Alumni honored by Public Relations Society of America

Old Main on Huntington campus

Alumni from the Marshall University Public Relations (MU-PR) academic program earned 10 Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) professional Tribus Awards this month for their work on three nonprofit strategic communications campaigns completed during their time as students at Marshall in 2019 and 2020.

The awareness and fundraising campaigns—carried out by MU-PR graduate students and undergraduate students in their capstone course during their senior year benefitted the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Huntington and River Valley Child Development Services (RVCDS).

Jason Lovins, A.P.R., Ph.D., president of the PRSA-River Cities chapter, said the winners of this year’s honors “demonstrated their public relations professionalism and capabilities in helping these nonprofits with real solutions to real problems related to public awareness, stakeholder engagement, and fundraising.”

“Some of the honorees also showed amazing flexibility in the face of unexpected challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lovins said. “When you hear the full story of each agency case, in most situations they surpassed their goals and went above and beyond to help their clients.”

Lovins said it is an “honor” for the PRSA-River Cities chapter to recognize “these up-and-coming professionals for their accomplishments.”

Terry L. Hapney, Jr., Ph.D., professor of public relations at Marshall University and instructor for the course, said three groups of his former students earned four honorable mention awards:

  1. Press Release Tactic, Online Silent Auction
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington
  1. Integrated Communications Campaign
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For River Valley Child Development Services
  1. Social Media Tactic, Egg My Yard
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2020—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington
  1. Press Release Tactic, Athlete Volunteers
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2020—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington

Hapney said each group also earned a first-place Tribus Award:

  1. Community Relations Campaign
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington
  2. Press Release Tactic, Celebration
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For River Valley Child Development Services
  3. Press Release Tactic, Online Auction
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2020—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington

In addition, Hapney said there were three “Best Overall” honors among the three

groups, meaning they were the highest-scoring campaigns and tactics among all entries in the PRSA Tribus Awards program:

  1. Best Overall Tactic Award (tie)
    Press Release, Celebration
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For River Valley Child Development Services
  2. Best Overall Tactic Award (tie)
    Press Release, Online Auction
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2020—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington
  3. Best Overall Campaign Award
    JMC 439/539 Class, Spring 2019—Marshall University
    For the Ronald McDonald House of Huntington

Public relations practitioners and scholars from the PRSA-Charlotte, N.C., chapter judged all of the entries submitted from the three campaigns. Hapney said that in his longtime experience with PRSA awards programs, this was the “toughest” judging he has seen to date.

“I am proud of the work these former students, now alumni, did in terms of advertising and public relations research, planning, execution of strategy, and evaluation for these worthy nonprofits,” Hapney said. “They not only helped important causes in our local area and impacted lives in such a positive way, but they also built portfolios of work that helped them land jobs and admission to graduate school programs. Having this work recognized in this manner looks great on their résumés.”

Becky Morgan, treasurer for PRSA-River Cities, said the chapter’s Tribus Awards recognize not only the hard work and talent demonstrated by these recent graduates, but also their commitment to helping the local nonprofit organizations—for which they developed public relations campaigns—achieve their goals.

“The strategic and creative initiatives developed by the awardees helped to benefit the regional communities where we work and live, and PRSA-River Cities is excited to honor them for their professional success,” Morgan said. Marshall alumni who were recognized included:

2019 Ronald McDonald House Campaign: Bri Murphy (Teays Valley, West Virginia), Karenann Flouhouse (Barboursville, West Virginia), Olayinka Bamiro (Washington, D.C.), Emily Phipps (Huntington, West Virginia), and LeAnna Owens (Milton, West Virginia).

2019 River Valley Child Development Services Campaign: Brittany Hively (Point Pleasant, West Virginia), Meredith O’Bara (Parkersburg, West Virginia), Sydney Shelton (Climax, Virginia), Brigham Warf (Barboursville, West Virginia), Rebecca Casey (Lancaster, Ohio), and Caroline Kimbro (Fort Washington, Pennsylvania).

2020 Ronald McDonald House Campaign: Paige Leonard (Barboursville, West Virginia), Hannah Graham (Huntington, West Virginia), Rachael Cook (Beckley, West Virginia), Abbey Vidrine (Ripley, West Virginia), Taylor Speight (Washington, D.C.), Savannah Matney (South Point, Ohio), Piper White (Huntington, West Virginia), Anna Marsh (Hurricane, West Virginia), Marcus Williams (Washington, D.C.), Hannah Petracca (Fairmont, West Virginia), Jannson Williams (Newnan, Georgia), Madalyn McCoy (Summersville, West Virginia), Brie Toney (Columbus, Ohio), Meg Keller (Moyers, West Virginia), and Anh Do (Vietnam).

“Many of these alumni have gone on to accept positions in public relations and marketing with businesses, nonprofit organizations and agencies,” Hapney said. “Others are in law school and graduate school. I am proud of these alumni, and glad they carry the Marshall University name with them during their careers.”