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PRWeek Awards 2012 I Small PR Agency of the Year Entry communicating for social change

our leadership

communicating for social change

our leadership

Joe Kelly I Executive Vice President “At Vanguard, our touchstone is integrity…in our staff, our work and our business practices. We only promote client issues we can own and live. We are incapable of simply ‘talking the talk.’ That is why I have been here for 17 years.” Brenda Foster I Vice President, Account Services

The Boss

“Vanguard is about more than the client/consultant relationship. We believe in the issues we promote, and we get right in the trenches with

Dear Distinguished Panel of the PRWeek Awards 2012:

the experts and advocates who are fighting for a better world. We pride

Social change doesn’t happen at the top of a tower — it happens on the ground. That’s why, nearly 25 years after Vanguard

ourselves in identifying innovative strategies and adapting them to fit the

Communications’ founding, we still embrace the grassroots as the key to successful social good initiatives. Certainly the way we

reach audiences continues to evolve — sometimes on a daily basis — but our talented, dedicated staff understands that communities will always provide fuel for innovation, the evolution of our communications approaches and our business.

We spend a lot of time with our audiences, gaining a deep and very personal understanding of the issues that matter to them. We learn

about cultural influences and the reality of their lives. We investigate local offerings and supports, and we design our strategies and

messages to speak to them as individuals, as families and as community members. Then, we give voice to these diverse perspectives,

needs of our nonprofit, government and grassroots partners.” Deanna Troust I Vice President, Creative Services “No matter the medium — digital, print, broadcast — engaging, culturally sensitive materials are vital to the success of any effort. Our five design

amplifying passion for the cause and generating a harmonious tone for social change.

awards in the last year point to the level of care that we take in building

Despite the weak economy, our expertise remains in high demand. In times of economic and social struggle, we find that even more

campaigns and designing quality materials for our clients.”

people, organizations and issues need our help. We have been fortunate to experience tremendous growth during a time when others are struggling to keep their doors open. In 2011, we are projecting a 43 percent increase in revenue over 2010. That builds on the 33

percent increase we generated in 2010 over 2009. Yet, our agency and our staff still find time to give hundreds of hours per year in volunteer services for the communities and issues we care about. I believe our staff ’s personal commitment to the social causes we

Tracy Ferrell I Vice President, Operations & Human Resources “Simply put, Vanguard is unique. Our corporate culture inspires our diverse

champion is the core of our success.

workforce to be value-driven, collaborative and inventive for our clients.

Why Vanguard?

We also maintain a competitive benefits package to keep our employees

In 2003, Vanguard Communications was thrilled to win the PRWeek Agency of the Year Award. It was tremendously gratifying

healthy and happy.”

to be recognized for our excellence among so many distinguished peers. This year, we believe that our performance again warrants

consideration for such an honor. In the pages that follow, you’ll see why we hope you’ll agree that now is the right time. It’s because of:

1. Our sustained industry and issues leadership 2. Our innovations in all we do, from client services to staff rewards

Encouraging and Rewarding Innovation

3. Our tremendous growth in 2010 and 2011

Innovation is imagination coupled with hard work and execution. At Vanguard, innovation is a core value. That’s why

4. Our phenomenal results for change-making clients

in 2010 we created the Innovator’s Award to recognize staff who envision a new way of doing business or fresh

5. Our diverse talent and their long-term dedication to our company and our mission 6. Our commitment to communicating for social change across the country and in our own

approach to a proven strategy. Our most recent honoree was a communications assistant who recommended that we reinvigorate our popular training curriculum with Prezi presentations. This non-linear, zoomable presentation format has added an active new dimension to our face-to-face trainings and Webinars. And our clients love it!

community — the Washington, D.C., metro area Recipients of the Innovator’s Award receive a $100 gift card and are asked to share their thoughts about innovation and the winning strategy in Vanguard’s Innovator’s Journal for future inspiration. One Innovator wrote: It’s important to me that you know every person at Vanguard Communications — and many of our clients — played some role in the

development of this entry. Social change is not possible without teamwork. This entry demonstrates how we put our array of talents, creative thinking and enthusiasm together to make BIG things happen almost every day. Thank you for your consideration.

“As communicators, we are given the chance to be creative, imaginative and insightful — we get to put our personal touches on our work. That freedom is rare in most jobs; at Vanguard, it is the norm. Vanguard is a company full of innovators: great thinkers with great ideas that translate into great results.”

