Megan Groathouse, a senior in advertising and international relations with minors in data science and German, from Waukee, Iowa, and Adriana I. Rivera Rodríguez, a senior in advertising and graphic design from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, were named the winners of the 2023 Washington Media Scholars Media Plan Case Competition June 8.
Their winning presentation was a multi-cultural, multi-language, universal design-based communication plan to enhance the perception of pharmacists in a major urban market with demographics similar to the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
“My passions lie within universal design,” said Rivera Rodríguez. “As a Latina and as a person with a physical disability, I try to bring the principles of universal design into everything that I do. And for a problem like perception, there is no one-size fits all solution—there are only diverse solutions.”
“And my passion centers on finding stories within the data,” said Groathouse. “Within my analysis I uncovered multiple media solutions to the challenge of reaching diverse populations. That included outlets such as Spanish-language radio and neighborhood-based advertising, which don’t often get the attention they deserve but were highly effective in meeting our strategic goals.”
Hosted by the Washington Media Scholars Foundation and presented by Gray Television and Katz Media, the 14th annual national competition challenged students interested in public policy communication to think strategically as they worked in pairs to present comprehensive media plans based on a hypothetical public policy issue using real, consumer-driven data.
“We wanted to humanize the industry and humanize our target audiences,” said Rivera Rodríguez. “We decided to target people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, and we wanted them to use the pharmacy and bring in a new generation of diverse groups of pharmacists into the industry so that other minorities would be able to reach culturally competent care.”
“This approach would help with the mass burnout and help bring in more diversity to the Pharmacists Association of America and ensure that minorities would be receiving care that was right for them, and BIPOC minorities to ensure that they feel heard, accepted and make sure we are able to improve health outcomes in this demographic,” she continued.
Groathouse and Rivera Rodríguez made up Team Adriana and Megan, one of six pairs of finalists which also included students from Brigham Young University, Ithaca College, Loras College, Syracuse University and Western Governors University. As the top finishers, Groathouse and Rivera Rodríguez each received a $5,000 scholarship.
The competition began in the fall and was completed in three rounds over the course of 10 months. The opportunity allowed Groathouse and Rivera Rodríguez to put the skills they learned in the classroom into action.
“It was so fun to work together on this project and bring our unique skills and perspectives into the final product. After all the hard work, it was so exciting to travel to Washington, DC, and pitch our proposal to the panel of judges,” said Groathouse.
Leading up to the final presentations, the finalists also participated in Media Scholars Week as they learned from experts at top firms.
“The week in Washington, DC, was such an incredible experience. We visited multiple media companies throughout our time there, including NBCUniversal, The Washington Post, Politico, iHeartMedia, and many more,” said Groathouse. “We also attended multiple networking events, which gave us a great opportunity to learn about all the different roles within the media industry.”
Teams comprised of Greenlee School students have made it to the final round of the competition in each of the past seven years, winning first place three times and first runners-up twice. Jay Newell, a Greenlee professor in advertising, advises Iowa State students participating in the competition.
As part of the students’ research, Newell put the 2023 team in touch with 2002 Greenlee alumna Kelli Teno who is Walgreens’ senior director of U.S. healthcare and pharmacy communications and the Greenlee School’s Fall 2022 Futures Forum keynote speaker. Teno briefed the students on the real-world issues mirrored in the case.
“Adriana and Megan brilliantly synthesized the information and inspiration from the Greenlee faculty and alumni,” Newell said. “But their real genius was in analyzing the target market data and then determining that the most effective communication campaign would involve activating conversations among diverse groups of healthcare consumers. Their universal design approach, which involves creating communication in ways that accommodate the capabilities and limitations of multiple audiences, was an approach that impressed the judges.”
Alongside the presentation of awards, the Mia Guion Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Loras College’s Alexis Riesberg. This scholarship — which was given to the student who demonstrated preparation, participation, professionalism and presentation skills throughout Media Scholars Week — was established in memory of the late Mia Guion, a 2017 Iowa State University advertising graduate and a member of Iowa State’s 2017 first-place team in the competition. Guion passed away in 2018 following an automobile accident. Guion’s parents were in attendance throughout the event.
During Groathouse’s time at Iowa State, she has worked as a communications/website assistant for the College of Human Sciences and is continuing to work in that role throughout the summer.
Rivera Rodríguez is interning for the Dean of Student’s Office as a graphic design and communications intern for Multicultural Student Affairs. She looks forward to contributing to the MSA’s mission to continue to passionately advocate for increased diversity initiatives within the dynamic media landscape.