PRSA to honor members for their service to communications profession at ICON 2020 

by | Oct 26, 2020

PRSA, the nation’s leading professional organization serving the communications community, will present seven individual awards during ICON 2020, honoring members who have served the organization with distinction and made a difference in the public relations profession. The individuals will be recognized throughout the conference, which is being held virtually from Oct. 26–29.

“This has been a year like no other and the role of the communications professional has never been more important,” said T. Garland Stansell, APR, 2020 PRSA Chair. “I am humbled and honored to recognize these individuals who have made significant contributions to the communications profession over the course of their careers. For these PRSA members who go above and beyond the call of duty and serve as leaders and mentors in our incredible field, I have the utmost respect.”

Gold Anvil Award – Maria P. Russell, APR, Fellow PRSA 

The Gold Anvil Award, PRSA’s highest individual honor recognizing lifetime achievement in public relations, will be presented to Maria P. Russell, APR, Fellow PRSA. She retired in June as a Professor of Public Relations and Director of Executive Education Programs at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. In honor of her service, she was named Professor Emerita.

A respected educator and leader in the public relations profession for more than 40 years, Russell has advanced the profession and its positive visibility through her creation and advancement of higher education programs in public relations and her leadership of professional development programming for PRSA and other professional bodies. This includes her founding of the Newhouse Executive Master’s Degree in Communications Management, which fuses content in strategic communications, business management and organizational leadership. Moreover, she established the Newhouse Office of Executive Education and the Newhouse W2O Center for Social Commerce, which provides innovative programs on social media and analytics to students and faculty alike.

During her time as a member, Russell has been instrumental in PRSA’s professional development offerings and has served on PRSA’s Board of Directors as Secretary and Treasurer. Additionally, she’s been honored with PRSA’s Outstanding Educator Award, the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA, and the Philip Dorf Award for Outstanding Mentorship by PRSA’s New York Chapter.

Public Relations Professional of the Year – Dave Poston, Esq. 

Dave Poston, Esq., Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel of Poston Communications, will be honored with the Public Relations Professional of the Year Award. The award is given to the individual who, in the previous year, represented the best in public relations as an outstanding example of the management function that established a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and the public upon who its success or failure depends.

Poston is a licensed attorney who has held numerous international in-house and agency positions for law and other professional services firms handling international responsibilities from offices in Atlanta, London, New York and San Francisco. Throughout his career, he has developed media opportunities for his clients and employers in hundreds of important international media and trade outlets. He managed firm-wide public relations and marketing in various roles at King & Spalding LLP, Dorsey & Whitney LLP and Jones & Askew LLP. He worked with more than 20 West Coast law, architecture, construction, financial services, management consulting, real estate, technology and travel clients at Blattel Communications.

Outstanding Educator Award – Susan Gonders, Ed.D. 

The Outstanding Educator Award, which recognizes a PRSA member who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of public relations education through college or university teaching, is being given to Susan Gonders, Ed.D., Professor of Mass Media and Option Coordinator for Public Relations at Southeast Missouri State University.

A skilled educator and communications professional, Dr. Gonders has taught students for more than 25 years. Her time as a successful public relations practitioner has allowed her to combine the world of academics with hands-on, practical experience. Dr. Gonders’ highly accomplished history with PRSA and PRSSA has included a number of leadership positions, including serving as the Coordinator of PRSA’s global academic program in Certification in Education for Public Relations since 2007. She has also been the adviser to the PRSSA Southeast Missouri State University Chapter since 1994.

Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA – David C. Rickey, APR 

David C. Rickey, APR, is receiving the Patrick Jackson Award for Distinguished Service to PRSA. The award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions in advancing PRSA and the professional development of its members.

Rickey’s career spans broadcast journalism, in-house corporate communications and public relations positions. He has worked for municipal agencies, nonprofits and as an independent counselor. In his current role at Rickey Communication, he serves as a consultant to power companies, municipal agencies and advanced economic development organizations. Throughout the years, he has given his time and expertise to PRSA in multiple capacities, including as Chair of the Corporate Communications Section; Co-Chair of the International Conference; Chair of the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards; and Secretary and Senior Counsel to the Board of Directors.

