Congratulations 2021 PRSA Oregon Spotlight Award and Award of Distinction Honorees

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This month, PRSA Oregon celebrates the best campaigns and tactics our local PR pros delivered this year. The PRSA Oregon Spotlight Awards recognize campaigns and tactics that exemplify excellence and leadership in public relations, digital media, and integrated communications. The Awards of Distinction commemorate commitment, support, leadership and lifetime achievement by outstanding communication leaders.

We are proud to share the achievements of an exceptional group of public relations and
communications professionals and showcase their outstanding work and contributions to our industry and community.

See our awards program video here:

Awards of Distinction

Wendy Lane Stevens
William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award
See video –

William W. Marsh was a towering figure in Oregon public relations, and was referred to as, “the dean of public relations in Oregon.” In 1963, Marsh served as president of what was then the Columbia River Chapter of PRSA. In his honor, the Oregon Chapter of PRSA presents the William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award to a chapter member who has advanced the field of public relations, accomplished landmark professional achievements, and furthered the mission of PRSA.

Wendy Lane Stevens is this year’s recipient of the William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award. A fifth generation Oregonian, Stevens is a pioneer for women in public relations, opening her own public relations and marketing firm in 1991. Lane PR, now Finn Partners, is a highly successful company working for clients in food & beverage, consumer/lifestyle, health & wellness, technology and financial services. 

She is a force within PRSA, serving as a mentor and inspiration to many members in Oregon and across the nation. Many of her current management team members have flourished under her mentoring efforts.

“Time and again, Wendy has inspired her teams to execute nationally recognized work,” said Shannon Riggs, senior partner with Finn Partners. Her professionalism and integrity have positioned her as a trusted advisor to FORTUNE 500 leaders, industry associations, and nonprofits alike. And yet, it is Wendy’s unsung stories that have forever changed the lives of so many of us who have worked under her guard.”

“Wendy’s level of leadership and professionalism is outstanding,” said Douglas Wilson, senior instructor with University of Oregon. “Wendy has consistently demonstrated a commitment to her professional development as well and the professional development of others.”

A proud University of Oregon graduate, Wendy supports the development of up-and-coming
professionals with frequent guest speaker appearances at the School of Journalism and Communication as well as participation in student agency tours and networking events such as the annual Portland Paddle.

Wendy’s industry knowledge and creative insights have led to successful campaigns for various local, national and international organizations, including Wines from Spain, International Olive Council, Dutch Bros. Coffee, Oregon Orchard, Snake River Farms, Widmer Brothers Brewing, The Wine Group, E&J Gallo, Pernod Ricard, Sokol Blosser, The Heathman Hotel, Travel Portland, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Qorvo, Eid Passport, Key Technology, Davidson Companies, Thoma Bravo, Umpqua Bank, Regions Bank, First Interstate Bank and Washington Trust Bank.

As public relations evolved, Wendy encouraged her teams to adopt new strategies and push the boundaries of traditional PR, incorporating digital and social media, influencer, paid media tactics and more to generate results. This commitment to innovation has resulted in wins not only for Wendy’s clients, but also for her employees and Finn Partners. Her team’s results-driven work has been recognized with multiple PRSA Oregon Spotlight, SABRE, Bulldog and PR Week awards, including most recently, PRSA Oregon Spotlight awards for work with the International Olive Council, Marine Stewardship Council and Grass Seed USA (Oregon Grass Seed Commissions). Wendy is recognized as a thought leader in the industry and regularly contributes to the Portland Business Journal’s Leadership Trust section and the Inc. Masters online publication.

Kat Hendrix
Ron Schmidt Community Involvement Award

See video:

“For nearly 30 years as an aide to Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, then as the owner of the state’s biggest and most influential public relations firm, Ron Schmidt stood at the center of public policy in business, government and the arts.” That is how the Oregonian once described Ron Schmidt.

This year’s honoree is Kat Hendrix. An enthusiastic advocate for the prevention of child abuse, Kat uses her communication and advocacy skills to build a network of infrastructure to support child advocacy centers and child abuse pediatrics.

She currently work as the statewide partnerships manager for Oregon Child Abuse Solutions, a nonprofit that works hand-in-hand with frontline child abuse interventionists to create training, policy and PRSA Oregon News Release – Long version for PRSA Oregon website practice solutions that prevent child abuse and minimize trauma. In her time at OCAS, Kat has created a nation-leading training program called the Medical Academy which consists of monthly lectures, statewide peer reviews, and two conferences. It is through her effective relationship-building and smart communications that providers serving each of Oregon’s 36 counties are more connected and resourced as ever. Additionally, Kat has envisioned and executed an online community to support this work which offers access to the sensitive/confidential trainings. Her work has dramatically increased our support of rural and under-resourced professionals toward the goal of decreasing misdiagnoses of child abuse.

“Kat’s ability to work with both individuals and groups in unparalleled and we are so lucky to have her, bringing all of us together toward a common goal: health and safety of children,” said Dr. Sue Skinner, child abuse pediatrician.

With more than 20 years in working in communications for nonprofits, Kat is a leader in developing strong outreach strategies to build a broad base for support for very worthy causes including Child First Oregon and Scholastic Alliance for Young Artists and Writers among others.

If you were to summarize Kat’s career, she has helped people be their best on behalf of children.

