Winner: Shoshona "Shoni" Pilip-Florea, Director, Communications & Community Engagement, US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region
Shoni Pilip-Florea is the platinum standard of government communicators. She deftly balances the role of serving as a speechwriter and press secretary for her senior executives, while providing strategic guidance, training and leadership to her staff and the region’s communications and community engagement professionals.
Shoni led the communications efforts for the 2015 fire siege of the Pacific Northwest, including the tragic fatalities and memorials held for three fallen firefighters covered by nearly every major news outlet in the country. She fielded upwards of 200 media calls and facilitated multiple press conferences, including ones featuring the Governor of Washington State, as well as U.S. Senators Cantwell and Murray. Efforts resulted in millions of media impressions, countless stories and significant advancement of the “Fire Wise” protection program.
She also served on the team that successfully pitched National Geographic for a five-year communications partnership with the U.S. Forest Service around public lands. The partnership will tell the public lands story from the perspective of multiple community members.
Shoni also demonstrates keen judgment, always knowing the appropriate level of engagement and communication for different audiences. Her regional forester, a member of the federal senior executive service, routinely commends her instincts and conveys his full faith in her ability to accurately assess any situation.
Some examples of this are seen in her preparation for the 2015 fire season. With a grim outlook from predictive services, Shoni recruited a cadre of communications professionals from in and outside the agency to fill critical gaps in public information for the fire season. She also proactively worked with a data resources team to design mobile friendly applications fed with the latest updates on evacuations and fire conditions, as well as information for recreationists.
Finally, Shoni clearly articulated the audience for communications around the firefighter fatalities as families first, then employees and finally the media and public. This shows her sound judgment, respect and integrity.
• Andriena Daunt, Tourism New Zealand