Top public relations campaigns in more than 40 categories were celebrated at today’s Platinum PR Awards luncheon at the Grand Hyatt in New York. A sold-out crowd of PR professionals honored their peers for their first-rank communications efforts in categories ranging from anniversary campaign and green PR to multicultural campaign and social media campaign.
Winners of the Platinum PR Awards listed the key skills that contributed to their success at the luncheon event; foremost among these skills was the ability to collaborate effectively.
Rob Semsey, communications director for EA Sports (winner with Fleishman-Hillard in the Marketing Communications category for "Madden NFL 12 Cover Athlete Voting Campaign"), Denise Paleothodoros, SVP at GolinHarris (winner in the Media Event category for "2011 McDonald's All American Basketball Games Create Arch Madness in Chicago") and Adam Emery, VP and deputy lead, corporate practice, Waggener Edstrom (winner in the Product Launch category for "Year of IE9: Launching a More Beautiful Web") all emphasized true, open collaboration as the key element in their winning campaigns. "For us, it was all about the seamless collaboration with our partner, Microsoft," said Emery.
Other winners, including John Deveney, president of Deveney Communication (winner in the Crisis Management category for "Louisiana Office of Tourism BP Oil Spill Response"), invoked passion for the work itself and listening tactics as key ingredients in the success of their campaigns. "The single most important quality for us was being active listeners—but also taking nothing for granted," said Deveney.
Luncheon keynoter Heather Oldani, director, U.S. communications, McDonald's U.S.A., expanded on the theme of listening, its role in telling brand stories and how storytelling itself—rather than mere messaging—will keep PR relevant.
"The simple truth is our profession has changed dramatically," Oldani said. "What got us here at this point today isn't going to keep us here tomorrow. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone."
Oldani said that McDonald's has started to "simply listen." The company began a high-profile listening tour in August as it begins to tell new brand stories that connect with people on a human level and succeed at building trust in the brand.
"Storytelling is one of the most tried-and-true arts going back to the cavemen," she said. "Looking at the Platinum PR Award winners and honorable mentions today, it’s obvious storytelling is making a comeback. But storytelling goes beyond just messaging. At McDonald’s we’re trying to identify the stories that represent our brand now and where it’s going. We’re sharing stories from the farmers we work with about what it means for them to be suppliers to McDonald’s, and people at our focus groups are really surprised by that. We’re now shooting videos about our suppliers that will help tell their story."
The key point, she said, is providing that human face and voice for McDonalds. "It’s OK and important for an organization to be human," Oldani said. "Being human is the new black. Openness, kindness, humor and honesty are crucial to connecting with your audience and customers."
Also at today's luncheon event, APCO Worldwide was named Large PR Firm of the Year, MWW Group won for Midsize Firm of the Year and Linhart Public Relations was named Small PR Firm of the Year. PR News also inducted the following campaigns into its Hall of Fame:
- Aflac – Aflac Duck
- American Airlines and Weber Shandwick – Fuel Smart
- Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. – The Real Warriors Campaign
- Comcast – Comcast Cares Day
- Cone Inc. & Jiffy Lube International – Maintenance Partners for Life
- Deloitte – Greening the Dot
- Edelman/Unilever & Dove – Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
- GE – ecomagination
- Office Depot – National Backpack Campaign
- Yum! Brands – World Hunger Relief
Striking an emotional tone, Mary Wong, president of the Office Depot Foundation (and PR News Advisory Board member), said upon accepting the Hall of Fame Award for Office Depot that despite the rough economic climate, Office Depot increased the amount of school backpacks it donated this year to 350,000. "The key for us has always been passion—that's been the driving force," Wong said.
PR News congratulates all the Platinum PR Award winners and honorable mentions on their successes over the past year; special thanks go out to luncheon sponsor DS Simon Productions, and to co-presenters Jack McFadden, director, corporate responsibility and internal communication, Deloitte Services LP, Doug Simon, president and CEO of DS Simon Productions and Yanique Woodall, VP, enterprise public relations, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM.