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2019 Best in Maryland Winning Entries Summaries.



Annual Reports

Best in Maryland
2018 Annual Impact Report – The Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC

The Maryland/DC chapter’s 2018 Annual Impact Report celebrates conservation success and provides a call to action for the coming year. It acknowledges that we are at a pivotal time in human history. And that, while we face daunting challenges to our environment, The Nature Conservancy is uniquely suited to find and create solutions at both a local and a global scale. The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization working in all 50 states and 72 countries to advance the mission of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.


Best Use of Influencer Communication

Best in Maryland
LIveAbode Influencer Campaign – Planit and Royal Building Products

LiveAbode (www.liveabode.com) is an exterior design blog published by Royal Building Products, one of North America’s largest manufacturers of exterior products, including siding, trim & mouldings and decking. In Q4 of 2018 (October-December), Planit launched a strategic partnership program with four prominent Instagram influencers to increase awareness for the blog, with a goal of increasing web traffic, email signups and social media following. The campaign was a huge success — driving a 258% increase in overall traffic to the site, including a 798% increase in organic search referral traffic and growing social following for the brand by more than 250%. Additionally LiveAbode received more than 500 new e-newsletter subscribers during the campaign.

Award of Excellence
Facebook Live Somos Baltimore Latino – Maryland Auto Insurance

Maryland Auto partnered with Pedro Palomino, editor of Mundo Latino Baltimore, a well-respected news outlet that conducts widely viewed weekly Facebook live interviews, to raise awareness of our mission among the state’s Latino population. These broadcasts presented a cost effective channel to reach this important audience through a trusted voice and present Maryland Auto as a partner within the community. The two interviews combined to produce over 2,800 views, 62 likes and 24 shares, contributing to a significant year-over-year increase in Spanish-language traffic to our site from July 1 – October 1, 2018, vs the same time in 2017.


Creative Tactics – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt

Best in Maryland
“Best Foot Forward” Employee Engagement Socks – LifeBridge Health

As an organization of more than 11,000 employees scattered across dozens of locations, LifeBridge Health faced a challenge to find a creative way to generate excitement for the annual employee engagement survey. The public relations team wanted to knock people’s socks off and did just that with a unique and offbeat tactic – LifeBridge Health socks for employees across the system! The team created a multi-platform summer-long campaign dubbed #LBHbestfootforward, featuring weekly and monthly photo challenges for prizes and goody bags. The #LBHbestfootforward challenge saw 140 total entries over 12 weeks, with team members submitting diverse and creative photos.


Creative Tactics – For Profit

Best in Maryland
Lyft Ride Smart Maryland – Abel Communications

Lyft, the fastest-growing on-demand transportation service, is committed to effecting positive change for the future of our cities. As Lyft’s Agency of Record, Abel Communications concepted and created Ride Smart Maryland—an initiative to increase overall rideshare usage to-and-from area wine, beer and spirits tasting venues and consumer events to reduce overall impaired driving and promote smart consumption. Ride Smart was created to successfully positioned Lyft as an enthusiastic supporter for Maryland’s thriving craft beer, spirits and wine industries and advocate of reducing impaired driving. Abel lead the program creation, partnership development, PR and digital strategy and creative asset development.


Editorial/Op-Ed Columns/Story Placement

Best in Maryland
Byline Series: You Can Do What with a Library Card? – The Cyphers Agency

In the fall of 2018, The Cyphers Agency was engaged by the Queen Anne’s County Library to increase the number of library cardholders. Cyphers was tasked with promoting the Library’s vast online resources to support its recent rebrand proving it is “not your average library.” Through a seasonal byline series targeting Queen Anne’s County outlets, Cyphers pitched articles suggesting clever, practical ways to use the Library’s digital offerings for creative fall date nights, spooktacular Halloween parties, and magnificent Thanksgiving soirees. The campaign resulted in a 450% increase in new registrations over the Library’s previous average registration rate.

Award of Excellence
National Apartment Association Op-Ed Program with Robert Pinnegar – Abel Communications

The National Apartment Association (NAA) is the leading professional organization for the rental housing industry. As NAA’s PR partner, Abel Communications was charged with establishing NAA CEO Robert Pinnegar as a national thought leader for the apartment industry. As part of a multi-pronged media strategy to combat negative stereotypes and secure positive exposure for the industry, Abel Communications worked over the past year to secure NAA’s CEO 10 columns in The Washington Post, providing a platform for NAA to discuss apartment trends, provide resident tips, position property owners as resources for residents and highlight the benefits of renting.


