The Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America announced the winners of the 73rd Annual Virginia Public Relations Awards honoring the best public relations programs and tactics implemented statewide in 2019.

More than 100 awards were announced virtually over the course of three days via PRSA Richmond’s Facebook page. The virtual recognition culminated on Wed., May 20, with a video tribute “hosted” by NBC12 Meteorologist Andrew Freiden unveiling the Best in Show winners, the Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence and the Rising Star Award. A complete list of all winners can be accessed here.

During the video presentation, PRSA Richmond announced Carol Billingsley, System Director, Public Relations & Communications at Bon Secours Mercy Health, as the 2020 honoree of the Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence in Public Relations. As the award program’s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award annually recognizes a seasoned public relations leader in the Greater Richmond region for professional excellence, ethics, public service and mentoring young professionals. Billingsley is an award-winning public relations and strategic communications professional with more than 30 years of experience with corporations, small businesses and nonprofits in the health care, risk management, education, arts and humanitarian sectors. At Bon Secours Mercy Health, Billingsley sets the vision and direction for public relations and communications strategy across 12 markets, seven states and Ireland for the nation’s fifth largest Catholic health system. In nomination letters written on her behalf, her colleagues and superiors all cited her high level of achievement, sound judgement and strategic approach to public relations as deserving qualifications for this award.

“Receiving this award has been a tremendous honor. Once it began to sink in, I realized it is a priceless and beautiful gift because it led me to pause and reflect on the people, places and experiences that have mattered the most in my career,” said Billingsley. “I saw a common thread of people who are honorable, people who work hard and strive for excellence every day and organizations that live their values.”

Each year, PRSA Richmond presents the Thomas Jefferson winner with $1,000 to support a charity of their choice. Billingsley will direct this amount to the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation’s Forensic Nursing program.

The Virginia Public Relations Awards are separated into two divisions: The Commonwealth Awards, which honor the best public relations programs and campaigns of the year, and the Capital Awards, which honor the best public relations tactics of the year. Entries were judged for research, planning, execution and evaluation by the PRSA Georgia Chapter. First-place winners in each category are honored with an Award of Excellence, while runners-up receive an Award of Merit. Finally, Best in Show awards were given to the top overall entries in the Commonwealth and Capital categories.

The 2020 Commonwealth Best in Show winner was Padilla in the internal communications category, entitled Dominion Energy Shines a Light on Its Move to 600 Canal Place. While planning an office move for more than 1,200 employees, Dominion Energy partnered with Padilla to develop and execute an internal communications program. Its internal communications garnered excitement for the building, introduced new workplace behaviors and ensured a smooth transition. The efforts were successful: 88% of employees were very satisfied or satisfied with the ease of the transition, and 90% were very satisfied or satisfied with the
move overall. The 2020 Capital Best in Show winner was MCV Foundation with Kevin Schindler Art & Design in the direct mail / direct response category, entitled Turning a Loss into Something Beautiful. In 2019, the MCV Foundation continued to expand planned giving campaign efforts by highlighting compelling donor stories that demonstrate various ways to make a planned gift. In this campaign, the story centered on the family of a grateful patient who established a research fund in memory of their loved one in addition to documenting beneficiary designations in their estate plans to ensure future support for cancer research.

Also in the video tribute, which was produced locally by Broadscope Media, PRSA Richmond honored Taylor Thornberg, a public relations specialist at Virginia ABC, as the 2020 recipient of the Rising Star Award. This honor recognizes a PR practitioner with five or fewer years of experience.


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