Improving PR Campaigns with a Roll of the Dice: Assuming New Identities to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusion

Top GIFT from AEJMC-PRD 2017

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 1, 2017. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Lucinda Austin. First published online on May 21, 2018.


Kelly Bruhn

Dr. Kelly B. Bruhn, Drake University

Improving PR Campaigns With a Roll of the Dice: Assuming New Identities to Strengthen Diversity and Inclusion

Professional communicators have an obligation to create campaigns and materials that represent and build engagement with the audiences they serve. According to the U.S. Census, more than 36% of the U.S. population identify as non-white (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016), while a PR Week/Bloom, Gross & Associates Salary Survey (2016) reported that only 11% of public relations professionals identify as non-white. In addition, the 2010 U.S. Census found that more than 58% of public relations professionals were female (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). These gaps require educators to work diligently to equip public relations students with skills to seek out and celebrate difference in their communications campaigns. Professors at Drake University designed the “Roll the Dice” exercise to facilitate this learning in a fun, inviting way.

Within the first two weeks of the semester in a Public Relations Principles course, students are asked to approach the front of the room, roll three colored dice (one red, one white, and one blue), and record the score from each die. The instructor then reveals the “new you,” assigning different genders, races, able-bodiedness, religions, and socioeconomic statuses based upon the number rolled on each die. Students are asked to keep a handwritten or electronic journal for 10 days, assuming the “new you” as they react to media, communication pieces, websites, social media engagements, movies, books, and music—everything they encounter during those 10 days. Students turn in their journals—which are only read by the student and the instructor to encourage honesty and open dialogue—and any related materials collected and analyzed during the 10-day period. The final journal entry includes a personal reflection about what they learned during the project, especially about the representations they encountered. They then reflect on their preconceived notions of their “new you,” and they explore how those biases were challenged during the assignment.

This assignment is well suited for freshmen and sophomores beginning their public relations curriculum, as they are challenged to analyze the implications of public relations campaigns in an increasingly connected multicultural/global society, analyze industry-specific public relations campaigns, assess their roles in influencing and engaging people, and evaluate their readiness for working in public relations—all learning outcomes described in the course syllabus. Perhaps most importantly, this assignment forces students to seek out various news sources, communications tools and popular culture events to critically examine how groups are represented and how companies and organizations engage with various audiences. Many journal entries report students’ growth as individuals from the assignment and its importance in forcing them out of their “upper-middle-class, white, suburban bubble” (PR Principles student, personal communication, January 19, 2016). And, during strategic planning sessions or tactics preparation for community partners, students often recall their “Roll the Dice” exercises when advocating to adjust images, content, and delivery for a wide variety of audiences.


PR Week/Bloom, Gross & Associates (2016). 2016 Salary Survey. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau (2016). 2010 Census Demographic Profiles. Retrieved from


Sample Assignment

Red                             White                         Blue

Roll the Dice
JMC 085: Public Relations Principles
Journal Assignment – Worth 100 points or 10% of final grade

You may keep a handwritten journal or you can record your findings electronically, then print them out to hand in at the end of the project. Either way, be sure to include photos, news clippings, and links—any supporting material appropriate for the specific examples you collect.

  1. In class, you’ll discover the makeup of the “new you,” and for 10 days (yes, on the weekend, too) you will immerse yourself in media of all kinds as the “new you.” (Some of the combinations may be difficult to match. Do your best to apply as many of the traits as you can in your search, BUT not necessarily all at the same time.)
  2. During the project, you should be accessing news daily, but also looking at other communications pieces (magazines, radio, TV, movies, billboards, websites, advertising, social media sites, etc.). Your goal is to experience the news and other communications as the “new you.” Are your needs being met? Do you see yourself in the verbiage and photos? Are you being represented fairly? What do you find when you search Google images for the “new you?”
  3. Your first journal entry must be your reflection on the “new you.” Write down your new demographics, how those differ from the “real you,” and what you expect to find during this exercise. What are your preconceived notions/biases about the “new you?” These journals are confidential. I will be your only reader, so be honest and thoughtful in your responses.
  4. You must make daily journal entries during this project. Your journal must include specific details of what you see, hear and experience. (You must provide enough detail – source of article, reporter’s name, headline, web address, etc. – so I could locate the information online). Each entry needs to not only explain what you’ve seen/heard, but how you react to it as the “new you” and how it might inform/misinform the rest of the community. Each day should include at least two examples. Overall, your journal must contain a wide variety of sources.
  5. Here are some media sources you might consider, but you are encouraged to expand to other outlets. The key is to look to a variety of sources, including those you’ve never turned to before.
  • Print newspapers: The Des Moines Register, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times are all available for free on campus.
  • Online sources for news include,,,,,,,,,, and loads of others. (Do you encounter a paywall? How does the “new you” react to that?)
  • Spend some time listening to television news like Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. Choose a variety, not just a single outlet.
  • News should be part of your daily experience, but I will also be looking for other types of communication pieces throughout your journal, including magazines, TV programs, movies, books, websites, social media, etc.
  1. One entry should give details about at least two niche news sources you’ve discovered that specifically serve the “new you.”
  2. The final entry in your journal must be a personal reflection about what you learned during the project, especially about media and communications representation of different groups. Be sure to return to your first entry, where you reflected on your preconceived notions of this “new you.” How were those ideas challenged during this project?


“Roll the Dice” Rubric

Total value: 100 points or 10% of final grade

Low End


High End




Daily entries (at least 2) that include thoughtful reflection Skipping days or clearly pulling together the entire 10-day project on the final day Entries that show engagement with the project and showcase a variety of examples from different media 35
Good variety of sources. More credit if you review outlets you have never searched before


All examples coming from The New York Times and CNN Lots of sources, including newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, books, movies, websites, social media, advertising, etc. 15
Specifics from the sources you reference (news/media source, author, title, summary, web address) so I can understand your reaction Links only or vague references to source without specifics, including what the article was about/ how it was presented/where it was published


Enough information that I believe you actually read/ listened to and understood the media you cite 15
Discovery of niche media sources that serve the “new you” specifically Didn’t do it, or didn’t give any specifics about the sources (CNN is not a niche publication)


Specifics about at least two sources that serve the new you 15
First entry = Explain the new you and reflect on what you expect to discover

Last entry = Reflection about what you learned during the assignment

Lack of specifics Good specifics and examples that help explain your thoughts 20



Sample Powerpoint Slides– Announcing Assignment/“New You”

Slide One:     Roll the Dice

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

So, what do those numbers mean?

Slide Two:     Step One

Select a gender with which you don’t currently identify.

Slide Three:   Red = Race/Culture*

1. Southeast Asian
2. Black
3. Latino
4. Middle Eastern
5. Native American/American Indian
6. Caucasian

Slide Four:     White = Age*

1. 18 years or younger
2. 19-30
3. 31-45
4. 46-60
5. 61-75
6. 76 years or older

Slide Five:     Blue = Religion/Sexuality/Ability/Class*

1. Low Income
2. Jewish
4. Muslim
5. Physically Disabled
6. Homeless

*Consider customizing these lists by using U.S. Census data from your area or characteristics of your community partner’s/client’s target audiences.