Maria Rodriguez

President, Vanguard Communications






We’ve More Than Doubled Our Revenue in Two Years



growing revenue growing relationships

2010 — 33% revenue increase

SAMHSA’s Voice Awards

Impacts Mental Health in Hollywood for Half a Decade...and Counting

2011 — 43%

“The Voice Awards encourages Los Angeles to think of moments in TV shows that can inspire and uplift instead of degenerate and devalue. The contribution that Vanguard is making to Los Angeles, the creative community, America and the entire world is truly beyond measure, and I hope that your commitment to the Voice Awards will not only be sustained, but increase.”

What’s our

— Roger S. Wolfson, J.D., M.A., professional television and film writer, Law and Order: SVU, The Closer, Fairly Legal, Century City and Saving Grace

projected revenue increase


156,106,553 media impressions


increase from 2010

It’s no secret at all — client service, trust, innovation — all part of building strong relationships. In 2011, the majority of our new business revenue came from existing or previous clients. And our new clients stemmed from long-time partnerships with existing client campaigns. In 2011, the Voice Awards brought national focus to the impact of trauma on mental health. By threading real-life stories with clips

from well-known films and television shows, we created a production that was emotional, humorous, persuasive and hopeful. Our goal is always

Partners Growing

INTO Clients At Vanguard, partners often become clients. When the National

Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare needed support rolling

out a new professional education program this summer, they knew exactly who to call. We are helping them to launch a 14-course online curriculum for behavioral health and primary care providers who want to serve veterans and their families by learning evidence-based strategies and skills.

Since we were first hired in July, the National Council has broadened

our relationship to include branding and promoting their 41st Annual

Vanguard’s 5 longest client relationships


Farm Aid


Spina Bifida Association

primary care providers across the country. And we have another contract


pending for an even larger project.

Bringing to life Cutlip, Center and Broom’s focus on “mutually beneficial relationships” in Effective Public Relations, we added the National Council to our team on a recently awarded federal contract. The National Council will provide subject matter expertise for a campaign that promotes social

inclusion of people with behavioral health needs. This relationship is collaborative and trusting — and we’re excited about the results we will achieve together.



National Council Mental Health and Addictions Conference, which is

the premiere conference for community-based behavioral health and

American Psychological Association


We have proof that we inspire. In 2011, 39 writers and producers received their second or third Voice Award. Each year, we grow our chorus of Hollywood talent lending their voices and echoing our refrain of resiliency and recovery. They are our champions for change.

Through the long-term success of the Voice Awards brand, we generated more than 200 nominations for films, television shows and people who

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


the same — to inspire more accurate portrayals of mental illness and addiction.

Galvin Electricity Initiative

demonstrate recovery and resiliency. The red carpet and awards presentations featured top Hollywood talent, and the event was hosted by Emmy and Golden Globe Nominee and NBC’s Parenthood star Peter Krause. Kate Walsh from Private Practice joined us to help pay tribute to the writers of her show, as well as her hometown heroes: Ron Barber, district director for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and survivor of the January 8 Tucson, Ariz., shooting, as well as Tucson Mayor Robert E. Walkup and his wife, Beth Walkup.

For the first time, we produced a live Webcast and tweeted from the event beginning with the buzz on the red carpet. Though rare for

government-sponsored events, this strategy expanded the studio audience and allows the event to live on — reaching even more people through SAMHSA’s website.

With the extension of our SAMHSA relationship comes the opportunity to continue what we have started — changing the way Hollywood characterizes mental illness and addiction on screen — and eliminating stereotypes by educating those who are watching.

Making a Big Investment for High-Quality Results and Happy Staff To maintain our brand promise of high-quality results while managing our team spirit during rapid growth, we began using WorkZone®, a cloud-based system that facilitates project management, client reviews, and tracking and forecasting time for projects or by staff. For small agencies like Vanguard, this represents a huge investment of financial and staff resources. But we decided the return on investment — impactful results, pleased clients, balanced staff workloads — made it worthwhile.


OUR results

OUR results

small firm big results

Vanguard is the only firm that I have total trust in. No matter what the task, I know that Vanguard staff can accomplish it. I am told I have extremely high standards. I’ve never been disappointed.

Education Secretary

Responds to Plan for Success

media impressions rose

15.5% in 2011 to 258,228,611

an all-time high for Awareness Day National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Honorary Chairperson Jamie Lee Curtis enjoys a moment with youth honored at the national event in Washington, D.C.

person to succeed in life after enduring years of trauma. Vanguard knew that key audiences — policymakers, families and media — have neither

understanding of the impacts of early childhood trauma nor awareness about children’s abilities to be resilient, successful adults. That’s why Vanguard focused on this important issue for 2011 National Children’s

Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day). However, a challenge remained — how do we talk openly and honestly about a deeply personal and sensitive issue?

