Get ready for the 2020 PRSA Renaissance Awards

A look at what’s changing this year

By: Robin Rectenwald

Planning for our biggest event of the year — PRSA Pittsburgh’s 2020 Renaissance Awards — has been in full swing. As the Renaissance Chair, I couldn’t wait to share what we’re changing this year.


You may have noticed that we’re promoting the Renaissance Awards early this year. The awards ceremony will still take place the last Thursday in January – January 30, 2020, but we’ve decided to open and close the call for entries before the holidays. Entries will open September 9, giving you plenty of time to submit your campaign, tactic or individual award before the holiday stress kicks in. The early bird deadline to submit an award entry is October 11 and the final deadline will be October 25.

Please note the timeframe of the work completed will remain the same. The work of the campaign or tactic should be completed between October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019.


This year’s Renaissance Awards will take place at Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse – the new theater located in downtown Pittsburgh on Forbes Avenue (not to be confused with the old playhouse in Oakland). Based on feedback from previous years and to help keep the costs of tickets down, the Pittsburgh Playhouse offers a beautiful space to mingle, heavy hors d’oeuvres and two complimentary drinks. Street parking is free after 6 p.m. or there are plenty of spots available in the Market Square Garage (228 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222), less than two blocks away from the Playhouse.

What about the Renaissance After Party? Don’t worry, we got that covered as well. Join us this year at Wolfies Pub located less than 500 feet away from the Playhouse. We’ll be sure to remind you closer to our event in January! 


This year we have two ways for students to participate – the Student Campaign and the Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship.

We know how hard students work in their classes and on campus. That’s why we’ve decided to create a new entry just for college students to submit their campaigns. We’re excited to showcase their work at the 2020 Renaissance Awards. Students, this is a unique opportunity to share your talent and creativity in front of hundreds of companies. And employers, what better way than to recruit new talent!

The Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship honors an outstanding undergraduate student with a $2,000 scholarship. Bob O’Gara is an admired professor who recently retired from Point Park University. He has been a long-time supporter of PRSA Pittsburgh. We will continue our tradition of awarding a scholarship in his honor, which is open to all Pittsburgh-area students, even if you’re not a Point Park student.


This year’s awards ceremony will be very different from past years, but we think you’ll love the changes. This year, we have two goals – to maximize networking time with the best PR teams coming together to celebrate their work and to fully showcase each campaign and tactic. How will we do that?

More networking time

With doors to the playhouse opening at 4:45 p.m., guests will have ample amount of time to network (and eat) from 5 – 6:30 p.m. and after the awards until 10 p.m. with desserts and post-ceremony drinks. The awards ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. in the PNC theater. Because it’s theater-style seating, we won’t have tables like we have in the past, but teams can still buy group tickets. More to come on event ticketing and prices.

Shorter ceremony format

This is a big change, but one that I’m most excited about. During the ceremony, we won’t present awards by going through each award category. Instead, we will highlight the campaign, share videos and photos of the campaign, and hand out all of the awards that entry received at once. This means that we will not repeat campaigns that are submitted for multiple award categories and teams will only come up once to retrieve their awards. Why? Because we want to give ample amount of time to showcase each campaign once without feeling rushed or enduring a long awards ceremony.

Focus on the visuals

We want this year’s awards ceremony to be visual, so we’re asking that teams submit videos and photos we can share. The same is true with the individual awards – we’d love to see videos of our individual honorees to get a full picture of where they work and hear more about them from their colleagues.


As you can see, we have some big changes in store for this year’s awards, so we wanted to make sure you knew about them before entries are due. We think this year’s event is going to be extra special, so we hope you will join us! If you have any questions about the entries or these changes, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! If you want to reach out to me directly, feel free to email me at

Important Dates

September 9, 2019 – Call for Entries open

October 11, 2019 – Early bird deadline to submit entries

October 25, 2019 – Final deadline to submit entries

January 30, 2020 – 2020 Renaissance Awards Ceremony at the Pittsburgh Playhouse

When Public Service Makes a World of Difference (to YOU)

Written by: Jennifer Rignani, Co-Chair, NAMI Public Service Project, PRSA Pittsburgh

There are a lot of reasons people volunteer. Altruism, personal development, professional connections and community service among them.

