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It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning: SmokingWords Ready to Move Forward After PlanIt Public Relations’ Work is Complete

PlanIt Public Relations Team (l to r): Erin Bernard, Christine Weber, Samantha Vicknair, Alexandria Manion and Nathaniel Montgomery.

Technically, PlanIt Public Relations is finishing up its campaign for SmokingWords. But the work we have completed for the program will certainly carry on even after we have finished our public relations capstone course. Throughout the Fresh Start LSU 2012 campaign, we made great progress and developed SmokingWords into a more modern and recognizable program at LSU.

One of the  fundamental improvements we made to SmokingWords was the simple replacement of the program’s logo.  This very small change kicked off the campaign and initiated an array of organizational improvements. We consistently used the logo on all publications and promotional materials and slowly started gaining student recognition and awareness.

It is truly amazing how such a small change can catch someone’s attention. For example, SmokingWords has been at the LSU Health & Wellness Fair several times over the years, but this time, we were determined to make SmokingWords presence at the event a difference experience. We ordered an extra large 8-by-2 foot vinyl banner with the new logo to hang in front of the SmokingWords table. We hoped the large banner would catch the attention of fair attendees. This was also our first chance to test how well the logo clearly translated what exactly SmokingWords is a program.

After interacting with students, faculty and staff at the fair, we found that individuals responded very well to the new logo. Instead of walking past our table, fair attendees could not help but look down at the bold words “SmokingWords: AN LSU MOVEMENT FOR TOBACCO-FREE LIVING.” And if that description was not enough, individuals could just look at the logo’s image of a cigarette being “put out ” in a pile of ashes. Several individuals looked at the banner and automatically knew what SmokingWords was but admitted they never heard of the program. And that’s where we came in and informed as many LSU members as we could about SmokingWords and its mission and place at LSU.

 Old SmokingWords Logo:      


New SmokingWords Logo:

In addition to the logo change, we improved the face of SmokingWords in other ways. We created an entirely new website for the program, and we compiled and turned in all the paperwork to make SmokingWords an official LSU student organization. As soon as the paperwork is approved, SmokingWords will be good to go!  We also put together a press release and media advisory template for the organization, as well as an informative boilerplate for all news promotional items.  Other organizational items we created for SmokingWords include a crisis communication plan and a Facebook and Twitter account. We are very proud of the progress we have made for SmokingWords, and with the necessary fundamental improvements we made for the organization, we are confident that SmokingWords is ready to move forward and reach its overarching goal of moving LSU to a healthier, tobacco-free campus.

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a mass communication senior at Louisiana State University. Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter. Also, take a look at my online portfolio.


Dr. Daniel Harrington Brings the Facts to LSU: A Tobacco-Free Policy and its Effect on Campus

It is officially crunch time for PlanIt Public Relations, as it begins to wrap up the 2012 Fresh Start LSU campaign for SmokingWords. The campaign’s first event, the 29th Annual LSU Health & Wellness Fair, was extremely successful and showed the great potential SmokingWords has to garner support and participation. More than 160 students, staff and faculty signed a petition in support of LSU moving to a tobacco-free campus.  In addition, we collected more than 130 responses  to a survey we administered at our table.

Prior to the event, SmokingWords contacted Mary Bird Perkins, the American Lung Association and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living to establish partnerships and gain support for the event. The organizations were thrilled to donate materials for SmokingWords’ table at the fair, and they all agreed to continue working with the LSU program in the future. In fact, the American Lung Association has asked SmokingWords to participate in the Fight for Air Walk on Oct. 20, 2012, in New Orleans, La.

With the completion of SmokingWords’ main event, we are now preparing for our guest speaker event, “Let’s Clear the Air,” which will take place Tuesday, April 3, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. in the Holliday Forum of the Journalism Building.  The event will feature Dr. Daniel Harrington, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. He will be speaking about how tobacco-free policies drastically improve air quality. Dr. Harrington holds an intriguing title — certified industrial hygienist. You may be asking the same question we asked Dr. Harrington when we met with him in person last week, “What exactly is an industrial hygienist?”

An industrial hygienist studies the health and safety conditions of individuals in the workplace and community. Dr. Harrington has focused much of his research on secondhand smoke and its harmful effects on individuals in the work environment. Last year, he conducted air quality testings in Alexandria, La., and found that the air quality drastically improved in bars and gaming establishments following a ban on smoking in the area. We look forward to having Dr. Harrington on campus, and we hope students, faculty and staff will come out and hear about how a tobacco-free policy would improve our campus environment.

In the meantime, PlanIt Public Relations has been working extremely hard to improve some of the fundamental aspects of SmokingWords as an educational program at LSU. We are proud to say that SmokingWords now has a completely new website, which we created and published this month. Be sure to “like” SmokingWords on Facebook, and follow @SmokingWords on Twitter.

