Contrary to what might be reflected on social media, not all collegians spent their spring break cavorting on the beach in large numbers, seeming to defy the grave health crisis.
Indeed, the Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) the student offspring of the Public Relations Society of America, has been hard at work on its #flattenthecurve campaign for Instagram and Twitter.
The campaign, which launched March 25, encourages student members to post on social media their stories of how they are helping to slow the spread of the virus — and why ( i.e., for a best friend whose mom has sclerosis or to protect a beloved grandparent). Students are also sharing suggestions on how to cope with the pandemic while sheltering in place.
Taking care of yourself is so important, Bobcats! I'm helping #FlattenTheCurve through social distancing and @ScrippsPRSSA virtual hangouts. Who doesn't love a good zoom call? #BobcatsTakeCare @ohiou @PRSSANational pic.twitter.com/pOEtyBPFTU
— Vivian Moussa (@vmooose) March 25, 2020
The campaign evolved from an initiative by the PRSSA CU Boulder chapter to chronicle how its members were handling the ongoing social and economic consequences of the virus. Anna Ritz, president of the Boulder chapter, reached out to PRSSA national to help amplify the initiative to all 10,000+ PRSSA members. National, following meetings with its social media and publishing teams, decided to expand the initiative’s original intent and create a full-blown social media campaign, inviting all 365+ nationwide chapters to participate.
“It’s really about creating an online community and making sure our students know that the resources are still available and we are still here for them,” says Nick Goebel, PRSSA national president.
2/3 zoom meetings done so far!
the brother and i have created separate workspaces in the house to help #flattenthecurve
— Carolyn Lok (@carolynmlok) March 25, 2020
The campaign has garnered 3,315 impressions on Twitter and 2,356 on Instagram, reports Goebel. To help spread the word, PRSSA members are encouraged to tag three additional members in their post.
“What is really sticking out to me is how positive everyone is remaining,” says Goebel.
“It’s very much doom and gloom whenever you turn on the TV news, but what I see from our students is, yes it’s hard, but they are still smiling, still getting their work done.
“I even know of a few students that have started taking on small business clients, helping them to become more digitally capable online.”
While the PRSSA often gets involved in humanitarian efforts (letter writing to troops, for example), the scope of this campaign is a first. “We’ve had campaigns where we encouraged people to share their experiences and tag others, similar to an ice bucket challenge, but we’ve never had a campaign that’s been so based in social media and resonated with our students as much as this has,” remarks Goebel.
The campaign is also helping to dispel the myth that the entire Gen Z cohort is behaving irresponsibly during this pandemic. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about how students are ignoring the facts and going on spring break, but I’m not seeing that with our students,” says Goebel. “I’m not sure if it’s because we are so focused on communications and always paying attention to the news, but the posts are not about being out in public or partying. What I am seeing is our members going to work, thriving, making sure they are getting done as much as they can and supporting each other.”
Adds Karen Mateo, chief communications officer for PRSA: “What stood out to me is you saw all these videos of students on spring break, saying it was not a big deal if they got coronavirus. It is really inspiring to see the students from the PRSSA chapters embrace that this was not the right messaging for them and that they were taking this seriously. I really admire the work they are putting out there.”
Editor’s note: You can follow PRSSA on Instagram and Twitter @prssanational