Magazines/Newsletters – Digital

Best in Maryland
Johns Hopkins’ Hopkins on Alert Newsletter – Johns Hopkins Medicine

Hopkins on Alert is the quarterly publication of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, which oversees enterprisewide planning and response to natural disasters or other emergencies that may affect Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Johns Hopkins University. The newsletter highlights important topics in emergency, disaster and personal preparedness and response. Today, it is distributed as an electronic newsletter to about 65,000 faculty and staff members at Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Johns Hopkins University.


Media Relations – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt

Best in Maryland
Flying Queens Make the Hall of Fame – Harrison Communications and Abel Communications

The Flying Queens are the women’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist University (WBU) in Plainview, TX. The team has a number of historic accomplishments, among them the longest consecutive wins streak of any college basketball team and the most wins of any women’s team. In March of 2019, Naismith announced that the Flying Queens would be enshrined in the 2019 class. Enshrinement was scheduled for September 2019.

Award of Excellence
Poe Baltimore – Coster Communications, Ltd.

Coster Communications conducted the media relations for Poe Baltimore as it hosted the first International Edgar Allan Poe Festival and Awards in Baltimore, October 2018. The free, two-day outdoor event was held on the 169th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, featuring Poe-themed performances, art, vendors, and food, celebrating his cultural influence. Forty stories/clips, calendar listings, and or original social media posts were recorded as earned media. As a result, 2,000 attendees enjoyed the free festival and all special ticketed weekend events sold out: Black Cat Ball – 110 tickets, VIP Bus/Funeral Tours – 100 tickets, and Poe House Tours – 123 tickets.

Award of Excellence
ASK4ME: Two Prongs to Promote the New Bay Plate – The Cyphers Agency

The Cyphers Agency’s public relations team was charged with promoting the launch of the newly-designed Chesapeake Bay license plates, or “Bay Plates,” by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) in October 2018. Cyphers developed and implemented a two-pronged campaign, consisting of an unveiling ceremony and subsequent media tour, to raise awareness of the plate’s availability and purpose, as well as how to purchase one. The campaign was a resounding success, generating a tremendous volume of broadcast, print, and online media coverage and helping raise the statewide plate penetration rate from 3.9% to 6.3%.


Media Relations – For Profit

Best in Maryland
Cirque du Soleil: Crystal — Baltimore – Weinberg Harris & Associates

In 2018, the internationally renowned entertainment organization, Cirque du Soleil premiered Crystal, the company’s 42nd creation and first ice production, at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. Weinberg Harris & Associates, a Hampden-based PR and communications firm, has served as Cirque’s media relations agency in Baltimore since 2003. WHA generated more than 380,000 impressions for Crystal in Baltimore-area media, ensuring that the show was top-of-mind for target audiences during the show’s run.

Award of Excellence
BrightFarms Series D Funding Announcement – Abel Communications

BrightFarms is the leading supplier of locally grown salads for supermarkets nationwide. As part of its PR retainer, BrightFarms tasked Abel Communications with reinforcing its position as the number one brand of locally grown packaged salads — a competitive grocery segment that is rapidly growing. To meet this goal, Abel Communications developed a national, local and trade media strategy around BrightFarms’ upcoming Series D funding round announcement that resulted in an exclusive announcement with The Wall Street Journal and coverage including Fortune, CNBC, Food Dive and the New York Business Journal.



Best in Maryland
A Valuable Perspective: Roland Park Place – Weinberg Harris & Associates

Weinberg Harris & Associates serves as the agency of record for Roland Park Place, Baltimore City’s only nonprofit continuing care retirement community. As part of a comprehensive communications plan to attract potential new residents, the team at Weinberg Harris developed a podcast for the community, called A Valuable Perspective. The podcast showcased the active lifestyle at Roland Park Place and the community’s diverse population of thinkers, doers, and volunteers that call Roland Park Place home.



Best in Maryland
National Recovery Month – Crosby Marketing Communications

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors the annual National Recovery Month in September to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders, celebrate people living in recovery, and promote the message that treatment works and recovery is possible. In 2018, Crosby developed television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) to raise awareness and encourage those in need of treatment and recovery services to seek help.