SmokingWords' new website, created March 2012
Erin Bernard, Design Director
PlanIt Public Relations

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a mass communication senior at Louisiana State University. Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter.

Kicking Butts and Taking Names: A Two-Way Relationship

In my last blog, I wrote about the journey Samantha Vicknair and I were taking to New Orleans, La., for the 5th Annual Young Adult Summit on Tobacco on March 3. We thoroughly enjoyed the summit and learned a lot about tobacco-free advocacy and the benefits of using social media in our efforts to reach out to students and faculty. We also established relationships with some of the organizers of the summit, who agreed to provide us with materials for our campaign. After picking up some great knowledge about tobacco health and tips for reaching our audience, it was time to come back to Baton Rouge and start planning our first event.

Although Dr. Judith Sylvester created SmokingWords back in 2000, its name and initiatives have remained fairly constant and steady. Since its start, the educational program has taken part in campus events, seminars and conferences.  Kick Butts Day is an annual event in which SmokingWords participates to raise awareness about the harmful effects of smoking. This year, Kick Butts Day falls on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, the same day as the 29th  LSU Annual Health & Wellness FairPlanIt Public Relations will be hosting a table on behalf of SmokingWords at the fair, which is celebrating the theme “3.21 Countdown to a New You.”  This title coincides with SmokingWords’ theme for its 2012 campaign, “Fresh Start LSU 2012.”

SmokingWords has a two-way mission for its participation in the fair: kicking butts and taking names. On one side, the organization will serve as a resource unit by handing out brochures, flyers and health promotional materials to educate individuals about the harmful effects of tobacco and why LSU needs to “kick butts.”

On the other side, SmokingWords will also be “taking names” to foster a two-way relationship with university students and faculty, asking for support to further the movement to make LSU a tobacco-free campus. SmokingWords will offer participants at the fair an opportunity to sign up and become active members of the program. Those who are interested in getting involved will be able to take part in volunteer opportunities and gain valuable experience in areas such as writing, advocacy, design and community leadership.

SmokingWords has been promoting the event via social media, including on Facebook and Twitter. SmokingWords representatives Alexandria Manion and I have been garnering support from local businesses for the SmokingWords initiative, while Nathaniel Montgomery, Samantha Vicknair and Grace Weber have been promoting the tobacco-free movement with awareness posters across LSU’s campus. In addition, Manion has also reached out to local media outlets with press releases and media alerts to promote SmokingWords’  health fair participation.

For the event, SmokingWords will also be providing a survey to fair attendees who would like to be entered in a drawing to receive a gift certificate from North Gate Tavern, Raising Cane’s, VooDoo BBQ & Grill, Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, Balfour House or Buffalo Wild Wings.  Click here to view our flyer for the event.

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a mass communication senior at Louisiana State University. Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter.

SmokingWords Stepping Outside the LSU Box

Since the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester, my public relations campaign group, PlanIt Public Relations, has been meeting, brainstorming, designing, writing and collaborating ideas in an effort to create a great awareness campaign for our client, SmokingWords.

Although these internal group efforts have been productive and necessary, the PlanIt Public Relations team thinks getting an outside perspective certainly would not hurt the campaign. We are seeking ideas, resources and a network of professionals who can help us discover effective ways to promote a healthier environment and tobacco-free campus at Louisiana State University. This is why we are going to…NEW ORLEANS!

Mardi Gras has passed, so we are not going to the city to party. Instead, we are venturing out of Baton Rouge to learn from other individuals and institutions about ways to reach out to the LSU community with our tobacco-free initiative. I will be accompanying SmokingWords Director Dr. Judith Sylvester and my colleague Samantha Vicknair to the Youth and Young Adult Summit on Tobacco Advocacy Saturday, March 3, 2012, at Dillard University.

This is the fifth year the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, also known as TFL, will be hosting the summit.  According to the organization’s website, more than 400 middle school, high school and college students will be at the conference.

While at the summit, we will have the opportunity to experience presentations and interactive workshops, and we are definitely excited about some of the speakers who will be there. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing former Biggest Loser contestant Chris Blackburn, who will present “The Size of Addiction: How Smoking and Obesity Go Hand in Hand” and MTV‘s Chad Bullock, who will present “Igniting Initiative.”

In order to get the most out of this experience, Samantha and I are going with a positive attitude and an open mind. We hope to take away valuable knowledge from the formal lectures and sessions, as well as the informal interaction with other atendees and speakers.

From a public relations perspective, the best part about this conference opportunity is the fact that representatives from other colleges and universities that have transitioned to tobacco-free campuses will be there. In other words, we will be surrounded by people who have accomplished exactly what our client is trying to do — raise awareness about the harms of tobacco and subsequently move to a campus that is tobacco-free.

