Haley Humiston, today’s guest blogger, is a PR major and a member of Loyola’s 2013 Bateman team.
When I applied for the Bateman team, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into: sleepless nights, no spring break and a complete rescheduling of priorities. As some of my most admired classmates had been on the team in the past, I knew how much work it would be. What I did not know was what I would get out of the experience.
I’m not writing this to explain the skills I have developed as part of this powerhouse team. I want to share the most important thing I have learned working on this campaign.
Given the restrictions of the campaign competition, we had only our own creativity and $300 to work with. As a team, we knew we needed to hold anti-bullying workshops, but the thought of having a professional–whether counselor, doctor or speaker–accompany us every day was out of the question. Instead, we used professionals as resources. We spoke with teachers, administrators, social workers and psychologists in the New Orleans area and they advised us what practices would be most efficient. Our research readied us for the hands-on aspect of our campaign, but it could have never prepared us enough.
We visited six schools to hold the workshop 21 times. Beyond just having a new respect for teachers after having woken up at 6 a.m. every day this month, I am more glad than ever that I switched my major from music education to mass communication. Being a teacher is hard work.
Not only is being a teacher hard work, but having conversations about bullying and its consequences did not seem like something I had signed up for. After the first two days, I had just about had it with 14-year-old boys defending violence and retaliation. They were not expressing the stubbornness of an average high-schooler; it was clear that their mindset was internalized. I felt I would rather talk to a brick wall than hear the arguments that were thrown back to me.
I knew that I shouldn’t be surprised by this, since a study in New Orleans last year reported more than 29 percent of students have seen assaults committed with weapons and nearly 14 percent have witnessed murder. (Read more here.) Nonetheless, I felt like I would never be able to get our message across.
In the second week, we were cleaning up after a workshop when one of the students approached us. A boy, who I remembered from the workshop as soft-spoken and sweet, told us that he had been bullied.
“They call me names and I don’t understand what they mean. I don’t know why they do it.”
My first instinct, to cry and wrap my arms around him, was quickly trumped by a sudden understanding that I had a purpose beyond creating an effective and measurable public relations campaign. From that point on, my definition of a “great public relations campaign” widened deeply.
What I have learned from the Bateman team is that as a public relations professional, you are not only a public relations professional. You may have to be a teacher, a sous chef, a counselor, a mascot or an actor. You’re going to wonder why you are these things, why you couldn’t have hired someone else or why you’re acting a role you think yourself unfit for. What you need to realize is that being this person will make you closer to your cause. It will be exhausting at first, but you will catch on. And you will see nothing but growth in your passion and determination, which will translate directly to your campaign.
You don’t need to trust me with this one, because you will learn it eventually. Just remember that when you’re frustrated, sleepless and feeling incapable of filling someone else’s shoes, you only need to break them in a little before they fit just right.
Toward the end of our campaign, I wasn’t afraid to have difficult conversations with students or challenge them. I felt obliged to. These conversations only made me recognize the success of our campaign in its fight against the bullying epidemic.
Today, a student called me over to look at his paper–the post-quiz we use to measure our effectiveness in teaching–with a grin from ear to ear.
“Look,” he exclaimed, smiling up at me.
Under “What can be done to prevent bullying?” the 10-year-old boy had written every one of our K.I.N.D.ness steps verbatim: Keep Others Included, Inform an Adult if You See Bullying, Never Bully Others and Decide to be More Than A Bystander.
We had gotten our message across after all.