OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi public relations instructor and 14 of her students competed against industry professionals and brought home the top award in a multistate competition.
The campaign, called “Diversity Rocks,” won Best in Show from the Southern Public Relations Federation, an organization of more than 1,300 public relations professionals in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. The SPRF Lantern competition, held yearly, recognizes the best work from members.
Robin Street, a lecturer in journalism who specializes in teaching public relations classes, created “Diversity Rocks.” Street recruited 14 current and former students to help plan and conduct the multimedia and multifaceted campaign during the Spring 2011 semester in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Diversity Rocks” celebrated diversity, whether through ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disability, with an emphasis on anti-bullying.
“What Robin and the students did was use a full complement of communications tools and programs to teach us to celebrate diversity as a strengthening force,” said Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the Meek School. “They met outside of class, developed ideas, budgets, strategies, raised funds, shot and edited video and scheduled campus-wide events. It was a comprehensive, professional, successful campaign, so it certainly deserved recognition by professionals.”
The SPRF competition covered more than 200 entries in 81 categories. “Diversity Rocks” won the first place “Lantern” award in the “Internal PR Campaigns” category as well as the “Best in Show” award for the best entry among all categories.
Ron Barnes, vice president of marketing and public relations for Coast Electric Power Association, served as SPRF Lantern Awards program chairman.
“This was the first entry I have ever seen that received two perfect scores from two different panels of judges,” Barnes said. “The people of Mississippi should be very proud of the students and faculty of the University Of Mississippi Meek School Of Journalism and New Media for this outstanding accomplishment.”
Winning the award was especially meaningful for Street for two reasons. First, she and her students were competing with PR professionals and agencies with years of experience. Secondly, Street created the campaign as a personal cause.
“I had the idea for ‘Diversity Rocks’ after learning about several young gay men nationally who killed themselves after being bullied,” Street said. “I also wanted to do something to honor my father, George Street, a former Ole Miss director of university relations, for whom racial reconciliation had been a critical issue in the last years of his life. So I thought of a campaign to promote acceptance of all minorities among our journalism students.”
Students on the committee and their Mississippi hometowns were Macey Baird, Jackson; Lauren Childers, Booneville; Kimbrely Dandridge, Senatobia; Artesha Dunning, Gulfport; Locke Houston, Aberdeen; Molly Jarabica, Vicksburg; Lindsay Jordan, Brandon; Emily Laird, Columbus; Leighanne Lockett, Olive Branch; Ignacio Murillo, Horn Lake; Bud Taylor, Sardis; Kristie Warino, Kiln; and Poinesha Barnes and Jajuan McNeil, both of Oxford.
Street and Journalism School videographer Mykki Newton also won an award of achievement in the public service announcement category for the PSA’s they produced for the campaign. Additionally, Street won both an achievement and an excellence award in the public relations writing category.
For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, call 662-915-7146 or visit https://jnm.olemiss.edu.