by Hannah Schweitzer
, posted on 14 Apr '21

Lessons Learned from F*ck It Won’t Cut It: Boston University’s Provocative Student-Run COVID Safety Campaign

As a follow up to our recent webinar, we asked Hannah Schweitzer, F*ck It Won’t Cut It Project Manager & Strategist, from Boston University to share further insights from their campaign which grabbed the attention of students and media across the US.

Behavior change is the hardest thing to sell.

In September 2020, Boston University decided to have a hybrid semester, giving students the choice to take classes in-person. This welcomed back over 40,000 students, faculty and staff to campus with an unprecedented amount of protocols.

The university faced a challenge: How do we convince independent-minded, COVID-fatigued and socially-active students to completely change their everyday behaviors?

Talking to students

Having Gen Z students as a target audience can be tricky. Only 7% of Gen Z puts “a lot” of trust in people of positions of power. Instead, Gen Z looks to their friends for advice and resources they know their peers respect. They value authenticity and empathy. Therefore, a great way to promote student safety is to have a campaign by students, for students. This is exactly what Boston University did.

The campaign

BU leadership reached out to us, students involved with AdLab & PRLab, two student-run agencies in BU’s College of Communication, to come up with a relatable campaign that encourages safety.

After boatloads of research, we created original social accounts to launch F*ck It Won’t Cut It, a campaign that reminds students that saying “f*ck it” to safety protocols can lead towards big consequences.

The campaign has reached over 3.7 million users and received over 46,000 engagements across Instagram, Twitter and TikTok and currently decorates campus with digital signage, flyers, freestanding signs and even a bus wrap.

What has worked?

#1 Discussing Taboo Topics

We use our student-run nature to its best advantage by covering topics often feared by mainstream resources. Having a major institution talk about such personal topics to students can come off “cringe.” We know this from The University of Georgia: UGA took down sexual health tips on their website after receiving mockery and ridicule by students on social media. Gen Z-ers do value open communication about overlooked topics such as social justice, safe sex, mental health and even marijuana, but this conversation is more valued when done casually instead of institutionally.

#2 Working With Brand Ambassadors

75 volunteer brand ambassadors bring the campaign mission to life. They host weekly contactless swag handouts and grow the campaign on social media as micro-influencers. They pay attention to new health protocols and trends, helping decide what the campaign should cover. Having such a large group of students part of the campaign helps us adapt to the students needs during such an unpredictable time.

#3 Adding To The Conversation in an Authentic Tone

Using candid, witty and approachable language, the campaign interacts and amplifies other reliable voices by quote-tweeting and resharing existing content in our story. We have Instagram takeovers with student experts and we reshare other student-run content. This helps keep our feed varied and boost student trust.

#4 Providing Alternatives

While the university needs to stick to strict communications about protocols, the student-run campaign has the opportunity to recognize that not all students can keep up with the rules. F*ck It Won’t Cut It is a reliable friend that gives you tips on how you can actually make new friends, date and socialize in a COVID-safe way.

This campaign highlights the benefit of working with student voices. What better way to talk to students than view the students as partners? As Gen Z begins to take up the college student population, let’s keep in mind their value for work that is unapologetically authentic and provocative with a purpose.

If you’d like help with extending the reach of your campaign to our FindAMasters and FindAPhD website visitors and email subscribers, please get in touch with your Account Manager, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)114 268 4940.

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