OCCR Team Recognized as a Leader in Strategic Communications

News
June 10, 2022

Vax Up Campaign cover pageThe Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Communications and Community Relations (OCCR) has been awarded a Gold Medallion -- the highest award possible -- from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for this year’s VaxUP FCPS communication plan.

The VaxUP FCPS plan was developed to support FCPS’ goal of providing safe in-person instruction this school year. The emergence of new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus presented a challenge to meeting the expectations of the community and requirements of Virginia law for the provision of five days of in-person learning. 

Raising the stakes even higher, the OCCR team understood that keeping schools open was vital to rebuilding parent and community trust in FCPS and public education, shaken by the pandemic. 

While the plan is nationally recognized as best in the nation for communications strategy, the behind-the-scenes story is what makes this recognition especially meaningful for the OCCR team. 

When it became clear that a plan was needed to keep schools open, OCCR was in the midst of a reorganization that included redefining its purpose and its approach to public education communication and community relations. The development and implementation of the VaxUP plan was instrumental in increasing collaboration across this new team. Over the course of the school year, the team not only shared in the development and implementation of the campaign, but also in the successes and challenges.

“As we worked through the VaxUP FCPS plan our team transformed,” explains executive director Helen Lloyd. “While this award honors the collaboration and hard work all FCPS staff put in to keep our schools open and safe, it also represents the growth the OCCR team has experienced individually and collectively during this year-long journey.”

The team’s commitment to providing strategic communications and community relations activities that support FCPS’ mission is stronger than ever.

The Gold Medallion is NSPRA's top program award, recognizing superior educational public relations programs and campaigns grounded in strategic communication best practices. Entries may come from public and private schools; community or vocational/technical colleges; state/national education groups; and any agency, consultant, or business in partnership with education agencies. Judging for this highly competitive award is based on criteria as well as against other entries. This year, there were a record number of entries, with only four winners from among 64 entries.

Winners receive medallions at the NSPRA National Seminar and are also invited to present at a roundtable session during the only national professional conference for school public relations professionals.

Two other OCCR projects in community relations and crisis communications were selected to receive Golden Achievement Awards. This award recognizes exemplary work in all aspects of school public relations, communication, marketing, and engagement.