PRWeek Awards 2012 I Small PR Agency of the Year Entry communicating for social change
communicating for social change
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
“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.
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.”
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.”
— 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
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
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.
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.
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
One UTILITY At A Time
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Staff Years at Vanguard
between October 2010 and October 2011
91% retention rate
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
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
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
“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, CareerCast.com 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
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 — 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
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 are...progressive 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
Published on Oct 12, 2011