Laurel well represented at recent public relations event

May 2, 2022

Pine Belt PRAM- 2022 Spark Awards


Pine Belt Public Relations Association of Mississippi Awards Local Professionals


HATTIESBURG, Miss.(February 24, 2022) — The region’s best public relations professionals were recently honored for their achievements by the Pine Belt Chapter of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi. The awards, bestowed annually at Pine Belt PRAM’s awards banquet, recognize outstanding work in the field of public relations and celebrate select individuals for their contributions to the profession. This year’s event was held at the Ogletree House on the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

“Public relations practitioners work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to help their organizations thrive in spite of challenges like a global pandemic,” said Pine Belt PRAM awards chair, Marissa Landon. “These awards allow us to recognize their efforts and the skills required to achieve success, but also reward the technical proficiency in the four-step process that is the foundation of any productive campaign.”

Sanderson Farms was awarded the competition’s highest honor as the judges’ choice recipient for their wage increase campaign, a strategic integrated communications program launched in 2021 when the company awarded hourly employees across-the-board wage increases. The nation’s third largest poultry producer’s corporate communication team also received SPARK Awards from the association for the same campaign and a long-term employee education campaign regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.


“The entry selected as the Judge’s Choice Award winner demonstrated an expert-level understanding of using the public relations process for a successful campaign,” said the judging panel from the Starkville/Mississippi State University chapter of PRAM. “Excellent writing made the reader care about the issue at hand and want to know more about how public relations practitioners tackled the challenge.”


Other SPARK Award recipients were the Office of University Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi for their “Back in Black and Gold” campaign and Kat Romero, APR for “Fill the Cup: Combating Compassion Fatigue at SMSH” campaign. Also among the practitioners honored was Jessica Breazeale Consulting, receiving a Certificate of Merit for the Mississippi Health Ambassador Initiative on behalf of the Mississippi State Department of Health.


In addition to SPARK Awards, which are evaluated amongst the member organizations who submit public relations entries, Pine Belt PRAM recognizes three chapter award winners annually from member nominations. Ashley Rea, 2021 vice president of programs and incoming president for Pine Belt PRAM, received the chapter’s highest honor as she was named the 2022 William E. “Bud” Kirkpatrick Practitioner of the Year.


“It is always an honor to be recognized among your peers, and this award is certainly no exception,” said Rea, chapter and multi-SPARK Award recipient and manager of communication at Sanderson Farms. “I have been involved in this organization since 2017, and I have learned so much from these talented practitioners in such a short period of time. I look forward to witnessing what the future holds for this inspiring organization and its members.”


Recognizing achievement in the field of public relations for nominees with five or more years of experience, recipients of the William E. “Bud” Kirkpatrick Practitioner of the Year award have contributed to the success of the chapter, PRAM and the Southern Public Relations Federation, and have realized success in the practice or teaching of public relations. The award was named after PRAM founding member, Bud Kirkpatrick, who also holds the distinction of being the longest continuous serving employee in the history of USM with 45 years of service.


In addition, Southern Miss Alumni Association assistant director for constituent relations, Anthony Palazzolo, was named the recipient of the chapter’s Burlain O’Neal Professional Promise Award, which is presented to an individual who has practiced public relations for less than five years or is a student currently enrolled in a public relations curriculum and showing considerable promise in the field. The final chapter award, the Pine Belt Image Award, was presented to the Laurel Main Street organization for their promotion and downtown revitalization of Laurel, Mississippi.


“Laurel Main Street is honored to be recognized by the Pine Belt chapter of PRAM,” said Keri Rowell, promotion committee chair and board member for Laurel Main Street. “We hope that our dedication to the revitalization of Downtown Laurel can be an inspiration for all to support our community.”


In an effort to promote the practice of public relations, Pine Belt PRAM presents scholarships to deserving students in the public relations field. Alyssa Schiaffino, a junior at USM majoring in public relations and advertising, was awarded the organization’s William E. “Bud” Kirkpatrick Scholarship. Schiaffino comes highly recommended by her professors who recognize her unwavering drive and passion for the field of publication relations.


“To me, receiving this scholarship is an honor and a steppingstone toward a future career in the public relations field,” said Schiaffino. “This recognition has given me more confidence in the skills I am developing and in my hard work.”


Outgoing Pine Belt PRAM president, Brittney Dykes, closed out her presidential duties at the awards ceremony by presenting Jonah Taylor, 2021 director of social media and website for the chapter, with the organization’s President’s Award. Given annually by the chapter president, this award recognizes service to the association including, in this case, developing innovative and engaging social media content and launching a new website for the organization.


During the awards ceremony, the chapter’s 2022 board of directors were sworn in to the association by current PRAM president, Amanda Parker, public relations specialist at Singing River Electric. Board members are as follows: Ashley Rea, president; Brittney Dykes, interim vice president of programs, past president and state board representative; Marissa Landon, vice president of membership; Matt Martin, treasurer; Kat Romero, APR, director of communications; Shelby York, director of social media and website; Anthony Palazzolo, scholarship and student affairs chair; April Jordan, community action chair; Vanessa Henson, awards chair; Jessica Breazeale, APR, professional development chair; and Caitlin Bradshaw, secretary and treasurer understudy.

Pine Belt PRAM is an affiliate of the statewide Public Relations Association of Mississippi, serving practitioners and students in the Hattiesburg-Laurel area with professional development opportunities aimed at enhancing and growing individual skill sets, contributing to the expanding science of public relations policies and practices. Chapter meetings are held virtually on the third Tuesday of each month.

The City of Laurel, established as a lumber town in 1882, is conveniently situated approximately two hours from larger destination cities such as Jackson, Biloxi, New Orleans, and Mobile. In recent years, the city has become a destination all its own thanks, in part, to its starring role in HGTV’s popular “Hometown” series. As Laurel, and interest in it, continues to grow, we are committed to providing the resources necessary to help all of our residents and businesses reach their full potential.
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