Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, June 04, 2010

Air Force awarded top honors for excellence in public relations

by Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Zannetti
3rd Combat Camera Squadron

6/4/2010 - MANHATTAN, N.Y. (AFNS) -- The U.S. Air Force received top honors June 3 at the Public Relations Society of America's annual Silver Anvil Awards Ceremony at the Equitable Tower in New York City. This is the first time the Air Force has received the PRSA's most esteemed, "Best of Silver Anvil" Award, recognized as the civilian community's established icon of "best of the best" public relations practices.

The Air Force received the 2010 Silver Anvil award for its winning submission, "A Solemn View: Public Affairs Provides a Window to American Service Members' Ultimate Sacrifice," a program to facilitate media coverage of "dignified transfers," where servicemembers killed in combat are returned to American soil with dignity, honor and respect. In addition, the Air Force won a Silver Anvil Award in the Issues Management, Government subcategory.

More than 400 people were in attendance for the event including Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin C. Conaton, who accepted the award on behalf of the U.S. Air Force. Also attending were Col. Les A. Kodlick, director of Air Force Public Affairs, and Col. Robert Edmondson, Air Force Mortuary Affairs commander.

"I want to thank the Public Relations Society of America for recognizing the Air Force Office of Public Affairs and its tremendous record of success in this no-fail mission," said Ms. Conaton. "It is a solemn process that ensures dignity, honor and respect for the fallen, and also provides care, service and support to family members, while allowing the media to give the public considerate insight into the human cost of war. The work that Air Force Mortuary Affairs and Public Affairs do with dignified transfers, and the media's coverage of them, is important to the Air Force, the Depart of Defense and the nation."

The Air Force was selected as the best amongst 134 public relations programs nominated for the award. The award honors organizations, both civilian and government, who successfully addressed a contemporary public relations issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness. The Silver Anvils are regarded as the preeminent achievement of public relations, the highest watermark of success for any practitioner.

After an 18-year ban on media coverage, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a new policy in 2009 allowing media to cover dignified transfers with permission from family members. With little lead time, a group of Air Force public affairs professionals took the lead and developed a people-focused media program in 27 days that honored the fallen and cared for their families, while simultaneously providing the media the opportunity to cover this solemn process and provide the public a clear view into the human cost of war. In the first year of the new policy, 471 dignified transfers were conducted at Dover AFB with more than half covered by the media.

"This program is a great success," Colonel Edmondson said. "The award is not only special because it recognizes public affairs, but recognizes and preserves the dignity and care for the families. It's incredibly satisfying to see our public affairs professionals when they are on the ground doing the mission and then getting recognized for their hard work."

More than 800 Silver Anvil Award entries were considered, including Fortune 500 companies such as Volkswagen of America, General Mills, American Airlines, Xerox Corporation, Starbucks and Sprint. Awards were presented in 59 categories and subcategories honoring individual accomplishment, tactical excellence and achievement in specialized practice areas.

"Receiving the Silver Anvil is a huge testament to the skill, expertise and professionalism for every Public Affairs professional in the Air Force," said Colonel Kodlick. "It's those Airmen who touched this mission, who were involved and whose involvement was with great distinction. At the end of the day, they were honoring the fallen, those who paid the ultimate price, with respect to their families. I couldn't be more proud of our team."

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