2017 PR People Award Winners Announced by PR News

An all-star lineup of communicators who routinely go above and beyond the call of duty were honored at the 2017 PR People Awards Luncheon, held Dec. 5 at the historic National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The winners of categories such as Crisis Manager of the Year, Digital Leader of the Year and Media Relations Professional of the Year were honored at the event. Among the criteria the judges considered were leadership qualities, creativity and flexibility, the astute application of PR tenets, exhibiting sound judgement, the ability to plan and execute notable campaigns and outstanding volunteer efforts.

Many of the winners expressed the need to be humble, to be receptive to new ideas and ultimately, to be an active listener, as keys to their success. The winners were asked to answer one of two questions: What trait do you think is most essential to becoming a PR leader, or what advice would you have for your 21-year-old self?

Agency Account Manager of the Year winner Lauren Herchert of Hill+Knowlton Strategies said that one defining trait of leadership is the need to be receptive. "The ability to listen is the most essential trait to becoming a PR leader," she said. "In this job, we’re really coached in PR to always have the answer, but listening to your clients, colleagues and employees is so critical."

Leadership is also characterized by remaining grounded and never settling for the status quo, said PR Team Leader of the Year winner Jodi Brooks of Burson-Marsteller. "The first thing about being a leader is to have humility," she said. "But you also need to take risks and push yourself to always learn more."

Brian Kelley of Sage Communications was awarded Account Director or Supervisor of the Year and opened with a joke. "First, I would’ve told my 21-year-old self, you drank too much in college so you need to buckle down now," he said. "But mainly I would say to be a good listener and show folks that you care and it will come back around."

Katherine Hardin of Ruder Finn, who won the PR Professional of the Year in the Agency division, told a story about the first business trip she took as a young PR professional, a trip she really didn't want to go on. The trip was to a client event in Senegal, where everybody spoke French.

"The advice I would give my 21-year-old self would be to step our of your comfort zone," she said. "I wanted to say no but in the end it was a big success and I left feeling like I could take on anything."

But the most ironic answer came from PR Intern of the Year winner Delaney Lanker from HP Inc. "I'm only 22," she quipped. "But if I could tell myself something a year ago, it's that you need to stay confident, know that you're better at this than you think you are and to fake it until you make it."

Here is a full list of winners and honorable mentions in each category; see profiles of the winners.

Account Director or Supervisor of the Year
Brian Kelley, Sage Communications
Honorable Mentions
Steven Andersen, Infinite Global
Christy Pittman, W2 Communications

Agency Account Manager of the Year

Lauren Herchert, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Honorable Mention
Melissa Muskett, Allison+Partners

Crisis Manager of the Year

Molly Levinson, The Levinson Group
Honorable Mention
John Guilfoil, John Guilfoil Public Relations

Digital Leader of the Year

Carmen Collins, Cisco
Honorable Mentions
Darius Fisher, Status Labs
Kristina Libby, SoCu

Marketer of the Year

Dawn Callahan, Boingo Wireless
Luke DeRouen, Arby's Restaurant Group, Inc.
Honorable Mentions
Holli Beckman, WC Smith
Ed Harris, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board

Measurement Expert of the Year

Christopher Penn, SHIFT
Honorable Mentions
Renee Spurlin, ARPR

Media Relations Professional of the Year

Ashley Wimberly, Samsung Electronics America
Honorable Mentions
Lacey Haines, HP Inc.
Cameron Martin, PAN Communications
Lauren Paul, Rodale Inc
Gillian Small, Gillian Small Public Relations
Christine Weirsky, XL Catlin
Ruja Zagorska, Sitemedia Consultancy

PR Intern of the Year

Delaney Lanker, HP Inc.
Honorable Mention
Sarah Mondello, Drake Community Press

PR Professional of the Year: Agency

Katherine Hardin, Ruder Finn
Jane P. Madden, Burson-Marsteller
Honorable Mentions
Darlene Doyle, PAN Communications
Alia Faraj-Johnson, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Julie Murphy, Sage Communications
Rebecca Reeve, Rsquared Communication
Lisa Ross, APCO Worldwide
Dan Simon, Vested

PR Professional of the Year: Corporate & Nonprofit

Franz Paasche, PayPal
Honorable Mentions
Valerie Combs, IAC
Nisha Morris, Providence St. Joseph Health
Cameron Potts, Deluxe Corporation
Vanessa Yanez, HP Inc.
Jeremy Zweig, Viacom

PR Team Leader of the Year

Jodi Brooks, Burson-Marsteller
Atle Erlingsson, SAP
Honorable Mentions
Christine Blake, W2 Communications
Lauren de la Fuente, Boingo Wireless
Ben Klein, Ruder Finn
John LaPlace, EY
Karl Oestreich, Mayo Clinic

Publicist of the Year
Honorable Mention
Lacey Haines, HP Inc.

Student of the Year

Maddy Gildersleeve, Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Honorable Mention
Rachel Willis, Duquesne University Me