Milwaukee’s PR professionals shine at 2015 Paragon Awards

The Public Relations Society of America Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter held its annual Paragon Awards banquet on May 21, 2015 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. The awards program celebrated high-level work in public relations and honored accomplishments of over 10 local agencies and companies in 16 categories, including media relations, social media, integrated communications and community relations among others.

Larry O'Brien of Bader Rutter

Larry O’Brien of Bader Rutter

Bader Rutter of Brookfield, Wis. received the coveted Best of Show award for its work with Zoetis on the Hoof-Tec New Product Introduction. The creative “Too Much Metal” campaign introduced a new footbath product to dairy farmers and veterinarians used for bathing cow hooves. The product uses up to 40 percent less copper sulfate. Results included an increased awareness of 50 percent in just nine months after the campaign and increased product sales. Print and online placements attracted nearly 1.5 million impressions. The launch news release received 447,848 impressions, and this was the most-clicked story of the March Inside Dairy Wellness e-newsletter.

Other Best of Show finalists included Bader Rutter for its work for Sauder, BVK for its work with Weddings by Funjet and Hawai’i Health Connector, and Celtic, Inc. for its work with Edvest.

This year’s entries were judged by the Greater Kansas PRSA Chapter and were evaluated based on five criteria: objectives, research and planning, execution, budgets and results.

Chapter president Bill Bussler

Chapter president Bill Bussler

“It’s wonderful to see the volume of great public relations work produced right here in Southeastern Wisconsin,” said Bill Bussler, chapter president. “Our members are creative, resourceful and savvy. The work featured at the Paragon Awards gets better each year, and we look forward to continuing to see the outstanding work our members produce.”

Stephanie Klett, recipient of the Communicator of the Year award

Stephanie Klett, recipient of the Communicator of the Year award

The events also recognized two established professionals for their admirable work in the local community. The Communicator of the Year award was presented to Stephanie Klett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Under her leadership, the Department of Tourism has earned an unprecedented 65 regional, national and international awards.

Carol Weber, recipient of the Dorothy Thomas Black award

Carol Weber, recipient of the Dorothy Thomas Black award

The Dorothy Thomas Black award was presented to Carol Seeger Weber, APR, director of communications and marketing at the Wisconsin Dental Association. Carol is a member of the board of directors for the chapter, serving as director-at-large. She also is a past president of the chapter.

The PRSA Paragon Awards were created in 1983 to honor public relations professionals on their exceptional work. A complete list of winners is included below.

You can view event photos on our Facebook page:



  1. Communicator of the Year Award: Stephanie Klett, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism
  1. Dorothy Thomas Black Award: Carol Seeger Weber, APR, director of communications and marketing at the Wisconsin Dental Association
  1. Best of Show:
  • Winner:
    • Bader Rutter – Zoetis, Hoof-Tec New Product Introduction
  • Finalists:
    • BVK – Weddings by Funjet Launch
    • BVK – Hawai’i Health Connector
    • Bader Rutter – Sauder Social Media Program
    • Celtic, Inc. – Edvests’ Big Apple Giveaway
  1. Social Media Campaigns:
  • Award of Merit
    • BVK – Guitars for Vets
    • BVK – Foresters
    • BVK – Funjet Vacations, The Funjet Insider
    • BVK – Mystik Lubricants
  • Award of Excellence
    • BVK – CITGO Fueling Good
    • BVK – Hawai’i Health Connector
    • Bader Rutter – Sauder Woodworking
    • BVK – Weddings by Funjet
  1. Community Relations:
  • Award of Merit
    • State Farm – Neighborhood Assist
  1. Public Service:
  • Award of Merit
    • State Farm – Celebrate My Drive
  1. Integrated Communications – Government/Nonprofit:
  • Award of Merit
    • Laughlin Constable – 2014 Wisconsin Department of Tourism Campaign
    • Bethesda – Peoria Community Engagement Campaign
  1. Integrated Communications – Business/Industry:
  • Award of Merit
    • American Transmission Co. – Helps Landowners to Grow Smart Campaign
    • Wisconsin Dental Association – “Own Your Smile” Oral Health Literacy, Public Awareness Campaign
  • Award of Excellence
    • Bader Rutter – Zoetis, 2014 Honoring Caregivers Program
    • Bethesda – Peoria Community Engagement Campaign
    • Celtic, Inc. – Edvest’s Big Apple Giveaway
    • Bader Rutter – Zoetis, Hoof-Tec Product Introduction
  1. PR Tactic (Media Relations) – Release/Other:
  • Award of Merit:
    • Laughlin Constable – Wisconsin Association of Nurses on behalf of Pfizer, School Nurses Vaccination Effort – No Shots, No School!
    • Bader Rutter – Case IH, Media Event/Farm Progress Show
  • Award of Excellence:
    • KOHLER Engines – Trade Editor’s Conference
  1. PR Tactic (Media Relations) – Press Kit; Services/Events:
  • Award of Merit:
    • Laughlin Constable – Wisconsin Tourism Media Kit
  • Award of Excellence:
    • Cramer-Krasselt – Appvion, Inc., Alpha Free Multimedia News Release
  1. Poster:
  • Award of Merit:
    • Cramer-Krasselt – Evinrude, The Power to Choose
  1. Newsletter:
  • Award of Excellence:
    • Laughlin Constable – Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, Spreading the Word e-newsletter
  1. Special Events
  • Award of Merit:
    • Cramer-Krasselt – Evinrude, Club Evinrude
  1. Brochure
  • Award of Excellence:
    • Carroll University – General Brochure
  1. Social Media Tactic
  • Award of Merit:
    • Cramer-Krasselt – TIKI Brand Outdoor Entertaining Blogger Program
  1. Online E-news
  • Award of Excellence
    • Bader Rutter – National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council,