But sometimes we give our time and talent because the opportunity is 100% aligned with everything we believe in, and to not step up would be a great loss. In a constellation of circumstances, such a chance came my way.

After a 15-year sabbatical from professional involvement with PRSA, I was thrilled to reignite my relationship by joining the board of the Pittsburgh chapter. My first task was to co-chair the Public Service Project (with Deanna Tomaselli) bringing structure and energy to this key initiative focused on providing an area nonprofit pro bono services. As a former “client-side” nonprofit marketing and PR practitioner, this was near and dear to my heart. After many years of being the respondent to RFPs, I was happy to help design one, distribute it and review the many worthy submissions we received with our committee.

CEOs Against Stigma

In the end, we selected the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania “CEOs Against Stigma” campaign. This further deepened my commitment, as the issues NAMI addresses are personally connected to people in my own life.

NAMI seeks to raise awareness and provide support and education for the individuals and families affected by mental illness. Through different programs, events and activities across the country, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania works to break the stigma on mental illness. It’s hard to believe such a campaign is needed, but it is, and our chapter of PRSA will be providing pro bono public relations support to the organization until mid-2019.

Addressing Mental Illness in the Workplace

The goal of the CEOs Against Stigma campaign is to break the stigma of mental illness in the workplace. CEOs will pledge to educate themselves and employees about mental illness and how the stigma and silence affects workplace productivity.

A survey from 2014 conducted by NAMI Massachusetts found that out of the 800 registered voters, 17% said they knew of a co-worker who had a mental illness, but just 27% would advise someone with mental illness to tell their co-workers about it. The poll confirms that those who need help stay silent for fear of the consequences of their illness being disclosed in the workplace.

Getting the right information is the challenge of our time.

The reality and perception of mental illness is murkier than it should be. We are educated consumers when it comes to shopping and our own health. Our digital lives are constant, so getting information certainly isn’t elusive. But as we all know, getting the right information is the challenge of our time. To play a role in devising a strategic communication plan, which will include market research, marketing materials, social media, and media relations for “CEOs Against Stigma” is deeply gratifying. 

I expect to learn a great deal from this project. For NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania’s part, I feel as strongly about delivering an exceptional job to the organization as I have with any paid project. There’s a certain pride and pressure that accompanies volunteerism. Maybe it’s the issue we are addressing. Perhaps its that my peers on the board are sharp as tacks. Or it could be that after many years away from giving my time, I realize the gravity of the personal reward is truly great.

Learn more about CEOs Against Stigma.

2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners: The Complete List

On Thursday, January 31, more than 200 of Pittsburgh’s most talented communicators gathered together at the 2019 Renaissance Awards held at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

The annual ceremony — which honors the best of the region’s communications campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners — was moderated by Nicole Paxinos, PensTV host and master of ceremonies.

This year PRSA Pittsburgh distributed more than 50 honors to organizations — ranging from agencies and corporations to hospitals and nonprofits, including Westinghouse, Allegheny Health Network, UPMC Health Plan, Iron City Beer, Seton Hill University, Bank of America, Home Depot and more.

PRSA Pittsburgh thanks its generous sponsors: Havas PR, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, EM-Media, and Point Park University.

Awards and Judging

Top entries received a “Renaissance Award” distinction and runners-up received an “Award of Merit.” Several categories had multiple winners, depending on the numeric scores provided by the judges.

  • Entries were independently evaluated by a panel of judges from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and scored upon impact.

See the complete list of winners below. 

2019 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners

Individual Awards

  • PRSA Rising Star Award – Jordan Mitrik, Brunner
  • PR Entrepreneur of the Year – Aaron Easler, Top Hat
  • PR Disruption Award – Iron City Beer
  • PRSA Member of the Year – Deanna Tomaselli, Havas PR
  • Communicator of the Year – Brian Ludwick, Bank of America
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholar – Morgan McCoy, Point Park University
  • PRSSA Chapter of the Year – Waynesburg University PRSSA
  • Hall of Fame Award – Courtney Myers, Havas PR
  • PR Team of the Year- Allegheny Health Network Public Relations Team
  • Best in Show – Gatesman, Instilling Prestige in Michigan Ross Through the First-Ever MBA Summit


B2B Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Havas PR, Adapting to Younger Eyes
    • Havas PR, Transitions PRO Instagram Launch
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Colors and Style Mirrors Product Launch
    • WordWrite Communications, McClintock & Associates’ StoryCrafting & Brand Relaunch
  • Award of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, Meti-Span Building Barriers Advertising Campaign

Content Marketing Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Brand Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer

Crisis Communications

  • Renaissance Award
    • WordWrite Communications, YMCA CPR Plan

Digital Campaign

  • Awards of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, ACAA “Real” Campaign
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer


  • Renaissance Awards
    • Gatesman, Instilling Prestige in Michigan Ross Through the First-Ever MBA Summit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, There’s a New Bank in Town: Bank of America’s Retail Entrance
    • Pipitone Group, Jumbo Coater Grand Opening Campaign
  • Awards of Merit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Bank of America Suits Up at The Big Game
    • Field General, Coffee with Valerie
    • Seton Hill University, Seton Hill University Centennial Campaign

Influencer Relations

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Automation for All: Leviton’s Decora Smart Solutions Shines Bright with Help from Influencers
    • Brunner, FY18 Musselman’s and Lucky Leaf Influencer Programs
    • Havas PR, Adapting to Younger Eyes
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer

Integrated Marketing Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Brand Launch
    • Gatesman, Driving Positive Brand Perception for Duquesne Light Company
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Health Plan Emergency Department Diversion Marketing
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC Preventive Screenings Marketing Campaign
  • Awards of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, “Meet The Georges” Campaign
    • Jam X Creative, Pittsburgh Pickles Primanti’s Love Media Relations

Internal Communications

  • Awards of Merit
    • Gatesman, Launching a New Brand for a 154-year-old company
    • Westinghouse Electric Company, Servant Leadership at Westinghouse

Media Relations

  • Renaissance Awards
    • DDI, Global Leadership Forecast 2018
    • Havas PR, Curiosity CubeTM Ignites Scientific Passion
    • Havas PR, Driving Buzz for Scene75’s Pittsburgh Opening
    • Havas PR, Turn the Page for “Unshattered”
  • Awards of Merit
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Making It Happen: Sustaining Leviton’s Position As A Tech Innovator Through Media Relations
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Breaking Down Self-Driving Car Misconceptions One Rider at a Time
    • Blender, Inc., Putting down roots to help our region grow
    • Gatesman, Activating National Media Relations to Position Northwell Fertility
    • Havas PR, Make Room for Recess

New Products & Services Communications

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Meet Erica: Bank of America’s AI-Driven Virtual Financial Assistant
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Colors & Style Mirrors Product Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Award of Merit
    • Pipitone Group, Acuity Low-Iron Glass Product Launch Campaign

Reputation Management

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Closing an Historic Pittsburgh Factory with Dignity
    • Havas PR, Curiosity CubeTM Ignites Scientific Passion
    • Burson Cohn & Wolfe, There’s a New Bank in Town: Bank of America’s Retail Entrance into the Pittsburgh Market
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: The Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Awards of Merit
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, The State of PIT Airport
    • Pipitone Group, “Know the Code” Campaign

Social Media Campaign

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Havas PR, Transitions PRO Instagram Launch
    • Top Hat, Iron Restoration: the Comeback of Iron City Beer
  • Award of Merit
    • UPMC Health Plan, UPMC AnywhereCare Thermometer Giveaway Campaign


Annual Report

  • Award of Merit
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, 2017 Annual Report: Transforming Pittsburgh’s Airports

Multimedia Content

  • Renaissance Awards
    • Top Hat, Iron & Coal (Photography)
    • Top Hat, It’s Different, Like Always (Video)
    • Top Hat, Make it Pittsburgh-er (Video)
    • Top Hat, We Were There (Video)

Promotional Content

  • Award of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, Fiesta Website

Written Content

  • Renaissance Award
    • Havas PR, Transitions Style Collection Guide
  • Awards of Merit
    • MarketSpace Communications, Brewery Guide Website
    • Allegheny County Airport Authority, Why We Love Mister Rogers . . . But Aren’t Naming Pittsburgh International Airport After Him
    • Top Hat, What’s Old is Cool Again: Harnessing Nostalgia to Build Hype

Exceeding Expectations: An Introduction into the Real PR World

By Josh Plichta

Once I graduate, how on earth am I going to network? Nobody is going to care about that new guy who works for a competitor. It’s over. The times of asking questions and being a student are gone. I am one of the “professionals” who is supposed to be giving advice, not asking for it.

