PRSA Southeast Wisconsin Announces 2023 Public Relations Paragon Award Winners

MILWAUKEE (May 25, 2023) — The Public Relations Society of America’s Southeastern Wisconsin chapter recognized the best public relations programs and tactics implemented in 2022 at its annual Paragon Awards.

More than 35 awards were presented for PR programs and tactics to local agencies, corporations, and nonprofits that exhibit industry best standards in research, strategic planning, and results-driven execution that made an impact. Punch PR received the Best in Show distinction, securing the highest overall score for its social influencer awareness-building campaign with KEEN Utility and the Roswell work boot launch.

Sarah Maio, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Wisconsin Center District (WCD), was honored as the 2023 Communicator of the Year.  The award is given to an outstanding professional who effectively uses public relations and communications skills to perform their responsibilities. Maio oversees marketing and communications efforts for the Wisconsin Center, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Miller High Life Theatre. Her impact on the WCD has reverberated through the community, most recently with her recognition as a Milwaukee Business Journal CMO of the Year, BizTimes Milwaukee Notable Marketing Executive, co-chair of TEMPO Milwaukee Leadership Event, guest speaker at Marquette University, and Women’s Fund of Milwaukee “Reclaiming Feminism” honoree.

Michael Pflughoeft, APR, Fellow PRSA, Public Relations Director at BVK, was honored with the 2023 Dorothy Thomas Black Award. The award recognizes sustained superior performance in public relations and is the PRSA chapter’s highest honor. Pflughoeft has worked with some of the highest profile organizations in Wisconsin and beyond, including Harley-Davidson, Steelcase, Aurora Health Care, Pabst, Herman Miller, The Marcus Corporation and Doral Dental / DentaQuest. He was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in 2015.

Pflughoeft is currently the Accreditation Co-Chair and has served in virtually every board position for the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of PRSA, including two terms as President. He is the creator and founder of the Chapter’s annual “PR Palooza” fundraising event; he helped develop and launch the Chapter’s first formal mentorship program and served as chair of the Chapter’s 50th anniversary program/event.

Public relations programs/tactics recognizing Awards of Excellence include:

  • Benson’s Restaurant Group Unveils The Bridgewater Modern Grill (media relations) – Laughlin Constable Public Relations
  • Sentry Insurance B2B Media Relations Program (media relations) – Core Creative
  • FoodTok (social media campaign) – VISIT Milwaukee
  • I am Advocate Aurora Teammate Features (social media campaign) – Aurora Health Care
  • Panduit Network Infrastructure Campaign (content marketing) – Nelson Schmidt Inc.
  • Project Wonder: The Art of Science (content marketing) – Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation PR Program (content marketing) – Hoffman York
  • “On the Edge of Equity” and the “Leadership is in Session” Master Class (content marketing) – Athena Communications
  • Visit Montana – Meaning in the Mountains (influencer marketing to expand awareness) – Hoffman York
  • Visit Montana – Yellowstone National Park Flood Response (crisis communications) – Hoffman York
  • Wahl ‘Benevolent Beards’ Contest (integrated communications) – Hoffman York
  • Fostering Community Support for a more Diverse Church Mutual (events and observances) – Padilla
  • Sentry Insurance – U.S. Senior Open Media Preview Day (events and observances) – Core Creative
  • Sentry Insurance – El Paso Office Announcement (events and observances) – Core Creative
  • Dancing Grannies Thank You Parade (events and observances) – Aurora Health Care
  • LiuGong North America – Dealer Recruitment Direct Mail (direct mail) – Nelson Schmidt
  • Aurora Health Care Diversity Equity and Inclusion Impact Report (newsletter) – Aurora Health Care
  • Faces of Froedtert (internal communications) – Froedtert Health
  • Church Mutual Insurance Company – Strength of a Few Videos (video) – Nelson Schmidt
  • Lead Balloon Podcast Blue Angels Activation (other creative tactics) – Podcamp Media
  • Milwaukee Downtown BID #21 – Giannis Mural (other creative tactics) – Nelson Schmidt

Public relations programs/tactics recognizing Awards of Distinction (receiving scores 40-45 out of 50):

  • Children of Fallen Patriots Local Media Campaign (media relations) – Punch PR
  • WAHL Influencer Program (influencer marketing to expand awareness) – Hoffman York
  • Milwaukee Diaper Mission (public service) – Serve Marketing
  • Visit St. Pete/Clearwater – Unwind & Be Kind Campaign (public service) – BVK
  • TIKI Brand Crisis Communications (crisis communications) – Cramer-Krasselt
  • Aligning for Effective Crisis Management (crisis communications) – Aurora Health Care
  • Fromm Petfest (integrated communications) – Punch PR
  • Sojourner Lethality Awareness: Know the Facts (integrated communications) – Serve Marketing
  • West Virginia Department of Tourism x AllTrails (integrated communications) – BVK
  • Aurora Medical Center – Sheboygan County Hospital Move & Grand Opening (integrated communications) – Aurora Health Care
  • Maytag Commercial Laundry – Customer Stories Campaign (marketing business-to-business) – Nelson Schmidt
  • Port Milwaukee Annual Report (annual report) – Nelson Schmidt
  • Zurn Elkay Sustainability Report (annual report) – Zurn Elkay Water Solutions
  • Sip Tips & Tooth Tips (video) – Wisconsin Dental Association

“Our chapter members serve as critical leaders and advisors to organizations across Southeastern Wisconsin and beyond,” said Dave Racine, President of PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin. “It’s an honor to meet once again to celebrate our region’s exceptional talent and successes from the past year.”

“The Paragon Awards were created in 1983 to encourage excellence in public relations in the region,” said Don Klein, immediate past president and Paragon Awards chair for PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin. “Nearly 40 years later, the Paragons continue to be a point of proof for our region’s continued growth and leadership in the field of public relations.”

Entries were judged by members of the New Orleans PRSA chapter on a scale of zero to 50 points based on research to guide the program or tactic; clear objectives and target audiences; comprehensive planning and budgeting; creativity and execution; and evaluation against the stated objectives. Entries garnering scores of 40-44.5 points received an Award of Distinction. Those entries with scores of 45-50 received an Award of Excellence. The PR program with the highest score earned the Best of Show award.