PR lessons learned from BobcaThon

By Allison Zullo

a69ef98fde7c0f212e4c2f2f312320a3This year, I spent my Valentine’s Day in an unconventional way: standing on my feet and dancing for 12 hours to raise money and awareness for the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Central Ohio. Along with many other Ohio University students, I participated in BobcaThon, OU’s first ever dance marathon. Together, we raised a staggering $18,173.13, and it was all for the kids (FTK)!

Dance marathons are student organizations active on many college campuses throughout the country that focus on raising money and awareness for a charity involving children. Their yearlong fundraising efforts culminate in a dance marathon that requires students dance, or at least stay on their feet, for an extended amount of time. Some of the larger dance marathons, such as The Ohio State University’s BuckeyeThon and Penn State University’s THON, raise over a million dollars and last over 24 hours.

So what does all of this have to do with public relations? Well, besides the obvious working in non-profit PR connection, here are a few reasons why BobcaThon and PR are related.

Social media is a powerful tool.

To participate in BobcaThon, we had to raise a minimum of $100 through a personal online fundraising page. Many of us were extremely successful in turning to social media to help reach our goals, particularly through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also utilized email marketing to reach out to my family members that aren’t on social media. This process reinforces the fact that all PR pros know well: social media is an extremely powerful marketing tool, and is essential for brands that want to stay relevant in today’s marketing and social landscape.

10898132_10153073345309763_3080241073257782484_nEvent planning is difficult, but crucial.

BobcaThon’s executive board had been planning for the Feb. 14 dance marathon for about a year. A YEAR! Large events such as these require more planning than one could ever imagine, from the big things like date and location to the little things like music playlists and games to keep the dancers entertained for 12 hours. It’s a lot of work, but good event planning skills are essential to PR, especially if the company or industry in which you work relies heavily on events for marketing and publicity purposes.


Whenever we became really tired and felt like we might not make it the full 12 hours, we heard a story from a family that was positively impacted by RMH, and we realized that this was all worth it. We were staying on our feet for 12 hours for those kids who couldn’t; it was for the kids! That became our mantra for the 12 hours – we probably repeated it 100 times or more. In PR, the work can be hard and the hours can be long, so you have to really have a passion for PR and a love for your company. It’s true what they say: if you’re doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

BobcaThon was certainly a long 12 hours, but in the end, it was totally worth it and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It’s just like PR: if you truly love the industry and your job, all of the hard work and long hours will be worth it when you implement a successful social media campaign or get a ton of media pickup from a press release.

nouHV0BMAllison is a sophomore majoring in strategic communication and minoring in sports management and marketing. She is also completing a social media certificate. After graduation, her dream job is to work in sports PR. Follow her on Twitter at @allisonzullo!

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