OK, maybe a little dramatic. But that is what all too recent, senior in college Josh thought about entering the so-called, “real world,” and what a number of my fellow graduating peers thought as well.

Leaving PRSSA and joining PRSA felt like a major jump. I imagined a huge difference between the two organizations—one that went from development, to strictly professional all of the time.

Instead, my first experience with PRSA showed me that as PR professionals, we never stop developing. We never stop asking questions or being students either. Instead, we collaborate with each other, learn from one another and share experiences.

My eyes were opened to PRSA Pittsburgh a few weeks ago during a tour of Gatesman’s brand-new, downtown office. The welcoming atmosphere of not only the office space, but employees and fellow attendees, shaped my first PRSA experience. While I have been lucky enough to grow into a professional role through numerous internships and classroom experiences, seeing the benefits and authenticity of PRSA as a professional organization opened my eyes.

Hearing from the Gatesman PR team about their individual paths to becoming PR professionals or how they find passion in their client work every single day put me at ease entering a new experience. While I have the experience and confidence needed, extra opportunities like this past Thursday solidified my thoughts about PR and threw any reservations about joining PRSA out the window. With my first true PRSA experience (emphasis on one less ‘S’) under my belt, I look forward to more opportunities to come.


Josh Plichta is a recent graduate from Otterbein University where he studied public relations and health communications.

Your Questions About Google Analytics and SEO: Answered

By Kristen Hammett

Once upon a time, PR professionals working with data analytics wasn’t even a thought. Today, that’s no longer the case.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a bigger part of public relations than ever before. Joining forces, PR and digital experts can make a significant impact on their digital marketing plans. At the end of the day, the two have the same goal in mind: enhance brand awareness.

That’s why, on May 24th from 12 – 1:30 p.m, PRSA Pittsburgh will be holding an SEO & Google Analytics panel. The event will be moderated by Steve Radick, VP, Director of Public Relations and Content Integration, Brunner with insights from three local experts:

  • Kevin Amos, VP, Performance Marketing and Analytics, Brunner
  • Dan Monarko, Head of Channel Strategy and Analytics, Smith Brothers
  • Heather Starr, Chair of the Department of Community Engagement, Point Park University

When asked what attendees will gain from this event, Heather Starr said,

“I want to help lower the mental barrier of entry that many people have on SEO and Analytics. Too many PR people view it as a marketing tactic driven by algorithms and complex spreadsheets. And while that’s certainly a part of it, there’s also an art to it too.

Whether you’re analytical or creative or both, there’s an important role for you to play in the SEO and data analytics role. I want people to leave the panel and not only understand that, but to reach across the table to their analytics colleagues with some ideas on how they can better work together.”

Radick also weighed in on what he expects attendees to learn:

“I’d like people to understand that analytics is something that everyone can use to help them grow their brand. While they can get quite complex, just knowing the basics and using the data to inform your choices can make a big impact in engaging with customers.”

You may not realize it now, but blog posts like this one, content calendars, and many other types of digital output are great examples of how PR and SEO work together. Quality links and content bind PR and SEO together like glue.

If you would like to learn more about how these two distinct disciplines work together to achieve the same goals, or you have questions about SEO and Google Analytics, register for the event here.

Chick-fil-A is on the menu for lunch. Bring your appetite!

Join Us at the PRSSA Graduation Party

Image via AIA Pittsburgh

Join PRSA Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Poros in Market Square to celebrate the PRSSA 2018 graduates. Join us for drinks and appetizers while networking with PR professionals.

The cost to attend for PRSSA student is $25, which will include a drink ticket, appetizers and a discount on their PRSA Associate Membership.

Upon arrival, students will receive information regarding the PRSA Associate Membership and a promo code that they will enter at checkout when registering as a PRSA Pittsburgh Member.

In anticipation of the event, a few of our board members and committee leads shared the following advice for PRSSA graduates.

“Be aggressive. It may feel like you are reaching out to too many people or too much, but keeping yourself top of mind for busy professionals will help you in the end,” said Sydney Carver, PRSA Pittsburgh Social Media/Publicity Chair.

