State Policy Network

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 30th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA. SPN will highlight both the winners and the nominees to share their success stories and best practices across the Network.

2022 Award Information

Winners were announced at a special ceremony at SPN’s 30th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.

See all the 2022 Finalists here.

Project Criteria and Finalist Selection Process

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

For more insight into how finalists were selected, see our internal scoring guide.

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.

2022 Communications Excellence Award Recipients

Bold Brand Boost: Pacific Research Institute (California)

PRI’s research into the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) revealed that the Act, although well-intentioned, increases costs while delaying development on everything from housing and infrastructure to environmental restoration and schools. Similar research into the harms of big government policies led PRI scholar Lance Izumi to publish a new book, The Homeschool Boom, detailing the flaws in California’s school system that led parents to seek better alternatives.

Powerful Storytelling: Goldwater Institute (Arizona)

The Goldwater Institute told the story of Kali Fontanilla, a high school English language teacher from California who exposed the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in her public school, including concrete evidence of the curriculum. By telling Kali’s story, Goldwater drew attention to the realities of CRT in schools and earned coverage in media outlets across the nation. The campaign helped establish Goldwater’s Academic Transparency legislation as a national standard.

Expanding Your Audience: Commonwealth Foundation (Pennsylvania)

The Commonwealth Foundation (CF) launched the Educational Opportunity Project to advance parental choice in Pennsylvania. Notably, Commonwealth communicated with new audiences about the growing need to give families and students better education options, especially in poorly performing school districts. Because of CF’s targeted outreach, CF was able to activate their expanded audience of advocates to encourage lawmakers to pass the state’s Lifeline Scholarship Program along bipartisan lines.

2021 Award Recipients

Bold Brand Boost Award: Center of the American Experiment Builds Their Brand Through “Think About It” Radio Campaign

Powerful Storytelling Award: How the Cardinal Institute Built Coalitions to Pass the Most Expansive School Choice Program in the Country

Expanding Your Audience Award: Commonwealth Foundation Reaches Across the Aisle to Curb Pennsylvania Governor’s Executive Overreach

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What projects are elligible for the 2021 Communications Excellence Awards?

Projects and initiatives that took place from June 2021 through June 2022 will be eligible for the 2022 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.

Can I nominate non-state think tanks?

Nominees need to be state think tanks affiliated with SPN. But, projects that involved an affiliated state think tank and other organizations can also be considered for the awards.

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