Category: CIS News

Plank Center Sponsors Nationwide Communication Survey

The first study to examine the state of public relations in Canada and the United States found that building and maintaining trust is the most crucial issue facing the profession. The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) conducted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama disclosed key trends and challenges facing the communication profession. Some highlights include:

  • Fake news affects the profession, but many organizations are not prepared to identify and manage it.
  • Top communication leaders are involved in organizational decision making, but that power is not shared with those lower in the hierarchy, especially women.
  • The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap.
  • Everyone is stressed, but the sources of work stress vary.
  • Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently.

The results are based on responses from 1,020 communication professionals working in different types of organizations (255 in Canada and 765 in the United States). The sample achieved a balanced gender split (50% men and 50% women) for accurate comparisons. The average age of participants was 46.0 years.

Dr. Karla Gower, director of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, said, “Our goal with this study was to assess the state of the public relations field in North America and identify gaps, or opportunities to enrich the development of communication leaders. If we know where the gaps are, we can work to close them and to strengthen the overall quality of our profession’s leadership—a crucial strategic asset.”

The study, which joins existing Communication Monitors in Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, explored diverse topics, including fake news and strategies to deal with it, top issues for the profession in the next three years, the role of providing information to support decision making, leaders’ performance, and professionals’ job engagement, trust in their organization, job satisfaction, work stress, and social media skills and management knowledge.

Dr. Bryan H. Reber, professor at the University of Georgia and lead researcher of NACM, said: “The Plank Center has embraced the opportunity to join a truly global network of researchers who regularly take the pulse of communication professionals to identify trends and opportunities. The North American Communication Monitor provides statistically reliable data to demonstrate professionals’ opinions and concerns and uses a nearly identical survey instrument as do the European, Latin American, and Asia-Pacific Communication Monitors. As a result, we are able to compare more than 6,000 responses across regions and cultures, the largest global data set for our profession.”

Fake news is a prominent issue but organizations lack processes to identify and manage it

Communication professionals agree fake news has become one of the most prominent issues in public discourse. More than half of surveyed professionals (57.7%) give attention to the on-going debate about fake news and consider it a much-debated topic in their country (68.2%). Results indicate governmental organizations across North America are particularly affected by fake news, with 20.9% being affected multiple times and 10.1% being affected once.

However, despite the high levels of awareness and attention to the debate about fake news, the level of relevance of fake news to the professionals’ daily work, and their concerns about it, are generally low. When it comes to identifying potential fake news, a substantial percentage of respondents (42.6%) said their organizations mainly rely on individual competencies and experience. Few organizations have in place policies, technical systems and processes to detect and manage fake news and misinformation.

Nearly half of the organizations (46.3%) do not share decision making with employees or members

The majority of surveyed professionals (71.9%) agree their top communication leader is actively involved in the organization’s decision making (78.1%) and demonstrates a strong ethical orientation to guide actions (76.7%). However, shared decision-making power receives the lowest rating across various types of organizations. Women rate the shared decision-making power significantly lower than men. A similar perceptual gap is identified along the line of hierarchy: Top communication leaders rate shared decision-making power significantly higher than team leaders and team members.

 The major threat to job engagement is a lack of performance feedback and recognition, with a significant gender gap

The job engagement level is relatively high: 62.8% report they are engaged in their job. More than eight in 10 of surveyed professionals know what is expected of them at work (86.0%), and are in a positive environment where fellow employees are committed to quality work (81.3%). Professionals also said they have the opportunity to do what they can do best every day (79.1%) and their opinions count at work (75.3%). However, some are frustrated by the lack of feedback about their performance on the job (24.6%) and lack of recognition for doing good work (15.4%).

Though nearly three-quarters of communication professionals are satisfied with their job, the gender gap is big. Women (60.8%) report a much lower level of job satisfaction compared to men (70.2%).

Sources of work stress vary

One-third of surveyed professionals acknowledge they feel tense and stressed during a normal workday. Generally, the top three sources of stress are limited growth or advancement opportunities (34.3%), a too-heavy workload (33.6%), and information overload (33.3%). Top communication leaders are most stressed by information overload, team leaders by work overload, and team members by their lack of opportunity for growth and advancement. Women are most stressed by lack of advancement opportunities and heavy workload. Men are most stressed by information overload and being constantly available via email, text and phone.

