Betsy Plank Continues Winning Hearts of Students

Betsy- Typewriter

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations has started a tradition of what has the makings of a PR holiday—an annual celebration of Betsy Plank near her birthday.

Last year’s inaugural Betsy Plank Day was mainly celebrated on the University of Alabama campus where The Plank Center finds its home. However, social media allowed Betsy’s 90th birthday party to take steps toward national publicity.

This year, #BetsyDay took over Twitter on April 2 and showed that PRSSA students and professionals alike have joined the celebration of Betsy’s life and legacy. Twelve PRSSA Chapters entered the #BetsyDay challenge, creating a national Betsy buzz that has previously been unseen.

The Plank Center wanted to truly make Betsy come alive for students. As the “Godmother of PRSSA” and the First Lady of PR, she had much to offer that unfortunately most of us were never able to witness. However, her artifacts, wisdom and impact are still present and able to inspire us all. This was the idea behind the #BetsyDay challenge of 2015, which called upon all PRSSA Chapters to get involved in bringing Betsy to their campuses.

Step one required each Chapter to take a selfie of its members watching a short Betsy Plank documentary. Chapters tweeted the selfies to The Plank Center to start the buzz in March.

Step two allowed Chapters to get their creativity flowing. With no requirements and a “sky’s the limit” approach, Chapters were tasked with the challenge of innovatively promoting #BetsyDay on their campuses. The more creative the idea, the more likely the Chapter would win the grand prize “Betsy Bundle,” which included quarterly Skype sessions with a Plank Center board member, a year-long subscription to PRWeek, a six month online subscription to PRWeek for each member, a Chapter recommendation from The Plank Center, and the title of Betsy Day 2015 Champions. The results showed just how much Betsy is still in the hearts of PR students today.

  • Bethany College set up a photo booth for students to take a “Bet” selfie in order to realize that there’s a little piece of Betsy in all of them.
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo chose quotes and facts about women in public relations, including Betsy Plank, to inspire others. They made a Flipagram to show the pictures they took with the quotes.
  • Drexel University created a “Little Box of Betsy” with items that reflected Betsy’s life and distributed the boxes to students who continued the Betsy conversation.
  • East Carolina University posted Betsy’s inspirational quotes around campus and on social media so that she could continue touching lives throughout #BetsyDay.
  • Susquehanna University Chapter members made sailor hats to honor Betsy’s love of sailing in her boat, The Yearling.
  • The University of Alabama took pictures with a giant Polaroid cutout and wrote personal tributes to Betsy on the Polaroid. The pictures were assembled into a video with testimonies from a few students who thanked Betsy for her legacy.
  • The University of North Alabama created a video that highlighted the pieces of wisdom that Betsy left for PR practitioners to follow. The members filmed with hamburgers and cigarettes, as those were two of Betsy’s loves.
  • The University of Georgia hosted a Baker’s Dozen bake sale and attached tags featuring pieces of Betsy’s advice to each sweet treat.
  • The University of Oklahoma Chapter members planked around campus for their #PlankForPlank campaign. Pictures of the students planking were tweeted leading up to #BetsyDay.
  • The University of South Dakota organized a department mixer and introduced Betsy and PRSSA to students of different disciplines. Students also were encouraged to take a picture with a giant Betsy portrait and tweet it from their personal accounts using #BeLikeBetsy. Around 75 people took a picture with Betsy’s portrait from the start to the end of the campaign.
  • Waynesburg University featured a display board at the March meeting with Betsy’s facts, photos and quotes, as well as infographics from The Plank Center. The Chapter president gave a presentation about Betsy and gave each member a different quote of Betsy’s to carry with them. She then passed out blank note cards, encouraging them to write words of inspiration to future PR students and to sign them with “Godspeed” and their names.
  • West Virginia University turned its bulletin board in a high-traffic area into a one-stop learning center for Betsy Plank. The members promoted it on social media and made fliers available. The board was created in the hopes that students would gain inspiration and motivation.

It’s clear from the creative ideas and the eagerness to participate that Chapters have realized just how important Betsy is to the PR industry—and how much students can learn from her. Check out what many of their presidents and executive board thought about #BetsyDay.

  • “I think that our chapter learned the importance of remembering and celebrating the lives and careers of public relations professionals that have come before us. Without them, the public relations profession would not be what it is today. Without them, we, as students, would not have all of the opportunities that we do. Celebrating #BetsyDay showed our chapter the difference one woman made to the profession and inspired our members to make a difference themselves.” – Megan Bayles, president of Waynesburg PRSSA
  • “I love Betsy Day, because it feels like we have Betsy Plank here with us on campus again. I learned how powerful her legacy is when we had students and professionals from all over the country join in to celebrate #BetsyDay.” – Jacquie McMahon, president of UA PRSSA
  • “Betsy clearly left a legacy and helped shape the success of PRSSA. Moving forward with our own chapter goals and hopes of success can only be effective if we know where the public relations industry stands and where its goals and successes stemmed from. Commemorating Betsy helps us do just that.” – Arianne Wunder, president of USD PRSSA
  • “Betsy Plank was a true success, and she made such a difference in the lives of others. For that, it is important to remember her, not only to show gratitude, but to continue learning from her.” – Alyssa Stafford, president of UGA PRSSA
  • “Our chapter learned that it is always important to incorporate new ideas in PR, and to never be afraid to start something new like Betsy did with PRSSA.” – Abigail Ferris, president of UNA PRSSA
  • “The biggest takeaway from #BetsyDay would be that we were able to learn more about Betsy’s inspirational story and how being passionate about the work you do while possessing an eternal thirst for knowledge will bring you success with any path you choose to adventure down. Be an agent of change and never lose who you are.” – Valerie Bennett, president of WVU PRSSA
  • “It is important to commemorate Betsy Plank because she is an important foundational figure not only in the PR world, but also as a female role model for women in any field.”  – Andrea McDermott, social media director of Susquehanna PRSSA
  • “Through #BetsyDay our Chapter learned to work together to celebrate a person that was so important in establishing an organization we all care about. Often times in our Chapter the executive board are the ones planning, collaborating and making the majority of the decisions for the Chapter’s schedule. However, #BetsyDay gave our Chapter a chance to collaborate on a project which involved everyone.” – Hope Pittard, president of ECU PRSSA

With more than 1.6 million impressions from 361 users, including international posts from Peru and Spain among other areas, #BetsyDay 2015 was a social media sensation. Betsy Plank had the 91st birthday party of a lifetime!


Taylor Shelnutt is a junior majoring in public relations and Spanish at the University of Alabama. She is the Social Media Committee Leader for the Alabama PRSSA Chapter and is the Assistant Firm Director and an Account Executive for Capstone Agency.

Date: April 9, 2015