F*ck It Won’t Cut It Student Coronavirus Safety Campaign Gets National Recognition
BU group invited by CDC and national marketing organization to discuss successes at their conferences
At first, it was the unorthodox name of F*ck It Won’t Cut It that was generating all the buzz. The title of the BU student-led COVID-19 public health campaign plays off the stereotype that young people often say “F*ck it” to responsible behavior, an attitude that can wind up being deadly during a pandemic. Launched in August, the campaign has communicated a crucial message: that students must take social distancing, masking up, and other COVID-19 preventive measures seriously if they want to stay safe, and on campus, during the pandemic.
Now public health leaders across the country have taken notice. Last month, the American Marketing Association asked the team to lead a virtual Audience Engagement session at its 2020 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education called: Boston University’s Student-Run Campaign: Provocative with a Purpose. And on Wednesday the group will speak at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webinar for university administrators and health staff that highlights innovative social media campaigns and other ways to reach college students, with the hope of motivating them to change risky behavior and avoid spreading COVID-19.
The project is the first-ever joint effort between students in the College of Communication’s AdLab and PRLab. Hannah Schweitzer (COM’21), president of AdLab and F*ck It’s project manager and account executive, says the group’s main goal at these presentations is to communicate the idea that they are provocative with a purpose. “We cover the taboo subjects, we’re relatable and authentic, and we’re clearly student-run with our language, with our content, and with our design,” she says.
Hailey McKee (COM’20), PRLab account director and PR manager, says that recognition from the two national groups, as well as the local and national media attention they have received, have validated the importance of their work.
“It really shows that people outside of this BU bubble are saying, ‘Hey, look at this, these young adults are actually stepping up and making a positive change that’s impacting both their campus and the community around it,’” she says.
Through its social media channels, F*ck It Won’t Cut It regularly posts new content, like infographics, new data from the commonwealth and the CDC, tips for staying safe and healthy, and addressing false information about COVID-19. And their work isn’t all serious, either. They organized and hosted a virtual Halloween party featuring comedian Hasan Minhaj, best known for his work on The Daily Show, and they’ve handed out free T-shirts and water bottles on Marsh Plaza.
Schweitzer points to some of the topics the campaign has addressed this semester that many other COVID-19 PSAs don’t seem to want touch: marijuana use, how to still have a social life, mental health, and sex, all shared on social media with a down-to-earth, frequently witty, tone. The delivery is deliberate: the students conducted focus groups earlier in the summer and the takeaway was that students don’t want to go to an institution for advice on these kinds of things: they tend to trust their peers’ advice more and would rather hear it from them.
As the semester has progressed, the F*ck It Won’t Cut It team has learned to adapt to what students want to hear and learn more about, she says. While topics like testing and not partying in large numbers were the focus at the beginning of the semester, the more recent pandemic fatigue has led them to change their messaging a bit, challenging the notion that “we all got tested, we can have a hangout with 11 people without masks, and it’ll be fine,” Schweitzer says. “Or, I can run down the hallway to put my trash out and not wear my mask this one time, nothing bad will happen. But this pandemic fatigue has led us to shift our campaign to: We know this is exhausting. So how do we have a successful semester so we don’t just give up?”
BU’s F*ck It Won’t Cut It team will present at the CDC webinar Using Social Media to Promote COVID-19 Mitigation Behaviors among College and University Students on Wednesday at 1 pm. Register here to attend.