Kat has been involved with PRSA Oregon for many years. She served as co-chair of the association’s annual professional development event CommCon in 2017, as well as other leadership roles.

Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE, APR, Fellow PRSA
Olga M. Haley Mentorship Award

See Video:

A longtime member of the PRSA Portland Metro Chapter, Olga M. Haley served as president in 2003 and continuously gave back to the PRSA community by serving as a mentor to members of the chapter. Haley passed away in March 2014 at the age of 69, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy of mentorship, excellence and professionalism. The Olga M. Haley Membership Award is given to a PRSA Oregon Chapter member who demonstrates exceptional mentorship and supportiveness of others as they advance their careers in public relations.

This year’s recipient is Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE, APR Fellow PRSA. She currently serves as the chief executive officer for VanNatta Public Relations. She has spent over 30 years in the field of Association Management and Public Relations. Mary Louise earned her MBA from Corban University and graduated from Willamette University with honors and a triple major in Political Science, International Relations (Latin American Studies) and Spanish. In 2018 she received the William W. Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Relations Society of American Oregon Chapter.

In her long public relations career, Mary Louise mentored more than 105 interns. An active member of PRSA she helped design, create and host workshops for nonprofits. Up to 45 organizations attended the seminar yearly, each representing hundreds of their own constituents. Participants developed a better understanding of the public relations profession and strategies and tactics to advance their causes.

“Over the years, Mary Louise has shared her expertise with 100+ individuals through one-on-one mentoring, job shadowing, presenting at career fairs, and speaking to many classrooms of students,” said Kelli Gassman, assistant professor with the Hoff School of Business at Corban University. “Her contribution to the professionals of tomorrow has provided them with key learning, perspective, and experience they could not have garnered on their own.”

Mary Louise is committed to advancing public relations through personal career achievements and giving back to young people and the community through volunteerism and mentorship.

New Professional Award of Excellence
The New Professional Award of Excellence wasn’t given this year because we didn’t receive any nominations. Please consider nominating someone for next year’s Spotlight Awards.

Presented to a “rising star” in the industry in Oregon, the New Professional Award of Excellence honors a chapter member who has entered the field of public relations within the past five years. The award is considered an indicator of people to watch for in the industry and is presented to a professional who has demonstrated his or her commitment to advancing public relations through career achievements, volunteerism, and the highest standards of professionalism.

Spotlight Awards

Spotlight Awards showcase the best of our industry and really the best of the profession. These awards were given high marks by the judges for exceptional campaigns and tactics that exceeded goals, got noticed and measured much success.

  • A. Wordsmith, Brown Hope and the Black Resilience Fund
  • A. Wordsmith, Zentopia
  • Haley Dowell and Megan Deisler, Berg and Associates, Keeping Oregon Wildlife Safe One License Plate Sale at a Time
  • Jan Kleszynski and Brian Lum, C+C, Comfort Ready Home
  • Clackamas County Public Affairs and Government Relations team and C3 Collective, Clackamas County Emergency Operations Center – COVID-19 & Wildfire Response
  • [2 awards] The Northwest Cherry Growers team at Finn Partners, Putting Sweet Cherries On Top
  • Jessica Nissen and Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, Fellow PRSA, VanNatta Public Relations, The Oregon Women Veteran’s Conference

Merit Awards

Merit awards were found to be of good quality and merited honorable mentions for all the hard work.

  • A. Wordsmith, Curry Community Health/Freedom Healthcare
  • Sean Philbrook, Jim Mains and Ron Arp, Identity Clark County, Safe By Summer
  • Suzette Riley and Hannah Mullin, C+C, and Mana Haeri, Energy Trust of Oregon, Elevating Oregon Changemakers
  • Chris Wilson, C+C, Catch Together: Fishermen Feeding Families
  • Jenna Cooper, APR, C3 Collective, ServerDomes: The Future Has Landed. Telling the story of the next generation data center
  • Jenna Cooper, APR, Shirley Hancock, Shirley Hancock Communications and Angie Latta, Marquis Companies, Marquis Companies Champion COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
  • Angela Torretta, Corey Dobbs and Rhonda Morin, APR, Clark College Foundation, PenguinsGive
  • [2 awards] The Oregon Orchard Hazelnuts team at Finn Partners, Oregon Orchard Hazelnuts: Oregon Goodness
  • The GT Independence team at Finn Partners, GT webinar series: Bringing a better care option to Californians
  • Moda Health and Gard Communications, Elevating Expertise: Connecting more people to the health experts at Moda
  • Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and Gard Communications, Celebrating 50 years of Oregon’s iconic Bottle Bill
  • Maritza Collazo, Chris Finks, Martin Gonzalez, Debra Huntington, Andrew Longeteig and Phiet Luong, TriMet , Multi-cultural bus wrap program
  • University of Portland Marketing & Communications Department and COVID-19 Steering Committee, Helping Pilots Prevent Newsletter
  • Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, Fellow PRSA, VanNatta Public Relations, The Santiam Rebuild Coalition: Bringing back the Canyon
  • Harvey Gail, Spire Management and the Marion-Polk County Medical Society, ChartNotes – Investigative reporting, features and in-depth interviews to inform members of the Marion-Polk Medical Society

Participation and membership in PRSA — advancing the profession in line with the standards and ethics of our association and honoring our work that upholds these values — is so important to our practice and the many organizations and communities served by this work. 

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