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Top row: Justin Liggin, Aspen Stanton and Tara Shultz. Bottom row: Heidi Blakemore, Noah Huerta, and Veronica Galek, Mikala Morris, Daniella Beserra and Nisa Ayral.
By Kasey Brammell
Students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication won a Copper Anvil Award of Merit in Integrated Communications for creating a public relations campaign that aims to help millennials better understand Native American culture.
The award-winning campaign, “Native Aware,” was created by students in Cronkite’s Public Relations Lab for Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA) to help educate millennials about the culture, needs and challenges of Native Americans.
PWNA works to educate the general public about Native Americans and directly helps out in those communities. According to Lisa Schmidtke, the director of PR Lab, most of their donations come from an older demographic, and they want to branch out to younger generations.
Mikala Morris, who graduated in December 2019, helped conduct the research needed to form the campaign. “I feel like there are a lot of people who are not very knowledgeable on Native American issues,” she said.
The students began researching for “Native Aware” in Fall 2019, with the work carrying over to the Spring 2020 semester. The campaign was originally set to launch in Fall 2020, but was delayed until early 2021 due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
“Native Aware” also received an Honorable Mention from the Hermes Creative Awards in Communications Campaign and a Gold Award from the DotCOMM Awards in Digital Marketing Campaign. Both are globally recognized communications awards.
Both teams said the award was unexpected.
“I was really surprised, honestly. I know that there are a lot of really amazing campaigns and awards that are out there. In the time being, I’m not thinking, ‘okay, what are the awards we’re going to win out of this?’ I was just focused on coming up with the best possible strategy and content possible to help them succeed,” said Morris. “Hearing that we won an award out of it was just the cherry on top. It’s nice to be recognized for all of the work that we put into it, but it totally came from a surprise.”
Heidi Blakemore worked on the team in Spring 2020 to design the structure and original visuals for the campaign and she shared a sentiment similar to Morris. She was surprised when she got an email saying they had won.
“It was pretty cool to see that though,” said Blakemore. “We spent so much time with PWNA. I was really grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with them.”
Schmidtke said that winning awards is very exciting and creates a sense of accomplishment for both the PR Lab program and the students who worked on the projects.
“I think it inspires new students too,” said Schmidtke. “There’s a whole other piece to this in that it allows us to market our program to potential clients. We’re always trying to engage with new partners and clients so it’s nice to be able to tout some awards and not only awards, but professional awards.”
The PR Lab has won three other awards in 2020: