Recalling the Wisdom of PR People Award Winners Past

Every December, in the midst of holiday celebration, PRNEWS hosts its annual PR People & Rising Stars awards. While we certainly consider all of our awards shows to be feel-good events, there's something extra special about this one. Celebrating the actual people who make communication happen takes on an added significance during this festive season of togetherness.

In an industry where the individual often takes an invisible backseat to their work, the PR People & Rising Stars Awards is a chance to celebrate you—not just in front of your team, but before the PR community.

That said, as the promise of turkey and stuffing looms, we find ourselves thankful for the wisdom of our PR People and Rising Stars past. In 2018, many of the winners expressed the need to reach outside their comfort zone, stay agile and take care of your clients and employees as keys to their success. The winners were asked to answer the question: What was your top "aha!" moment in your work over the last year?

Crisis Manager of the Year winner Catherine Canniff of Bank of America said that today's natural disasters and national tragedies led to her "aha!" moment. "We activate to take care of our customers, our communities and our people," she said. "We can't stall violent weather and violent people, but when we take care of our people, our employees and our client as a community, we make a difference."

Taking care of your employees also extends to presenting them with a simple narrative to understand your efforts, said Measurement Expert of the Year winner Brett Care of Spectrum Science. "Data is not unique," said Care. "You've got all these analytics available—you need take a step back and see how you can really tell a story to the stakeholders."

Ashleigh Kathryn White, a master's degree candidate at University of Florida’s Mass Communications school who won Student of the Year, said her top "aha!" moment this year was learning how she can impact "aha!" moments in others.

Similarly, Intern of the Year Elana Shaulova of EvolveMKD expressed that "aha!" moments need not come infrequently. "As an intern, every day should bring an 'aha!' moment," she said.

At our 2017 awards, many of the winners expressed the need to be humble, 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."