We carefully reached out to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) local mental health partners to identify

seven resilient youth who were yearning to share their incredible stories, then supplied these youth with flipcams to record video testimonials about

Transforming the Electricity Grid


their childhood experiences. The digital storytelling that emerged from

this exercise created a truly powerful and persuasive evening. We brought

together U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman with author and actress Jamie Lee Curtis to host the evening program, which

was full of dynamic musical and dance tributes featuring local students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Farmers in Kansas

Family farmers, good food, a better America — that’s the message that Vanguard took to Kansas months before Farm When a looming debt crisis and spending cuts are

Aid’s 26th annual benefit concert on Aug. 13 at LiveSTRONG

dominating the political discourse, how do you shift the

Sporting Park in Kansas City. Facing a combative atmosphere

public debate to ensure that the education of communities

in a state with a large industrial farming economy, we

of color doesn’t suffer? By making it clear that education

conducted spokesperson training with Farm Aid staff as

leads to economic prosperity.

part of an overall effort to “inoculate” Kansas media and the

With decades of leadership experience on education

was somehow under attack. The result was a welcoming

issues, Vanguard drafted and designed the foundational

atmosphere with many positive stories about the innovation

document for the Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE),

that local Kansas farmers are undertaking to ensure good

a coalition of leading civil right organizations that is focused

food for all.

on high school education reform. The Campaign’s “Plan for Success” creates a framework of federal policy priorities that can improve the nation’s public education system. Throughout 2011, Vanguard steered the public discourse by placing high-profile op-eds and news stories during important political moments, like after President Obama’s

However, the challenge of talking openly and honestly about a deeply

jobs speech and during the recent debt-ceiling debates.

counselors were available for the youth to the final note of the closing

Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Hill, La Opinion,

included — experienced increased understanding and emotional growth

ed appeared in Politico, U.S. Education Secretary Arne

personal and sensitive issue was ever-present. Every detail, from ensuring

Stories appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington

number, was carefully planned by the Vanguard team. The audience — staff

Education Daily and Politico. In fact, the same day our op-

around the issue of trauma.

Duncan called the president of a CHSE partner to discuss

“The good folks we work with at Vanguard don’t just know our issue, they make it part of their own lives.” — Jen Fahy, Farm Aid Communication Director As a true labor of love, Vanguard, who began working with Farm Aid in 1994, sent more than a dozen staff to volunteer their time — yes, they used vacation days — to coordinate 16 artists, 150 reporters and 20,000 attendees. Media stories numbered over 750 with more than 214 million impressions, including an exclusive interview on CBS’ Early Show with Farm Aid board member John Mellencamp.

the piece.

system that provides an industry standard for consumers and other stakeholders to grade their local utilities. Aligning the Galvin Electricity Initiative with other energy efficiency standard-bearers to inform the Initiative’s Perfect Power Seal of Approval™ (PPSoA) program proved to be a successful strategy. Already, one utility in Texas has adopted these

Many don’t realize the inefficiency of the U.S. electricity grid. It robs

metrics, and stakeholders in California and Illinois are using

households of thousands of hard-earned dollars, jeopardizes public

them to guide revolutionary grid efforts that will make U.S.

safety and is vulnerable to terrorism. Yet most people hardly think

electricity safer, cheaper and more efficient. From virtual

of these things when they flip a light switch, so how do we change

energy summits with 20 industry leaders to a four-day

public perception?

gathering of electricity innovators, Vanguard — through its planning and promotional efforts ­­— has built collaborations


Fighting for Family

public against the notion that their way of making a living

the lights go up on trauma: Showcasing Resilience and Recovery Abandoned, abused, neglected. How difficult it must be for a young

— Lisa Rubenstein, SAMHSA client

Rather than design a typical public relations campaign to combat

and partnerships between the Initiative and the thought

this wrong and empower consumers, Vanguard created a rating

leaders driving change in the industry.

In our PRWeek Awards 2012 entry package, you can view some of our best samples from a range of services, 1. Strategic Planning and Social Marketing 2. Alliance-Building 3. Multicultural Outreach 4. Integrated Media 5. Policy Communications 6. Online Marketing 7. Event Management 8. Branding 9. Design and Editorial 10. Web Development 11. Training and Technical Assistance

Reimagining Conference Materials — One Day at a Time The American Academy of Physician Assistants was receiving dozens of complaints that their annual five-day conference materials — namely a jam-packed binder — weren’t userfriendly. Our solution was to package the daily schedules and other critical information separately. The participants loved the new á la carte format, which allowed them to carry only the schedules they needed for a particular day.