Best in Maryland
MPT 50th Anniversary History Book – Maryland Public Television

In calendar 2018, the lion’s share of a multi-year publication project was accomplished and led to the early-2019 publication of the first-ever, comprehensive history of Maryland Public Television (MPT). Under the title Made Possible By Viewers Like You: The History of Maryland Public Television, 1969-2019, the 82-page book presented both a well-researched, historical narrative and a collection of features or sidebars stories that shed a very human light on a five-decade-old institution and the hundreds of people who crossed its threshold.

Award of Excellence
JHU Press 2019 Scholarly Journals Catalog – Johns Hopkins University Press

The subscription catalog serves as the primary marketing piece for the JHU Press Journals Division. The 2019 (printed in 2018) edition gave the Journals Marketing Department the opportunity to showcase the importance of letters and typefaces as the building blocks of scholarship. The colorful design used lenticular printing on the cover to highlight the many different paths letters can create.



Best in Maryland
Exploring the Spirit of Sagamore Brand – Van Eperen

Sagamore Spirit is a whiskey brand dedicated to inspiring a global passion for Maryland Rye Whiskey through its award-winning portfolio of straight rye whiskies. Van Eperen was asked to conduct research into whiskey consumers so the Sagamore Spirit team can learn more about its fans and potential customers and make refinements to its national marketing program.


Social Media – Assoc/Nonprofit/Govt

Best in Maryland
MDOT SHA Explains Winter Weather Safety – MDOT State Highway Administration

During winter storms, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration used social media to warn Marylanders about threatening weather and to keep them safe in snow and ice. Using messages that were informative and entertaining, MDOT SHA persuaded Marylanders to respond safely to winter weather.

Award of Excellence
13 Folds of the American Flag – Crosby Marketing Communications

Military OneSource is an online resource available through the Department of Defense to military service members and their families. In 2018, Crosby created a video for Military OneSource’s Facebook page that would generate engagement with the military community on Memorial Day. The video showed the solemn military funeral ceremony of folding the American flag 13 times.



Best in Maryland
Fighting the Celiac Monster – Crosby Marketing Communications

Crosby worked with the Beyond Celiac Foundation in 2018 to produce a Facebook-first video to boost awareness of celiac disease and inspire people to join the organization’s Go Beyond Celiac online community. The animated video portrays celiac disease as a monster that we need to work together to defeat.

Award of Excellence
Deal Island: Maryland’s Green Suit of Armor – The Nature Conservancy Maryland/DC

Natural coastal features such as wetlands and forests play a crucial role as a first line of defense from storms and rising seas across the more than 7,000 miles of Maryland coast. We call these natural features our “green suit of armor.” Situated in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s Deal Island provides a living laboratory for scientists from The Nature Conservancy, George Mason University, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to study how green infrastructure like forests, dunes, and marsh can help reduce the impacts of flooding on vulnerable Eastern Shore communities.



Best in Maryland
Baltimore City Health Department “U=U Maryland” – Devaney & Associates and Chase Brexton Health Care

Research has proven that people living with HIV who follow their treatment plans and maintain undetectable viral loads cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. In other words, undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). The Baltimore City Health Department set out to take this message into Maryland with its own initiative, U=U Maryland, and tasked Chase Brexton Health Care and Devaney & Associates with developing the first critical tool for the campaign: the website. uequalsumaryland.org was unveiled at Baltimore City’s World AIDS Day Celebration on December 1, 2018, where its messaging was applauded by state and city leaders, and hundreds of community members.

Award of Excellence
Thank-A-Vet Web App – Crosby Marketing Communications

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a leading nonprofit that helps America’s veterans overcome obstacles and achieve personal victories both big and small. In 2018, DAV engaged Crosby to generate awareness for the brand in connection with Veterans Day and demonstrate DAV’s commitment to veterans. To support these objectives, Crosby designed and launched “Thank A Vet,” an interactive online photo mosaic that allowed the public to honor the veterans in their lives with personalized tributes that could be shared across social media channels.



Community Relations

Best in Maryland
Toyota Promotes ‘Mobility for All’ with Girls Scouts of Northeast Texas – imre

Toyota hosted the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas at its headquarters in Plano, TX for ‘Bring Girl Scouts to Work Day.’ One hundred middle school girls participated in career and financial discussions, a “green” tour of the Toyota campus, and STEM activities to help prepare them for future success. With limited time and budget, we were tasked with generating a “quick win” that promoted Toyota’s community relations efforts internally and externally. An integrated public relations and social advertising campaign allowed Toyota to amplify and extend the impact of the event while raising awareness of Toyota’s ‘Mobility for All’ positioning statement.

