There is a new TikTok dance trend hoping to grace Montclair State University’s campus and it’s already recruited the one and only Rocky the Red Hawk. Although, the subject matter might not be what you expect.
The hashtag, #Dance4Lymphoma is just one part of the “Let’s Talk Lymphoma” campaign that launched last week. Four Montclair State students are participating in the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) Bateman Case Study Competition, where students from all over the country compete to create the best campaign for a specific client.
Rocky is already featured on @msulymphomies on TikTok.
This year’s client is the Lymphoma Research Foundation which studies cancer of the lymphatic system and includes the lymph nodes.
Ana Carolina Populim-Boykin, a senior public relations major, is one of the students who worked on the campaign and knew nothing about lymphoma prior.
“I wasn’t even really sure what lymphoma was,” Populim-Boykin said. “I knew it was a cancer but I didn’t know the intricacies of lymphoma. [With this campaign], not only am I getting hands-on experience of PR but I’m also learning about lymphoma.”
This lack of knowledge is the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s main problem, especially among young people. To tackle this, the students came up with the idea to make a TikTok dance according to senior social media and public relations major Maria Alegria Menendez, another student who worked on the campaign.
“We were all in front of this whiteboard thinking of all the ideas that we could come up with to get people involved and want to get involved,” Menendez said. “I pointed out how TikTok dances were so popular, then we were all thinking ‘Oh my god, it’s a great idea!’”
They wanted to have the dance show the three major lymph node areas: the neck, the armpits and the groin. To help with the choreography, they reached out to the Montclair State Dance Company (MSDC) for help to create a simple and fun TikTok dance.
“It was like a no-brainer because you’re educating but you’re having fun,” Menendez said. “[You’re] learning yourself and then helping spread awareness and hopefully getting other people involved. So it’s awesome.”
Despite the fun the students had creating the campaign, they never lost sight of what it meant on a broader scale. Dimitrios Rodriguez, a senior public relations major, learned on a personal level when his grandmother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the campaign.
“I basically lived it firsthand,” Rodriguez said. “It means even more to me now than it was going into it in the beginning.”
His grandmother is in remission but the whole experience set the project in a new light for Rodriguez.
“It hit home, obviously, and I was really passionate about this project and really trying to do the best to deliver on it, but even more now,” Rodriguez said.
The students are led by Mary Scott, an adjunct professor for the School of Communication and Media. This is her first time running the Bateman Competition but she has been thrilled with the work the students have done.
“I’ve just been so happy with how the team came together,” Scott said. “Everyone had different areas of expertise and things that they excelled in but they all came together and worked really hard to build an incredible campaign.”
Along with the rest of the world, this project has been no stranger to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The team has experienced delays in some areas and the modest size of the group could also be attributed to COVID-19 as numbers for the group were between 20 and 30 in past years.
The biggest challenge that COVID-19 has presented to the group is the sheer enormity of it. With COVID-19 being the only health-related thing (sometimes the only thing in general) people talk about, the Lymphoma Research Foundation has struggled to raise awareness through the pandemic buzz.
“With [COVID-19], there’s a lot of misinformation going around, and no one knows what to believe,” Rodriguez said. “You can be as health-conscious [as you possibly could be] and it can just happen out of nowhere just like what happened to my grandmother.”
The “Let’s Talk Lymphoma” campaign runs until March 11 and the students as well as Scott are urging the Montclair State community to engage with it.
“This is all about getting lymphoma on the map with young adults,” Scott said. “But it’s also a chance to help your [Montclair State] peers because we are competing against students from great schools around the nation and the more we can show that we were able to engage the community, get them behind it, get them to understand and really absorb our message that we’re putting out there, the better our campaign will have a chance to win.”
You can check out their website at msulymphomies.org and their TikTok and Instagram is @msulymphomies.