OUR talent Staff Recognition

With our rapid growth, we’ve celebrated many recent victories with “All Employee” emails inviting staff to “lunch on us!” or alerting them

Our Talent — and our tenure

to clear the hallways so that the president can wheel an “appreciation


snack and beverage tray” by their offices. We also added a personal

>10 Years

element to our popular “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty” (ABCD) Awards program. Staff can access note cards, pins and candies to use when saying “Thanks,” or “Job well done!” to a colleague. What started


5–9 Years

as an experiment has become a mainstay in our efforts to keep spirits and motivation high during stressful times. And the most valuable recognition that we get so often at Vanguard

Society’s Problems — Tackled By Vanguard’s Small But Mighty Staff

is something that happens every day — it’s the moment when one of


1–4 Years

our executive leaders says, “Come on in and tell me about it....” That’s when we feel we really matter.



During the past year, we welcomed two babies, Emma and Wayne, to our Vanguard family. At Vanguard, new parents can bring their infants

<1 Year


Staff Years at Vanguard

between October 2010 and October 2011


91% retention rate

OUR talent

Of the 376 years our staff have worked in communications, 225 years have been at Vanguard Communications.

of Vanguard employess self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority

are fluent in Spanish, and other staff speak French, Hindu, Thai and German

Cumulative Years of Issues Leadership Environment 104.5 Yrs • Education 125.5 Yrs • Health 275 Yrs

104.5 years

125.5 years

275 years

to work for the first months of life, and other working parents can bring their children in on days when other childcare options are unavailable. Family-friendly extends beyond parents — it’s how we embrace and get to know each other’s significant others, spouses, children — even siblings and parents who stop by to say hello! The warm welcome on

32 people

any day and compassionate support during difficult times is what really makes Vanguard stand out as a place people to love work.

at any given time

incredibly supportive environment to grow and develop my PR skills. I always know that I’m never alone in any project I tackle or challenge I face as a media strategist or project director.”

managing the workload of

20+ clients

“As someone who transitioned from one communications discipline (journalism) to another, Vanguard offers an



— Stephanie Dukes I Senior Account Executive, 1 year with Vanguard

Work hard — play hard. From family picnics hosted by our Fun Club, to

“My days are never the same — the variation is incredible and keeps me motivated.”

our quarterly staff luncheon that has been known to feature an episode

— LeAnne DeFrancesco I Editorial Director, 6 years with Vanguard

of the BBC classic “Fawlty Towers,” to our monthly birthday parties —

teamwork is not an option, it’s an imperative Teamwork extends beyond our client projects. Vanguard’s executive management team incorporates staff feedback in key business decisions. After we learned our insurance carrier would have to be replaced, a volunteer staff team representing our diverse health care needs joined with the Vice President of Operations to weigh our options for a new carrier. While change is difficult — especially when it comes

and our unofficial after party celebrations on the night of big events — Vanguard staff like to play. But often, the most fun we have happens in the early morning when

“As a new mom, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to bond with my baby, Wayne, every day at work. I get to see him grow and develop — something many working parents aren’t able to do.“ — Brandi Horton I Senior Account Supervisor, 8 years with Vanguard

we’re reliving the “X Factor” from the night before, or when we talk at the kitchen table about that day’s news or weekend plans. Sometimes

“Vanguard is not just a workplace for me — it’s home. I couldn’t imagine not seeing the people I work with on a daily

it even happens when we’re in a meeting and our creative juices are

basis, because I feel they are my family. We work together, play together — it’s an awesome work environment.”

overflowing to the point of hilarity. When you work hard — you have

— Ebonei Barnes I Office Manager, 12 years with Vanguard

to have fun.

to health care — staff expressed appreciation for being part of the executive decision-making process.

Innovations That Prevent Burnout in Our Fast-paced Environment

“What I appreciate most about Vanguard is the team structure of the company,” said Crystal Borde, an Account

In April, ranked PR executive as the second most stressful job, and in September, CareerBuilder

Supervisor who joined Vanguard in 2007. “Since we work

and Dunkin’ Donuts ranked PR and marketing professionals as #2 among those “who need coffee to get through the

in client teams, as well as service area teams, it allows staff

daily grind.”

members to interact and collaborate with more people than in other agency environments. Also, working in teams offers

So how have we kept our staff happy and successful with a 91 percent retention rate over the last year? Working in

opportunities to use different types of skills and functions.”

the same block as Starbucks® may have helped, but we like to think our leadership style and passion for our work — combined with staff recognition, family-friendly policies and camaraderie — make the real difference. Staff from Vanguard Communications celebrated SAMHSA’s National Wellness Week with a “Line Dance for Wellness.”



our passion

our passion

Our passion — inside and outside the office Vanguard’s commitment to social change extends well beyond its client work. Our agency, and most important, our people, see social change as a mission to live by — inside and outside of the office.

