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First Amendment News and Insights from MTSU

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MTSU Shut Up and Dance, PR campaign

Middle State Tennessee University College of Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson hosted a combination of presentation and performance, called “Shut Up and Dance,” for the attendees of the Southeast Journalism Conference in the Student Union Building on Saturday, Feb. 16.

The Southeast Journalism Conference is a yearly gathering of student journalists from about 30 universities across the region, and MTSU hosted it this year.

(See photo, full story from MTSU Sidelines.)

MTSU student celebrates after naming
all five First Amendment freedoms.

Then, using a 1 for All PR campaign grant, MTSU students undertook to promote the First Amendment on campus.

"Students in the Public Relations Campaigns capstone course spent the spring 2019 semester developing a campaign to raise awareness among their peers of the five freedoms that the First Amendment protects," reported Matthew P. Taylor, assistant professor.

The seven seniors in the course conducted primary research, including a campus survey and a focus group, as well as secondary research about their target audience and public knowledge of the First Amendment.

Using their findings, the group created an in-person quiz game on campus that challenged students to answer a variety of questions including a query about the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The group administered the quiz to captive audiences in two locations: the campus bus system and on golf carts while giving students rides to class. Participants received prizes for correct responses.

The group promoted its campaign on Instagram and during campus events before beginning the weeklong quiz activity. The campus events featured free food ("Taste of Freedom") and giveaways, including buttons listing the five freedoms and Take 5 candy bars. Group members provided the following verbal encouragement as they handed out the candy bars: "Take 5 to know your five.”

Here's are excerpts from the students' report on the 1 for All First Amendment PR campaign:

"1 for All ... challenged us to find a creative way to get students at Middle Tennessee State University to learn their rights. Through primary research, we found that while 58 percent of students know there are five freedoms, they could not name all five. In our survey, we often saw students thinking the right to bear arms was a freedom, which is the Second Amendment.

"Through secondary research, we found that zero percent of adults aged 18-49 could name all five freedoms, according to the Freedom Forum Institute. We were up for the challenge and we were excited to get students involved.

"Our campaign lasted two weeks. The first week, we walked around campus with buttons and the Take 5 candy bar surveying students. Most could not name their freedoms. We explained them and then told them “Take 5 to know your five,” as it does not take that long to learn the First Amendment. 

"Our second week of campaigning consisted of driving students around campus to their classes in golf carts as part of a game similar to Cash Cab which we called “Freedom Ridas.” We would quiz them on pop culture trivia, common history trivia and then on the First Amendment.

"If they got all or most questions correct, they received a prize.

"Our research proved correct as many students had a hard time guessing their freedoms.

"The response from students about our campaign was positive. They were eager to learn their freedoms and felt bad that they couldn’t namethem. We handed out 500 mini buttons that said, “I know my freedoms” to students. The buttons also had the freedoms on it so they’d never forget them.

"We also created an Instagram account which received over 100 followers in less than 48 hours. Through this account, we also received over 600 media impressions. We felt that we raised awareness of the First Amendment on our campus. We were excited to do something different and fresh that would make students want to learn."

See full final MTSU PR campaign report.



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