On Friday, my employer found out that we won the PR News Platinum PR Award in Public Affairs for our work on the launch of Washington United for Marriage. The award was global in scale and the competition fierce; most of the other finalists were national campaigns by global public relations firms. Needless to say, the mood was quite jovial.

I’m very fortunate to have been part of the award-winning team. I’ve thought since the 2008 United States presidential campaign that public relations work for political causes could be interesting but that I would have to either start as a volunteer canvasser and work my way into public relations or work my way up to the CEO of a major public relations agency then switch over to politics. Instead, I spent about a year in business-to-business public relations – mostly media relations – for technology companies, and 3.5 years blogging and managing social media strategically for myself outside of work. Then, at the age of 25, in November 2011, I inserted myself into the Washington United for Marriage launch team and had a hand in day-to-day social media management; news release editing and distribution; and coverage tracking. In addition to being personally rewarding, the experience also was great for my professional development; it was heaviest news cycle and had more broadcast and general interest elements than any campaign I’ve ever been a part of. It was the most enjoyable part of my career so far, including college.

What I did wasn’t what I would consider public affairs in the sense that my job duties were similar to those of most junior-ish public relations professionals; although, because the point of the launch was to influence elected officials’ votes, in that sense it was public affairs. My goal in joining the team was never to get into public affairs, but rather to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just a tad after my return from two years in Beijing, to put my professional skills toward the political issue I care about most, LGBTQ rights, in my home state.

This launch fared as well as it could in other national awards without winning. It earned honorable mentions from the Ragan’s PR Daily Awards in Grand Prize PR Campaign of the Year and Best ‘Traditional Still Works’ PR Campaign and was a finalist in the Holmes Report Gold SABRE Award for Local/State Public Affairs.

Here is the rest of the Nyhus Communications team who worked on it: Roger Nyhus, Jennifer Morris, Joseph Vandenorth, Jonathan Misola and Quinn Majeski. Maggie Humphreys joined Nyhus 2 months following the launch and has been volunteering quite a bit throughout the campaign on phone banking. Big shout-out, too, to all of our clients and partners outside of Nyhus during launch, whom were essential to our success.

Let’s hope that Washington state votes on the right side of history in November to uphold civil marriage for same-sex couples in my home state. It would be the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage wins at the ballot box. I’m currently trying to figure out ways to help sway votes without spending a lot of money; one is participating in the Seattle Times’ #IDo74 campaign and another is going to a fundraiser on Capitol Hill this weekend.

 

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