Working Green At Vanguard we’re commited to limiting the disastrous impact of fossil fuels. More than one-fourth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation sources, so we encourage each staff person to use

Raising Money to End Domestic Violence

public transportation via a monthly $60 public transportation

Every 9 seconds a woman is battered by her husband, boyfriend or partner. One in three women

all commercial energy consumption. Despite the limits of our

will experience domestic violence at some point during their lifetime.

current building, we designed our new space with GREEN

Working to put an end to these frightening realities, Vanguard joined the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) for its inaugural fundraising reception and silent auction “Chefs Take a Stand.” Vanguard’s pro bono design for all of the event materials set a laidback, fun tone for an evening of substance and style that exceeded $25,000 in revenue. We boosted revenue results by including our own silent auction to benefit NNEDV as part of an open house event to show off our new green office space to clients, friends and family.

“Donate An Hour” Brown Bag Brainstorms

stipend. Moreover, office buildings account for 19 percent of

in mind. • Fluorescent and LED lighting with occupancy sensors for better light control and energy efficiency • Energy Star-rated equipment and appliances • Wall coverings free of heavy metals and ozone-depleting chemicals • Ceiling systems manufactured with a high percentage of recycled content • Recycled carpet covering only one-third of the floor plan to

Brainstorming isn’t cheap. Often, Vanguard’s nonprofit clients don’t have the budget to afford

reduce VOC emissions and increase indoor air quality

executive insights, so we’ve come up with an innovative solution — Brown Bag Brainstorms.

• Use of rubber flooring — a natural recyclable product

Whether we need to develop a tagline or manage a crisis, staff from across Vanguard are invited

• All materials manufactured and purchased within a 500-

to donate their lunch break for these directed brainstorming sessions. Though optional, these

mile radius

Brown Bag Brainstorms often fill our large conference room and enable us to inject fresh, creative ideas at no cost to our clients. To help a local nonprofit health center, which serves Latino immigrant populations, seven of Vanguard’s fluent Spanish speakers held a creative think tank to develop a new logo on a tiny budget.

Caring for Our Community “I love animals and want to help as many as possible find loving homes, have second chances

We’re never afraid to show off the skills and expertise of our best asset — our staff! we communicators

and in some cases, show kindness, care and love to those that have been abused or wronged.”

Vanguard maintains a crucial role as the co-founders of Progressive Communicators of

— Kathy Keller, Senior Graphic Designer and animal rescue volunteer

Washington, D.C. (PCDC) — a thought-leadership group at the forefront of forward-thinking marketing in the District of Columbia. Our pro bono participations includes gold sponsorship

“I support and devote personal time to the National and DC chapter of COLAGE (Children of Gays and Lesbians Everywhere). The organization is near and dear to my heart, being the son of lesbian moms and uncle to my 3-year-old nephew, Farber, who has gay dads.”

of the organization’s annual holiday party, which is designed to bring together a broader array of progressive communicators to share ideas and network. This invaluable network has introduced us to several existing Vanguard staff — our greatest social change-making asset!

— Scott LaLonde, Events Manager and LGBT advocate

“Volunteering to teach English as a second language provides me with a sense of fulfillment and inspiration. I am inspired by working closely with others who share my passions and I continue to

Trailblazers Sharing Insights

learn about myself and expand my horizons as I expose myself to various cultures and traditions.”

Our 2011 Clarion Award-winning blog, “InSites,” is an extension of our

— Cyndi Fernandez, Art Director and volunteer ESL teacher

commitment to share, train and teach the skills we have. To promote active dialogue with communicators, non-profit organizations and individuals

“The DREAM Act would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children. These young people are model citizens and true Americans in every sense, except on paper. That’s why I organize at the grassroots level for immigrant rights.”

dedicated to social change, Vanguard staff write blog posts exploring new ways to inform, change attitudes and affect public policy on today’s critical social issues. InSites provides up-to-the-minute opinions and forward-thinking analysis on the latest in communications trends, strategies and technologies.

— Kirana Bammarito, Communications Assistant and immigration reform organizer