Award of Excellence
Maryland Health Connection Open Enrollment 6 – Sandy Hillman Communications

Maryland Health Connection (MHC), Maryland’s official health insurance marketplace managed by Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE), had a successful fifth year open enrollment (OE5) period in 2017. However, research conducted in early 2018 confirmed that Marylanders were uncertain about the status of the marketplace, given the negative noise around the Affordable Care Act. There was deep-seeded confusion among consumers. To overcome the barrage of unsettling press, MHC engaged Sandy Hillman Communications to promote state-wide confidence in and understanding of the marketplace in support of OE6. SHC was engaged by MHC and their advertising firm GMMB to handle proactive media relations throughout the state of Maryland.


Events and Observances < 7 days

Best in Maryland
Vintage Festival – A. Bright Idea

Supporting the three-day Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival (VF), A. Bright Idea developed a communication action plan to improve communication with attendees, vendors and sponsors. After implementation through the 2018 festival, our team analyzed the progress through interviews, surveys, website and financial audit proving the tools and tactics implemented in our plan were successful. Using the results from our research and evaluation, our team created an updated strategy to execute for the 2019 festival.

Award of Excellence
BrightFarms Share the Harvest – Abel Communications

BrightFarms is the no. 1 brand of locally grown packaged salads, delivering produce to grocery stores around the country sourced from its four hydroponic greenhouses. When BrightFarms opened a new greenhouse in Wilmington, OH, Abel Communications was tasked with creating an event to raise brand awareness in Ohio and introduce BrightFarms to the local community. Abel developed Share the Harvest, a week-long series of events facilitated through strategic partnerships with local organizations. The events resulted in positive face-to-face interaction with nearly two thousand Ohio residents, introductions to local media and strategic relationships with influential local organizations.

Award of Excellence
Grand Opening – Springwell Senior Living’s The Homestead – Clapp Communications

Clapp Communications, the PR firm of record for Springwell Senior Living, was tasked with planning a grand opening event for Springwell’s The Homestead Independent Living Community. Baltimore’s newest Independent Living Community featuring 99 new residences opened its doors in October 2018 in historic Mt. Washington. Clapp planned and executed a successful grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony, which was attended by more than 80 guests, including partners, dignitaries, residents and the media.


Events and Observances > 7 days

Best in Maryland & Best in Show
The National WWI Museum and Memorial WWI Centennial – Sandy Hillman Communications

The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri engaged our agency to develop a strategic plan to leverage several important historical milestones related to WWI and American freedom, including the declaration of war, the Armistice, the Paris Peace Treaty, and more, to achieve a range of key organizational objectives: increase the Museum and Memorial’s social media following by an average of 15 percent, increase attendance from 2017, increase media coverage by 15 percent, and directly support a $25 million fundraising campaign. A multi-faceted media relations campaign that utilized a range of tactics resulted in our exceeding all objectives.


Integrated Communications

Best in Maryland
BGE’s Natural Gas Safety Campaign – BGE

BGE is committed to maintaining a safe and reliable gas delivery system, which begins with helping our customers understand the importance of natural gas safety. The multimedia advertising campaign showcases BGE’s safety culture and is focused on brand reaching channels, including TV, radio, social media, print as well as online. The creative and key message communicated throughout the campaign highlight real-life situations. For example, the communications addressed the topic of social paralysis described by the bystander effect – when individuals relinquish responsibility for addressing a problem, the potential negative outcomes are wide-ranging especially as it related to an unreported gas leak. The campaign elements used a strong call-to-action for customers to leave the area immediately once they suspect a gas leak and call BGE immediately.

Award of Excellence
Victories for Veterans – Crosby Marketing Communications

Every year, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) helps more than one million veterans get the benefits and support they earned through their service. In 2018, Crosby created a national awareness campaign to inform the public about DAV’s mission. The resulting “Victories for Veterans” campaign far surpassed its goals, generating more than $89 million in donated PSA media, and earning record engagement levels across digital and social channels.



Best in Maryland
Great Escape New Business Campaign – Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company

The “Great Escape New Business” marketing campaign was a 7-month-long contest created to incentivize insurance agency principals to place more new business with Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company. Grand prizes included travel vouchers worth $10,000, $7,500, and $5,000 and could be used to cover travel expenses just about anywhere in the world. The campaign had three clear goals: 1) Increase the number of new policies; 2) Increase new business premium; and 3) Increase email open and click through rates for this audience. The campaign exceeded each goal. Members of Chesapeake Employers’ Marketing and Communications department planned and executed every aspect of the campaign.