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a mass communication senior at Louisiana State University. Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter.

A Public Relations Challenge: No More Smoking at LSU?

Can SmokingWords really eliminate the use of tobacco on Louisiana State University’s campus?  Well, other universities across the country have managed to do it, and SmokingWords is determined to accomplish such a movement here. Nicholls State University’s tobacco-free policy covers topics ranging from the university’s cessation programs to tobacco-free compliance and implementation procedures. A sanction system is in place to make sure the university enforces the new policy. Students with a first violation of the rule receive a verbal warning. After a second violation, the student receives a written warning, and a final violation results in the student’s possible dismissal.

Although such a transition may seem like an overwhelming task, SmokingWords has taken on this challenge one piece at a time. While SmokingWords Director Judith Sylvester is in the process of applying for grants and communicating with university authorities regarding the tobacco-free initiative, PlanIt Public Relations is working on a major piece of the movement’s puzzle, the LSU student body.

Since 2000, Sylvester has participated in several programs to get students to realize the dangers of tobacco use, but she is concerned that they simply tune out helpful educational tips. After all, they have probably heard these warnings a hundred times since elementary school. Sylvester has given PlanIt Public Relations the task of reaching out to students and getting them on board with the tobacco-free movement. As with any public relations campaign, PlanIt Public Relations will need to do the necessary research to understand LSU students and the best way to reach them as the target audience.

PlanIt Public Relations has come up with ideas for this campaign to create ongoing student support of SmokingWords. Some of the short-term ideas include participating in the LSU Student Health Center’s Wellness Fair on National Kick Butts Day and inviting a speaker to present as a campaign spokesperson. In order for SmokingWords to have continued student support, PlanIt Public Relations has discussed creating a SmokingWords student chapter. Members of this student group would communicate with university students and provide feedback to legislators and university administrators.

Because faculty members are not allowed to lobby issues, PlanIt Public Relations believes a SmokingWords student organization could definitely focus on the lobbying aspects of the movement. In order to learn more about getting students involved in lobbying efforts, Samantha Vicknair and I will join Sylvester on Saturday, March 3, 2012, in New Orleans, La., at the Annual Louisiana Youth Summit on Tobacco. The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living hosts this event each year to educate young leaders on how to get students involved in making a difference in tobacco-related policies.

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a mass communication senior at Louisiana State University. Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter.

PlanIt Public Relations: A Student Group on a Mission

My name is Erin Bernard, and I am a public relations student graduating this May. The four years I have spent at Louisiana State University have been amazing and have opened my eyes to opportunities I never would have experienced otherwise.  Now that I’m working for PlanIt Public Relations, I’m very eager to put the various skills I’ve accumulated to excellent use.

For the next few months, PlanIt Public Relations will be working with SmokingWords, an educational organization geared toward promoting smoke-free lifestyles among college students and smoke-free campuses. Yesterday, along with the PlanIt Public Relations team, I met with the founder and director of SmokingWords, Dr. Judith Sylvester. She is a long-time supporter of a tobacco-free campus at LSU and has been working for nearly 11 years to educate students and faculty on the dangers of tobacco products.

After Dr. Sylvester told us some background information about SmokingWords, we began discussing ideas of how to create a successful tobacco-free awareness campaign. We talked about the possibility of having an event or a series of activities to coincide with the national Kick Butts Day, which will be held Wednesday, March 21, 2012. During our meeting Dr. Sylvester also talked about her affiliation with FreshCampus, a college advocacy campaign sponsored by the Louisiana Tobacco-Free College Initiative. Like SmokingWords, FreshCampus is devoted to making Louisiana college campuses 100 percent tobacco-free.

PlanIt Public Relations is excited to see what creative ideas we will come up with to help further the tobacco-free initiative. However, we are aware that we will have to be extremely creative because no budget is designated to the SmokingWords project.  Also, some of the current methods the organization uses to reach out to the public are outdated. The organization’s website and its Facebook page have a large amount of information that needs to be organized and aesthetically updated.  In addition, some of the organization’s promotional materials need to be modernized.

Another obstacle PlanIt Public Relations will have to overcome is opposition to the mission of SmokingWords. Educating individuals on the effects of using tobacco is one thing, but attempting to eliminate smoking and tobacco chewing from the LSU campus is another. This topic has proven to be controversial, and SmokingWords was even targeted in a recent LSU Reveille opinion piece “Never ‘Empty’ Thoughts: Anti-smoking crusades overbearing, unnecessary.”

Despite any challenges we will face, PlanIt Public Relations is ready to plan and implement a great campaign for our client, SmokingWords. Not only do we look forward to gaining valuable experience, we are excited to work toward a socially responsible cause to keep LSU’s campus and air clean.

Check out my Facebook and LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter.