Protos gala honors top PR campaigns and people during moving presentation

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Public relations professionals celebrate out-of-the-box strategy and creativity during the 40th annual Protos awards event at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, Calif. Photo by Christopher Broek Photography.

Public relations professionals celebrate out-of-the-box strategy and creativity during the 40th annual Protos awards event at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, Calif. Photo by Christopher Broek Photography.

The power of PR to move people and programs was on full display at the 40th annual awards gala celebrating the Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (OCPRSA).

The region’s top public relations and marketing communications professionals witnessed 43 awards handed out for best projects and campaigns, including “Best in Show” winner to Reveille, Inc. of Costa Mesa and the Orange County Community Foundation for the organization’s 25th annual celebration event that raised more than $1.8 million in 30 hours for 347 nonprofits throughout community.

OCPRSA President Jenny Wedge also honored the Newport Beach-based foundation with the Organization Distinguished Service Award.

In accepting the unprecedented recognition of a nonprofit organization winning both top prizes, a visibly stunned Cynthia Ragland from the foundation, exclaimed, “Wow! We are so honored by this award. We are proud to be storytellers and passionate about sharing stories to make a difference in our community.”

Rebecca A. Hall, president and CEO of Idea Hall, a Costa Mesa-based public relations firm, won the prestigious Individual Distinguished Service Award, for “her decades’ long passion to changing hearts and minds for local nonprofit programs and international campaigns,” said Ted Nguyen, chairman of the awards committee and a member of the OCPRSA board of directors.

The team of PR firm Idea Hall of Costa Mesa applaud the announcement of its president and CEO Rebecca Hall as the Individual Distinguished Service Award at the Protos awards ceremony.

The team of PR firm Idea Hall of Costa Mesa applaud the announcement of its president and CEO Rebecca Hall as the Individual Distinguished Service Award at the Protos awards ceremony.

Hall thanked keynote speaker Kajsa James, a Dana Point resident, for sharing her heartfelt story about how the sudden death of her young daughter at age 5 sparked her drive to create a living and lasting memorial to help other children experience the ocean and learn about marine life. “We appreciate you sharing your moving story. That’s why I entered into public relations,” Hall said. “It’s a powerful tool we have to make things better.”

The 40th anniversary of the Protos awards gala begins with a moving remark from the Ocean Institute's Kajsa James and surprising wins including the Orange County Community Foundation capturing two of the top awards of the evening -- the Best in Show Award and Organization Distinguished Service Award.

The 40th anniversary of the Protos awards gala begins with a moving remark from the Ocean Institute’s Kajsa James and surprising wins including the Orange County Community Foundation capturing two of the top awards of the evening — the Best in Show Award and Organization Distinguished Service Award.

James set the tone for the event early with the touching tribute to her daughter’s love. Her individual PR effort utilized social media, blogs and the news media to raise funds for a new children’s center at the Dana Point facility.

“My story is a tragic tale, but a true testament to the incredible power you all in this room hold. I know from the rawest reality possible, great achievements can come from your deeply-effective communication strategies,” said James who is now the Ocean Institute’s vice president of development. “You make miracles happen. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to continue to excel in your field. As you’ve seen, the good you can do for the world is immeasurable.”

The crowd of more than 150 gave James a rousing standing ovation at the event hosted by the Ocean Institute nestled on Dana Point Harbor.

And the applause kept coming throughout the Sept. 18 night as NBC4 Orange County Bureau Chief and Reporter Vikki Vargas presented awards in two dozen categories from media relations campaigns, broadcast projects and online marketing to community relations consumer programs.

OCPRSA created Protos – meaning ‘first’ in Greek – to help advance professional excellence and to promote healthy competition. And 40 years later, the awards program has become an integral part of Orange County’s PR professionals and brands from nearly every industry.

“It’s an honor and privilege to celebrate the work of my fellow communications professionals’ who bring passion to the work they do every day,” said Wedge, who after working as the spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport for more than 10 years, is set to start in her new role for Visit Newport Beach. “Our OCPRSA chapter members continue to create award-winning public relations programs that benefit the Orange County and Southern California community.”

The Protos awards event was an eye-opening experience for Ruchel Salazar-Freibrun, a marketing contractor at DMS Marketing in Mission Viejo, who attended the event for the first time and snapped photos of all the award winners.

“It was exciting to see the people behind so many great campaigns I’ve heard about and to recognize the savvy, caring and hard-working people behind them,” said Salazar-Friebrun, who also runs a pop culture blog at PopBuff.com. “I love knowing there are people who are expanding the limits of the industry’s capabilities in affecting change.”

The Protos awards event marks a milestone of more than 3.5 million live tweets and Instagram posts capturing the action inside the Ocean Institute to a global audience, highlighting the power and amplification of public relations.

The Protos awards event marks a milestone of more than 3.5 million live tweets and Instagram posts capturing the action inside the Ocean Institute to a global audience, highlighting the power and amplification of public relations. Clockwise: Chapman University’s communications team score wins in media relations, members of Cal State Fullerton Public Relations Student Society of America participate in the festivities and Protos Chairman Ted Nguyen joins the team of Reveille, Inc. and the Orange County Community Foundation for some after-awards photos to capture the meaningful event. Photos by Christopher Broek Photography.

Because visuals and social media are dominating the conversation in nearly every aspect of daily Americans, event organizers live casted tweets, Facebook posts, Vine videos, Instagram posts onto a large screen during the event under #Protos2015.

More than 375 live posts from the event generated more than 3.5 million impressions on Twitter and Instagram alone. The event also showcased the influence of students and emerging professionals to help forge the future of the industry.

Past OCPRSA President Matt Prince who runs digital media for Taco Bell recognized Biola University student Rachel Snyder, Cal State Fullerton student Sadie Albers and Chapman University student Rebecca Haber with “Shining Star / Emerging Leader” scholarship awards for their work inside and outside the classroom.

Board Directors of Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America present a meaningful Protos awards ceremony with NBC4 News Bureau Chief and Reporter Vikki Vargas.

Board Directors of Orange County Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America present a meaningful Protos awards ceremony with NBC4 News Bureau Chief and Reporter Vikki Vargas.

The Protos awards event was made possible through the sponsorships of the Orange County Register, Taylor Digital, BusinessWire, Christopher Broek Photography and Westbound Communications.

Protos committee of volunteers included Gina DePinto, APR, of Westbound Communications, Ryan Hines of Celebrity Cruises, Sarah King of The Toll Roads in Irvine, Marissa Lorenzo of Kia Motors in Irvine, Adam Raley of the Orange County Transportation Authority in Orange in addition to Anita Wang of M Booth & Associates in New York City.

See this special message from international artist Wyland from Iceland about the critical role of PR in marine education and environmental stewardship of the world’s oceans:

Christopher Broek Photography’s images may be downloaded for no-cost or printed for a small fee at OpenAperture.com.

Check out the visual presentation of the winners of the 40th anniversary of the Protos awards program:

Those interested in ordering a duplicate award for a colleague or client, please see this instruction form:

Check out the compilation of the live tweets, Instagram posts, Vine videos and other social media posts under the hashtag of #Protos2015:

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