they want for the campaign,” Baker said, “which is to target adolescents and young adults. That age group is more susceptible to lymphoma than people realize. And that’s the age group that doesn’t pay attention to their health. We are that age group, so we know how to reach them.”

As part of their research, the team talked to doctors and patients, including an interview with an oncologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado who works with adolescents and young adults with lymphoma.

“She told us there is no direct cause for lymphoma,” MacAdam said. “It’s complicated because there’s no direct way to predict that you might get a diagnosis. Symptoms are vague and can be associated with other things, like fatigue and fever. We’re trying to educate them about why taking care of their own health is important.”

Baker added, “We want to do something aside from the competition, which is the fundraising part. We want to give back in a way that wasn’t just part of our assignment.”

Looking ahead, the team is not just engaged with social media approaches. Traditional PR and marketing skills, such as writing and public speaking, are an important part of the process. When they work for an agency, the team members will need to possess a comprehensive set of skills. Graduating with a robust understanding of the many different levels within a PR campaign will give them a head start in their careers. Today’s PR professionals must be fluent in both the digital and analog worlds.

DeLuca wants to work for a large PR agency in New York or Los Angeles. “I like the fast-paced variety of a big city,” he said.

Baker wants to move back to Chicago, where she is from, or to New York or Los Angeles and work in any aspect of PR. “The big cities are definitely calling to me,” she said.

MacAdam feels drawn to Boston, where he has a connection. “Last summer I interned at a small agency there and hopefully will continue working there after graduation,” he said. “Then maybe I’ll return to Boulder or Denver because I love it out here.”

Wernick’s goal is to work for an agency or on a corporate communications team in Denver. “I’ve learned crucial team-building skills. It’s been a great experience.”

After evaluating campaign efforts, students will submit a detailed summary to PRSSA on March 28. Three finalists will present their work to a panel of judges in May, and the winning teams will be recognized during the awards ceremony and dinner at PRSSA’s 2022 International Conference.