Paul M. Lund Public Service Award – Staci L. Reidinger, APR+M 

The Paul M. Lund Public Service Award is being presented to Staci L. Reidinger, APR+M. The award honors a PRSA member whose participation as a volunteer in important public activities has increased the common good and reflected credit on the organization.

Reidinger enlisted in the Marines in 1993, completed officer training in 2005 and was selected into the Public Affairs field. She served as an active duty U.S. Marine Corps officer until retiring in 2017. In 2009, while deployed to Afghanistan as a communications strategist and trainer, Reidinger developed a training program and helped educate over 450 Afghan government officials in media relations, crisis communication, media reporting and community outreach. In 2014, she attained her APR+M credential, and from 2014 to 2017 served as the Deputy Director and Director of Public Affairs for the Marine Corps’ largest warfighting force, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

Reidinger has also distinguished herself in the private sector through various activities, including co-founding the San Diego Business and Nonprofit Crisis Support Network to help keep the San Diego economy stable during the COVID-19 pandemic. She currently serves as the PRSA San Diego/Imperial County Chapter’s Community Outreach Chair. She is also Board President of HomeAid San Diego, which partners with the building industry and San Diego nonprofits that serve at-risk populations, to build multi-unit housing for homeless families and individuals.

Parke Gibson Pioneer Award – Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips 

Marsha R. Pitts-Phillips, President and Founder of MRPP & Associates Communications, LLC, is the recipient of the D. Parke Gibson Award. The award recognizes a PR professional who has helped expand awareness of PR with multicultural communities.

Pitts-Phillips is an accomplished communications leader whose career has included non-profit PR leadership, strategic consultation, broadcast journalism and educating the next generation of PR professionals at several universities in Minnesota. Throughout her distinguished career, she has been deeply committed to diversity, inclusion and cultural awareness, which she believes are business imperatives that should be woven into the fabric of – and reflected by – every professional entity. A long-time advocate for diversity, Pitts-Phillips was unanimously elected as the PRSA Minnesota Chapter’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2019.

She was also instrumental in helping to establish the Multicultural Scholarship Endowment in collaboration with the PRSA Foundation and the PRSA National Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The fund was created in response to the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ongoing issues of systemic racism. The PRSA Minnesota Chapter was the inaugural donor of this scholarship, which will empower rising diverse talent in the public relations industry.

Jackson Jackson & Wagner Behavioral Science Prize – Jeong-Nam Kim 

The PRSA Foundation will present Jeong-Nam Kim with the Jackson Jackson & Wagner Behavioral Science Prize. Jeong-Nam Kim is the Gaylord Family Endowed Chair in Strategic Communication at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma. The award is designed to honor a senior academic or professional who has contributed a significant body of public relations theory and/or research that enhances understanding of behavioral public relations and whose work is available to scholars and professionals through academic and professional outlets.

In his research, Kim investigates “public behavior” and its implications for social dynamics from a communication perspective. He has theorized on lay citizens’ communicative actions in individual life and in response to social problems. He applies his theories, such as the situational theory of problem solving, to the fields of public relations, strategic communication, health communication, public diplomacy, and corporate and government communication. The founder of the Debiasing and Lay Informatics (DaLI) lab, Kim is currently working to conceptualize the communicative-cognitive interface of lay publics in personal and social problems. His work identifies both opportunities and challenges generated by lay publics and how their communicative actions either contribute to or detract from a civil society.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


7 benefits of building authentic relationships with influencers

7 benefits of building authentic relationships with influencers

In today's digital landscape, influencer marketing stands as a formidable tool for brands aiming to reach target audiences and build brand awareness. However, just investing in popular influencers isn't enough. Consumers are looking for authenticity and can easily...

Maximizing the impact of influencer marketing on consumer behavior

Maximizing the impact of influencer marketing on consumer behavior

Influencer marketing has emerged as a pivotal strategy in modern digital advertising, leveraging the popularity and authority of individuals with large followings on social media platforms to promote products and services. Unlike traditional celebrity endorsements,...