Every fall, public relations practitioners from in and around Washington, DC come together to honor the region’s stars and their most creative, effective communications campaigns.

The annual Thoth (pronounced “tot”) Awards are presented by the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC). This year, Dale and I joined more than 150 people who attended the dinner and awards ceremony at the National Press Club.

 Dale Curtis and Peter Morscheck at the 2015 Thoth Awards, presented by the PRSA National Capital Chapter

Dale Curtis and Peter Morscheck at the 2015 Thoth Awards, presented by the PRSA National Capital Chapter

“The Thoth Award winners honored tonight represent the gold standard in our business, not only in the national capital region, but throughout the nation,” said Mitch Marovitz, president of PRSA-NCC.

The evening began with a keynote address by John Hughes, President of the National Press Club and Editor of Bloomberg’s “First Word DC.”

Hughes presented an overview of how much journalism has changed throughout his career, driven by technological innovation and shortened attention spans. We now live in a world of 24/7, “always on” news cycles, where customers demand tidbits of cutting-edge information as events happen.

And in an increasingly visual culture in which bloggers and “citizen journalists” compete with professionals for views and clicks, Hughes related a story of how his daughter’s capture of an emotional video moment via her smartphone garnered more than 54,000 views on Instagram in a single day. He and other traditional reporters have had to adapt to this new landscape.

Other speakers included this year’s three new PRSA-NCC “Hall of Fame” inductees: Debra Silimeo, EVP of Hager Sharp; Robert Matthias, North American CEO of Ogilvy; and Don McLearn, the recently-retired Deputy Associate Commissioner for Public Affairs of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  

Silimeo’s words of wisdom to younger PR practitioners were particularly inspiring:

  • Stay curious;
  • Learn to be a strategist, not an order taker;
  • Learn the business of PR;
  • Be ethical;
  • Never forget that this is a business built primarily on relationships; and
  • Remember that with our work, we have the power to inform, educate, and persuade.

Silimeo and her fellow honorees are living testaments to the power of professional communicators to appeal to the better angels of our nature and serve the public good.

The main highlight of the evening was the diversity of this year’s award-winning campaigns, evidence of the vast and varied needs that drive clients to engage communications advisers.  Thirty-one awards were conferred in all, honoring a variety of communications campaigns of varying budgets, lengths, and media.

And this is where the evening crossed over from merely inspiring to transformative. As you might expect, several larger agencies were honored for their relatively expensive, involved and creative campaigns for clients such as Clorox, H&R Block, and Amtrak.

But also honored were efforts by smaller agencies and clients, concerning topics like pool safety, the ebola virus, and the advantages of laminate products.

“Best in Show” for the evening was awarded to another small firm for “Blueberry Communications” – an effort by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to boost U.S. blueberry consumption by emphasizing the fruit’s health benefits.

What awards like these demonstrate is that small firms like ours can apply smart strategies, hard work and high levels of creativity to move the needle on behalf of our clients, even if the work itself is as offbeat as “blueberry communications.”