BHSU public relations students create video for national organization

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, November 20, 2014/Categories: 2014

Black Hills State University student Hannah Downs, right, mass communications major from Madison, types final plans for a public relations campaign during a brainstorming session with fellow students. Students in Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser's public relations class are gaining professional experience by offering marketing advice to local businesses and organizations.

Black Hills State University students Maryann Reed, corporate communications major from Rapid City, left, and Bree Canaday, corporate communications major from Rapid City, work on a marketing plan for the Humane Society of the Black Hills. The students are creating a strategy for volunteer retention at the society.

Students in Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser's public relations class at Black Hills State University are taking classroom strategies and applying them in the professional communications industry.

The BHSU Public Relations Club created a video for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), which was used at a recent regional convention in Omaha.

Jackie Webb, who is a U.S. Parks Ranger in the Black Hills and EEOC Counselor contacted Caton-Rosser asking for help to revitalize her presentations, which currently didn't engage attendees. Webb wanted a presentation that was educational, yet entertaining.

"We see a lot of PowerPoints during lectures, whether it's in the professional or academic world," Webb said. "I wanted to avoid the standard way of presenting. I was looking for something fresh."

The mass communications department put Webb in touch with Hannah Downs, mass communications major from Madison and vice president of the Public Relations Club on campus. With the help of Downs and Jessie Eckles, graphic design communications major from Belle Fourche, a short video was created on how EEOC training affects employees of the National Parks Service. The duo, along with Webb, wrote a script, filmed and edited the video in one weekend.

"The students had some great ideas," Webb said. "They introduced me to media formats I was not aware of. I can't say enough good things about the students in this program and the quality of work they put out."

Webb and the students created a video that was a spin-off of the YouTube sensation "Between the Two Ferns" segments. The parody, "Outside the Two Chickens," included Downs as an interviewer, trying to engage Webb about an upcoming EEOC training session. The video covered issues such as gender and age discrimination, sexual harassment and engaging employees during seminars - all topics the EEOC typically covers during its training sessions.

In the video, Webb noted that she wanted to find a way to bring the EEOC message, vision and mission into the workplace and generate discussion among attendees.

"We wanted to make sure we were still presenting the main points of the EEOC seminar," Downs said. "But Jackie was open and receptive to new ideas on how to do that. It was great to apply classroom theories to real-life situations and see the results."

"We used humor to attack issues that are typically presented in a serious light," Eckles said. "It was a risk to take, but it worked."

Webb said the video was well received at the conference and generated so much discussion that her one-hour time slot to present was extended to two hours to entertain everyone's questions and comments on the subject matter. The humor used in the video made the serious issues of sexual harassment and discrimination easier to discuss, Webb added.

Caton-Rosser said the students worked well with the strict timeline and organizing to meet with Webb for the project.

"These students are ready for working in the professional field," Caton-Rosser. "They have studied the process and know how to apply strategies and tactics in very effective ways. This is why our students have always stood out."

Professional experience like the work done for the EEOC is what Caton-Rosser wants her students to experience before entering the workforce.

Caton-Rosser said she often receives calls from local organizations and businesses seeking help on marketing strategies. She noted work completed by other mass communications students. Jordynn Schmautz, corporate communications major from Belle Fourche, is working with Behavior Management Systems is Spearfish on their annual fundraiser, the Festival of Trees. Danielle Litaba, mass communications major from Wright, Wyo., wrote two feature stories for a College of Business Tourism annual report. Other students are working on resources for the Humane Society of The Black Hills and BHSU student organizations.

"Students get hands-on experience in applying their new-found knowledge and skills," Caton-Rosser said. "The experience is priceless. BHSU students have developed a reputation for accomplishing professional-grade communications work and the word is spreading about their capabilities."

The money students receive for helping businesses and organizations with marketing is used for conferences and the Public Relations Society of America Shadow Day which students attend each spring in Denver.

Business and organizations interested in working with the BHSU public relations students can contact Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser at 605-642-6422 or email

Opportunities such as working with the EEOC and other professionals before graduation is rewarding, Eckles said, and opens up networking opportunities.

For Downs, it reiterates that she's in the right field.

"It makes me excited about what I'm about to do as a career," Downs said. "I'm helping others achieve their goals."

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