Barbara Behling shares crisis communications strategies

Barbara Behling

Barbara Behling of Red Cross

By Kelly Savage, chapter chair of accreditation

It’s always a pleasure to hear about the tremendous  impact the American Red Cross has on our community. I’m so blessed to volunteer for this organization and support its programs through grants on behalf of State Farm®. On Wednesday, May 28th I also had the opportunity to learn from Barbara Behling at a Southeastern Wisconsin PRSA luncheon as she shared details about her role as a PR professional assisting the Red Cross with crisis communications for national and local disasters.

It was fascinating to hear how the Red Cross handles these challenging situations. Barbara has assisted with so many tragedies, from the Sikh Temple shooting to Hurricane Sandy to recent wildfires in California.

One thing that resonated with me was Barbara’s comment that she never forgets the dates of the disasters to which she’s responded. It’s so important for organizations to realize not only that you need dedicated and sympathetic people to handle crisis situations, but also that these situations take a toll on the individuals managing these issues. Since the Red Cross responds daily to tragic events in people’s lives, they luckily have trained professionals to help volunteers and employees through these hard times. I can imagine sometimes organizations might miss how these situations affect the people whose job it is to help others pick up the pieces of their crumbled lives.

The other idea that stood out is that groups shouldn’t join in on a fight that’s not theirs. In other words, stick to the issue at hand. At times the situation isn’t about you or your organization, and if that’s the case, don’t complicate the situation. Stay on the sidelines and do what you do best to contribute. Barbara shared that the Sikh Temple church members wanted to highlight the Red Cross so donations could be made to help the organization continue its great work, but they decided it was best to not take away from the issue at hand. I think that is noble and the public can respect that.

Barbara’s stories help us remember that behind every crisis are individuals and families who have been affected, as well as those who are trying their best to make things better as much as possible in a given situation. As long as transparency, integrity, a prompt response and the consideration of unintended consequences are a part of the process, hopefully everyone involved will be able to move forward quickly and smoothly.

Young Pros Learn Crisis Comms

The Chapter's Young Pros Learn Crisis Comms from Seasoned Veterans

The Chapter’s Young Pros Learn Crisis Comms from Seasoned Veterans

On Wednesday, September 25, fifteen students from UW-Whitewater attended “PRSA Young Pros Discuss: Crisis Communication in Milwaukee.” The purpose of this event was to inform, teach and help college students in the field of public relations understand how to handle a crisis in communication.

The people who attended were divided into three groups and given a different crisis communication case to work through as if they were the PR coordinator.

The PRSA Young Pros had three seasoned professionals that attended as well and jumped into the groups to help evaluate and understand the crisis communication process.   Carol Weber, Matthew Wisla and Alan Gaudynski, all PRSA members, led each group discussion.  Each has many years of experience in public relations and was happy to pass along knowledge and advice.

The event had excellent attendance and the students who attended all were able to walk away with new people to network with, advice to take home, and more knowledge about what crisis communication is and how to go about managing crises.

— Justina Kruser, UW Whitewater student