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The 2016 Maxine Elkin Award for Distinguished Service 

By Michele Cohen, associate director of media relations at The Wharton School and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

After ten years of working at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)Ashley Moore continues to feel like “the luckiest PR professional in the world.” As Senior Public Relations Specialist supporting CHOP’s Department of Surgery, Ashley’s role is to share the stories of some of the most amazing medical breakthroughs, dedicated doctors, nurses and researchers, and most of all the inspiring stories of young patients.

Ashley’s achievement in telling one of those exceptional stories led to her being recognized with The Maxine Elkin Award for Distinguished Service at PRSA Philly's 48th annual Pepperpot and Achievement Awards Gala last December. She was nominated by a colleague in CHOP’s marketing department, who admired her efforts in chronicling the journey of a little boy named Zion Harvey.

In 2008, at age 2, Zion Harvey developed a life-threatening infection that required amputation of both of his hands and his legs below the knee. In 2012, his mother brought Zion, then 6, from their home in Baltimore to Philadelphia to speak with doctors about fitting Zion with prosthetic hands. But instead the doctors suggested a rare and extremely complex procedure: a bilateral hand transplant, or a double hand transplant. In 2015, Zion became the first child in the world to undergo the surgery and his team of surgeons successfully transplanted donor hands and forearms onto Zion.

Ashley was tasked with telling his story – with the help of her colleagues, she developed a plan to capture footage of Zion a year before his transplant, during his pre-surgical testing, at his house and his school, and more. They filmed for 24 hours straight the day of his transplant surgery and followed him for another year post-op.

Their efforts led to unprecedented national and international news coverage – more than 5,000 placements - including NBC Nightly News, an appearance on The Today Show and an article in People magazine, among others. 

“Since Zion was only a 9-year-old boy, we had a strategic PR plan to limit the amount of interviews with him but maximize the amount of exposure,” Ashley said. “The photos and video footage we captured let us tell the story without having media overwhelm Zion or disrupt his medical care. News outlets were happy use our materials in their coverage.” 

Because the surgery was the first of its kind in a child, Ashley received press attention from around the world. With the help of her colleagues, CHOP hosted two large press conferences, the first in August of 2015, following Zion’s surgery, and an even larger one in 2016 for the one-year anniversary. “Zion’s story really captured the hearts and attention of people around the world, media outlets were eager to provide an update on how he was doing with his new hands”

Ashley was honored to quarterback telling Zion’s story, but it would not have been possible without her incredible public relations and marketing colleagues at CHOP, important collaboration with the PR teams at Penn Medicine and Gift of Life, as well as the trust of the surgical team.

Ashley said she was honored to be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity. One of her favorite things about her job is that she’s constantly learning and no day is ever the same, whether she’s filming a surgery, meeting with researchers in their laboratory, working with patients or speaking with journalists. She loves the fact that there are so many stories to tell every day.

“It was my dream job to work at CHOP” she said. “My colleagues and I often connect with parents and children during some of the toughest times of their lives – a cancer diagnosis, a tragic accident, finding out their unbornbaby has a life threatening birth defect…life altering events that many of us cannot even imagine. Yet, these patients and their families want to share their story with others – to educate, to inspire, and to provide hope.Everyday I’m in awe of their courage!”

Watch a story about Zion on NBC here

Read a chronicle of Zion’s journey at CHOP here


The 2016 Best-in-Show Award

By Caitlan McCafferty, public relations account manager at Furia Rubel Communications and PRSA Philly Communications Committee member

At the 2016 Philadelphia Pepperpots, Anne Klein Communications Group took home the coveted “best-in-show” award for its “Age-Friendly West Philadelphia Initiative” for the Ralston Center. I recently had a chance to talk to Mike Gross, COO & Senior Vice President at Anne Klein Communications Group about the firm’s big win.

Tell me more about the campaign for the Ralston Center.

Ralston Center partnered with AKCG to launch a robust public service program – the “Age-Friendly West Philadelphia Initiative” – that helps enable older West Philadelphians to live independently and have a quality life in their communities. The initiative kicked off with a press conference and community event that engaged dozens of community-partner organizations, elected officials, other supporters and many of the seniors the initiative aims to help. The launch event took place on May 31, 2016.

What was your role on the campaign for the Ralston Center?

Ralston Center had worked diligently over several months to organize and vet the Initiative though countless community partners. They also conducted listening sessions with older adults in West Philadelphia to thoroughly tailor the program to best meet the needs of the community. AKCG’s role was to help design and execute a launch “moment” for the Initiative. Our outreach efforts intentionally were aimed at engaging target audiences, which included community partners, older adults who would benefit from the initiative and regional broadcast media to help carry the message more broadly.

What was your favorite part of the campaign?

We love working with good people doing good work. We were particularly thrilled to learn that several prospective community partners inquired about how they could participate in the various components of the Initiative following the launch event. While we don’t believe in publicity for publicity’s sake, it has its role in the PR toolbox when we aim to motivate an audience to act.

How did you feel winning “Best in Show” at the Pepperpots?

It was truly thrilling and quite a surprise. This program’s budget was tiny compared to some of the flashier programs executed by many great organizations and businesses showcased during the award ceremony. The win was a nice reminder that effective programs, with measurable objectives (regardless of their budgets), can bring home the big pot.

Was there an especially innovative tactic used that you think contributed to the campaign’s success?

I’ve learned over the years that it’s not the tactics that matter as much as the strategy. For example, for the launch moment itself, we could have had an eye-catching PR stunt or other attention-grabbing antic. Instead, we focused on the right audience and messages. We built the press briefing around these 100-or-so folks who attended and aimed to emotionally connect those community leaders, senior advocates and industry officials to Ralston Center. Sure, we included a culmination, “unveiling” moment of the Initiative’s three pillars for media in attendance, but our goal was deeper than coverage alone.

Did you learn anything from this project that you will bring to future campaigns?

Each program comes with its own set of successes and lessons learned. This program – and our close work with the great people at Ralston Center – reminded us that promoting a worthwhile program makes for a rewarding day.