Pine Belt PRAM Awards

Spark Awards

The Pine Belt Chapter of the PRAM strives to recognize outstanding work in the field of public relations with its Spark Awards program. The Spark Awards symbolize the exact moment when both strategy and creativity collide to address an issue or problem.

The first part of a three-tiered program honoring standout work on the local, state and regional level, the SPARK is the initial step toward winning a PRISM (PRAM’s state PR award) and Lantern Award (SPRF’s regional PR Award) which celebrate achievement and promote the development of public relations professionalism across the Southeast United States.

This year, we are changing things up a bit and you will be submitting your entries via website rather than email. To see detailed instructions, please click here.

The short version:
**Please note that we are using the same system for the PRism Awards, so you will see some PRism branding throughout the site.
1. Click here
2. Click on the Spark Awards link
3. Login or create an account
4. Submit your entry
5. **Please try to limit your number of attachments. Include as much as you can in one pdf- this will simplify things for the judges and makes sure that nothing is overlooked.
6. To submit, please (1) add to cart, (2) checkout and (3) finalize.

Pay for your entries via Square or mail a check to:
PO BOX 18126 • Hattiesburg, MS 39404-8126

Entries are $25 each if done by the deadline of January 9. Late entries can be submitted through January 11 at $30 an entry.

Tonya Williams is our awards chair and is here to help! If you have trouble submitting your entry, please email her at Also, if you need some advice on your entry, email Tonya for help by January 4.

For an overview of the SPARK Awards, click here.

Awards of Excellence

Bud Kirkpatrick Practitioner of the Year

Recognizes achievement in the field of public relations and service to the chapter during the calendar year.

To qualify, the nominee must:

  • Be a member in good standing with the chapter.
  • Have practiced in the field of public relations for no less than three years.
  • Have contributed to the success of the chapter, state PRAM and/or SPRF during the calendar year.
  • Have realized successes in the practice or teaching of public relations during the calendar year.
  • This award is different from the Professional Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual for career achievements, etc. over a period of years and which places the individual in competition for the state Professional Achievement Award and possibly the SPRF Senior Practitioner designation.

Note:: The recipient of this award becomes the Chapter’s nominee for the State’s Professional Achievement Award the following calendar year, giving the individual time to prepare the required binder for judging.

* indicates winner of State Award.

Previous Bud Kirkpatrick Award Winners

  • 1996 – Bud Kirkpatrick
  • 1997 – Barbara Shoemake
  • 1998- Leigh Ann Underwood
  • 1999- Joanne Marsh
  • 2001 – Tracie Bertaut, APR
  • 2002 – Bud Kirkpatrick (Lifetime)
  • 2003 – Christie (Miller) Walters
  • 2004 – Burlain O’Neal Walker (Lifetime)
  • 2006 – Lydia Walters
  • 2007- Teresa Martin McCreery
  • 2008 – Traci Rouse
  • 2009 – Kelly Thornton
  • 2010 – Shawn Mercer
  • 2012 – Jim Coll
  • 2013 – Kurt Brautigam, APR*
  • 2014 – Samantha McCain, APR*
  • 2015 – Cindy Blackwell, PhD
  • 2016 – Amber Ross Hartfield
  • 2017 – Brittney Westbrook

Burlian O’Neal Walker Professional Promise Award

Recognizes future success in the field of public relations by a new or young practitioner.

To qualify, the nominee must:

  • Be a member or student in good standing with the chapter.
  • Have practiced in the field of public relations for less than three years or be a student currently enrolled in a public relations curriculum.
  • Demonstrate considerable promise in the field of public relations.

Previous Burlian O’Neal Walker Winners

  • 1998 – Susan (Taylor) Miller
  • 1999 – Grant Staples
  • 2000 – Pam (Tullis) Swain
  • 2001 – Samantha Carman
  • 2002 – Sara Peterson
  • 2003 – Jennifer Rigney
  • 2004 – Brooke Bryan
  • 2006 – Julie (DiFatta) Russum
  • 2007 – Lisa Bynum
  • 2008 – Jessica Wallace
  • 2009 – Nicole Ruhnke
  • 2010 – Amber Ross Hartfield
  • 2011 – Samantha Andrus
  • 2012 – Colleen (Donovan) Munkel
  • 2013 – Olivia Ann Hodges
  • 2014 – Hanna Knowles
  • 2015 – Joshua Wilson
  • 2016 – Tonya Williams
  • 2017 – Karelia Pitts

Note: Other factors may also be used in consideration for these awards, including:

  • Participation in other professional or pre-professional organizations.
  • Professional development such as continuing education, seminars, conferences, etc.
  • Public relations community service.
  • Respect for peers may be evidenced by awards conferred, etc.

Pine Belt Public Image Award 

This award recognizes a Pine Belt area business or individual for an achievement in public relations which significantly improves the image of the Pine Belt on a regional or national scale, or which greatly increases the quality of life of a segment of the area’s residents or the region as a whole.

Previous Pine Belt Image Winners

  • 2014 – Festival South
  • 2015 – William Carey University Dinner Theater
  • 2016 – Signature’s Best of the Pine Belt
  • 2017 – The Avenues Alliance

To qualify, the nominee must:

  • Be based in the greater Pine Belt area.
  • Have engaged in a public relations activity or event which impacts the greater Pine Belt area. The greater the scale, response or effect, the more likely the nominee is to be chosen for this award.
  • Have actively participated in the promotion and outcome of the public relations activity – i.e. simply entering a national contest and winning is not significant enough to win this award, unless considerable effort was made to engage the public on the part of the entrant.
  • Be nominated by a PRAM member in good standing who did not participate in said public relations activity.

Submission of Nominations

To nominate a person for any chapter award of excellence, a member must submit a brief paragraph, not to exceed 250 words, stating why the recipient deserves the award. The following must be included:

  • Nominee’s name or business name
  • Award for which they are nominated
  • Nominator’s name
  • Nominator’s phone number

Entries should be emailed by January 9, 2019 to All nominees will be judged by a panel of public relations professionals.

For an overview of the Chapter Awards, click here.

If you have any questions regarding these awards or a submission, please contact Pine Belt PRAM Awards Chair Tonya Williams by calling 601.705.6608 or emailing

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