Published: April 14, 2011

Olinís Social Norms Duck campaign wins top public relations awards

Contact(s): Jason Cody Media Communications office: (517) 432-0924 cell: (734) 755-0210, Dennis Martell Olin Student Health Center office: (517) 432-1031

EAST LANSING, Mich. — MSU's Social Norms Duck campaign - created to promote the idea that a majority of students who do drink are responsible, thereby correcting misconceptions and promoting responsible behavior - has won two top awards from the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

At the chapter's 2011 PACE Awards luncheon, the social norms campaign won a Pinnacle Award (given to the highest-scoring entry in each category) in the Public Service category. The campaign also won the People's Choice award, voted on by attendees at the April 13 event.

The social norms campaign, begun in 2001, focuses on educating MSU students about actual drinking behavior on campus. When misperceptions about a particular health behavior are corrected, actual behavior will change to be more consistent with the actual norm, said Dennis Martell, a health educator with Olin Student Health Center.

Martell worked with colleagues from Olin, MSU's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research and the departments of Communication and Health Communication to expand the campaign. In 2006, a duck was chosen as the iconic figure of the campaign, and the messages are succinct, humorous and nonauthoritarian.

"We are very proud of the awards because it recognizes the efforts that MSU is putting into helping students realize they are making very responsible choices," he said. "The fact that it was an MSU student who came up with the ‘duck' concept also makes it quite rewarding."

More importantly, Martell said, survey results show the social norms initiative is a success: Since the inception of the campaign, there has been a 46 percent decrease in the percentage of students who report driving after drinking any amount of alcohol and a 71 percent decrease in the percentage who report driving after five or more drinks. Also, from 2000 to 2010, 39 percent fewer students report alcohol impacted their academic performance.

Held annually, the PACE Awards are mid-Michigan's highest honor of public relations activities. For more information on the awards and the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, go to


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