“There are a lot of new graduates and not a lot of available positions. Working three or four internships even after graduating is common. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don’t let a boring, run-of-the-mill resume keep you from reaching your potential. Spend some time now updating your resume and online presence to set yourself apart. Even that may not be enough to get you the job, but it should at least help you get your resume printed out and put on the boss’s desk a lot more often,” said Steve Radick, PRSA Pittsburgh Immediate Past President.

We are honored to recognize PRSSA members at our graduation celebration on April 25 – before you put on that cap and gown, stop by Poros to celebrate!

Be sure to RSVP here.

Honoring Legends at the 2014 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards

Chapter Hosts Annual Awards Program 

Pittsburgh, PA – January 28, 2013 – The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) celebrated the past year’s accomplishments of Pittsburgh public relations practitioners at its annual Renaissance Awards ceremony on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Held at the Hall of Fame Club in PNC Park, this year’s Master of Ceremonies was Bill Flanagan, executive vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the host of Our Region’s Business on WPXI-TV.

Judged by the Los Angeles Chapter of PRSA, entries were submitted by public relations professionals and agencies in more than 20 categories, including media relations and marketing communications campaigns, social media tactics, community relations and more.

“The Renaissance Awards celebrate the public relations professionals who work behind the scenes to build, manage and protect the reputations of their organizations and clients,” says Dan Ayer, president of PRSA Pittsburgh. “We are fortunate to be home to an incredible pool of talent, from Fortune 500 corporate communicators to boutique agencies, and the Renaissance Awards serve to recognize their accomplishments.”

Recipients of this year’s Renaissance Award, who were honored for their contributions to public relations include:

  • Renaissance Communicator of the Year (For-Profit): Cooper Munroe, The Motherhood
  • Renaissance Communicator of the Year (Non-Profit): Ned Schano, Senator John Heinz History Center
  • Renaissance Rising Star: Taryn Nikolich, Burson-Marsteller
  • Renaissance Hall of Fame: Sheila Rathke, University of Pittsburgh
  • Agency of the Year: Havas PR
  • Communications Department of the Year: H.J. Heinz Company
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship Award: Kimberly Roberts, Point Park University
  • Best of Show: Havas PR’s media relations campaign for One Young World Pittsburgh


Visit for a full listing of Renaissance Award winners. Special thanks go to the Chapter’s sponsors FedEx Ground and Point Park University, as well as the event sponsors – Burson-Marsteller and H.J. Heinz Company.

Member Benefit: Access PRSA Webinars Live and On-Demand

Opera section Project Thunderdome, stupid commenters reality-based we will make them pay Frontline privacy tags meme, copyboy The Weekender Jurgen Habermas Article Skimmer The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Jeff Jarvis. analytics 5 praise erasers & how to avoid them nonprofit afternoon paper Pulse tablets social media fourth estate, bringing a tote bag to a knife fight people formerly known as the audience go viral media bias advertising dingbat learnings Reuters, Journal Register Romenesko the audience knows more than I do link economy Google News horse-race coverage.

Knight Foundation the medium is the massage attracting young readers ProPublica data visualization Pictures of Goats section layoffs media diet Demand Media RSS David Foster Wallace, AOL privacy commons-based peer production Reuters backpack journalist Pictures of Goats section algorithms Read more

OCPRSA Represented at National Conference

Knight Foundation the medium is the massage attracting young readers ProPublica data visualization Pictures of Goats section layoffs media diet Demand Media RSS David Foster Wallace, AOL privacy commons-based peer production Reuters backpack journalist Pictures of Goats section algorithms CTR TechCrunch RT Frontline, newspaper strike dingbat production of innocence anonymity iPhone app CPC production of innocence monetization Rupert Murdoch. Jurgen Habermas Google News data visualization Frontline Google News plagiarism Reuters, Instagram fair use Aron Pilhofer blog crowdsourcing, CPC Chartbeat Wikipedia attracting young readers This Week in Review going forward, Google+ social media optimization kitchen table of the future learnings.

Josh Marshall right-sizing open source the medium is the massage monetization cancel my subscription Fuego tweets, tweet Flipboard The Printing Press as an Agent of Change bot Bill Keller Google News newsroom cafe, Frontline crowdfunding Dayton for under $900 a day Demand Media trolls John Dewey community. YouTube Voice of San Diego retweet Facebook Nook the notional night Read more