Thursday, March 10, 2011

Print Futures students put real faces on real issues

PR whiz kids Kate Hunt (l) and Jessica Hewitt flipped stereotypes to come with
their winning campaign.
Residents of the Tri-Cities could soon be seeing homelessness and addiction in a whole new light, thanks to the forward thinking of two near-grads of the Print Futures: Professional Writing program.

As part of their Public Relations Writing class, Print Futures students were assigned in groups to design a communications plan for the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group that would educate residents of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody about the nature of addiction, the hope offered by treatment and support, and the implications for homeless people.

The standout was Kate Hunt and Jessica Hewitt’s “Three Things” campaign, which used images of “soccer moms” and businessmen alongside more typical images to represent homeless and addicted people.

“The one thing we really focused on was flipping stereotypes,” says Kate. “One of the concepts we came up with was having pictures of three different people: one who maybe fits the idea of an addicted person, and two who you wouldn’t normally look at and think, ‘that’s someone who deals with substance abuse and addiction.’”

Another of Jessica and Kate’s ideas dealt with harm reduction. Again, the pair went beyond stereotypes to seek images that would resonate with suburban home owners, such as people brushing their teeth and wearing seatbelts.

“I think the biggest thing was to put ourselves in the shoes of those people and move away from scary images of homeless people with addictions living on the street,” says Jessica. “People often have negative associations with harm reduction – they think of things like the Insite facility. They don't really think about the fact that we use harm reduction every day.”

The Addictions-Mental Health Subcommittee of the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Group proclaimed the campaign a winner, and Kate and Jessica have been invited to attend meetings with the subcommittee and Fraser Health to present their ideas.

But the work isn’t over yet. Using the Three Things campaign as a focus, this semester Kate and Jessica, along with the other groups in their class, are now creating print ads for newspapers, bus shelter ads, posters, rack cards, and web page copy, for the communications plan.

The subcommittee will be presenting the winning concepts to Fraser Health this month, with the hope that the project will receive enough funding to roll out the campaign across the entire Fraser Health region.

It’s a win-win situation, says Brooke Carter, the Print Futures instructor who organized the service learning project: by the end of the semester, every student in the Public Relations Writing 2 class will have a portfolio full of samples based in this project, and the committee will have multiple options to choose from for the campaign.

“The project has been a mutually beneficial success, and the students have risen to the challenge,” says Brooke. “This particular group of students is highly skilled, motivated, keen on having careers – they have taken to the project with gusto.

“It’s about making them shine.”
Don’t miss the portfolio show of Print Futures students April 7 at the Amelia Douglas Gallery, where they’ll be showing off their hard work of the past two years.