My experience with the 2019-2020 Bateman Competition (and what you need to know before applying!)
Updated: May 27
It’s official—the 2019-2020 UF Bateman Team came in second place in this year’s Bateman Case Study Competition! This is an incredible honor that we had worked toward the entire academic year, and it is surreal to have made it to this moment and earn such high distinction in the competition.
Founded by Carroll J. Bateman in 1973, it is PRSSA’s premier national case study competition for public relations and communications majors. Students are challenged to create and implement a full public relations campaign in their community for an assigned client, which changes each year.
More than 75 collegiate teams enter the competition each year, but due to COVID-19, 57 teams competed in this year’s competition. Students earn real-world experience for their resumes, portfolio and future jobs. After an extensive judging process, three finalists are chosen to present their campaigns to the client, who reserves the rights to all ideas presented. This year’s presentation was a bit different and was hosted virtually via WebEx. Normally, we would have traveled to New York to present to the panel of judges.
At UF, the Bateman Team is a prestigious honor, with its own memorial of Bateman plaques and trophies proudly displayed on the shelves in the third-floor lobby and on a blue sign in front J-School.
The UF Bateman Team has gained national recognition by placing top 15 in the nation each year over the past decade. UF’s team has been named one of three national finalists five times in the last 10 years, proceeding to competitive presentations in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis. UF’s team placed first in the competition in 2011 and in 2014 and placed second in 2012 and 2015 (and now 2020!).
In addition, you receive course credit for competing on the team. It is a two-semester commitment, earning you three hours of Research in the Spring and three hours of Campaigns credit in the spring.
I first learned of Bateman while perusing the CJC website and researching which organizations I wanted to join once I got to UF. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and Alpha PRoductions intrigued me almost immediately, as did Bateman. I remember thinking that Bateman sounded like an unattainable goal that only the best PR students could handle, so naturally, I made it my mission to earn a spot on the team senior year.
And to answer your question: yes, I’ve always been this ambitious (and competitive).
By sophomore year, I had met someone on the 2017-2018 Bateman Team through my Strategy class, where were assigned to work on a project together with two other students. I asked him questions about his experience with Bateman, and he suggested I join the Bateman Ambassadors to get an idea of what they do and to introduce myself to the faculty adviser, who coaches the team.
I did this for the 2018 campaign and 2019 campaign. Most tasks included prepping campaign material and tabling at their booths, but I really enjoyed helping with implementing an actual campaign, as most courses in the J-School work with hypothetical projects used for illustration only.
I knew I needed professional and leadership experience as well portfolio examples, so I interned with two organizations and climbed the ranks at Alpha to reflect the competence levels required by the application. Another one of my goals was to intern in New York City the summer before I became a senior, so when I achieved that goal, I knew I was one step closer to Bateman.
I took the then-faculty adviser’s PR Writing course during fall 2018, and by the end of the semester, she asked if I were interested in joining the Bateman Team after two people had dropped. I thanked her for the opportunity, and I told her that I would prefer to apply for next year’s team to see the campaign through from beginning to end.
My supervisor at BCW Global knew I wanted to join the Bateman Team at UF on day one of my internship. I explained to her what it was and that I needed some more materials for my portfolio, so we made a plan and added it to the list of goals that I stuck to corkboard beside my desk.
I knew pursing Bateman was the right choice when I got coffee with a superior at BCW, whom I deeply admire. We were chatting about my goals for senior year and post-grad, and I brought up the Bateman Team. Lo and behold, she competed in the competition back when she was in college! If Bateman set her up for success in her future career, I hoped that I would have a similar outcome.
Back at UF, I submitted my application, along with my new portfolio pieces from BCW, and waited to see if I would receive an interview request. When I did, the new coach and I hit it off and I was excited when I received my offer to join the team.
I first met the team in August, but I only knew one of my teammates, whom I had taken a class with during fall 2018. I knew if her and I were on the team, then the others must be great as well! (Spoiler alert: I was right!)
Because Bateman is not a regular course, the instructor is given creative freedom with the syllabus. Throughout the fall semester, our coach did a great job including the elements of research, analyzing winners, assessing our competition, and teaching us how to strategize and improve our strategic thinking. In addition, we watched “Miracle,” a Disney movie about the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team, which she used to teach us about the power of teamwork and determination. We referenced the quote, “We’re not a team, we’re a family!” throughout the entire campaign.
Spring semester was very different because we had to execute our campaign and create our campaign book. From the first day of the semester, we were racing against the clock to finalize our campaign by Feb. 12 and get the ball rolling. Bateman introduced us to the world of implementing a campaign, something that isn’t taught in classes. Because of that, we also learned another skill that can’t be taught: how to pivot a campaign when things do not go as planned. Minor and major things go wrong, events turn out unsuccessful and other disappointing scenarios appear throughout campaigns, and nothing can prepare you for it until it actually happens.
