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SPN Communications Excellence Awards

SPN's Communications Excellence Awards recognize outstanding achievements in marketing, communications, and media.

The SPN Communications Excellence Awards recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in marketing, communications, and media across the state think tank Network. Winners will receive a grant to pursue future projects, as well as a trophy to honor their effort and results. Grant prizes and trophies will be presented at a special reception at SPN’s 29th Annual Meeting in Orlando. SPN will highlight both the winners and the nominees to share their success stories and best practices across the Network.

Award Categories

Bold Brand Boost Award

A powerful brand means your organization has a seat at the policy-making table. Citizens look to your organization for information and guidance on important policy issues. Lawmakers and media see you a trusted resource for quality research and information. This award recognizes the influence of a powerful brand boost.

Powerful Storytelling Award

Storytelling is the most fundamental element of communication. In marketing, storytelling can inform and persuade. An organization that tells powerful stories will boost its brand, spread the message of policy impact, and change public sentiment. This award recognizes the storytelling that truly impacted an organization’s brand image and policy impact.

Expanding Your Audience Award

No matter how just your cause, or how impeccable your research, none of what you say matters if it’s to an empty room. Only slightly more useful is talking to an echo chamber of the same audience again and again. After pouring through the nominations from our exceptional Network, it was clear a new category of award was needed for the folks who expanded the reach of their message to achieve new heights and build new coalitions. This award recognizes the organizations whose efforts led to expanded audiences and increased capacity and infrastructure for educating and mobilizing their states.

2021 Communications Excellence Award Recipients

Bold Brand Boost: Center of the American Experiment (Minnesota)

Center of the American Experiment’s “Think About It” campaign raised questions about current public policy topics and engaged hundreds of Minnesota citizens to connect with the Center and have their voice heard by state lawmakers.

Powerful Storytelling: Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy

The Institute collected stories from across the state to highlight the diversity in education needs, and to show the value that Education Savings Accounts (in the form of the Hope Scholarship) could bring to people’s lives. Their efforts helped bring education opportunity to 300,000 children in the Mountain State.

Expanding Audience: Commonwealth Foundation (Pennsylvania)

By highlighting the Pennsylvania governor’s violations of both liberty and equality over the past year, Commonwealth rallied both left-leaning and right-leaning audiences and eventually secured victory for two ballot initiatives to restore the balance of power between the governor and the Legislature during disaster emergencies.

2020 Award Recipients

Influential Marketing Campaign Award: Mackinac Center cartoon series calls out Michigan’s arbitrary lockdown rules

Driving the Media Narrative Award: Washington Policy Center exposes governor’s unscientific and misleading coronavirus dials

Bold Brand Boost Award: Commonwealth Foundation helps high school student become nationally recognized school choice advocate

Creative Shoestring Budget Award: Pelican Institute’s Faces of the Shutdown

Powerful Storytelling Award: Commonwealth Foundation fights homelessness during the coronavirus

Past Finalists

2021: Announcing the 2021 SPN Communications Excellence Awards Finalists

2020: Announcing the 2020 SPN Communications Excellence Awards Finalists


Nomination and Selection Process

SPN state think tank members are eligible to nominate their work annually for SPN’s Communications Excellence Awards. Nominations open in early summer.

Finalists are selected by a committee of SPN staff led by SPN’s Senior Director of Leadership Development and Strategic Communications, Meredith Turney. Nominations are judged based on the criteria for each award category. Nominations were also judged on impact, replicability, and how the project will position the nominated organization for future success.

Winners are selected through a Network-wide, two-week vote open to state think tanks, Network partners, and their audiences in early July.

Frequently Asked Questions

What projects are elligible for the 2021 Communications Excellence Awards?

Projects and initiatives that took place from June 2020 through June 2021 will be eligible for the 2021 Communications Excellence Awards

Can I nominate my organization for more than one award?

Yes! You can nominate your organization for as many of the awards as you want.

Can I nominate my organization for the same award multiple times, for different projects?

Yes! As long as they’re distinguished as different projects in the nomination, you can nominate your organization for the same award as many times as you’d like.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Meredith Turney.