Award of Excellence
Len the Plumber Magnet Postcard Campaign – Victory-360, LLC

Len The Plumber (LTP) started business in Baltimore where they were a well-known brand. When they began expanding into new markets and other states, they needed to build brand awareness and leads in the direct mail channel. The company had been using standard postcards in the Baltimore market for years with great success, but the response rate in newer markets was not cost effective. LTP engaged Victory-360 to develop a targeted magnet postcard campaign that resulted in a higher response rate and more leads that converted to sales.



Award of Excellence
Los Taxes Mailer – Maryland Auto Insurance

Maryland Auto Insurance partnered with Los Taxes, a financial/tax-preparation firm, well established within the Latino community, to help spread awareness of the benefits of using tax refunds to pay insurance premiums. Los Taxes agreed to include a co-branded insert in their end of year mailing to 1,500 Maryland clients. This presented an opportunity for Maryland Auto to deliver content to a hyper-targeted audience in their preferred language, with the added strength of a trusted community advisor. This partnership resulted in an approximate 10.8% response rate from the 1,500 inserts mailed by Los Taxes.


Public Service

Best in Maryland
Victories for Veterans PSA Campaign – Crosby Marketing Communications

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a leading nonprofit that helps America’s veterans overcome obstacles and achieve personal victories both big and small. In 2018, Crosby created a national PSA campaign to raise awareness of DAV and its services among the public as well as veterans and their families. A key element of the program was a public service campaign that showcased powerful stories of real veterans who found their personal victories with help from DAV and asked the public to support more “Victories for Veterans.”

Award of Excellence
HASA Hearing Hospitality – Abel Communications

For the hard of hearing, dining out can be a challenge — the ambient noise and competing sounds make it difficult to take part in a conversation. HASA, a Baltimore nonprofit that provides hearing and speech services, wanted to bring awareness to this issue and help those with hearing challenges enjoy their dining experiences. To do so, the Abel team created HASA’s Hearing Hospitality initiative. During Restaurant Week, we partnered with top-tier restaurants and HASA trained staff on how to better serve guests with hearing challenges.

Award of Excellence
Vectren “Don’t Be That Guy” Public Safety Campaign – Devaney & Associates

In 2018, Devaney & Associates developed and executed a digital communications campaign to promote natural gas safety awareness and education to the communities served by Vectren, a gas and electricity supplier. The humorous concept—“Don’t Be That Guy”—introduced viewers to That Guy, a character who ignores all the basic rules of natural gas safety, much to the dismay and annoyance of those around him. Using three distinct strategies to target millennials, Generation X and baby boomers, results showed the campaign’s humor, call to action and educational message clearly resonated with all audiences.


Reputation/Brand Management

Best in Maryland
Maryland Philanthropy Network Rebrand – Clapp Communications

After 40 years, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers changed its name and tagline to Maryland Philanthropy Network – Advancing Impact after a comprehensive rebrand process. The name change was previously discussed but escalated by inclusion in the newest strategic plan. The executive director and the board realized the name hindered understanding of the association’s mission, vision, new member engagement, and impact. Clapp Communications was asked to lead the rebrand effort, including the research, messaging, and communications across all platforms. The goals were to gain support and integrate feedback from key stakeholders and rollout the new brand identity to the public.


Click here to return to winners’ list.

A Special Thank you to …

Chesapeake Employer’s Insurance Company for sponsoring the valet service, Abel Communications for sponsoring our Educator of the Year award, and Van Eperen for sponsoring the reception.

To A. Bright Idea, Maryland Public Television, and Sandy Hillman Communications for sponsoring the dessert bar.

To tabletop sponsors Clapp 360 Communications, Coster Communications, Ltd., and Planit for your contributions.

To Devaney & Associates for creating the #BIM19 designs, Coyle Studios for documenting the event through pictures (check out this sneak peek on Facebook), Crown Trophies for the assisting with the awards, and Strategic Factory for serving our printing needs.

And to our event chair David Harrison, Harrison Communications, for bringing this all together.

Your generous support is greatly appreciated!

*This year’s awards were judged by PRSA San Antonio Chapter.

–Industry News