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ODU's Branch Wins Public Relations Award For Longtime Service

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Carol Hanna Branch, lecturer of public relations in Old Dominion University's Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, was recently presented one of the most prestigious awards given annually by the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Branch, a long-time local public relations executive before taking a faculty position at Old Dominion, received the P. Lee Starkey Public Relations Practitioner of the Year award given during the 2016 PRSA Hampton Roads Chapter Pinnacle Awards on June 8.

Named for Starkey, a longtime PRSA Hampton Roads member and Virginia Natural Gas public relations executive, the award recognizes an accredited member of the association who has worked 10 years or more in the public relations field, and who has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and contributions to the local chapter.

In addition to her teaching role, Branch founded and serves as faculty adviser for the Old Dominion University student PRSSA chapter with 44 members, helping mentor students as they study and prepare for careers in public relations.

Branch has taken club members to national public relations conferences, on field trips to Richmond to see professional practitioners in action and has hosted job fairs to match students with prospective employers.

"I am honored and humbled to have received this award from my peers in public relations. Any award named for Lee Starkey, the consummate gentleman and public relations professional is a great honor," Branch said. "I share this award with the chair, faculty and students of the communication department who have allowed me to make my 'encore' career the most rewarding part of my professional life."

The presentation was made at the association's Pinnacle Awards ceremony at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

Local public relations professionals were recognized in 16 categories, ranging from annual reports, to newsletters, to community relations, to social media campaigns. Winners were selected by judges from PRSA Central Michigan. Chris Reckling, co-host of WAVY-TV's "The Hampton Roads Show" was master of ceremonies for the event.

Courtney Anderson, senior communications specialist at Ferguson Enterprises, was named PRSA Hampton Roads' Member of the Year for her contributions to the organization in the past year.

The Public Relations Society of America is the world's largest organization for public relations professionals. Its nearly 20,000 members represent business and industry, counseling firms, government, associations, hospitals, professional service firms and non-for-profit organizations.

The PRSA Hampton Roads chapter serves public relations professionals in the region, providing professional development programs, resources and services. It is the sponsor of the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at Old Dominion University.

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