April 25, 2019  

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University of Southern Mississippi wins Top Regional Public Relations Award

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The University of Southern Mississippi’s Office of University Communications has earned the Southern Public Relations Federation’s (SPRF) William A. Taylor Best of Show Award for its “My Southern Miss Story”" campaign as part of a strategy to recruit new students utilizing advertising.

The honor is the top award of SPRF, the leading professional organization of public relations practitioners in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. In winning the award, USM bested hundreds of entries from universities, agencies, business and organizations across the four states.

SPRF’s Best of Show marks the second major award for USM’s Office of University Communications in 2016; this past summer, the office won one of only two Judges’ Choice Awards, the top prize awarded by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi for the office’s work on the “Choose Southern Miss” marketing campaign.

SPRF Awards, including Certificates of Merit, Awards of Excellence and Lantern Awards, were given within three tiers. Of the Lantern Awards given, the judges also select the Best of Show Award and two Judges' Choice Awards.

“The William A. Taylor Best of Show Award is recognition that the public relations work conducted at The University of Southern Mississippi is not only creative and strategic, but most importantly, exceedingly effective,” said Jim Coll, USM’s Chief Communication Officer. “Communications work frequently and quickly changes, but our professional staff members in this area, led by Assistant Director for Marketing Communications Brittney Westbrook, continue to demonstrate the flexibility to remain successful in a field in which success requires adaptability on a daily basis.”

The office launched the “My Southern Miss Story” campaign in March 2016 to raise brand awareness, support student recruitment and enhance the reputation of the University. This campaign featured 11 USM students who shared their stories from a first-person perspective. Among other positive results, “My Southern Miss Story” videos were viewed more than 730,000 times and the campaign directly resulted in a 20 percent increase in traffic to the University’s Choose.USM.edu website.

The award was one of eight won by USM at the competition. In addition to a Lantern Award for the “My Southern Miss Story” campaign, USM also won Lantern Awards for a series of Pandora radio ads in conjunction with that campaign (University Communications); a Lantern Award for the Recreational Sports Comprehensive Services Brochure (April Jordan, Marketing and Public Relations Director for Southern Miss Recreational Sports); a Lantern Award for the Career Services Twitter Account (Tonya McGee, Marketing Specialist for the Office of Career Services); Award of Excellence for the "Making the Move to Kinesiology" campaign (Hanna Knowles, Marketing Communications for the College of Health and School of Kinesiology); Award of Excellence for The Children’s Center Classic (Samantha McCain, Communications Coordinator for the Children’s Center for Communication and Development); and Certificate of Merit for “The Children's Center: Kayson Uses His Voice” (McCain).

In addition, the College of Arts and Letters’ Director of Marketing and Public Relations Ashlea Maddox received a 2016 SPRF Senior Practitioner Award. Maddox, a Southern Miss alumna, has worked at USM since 2012 and previously worked at Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources for 13 years. She has served as the Pine Belt Chapter of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi’s Community Action Chair, Publications Chair, Vice President of Membership and President. As chapter president, she also served on the state PRAM board.