4 women comms pioneers among dozens to receive Ragan awards

From Aflac to Amazon, scores of female communicators reveal their strategies, campaigns and workplace wins in an industry where women predominate. Ragan will recognize their influence.

Top women awards

Four industry pioneers are poised to receive Hall of Fame honors in Ragan’s Top Women in Communications Awards, providing a glimpse of the range of talent and successes in a field where women predominate.

They are among scores of honorees for various awards who will be recognized at a luncheon March 31 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.

This year’s Women in Communications Hall of Fame inductees are RF|Binder founder Amy Binder, Aflac’s Catherine Hernandez-Blades, HP Inc.’s Karen Kahn and APCO Worldwide’s Margery Kraus.

The four—as well as the rest of the honorees—illuminate the central role of women in communications, heading up global campaigns for major companies and founding influential consultancies.

All told, there are nine awards categories recognizing women in organizations ranging from the FBI to public school systems. Dell Technologies, The Kroger Co., Amazon Global Corporate Communications, CBRE and Latin Business Today are among the brands being hailed for advancing the profession while accelerating growth for their organizations.

Celebrating lifetime achievement

The Hall of Fame award recognizes long-term excellence and enduring accomplishments.

  • Binder, a 30-year veteran, has long been considered a pioneer in the industry. In 2001, she founded RF|Binder to realize her vision of building a new type of agency, using digital and integrated communications to drive business.

Binder has long advocated using data, analytics and insights to identify target audiences, develop strategic messaging, and measure the effectiveness in getting key messages to targeted stakeholders. She has expanded the firm’s insights, planning and analytics capabilities by hiring new talent from the traditional advertising world, strengthening the firm’s in-house paid media and digital services.

  • Hernandez-Blades has used communications as a force for good, from her early work helping coastal states protect vulnerable fisheries to her role today as Aflac’s chief environmental, social and governance and communications officer.

She created the “All Aflac” initiative to enhance collaboration and the adoption of values-based leadership practices across company locations worldwide. In Japan, where Aflac has a significant footprint, Hernandez-Blades developed programs tailored to the cultural needs of the workforce. Aflac has included strategies to help female employees with work-life balance and career development.

  • Kahn is HP’s chief brand and communications officer. With more than 25 years of reputation and storytelling experience, she is responsible for creating and connecting HP’s narrative to social, economic, cultural and technological truths.

Kahn’s advocacy for diversity and inclusion typifies how she is strengthening HP’s business while moving the industry forward. Her belief in the power of storytelling is demonstrated in HP’s partnership with Girl Rising, a global nonprofit that uses compelling narratives to expand girls’ access to education. With the support of HP, Girl Rising produced a short film about a Somalian teenager living in a refugee camp.

  • As founder and executive chairman of APCO Worldwide, Kraus is an industry pioneer and a mentor to many leading professionals. She developed the organization from a one-woman consultancy into an enterprise with more than 800 employees and 30 offices worldwide.

Under her leadership, APCO has a reputation for combining a global perspective with local expertise to understand the issues, events and trends that affect businesses and organizations around the world. This internationalism is a crucial part of her ability to provide strategic advice that translates into concrete results for clients.

Besides the Hall of Fame, other categories are:

  • Dynamic Do-er. “She rolls up her sleeves and gets it done. And then some.”
  • Leader. “She leads with conviction and empathy, and her team looks up to her.”
  • Bridge Builder. “She forges internal and external connections like a master.”
  • Community Giver. “She is giving of her time to people and places outside her employer.”
  • Game-Changer. “She’s allergic to the status quo.”
  • Mentor. “She takes future leaders under her wings and teaches them how to fly.”
  • Trailblazer. “She creates a new path that others want to follow.”
  • Visionary. “She sees around the corners and tells captivating stories.”

The awards highlight the wide range of talent among women communicators, as well as the major campaigns and communication responsibilities entrusted to them. As a newer generation rises in the ranks, they foretell a future in which women predominate even in the most senior positions.

The two most popular categories are Leader and Dynamic Do-er, each boasting 19 honorees.

The honorees under Dynamic Do-er come from a wide range of organizations. Among the wealth of talent receiving top honors are women from these organizations: Gates, Arbor Realty Trust, Mattress Firm, CBRE, Harris County Department of Education and Collins Aerospace.

Several nominees note endeavors familiar to female professionals, such as devotion to work on the job, after hours and on weekends, even while volunteering for nonprofits and caring for their own children.

Leading the pack

The Leader category salutes communicators from Sunrise Banks, FBI headquarters, ABS (American Bureau of Shipping), Health Care Service Corp. and Florida Power & Light Co., among other top talents.

Honorees have cited work such as iQ 360’s spearhead media outreach for the Obama Foundation’s first event in the former president’s home state of Hawaii, and developing the internal communications to support rollout of an emergency notifications mobile app.

Among the Bridge Builder honorees are communicators from Mercer, Saint-Gobain North America, European Flavour Association, Aegis Therapies, Deloitte/Green Dot Agency, Indianapolis Public Schools and Stein IAS.

Honorees cite storytelling efforts at Best Buy Canada; the use of employees to amplify Mercer’s voice at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; and Citizens’ “Let’s Connect” dialog sessions with colleagues on key topics.

Honorees in the Community Giver category include talented women from The Abbi Agency, Cisco, Ethos Creative Group, Bellmont Partners and Tunheim. Nominees cite award-winning integrated marketing campaigns and other successes.

Shaking up the status quo

Honorees in the Game-Changer category include communicators from Ryder System, SAP, Collins Aerospace, 5W Public Relations, Layton, The Kroger Co., DCG Communications, Latin Business Today, Amazon Global Corporate Communications, Dell Technologies, Canadian Tire Corporation, and Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and Responsibility.org.

“She came, she saw, she shook things up, and she is ‘punking’ Human Resources,” states the nomination for SAP honoree Ann Miller-Rauch. (Miller-Rauch and her SAP colleagues, the “HR Punks,” won a Grand Prize in February for Employee Communications Team of the Year.)

Other honorees cite launching the national brand of Layton—a $2.5 billion construction company—and engaging audiences through social media platforms and influencers, all generating traditional news media coverage for Canadian Tire.

Mentor honorees hail from The Kroger Co., University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, Bhava Communications, The TASC Group, SSPR, Suasion Communications Group, and Loyola University Maryland Department of Communication.

Rappelling down the Sheraton

Nominees cite a brave Suasion leader who rappelled down 17 stories of the Sheraton Hotel in Atlantic City to benefit young children in need of mentors, and a University of Michigan director of cancer communications who guided her team through new editorial successes.

Trailblazer organizations include Hotwire, Cisco, Purpose Brand, Northwestern Medicine, Sutter Health, Weill Cornell Medicine, WellSky, and Collins Aerospace and communications consultant Tahoma Guiry.

Honorees cite an employee-generated content strategy that changed Cisco’s social media for talent branding and marketing in general, and Guiry’s K9s work raising the exposure of the nonprofit K9s For Warriors.

Among the honorees for Visionary are women hailing from Amazon, Sensata Technologies, Lola Red PR, the Crop Science division of Bayer, Durée & Co., Bullfrog + Baum, Highmark Health, Cambia Health Solutions, Boden Agency, TCC Group, Tarrant County College and Kite Hill PR.

They mention Cambia’s innovative podcast, video storytelling and social media strategies, along with Lola Red’s “reputation for achieving results where others had failed.”

To attend the luncheon—and learn more about all of this year’s honorees—click here.


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