UNO PRSSA receives first place at the National Organ Donation Awareness Competition


Zach Gilbert

Katheryn Lopez-Chavez, the vice president of communications and diversity for the UNO chapter of PRSSA, displays the stickers and flower seeds that were featured in the team’s NODAC campaign. Photo courtesy of Lopez-Chavez.

As a result of their advertising and communications talents, the UNO Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) received first place and a $400 cash award at the 2020 National Organ Donor Awareness Competition (NODAC) this past August.

NODAC is a national competition at which collegiate PRSSA chapters use creativity, teamwork and strategic public relations skills to create, plan and execute a campaign that spreads knowledge and awareness about organ donation around college campuses across the nation.

“When we received the email notifying us of our placement, it felt so rewarding to see that our efforts had been recognized, especially after pouring our hearts into our campaign,” said Kylie Squiers, the president of UNO’s PRSSA.

The team created a campaign focused around the slogan “Let Life Bloom.” This is a tribute to organ donors who “give the ultimate gift of life that allows another [individual] to grow and blossom,” according to the team’s Instagram page.

“When you give a part of yourself to someone else, you’re giving them a chance to bloom again, in a sense,” Squiers said. “We spun off of that idea to create the overall theme of our campaign.”

On digital media platforms, the PRSSA team connected with the community to help educate on the importance of organ donation. The team was also able to partner with Live On Nebraska, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to saving and healing lives through organ, tissue and eye donation.

The team’s campaign generated over 13,000 social media engagements, and more than 120 individuals across the Omaha-Metro area responded a survey asking for “Forget-Me-Not” flower seed packets and “Let Live Bloom” stickers. Seed packets were meant to be planted in honor of a donor or an organ recipient close to a recipient’s heart, and they could be ordered by anyone who sent their name and mailing address to the team email.

While the team ultimately succeeded in their endeavors, they hit a few bumps along the way. For starters, the campaign initially featured outdoor events set at the Milo Bail Student Center Plaza on the UNO campus (complete with speakers, “swag,” sack lunches and flower seed packets), but the COVID-19 outbreak put a damper on these plans.

“Originally, most of the campaign was going to be conducted in-person, but when COVID-19 came along, it really just shocked us all,” Squiers said.

After canceling that event, the team went back to the drawing board and spent countless hours meeting over Zoom to design a fully digital campaign instead. Their online innovation led to the partnership with Live On Nebraska, which included a “takeover” of the organization’s social media accounts, and the creation of a variety of quizzes and videos distributed online.

Squires was brought on to help the team when the campaign went digital, as was Vice President of Communications and Diversity Kat Lopez-Chavez. Combined, the two brought years of experience working in social media.

“I actually really enjoyed the challenge,” Squires said. “It forced us to think outside of the box and respond to a real-life communication crisis, and I think we did a phenomenal job.”

The team hopes that the success of the NODAC campaign serves as a sign of a strong year of public relations work to come, especially as they towards reimagining events that must take place on a mostly virtual scale.

“I feel that the lessons we learned from our NODAC campaign set us up for future success this semester, especially with how we handled the abrupt transition from in-person events to digital outreach,” Squiers said. “Since we now know that we’re capable of overcoming these challenges, we’ll know how to do it again.”