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PR students receive 13 state and regional awards for campaigns work

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Identifying, establishing and maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships with the strongest of ethics, between an organization and its publics on whom its success or failure depends, is the focus of public relations. Two Marshall University public relations classes scored big on those efforts this week for their work on campaigns for two area nonprofit organizations.

Public relations students in the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Marshall won 13 state and regional awards at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)-West Virginia chapter awards held Wednesday, June 17, in the Culture Center at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston.

The PRSA-East Central District awarded the 2013 Marshall public relations campaign management class Shaver Media Group with its 2014 Diamond Award a first-place award for the students’ work on the “Questions” campaign for River Valley Child Development Services, a Huntington early-childhood education nonprofit organization.

Dr. Terry L. Hapney Jr., associate professor of public relations at Marshall, said the award recognizes the top public relations campaigns in a six-state region, which includes West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“There were only three organizations in West Virginia to attain the prestigious Diamond Award honors,” Hapney said. “The other two were professional organizations at the regional and state levels, including a state agency. The fact that my students attained such a level of excellence speaks volumes to the quality of their work as public relations practitioners.”

Hapney said his 2013 students also received the 2014 PRSA-East Central District Merit Award for the “Marshall University Living-Learning Communities” campaign for the Department of Housing and Residence Life at Marshal. The students’ work on the “MU LLC Smartphone Application” earned them the award, Hapney said. In the same campaign, the students’ work earned the “Internal Communications” Merit Award.

In addition, the West Virginia chapter of PRSA recognized two classes of Hapney’s 2014 students with Crystal Awards as follows:

  • Crystal Award (first place) for a news release for the River Valley Child Development Services “Questions Trivia” campaign;
  • Crystal Award (first place) for a brochure for the River Valley Child Development Services “Questions Trivia” campaign; and
  • Crystal Award (first place) for the use of social media in the “Herd for Hoops” Campaign, benefitting the Hoops Family Children’s Hospital and recognizing Public Relations Student Society of America Marshall University chapter’s 35th anniversary on the university’s Huntington campus.

PRSA-West Virginia also awarded seven honorable mentions to the Marshall public relations students in the following categories:

  • External Communications Campaign for “Herd for Hoops”;
  • Single Issue Publication for “Herd for Hoops” gala program;
  • Invitations for the “Herd for Hoops” gala invitation;
  • Brochures for PRSSA-MU meetings flier;
  • Logo for PRSSA-MU “Herd for Hoops” logo;
  • Single Issue Publication for River Valley Child Development Services “Questions Trivia Night” event program; and
  • News Release for the River Valley Child Development Services “Questions Campaign Turkey Bowling” event.

Hapney said what’s remarkable about these awards is the fact that they are judged using the same criteria as those entered by professional public relations firms, state agencies, corporations, nonprofits and other organizations. He said that awards are not given in each category unless the work reaches a certain level, in terms of point value.

Marshall University’s offices of Recruitment and University Communications also received Crystal Awards from the West Virginia PRSA chapter, in the following categories:

  • Community Relations Campaign for “Herd Holiday;”
  • Direct Mail for “Best. Decision. Ever.” fold-out recruitment piece;
  • Brochure for “Block M recruitment piece;” and
  • Video Commercial for “2014 Institutional Spot.”

The university received honorable mentions for the 2015 Winter issue of Marshall Magazine and for a program of student-run social media accounts.

“This is not a student or university awards competition,” Hapney said. “This is the public relations discipline’s professional and scholarly body. To receive this level of recognition is amazing, to say the least.”

“I think the student work honored here tonight speaks well of the quality and dedication of our educators and programs at each of our colleges and universities,” said Diane Slaughter, executive director of the West Virginia chapter and East Central District of PRSA. “As a Marshall University graduate, I am especially proud of the students, faculty and staff for exhibiting the highest levels of quality and professionalism in public relations.”

Amber Payne of the Marshall University Forensic Science Program, a 2014 graduate of Marshall’s public relations academic program and a former student in the 2014 class that carried out the campaign for Hoops Family Children’s Hospital and PRSSA-MU, said she is honored the campaign won the awards.

“Creating a campaign from scratch and attaining the goal we set was amazing, but winning awards is the cherry on top,” Payne said. “The class has definitely helped me in my career.”

Miranda Eaves, event planner for the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and a 2014 graduate, was co-director of the student public relations firm Shaver Media Group that carried out the 2014 “Questions Trivia” campaign for River Valley Child Development Services. Eaves said being a part of the campaign gave her valuable leadership skills she uses in her job every day.

“It taught me how to stay organized while working on several projects,” Eaves said. “I’m very proud of our group for winning several awards. It shows we can do whatever we set our minds to, no matter how crazy the idea may sound!”

Hapney said he is very proud of the students and alumni in Marshall’s public relations academic program. To date, the program was honored with 40 state and regional awards from PRSA-WV and PRSA-ECD since 2009. His students have raised nearly $80,000 for local nonprofit causes since then, as well.

“The awards are great,” Hapney said. “However, the feedback is even more important. It allows me to see what our program is doing well and any areas in which we need to further strengthen it. It is a major honor for PRSA to recognize my students’ work in the manner in which the state and regional bodies did this year.”


Photo: From left,  Dr. Terry Hapney, associate professor of public relations at Marshall University, and three alumni from Marshall’s public relations academic program–Michael Circle, Amber Payne and Ashley Peach–hold the 13 awards the Public Relations Society of America-West Virginia and East Central District organizations awarded at this week’s PRSA-WV Crystal Awards gala at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston. Since 2009, the professional and scholarly organizations have recognized Hapney’s students with 40 awards for public relations campaigns and tactics produced in class for local and regional nonprofit causes.