Then, the unexpected occurred: COVID-19. We were forced to cancel almost two weeks’ worth of events, which were the finishing touches on our campaign, and shift all our efforts to digital. Although this thwarted some of our best tactics, we did the best we could do given the circumstances.
After this, we had the challenge of compiling and finishing our campaign book in order to submit it to PRSSA National. This was difficult because all in-person classes had been canceled and the Bateman Team was not allowed to meet to use our studio. We all divided and conquered the workload and miraculously turned in our book before the deadline. Our graphic designer worked late into the early mornings for many days, and we were so grateful for her!
Learning we were finalists was surreal; even though we had talked about making it to New York since day one, it was unbelievable that we were one step closer to achieving that goal! We sprang into action and created a script and deck, which we practiced multiple times a day until we were perfect. We had guest judges give us feedback and practice questions, and we polished our presentation until it was flawless.
As expected, our presentation to the PRSA judges went flawlessly, as did our Q&A session. We were so proud to come in second place, something that hasn’t been achieved by UF since 2015!
That being said, being involved in the Bateman Case Study Competition was essential to my growth and development as a future public relations professional. I am proud of myself for pursing this goal throughout my college career and achieving more than I had ever imagined.
I am grateful to have learned the ups and downs of campaign implementation, which is rarely taught in a regular campaigns course—and is something I wouldn’t have experienced until I started my career. I learned how to think creatively and strategically, something that isn't expected of interns and entry-level associates, giving me a competitive edge, and I am a better team player and leader because of it.
If you are interested in joining the UF Bateman Team, below are the key skills you will need and some recommendations. If you have any questions, please contact me via my contact page, LinkedIn or my email. I would love to talk to about my experience and help you create a plan!
Key skills or characteristics:
Enthusiasm, ambition and creativity
Primary and secondary research
Basic strategy development
Ability to think creatively
Basic graphic design
Recommendations for next year's team:
MAKE SURE YOUR SCHEDULE HAS ROOM FOR BATEMAN
I wrote this in caps-lock for a reason! The time commitment Bateman requires is no joke: meetings are oftentimes longer than scheduled, you meet more often than planned, and working early mornings, late nights and weekends is required during campaign execution and book creation. I wouldn’t apply if you plan on being involved with more than one other organization; having a job, Alpha responsibilities, PRSSA meetings and Bateman on top of my regular schoolwork and life was overwhelming and difficult to balance.
I know what you’re thinking: “I can handle that!” and yeah, so did I. I only took two classes because that was all I needed to complete my degree, yet I still had difficulties balancing it with my other extracurriculars. Bateman will take up the majority of your senior spring, so don’t over-commit yourself. If you are someone who enjoys their free-time, then joining the Bateman Team probably isn't the right choice for you.
2. Begin collecting your portfolio pieces and distinguishing your personal brand
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up during meetings
Sometimes, what you think was a silly idea you had turns into something awesome. My "silly" bed idea turned into one of our campaign's best events and earned words of praise from the judges for its creativity and novelty.
4. Give everyone a leadership role that complements their skills
5. Ensure everyone has an assistant in case the lead is overwhelmed
Break out of your comfort zone to learn new skills! Ask to assist with tasks you are unfamiliar with, and learn those skills from the lead on that particular project.
6. Write out the entire research portion of the campaign book immediately
You can always cut unnecessary information later, but trying to find data and sources from six months ago is difficult.
7. Work throughout winter break by reaching out to potential partners and donors
Outreach needs to begin as soon as your campaign strategy is set; sometimes a organization’s donations are budgeted for the entire year, and being even a week or two late can cause the team and campaign to suffer during implementation.
Recommendations from the 2019-2020 Bateman Team:
"Working with leaders in the community to create positive change can be a challenge in PR because your messages might not always be their top priority. When you lead your efforts with intentionality and always keep the 'why' in mind, you will have an impact somewhere on someone."
- Sawyer Carlton, Creative Services Coordinator and Webmaster
"Throughout your career as a public relations professional, it's probable that you will work on projects or campaigns where the message may not always seem exciting. But as future PR professionals, we are tasked with the incredible duty of taking a mundane message and turning it into something moving. Even more rewarding than producing an impressive campaign is when you truly believe in the cause you're advocating. I think the work we did with Bateman this year really reflected that. When you believe in the message, it'll show in the work you produce."
- Ruth Tavarez Rodriguez, Social Media Coordinator