2013 PR People Awards: Media Relations Professional of the Year

Winner: Myra Oppel, Regional Communications Vice President, Pepco Holdings

Myra Oppel joined Pepco Holdings in mid-2012, after the company had reached its all-time low customer satisfaction score and its Pepco utility had been named the “Most Hated Company in America.” By helping to overhaul the company’s media relations approach, she played an integral role in helping to turn around the severely tarnished reputations of PHI and Pepco.  She developed a comprehensive earned media strategy, building relationships one reporter at a time. The resulting favorable coverage boosted customer satisfaction by 14 percentage points from its low.

In 2012, PHI’s territory was struck by two severe storms, a land hurricane in June and Hurricane Sandy in October, which both wreaked catastrophic damage. For the first, Oppel and her team fielded thousands of media inquiries over 10 days. She posted to YouTube an explanatory video on how power is restored, and the utility now uses it regularly for storms.

For Hurricane Sandy, Oppel took transparency to a new level by embedding members of the media within PHI’s operations during the storm and the restoration of power. Thirteen reporters were embedded, including an entire team from the Washington Post, PHI’s most vocal critic. The tactic resulted in a glowing article after the storm.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Rhea Davis, Account Manager, Fifth Ring
  • Chris Hook, Director of Enthusiast and Component PR, Social Media and Product Reviews, AMD
  • Aaron Wessels, Principal and Founder, Point-Bl_nk Communications