Women and men rate their social media and knowledge management skills differently

Men and women see their knowledge and skill sets differently when coping with the digital evolution and social media. Women are more confident about delivering messages via social media (68.8%), identifying social media trends (55.7%), and setting up social media platforms (51.2%). Men are more confident of their understanding of the legal framework for social media (38.0%) and using algorithms to run analytics (35.7%).

When it comes to general management skills, men are significantly more confident, compared to women, about their abilities in strategic positioning, such as analyzing overall organizational goals, scenario planning, and linking communication to business agendas. Men also report higher scores on managing human and financial resources.

Dr. Juan Meng, associate professor at the University of Georgia and lead analyst of NACM, said: “The depths and the variety of investigated topics presented by this year’s NACM help us better understand the communication industry in North America. More importantly, our rich results will deliver crucial insights to inform effective practice for communication professionals at all levels, from top leaders to team leaders and team members, as they all need to tackle these challenges now or in the near future.”

To download and read the NACM 2018-2019 full report, please visit the Plank Center’s website.


About North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019

The North American Communication Monitor (NACM) 2018-2019 is a biennial study organized and sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. The NACM is part of the Global Communication Monitor series. As the largest regular global study in the field of public relations and strategic communication, the Global Communication Monitor series aims at stimulating and promoting the knowledge and practice of strategic communication and communication management globally. The series covers more than 80 countries with similar surveys conducted in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the leading international resource working to support students, educators and practitioners who are passionate about the public relations profession by developing and recognizing outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors. Founded in 2005, the Center is named in honor of Betsy Plank, the “First Lady” of PR. Betsy’s legacy and vision continues on in the Center’s programs and initiatives to advance the profession and public relations education. For more information, please visit

Study Report

Results of the NACM 2018-2019 will be published as a PDF report and as a booklet:

Meng, J. Reber, B. H., Berger, B. K., Gower, K. K., & Zerfass, A. (2019). North American Communication Monitor 2018-2019. Tracking trends in fake news, issues management, leadership performance, work stress, social media skills, job satisfaction and work environment. Tuscaloosa, AL: The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.

ISBN (paperback): 978-0-578-50179-6

ISBN (electronic): 978-0-578-50180-2

For more information about the NACM 2018-2019, please visit

For more information about the Global Communication Monitor series, please visit

Hudson Nuckolls Wins Munson Foundation Grant for Black Warrior Riverkeeper Internship

The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation has awarded Hudson Nuckolls, a rising senior studying public relations at The University of Alabama, a scholarship grant to intern at Black Warrior Riverkeeper in Birmingham, Alabama, for the summer.

Two years ago, the Munson Foundation supplied UA’s Advertising and Public Relations department with a three-year grant awarding scholarships to Black Warrior Riverkeeper interns in 2017 and 2018.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Munson Foundation, it’s the largest scholarship that the APR department awards,” said Joseph Phelps, APR department chair.

Nuckolls, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, was chosen by the department to receive the honor in 2019.  He also serves as firm director for Capstone Agency,the nation’s top student-run communications firm.

“I’m thankful for this unique opportunity to use the communication skills I’ve learned at UA to help Black Warrior Riverkeeper protect residents and wildlife all over the Black Warrior River’s 17-county watershed. As an out of state student, it’s important to me that I give back to a community that has made me feel at home during my time at UA,” Nuckolls said.

As a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper patrols waterways, responds to citizen complaints, enforces environmental laws, and educates the public. The organization also engages partner groups and individuals in its efforts. Last year, 485 volunteers donated 4,710 hours of community service through Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s projects. The majority of those volunteers were students from The University of Alabama.

“We strive to make the Munson internship an exciting, valuable and well-rounded experience for the intern each summer,” said Charles Scribner, executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “At the same time, we benefit tremendously from new communications tactics we learn from the nationally-ranked UA PR program’s top students.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. The citizen-based nonprofit organization promotes clean water for the sake of public health, recreation and wildlife habitat throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.

Rece Davis Honored for Commitment to Student-Athletes, Sports Information

Rece Davis serves as emcee of the Google Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame dinner in Orlando. Photo by Jeff Hodges.

University of Alabama Communications & Information Sciences Hall of Famer Rece Davis, host of ESPN College GameDay Built by Home Depot, was recently honored with two awards at the 2019 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Davis was surprised with the Lester Jordan Award during this year’s Google Cloud Academic All-America Hall of Fame Dinner. The annual award is presented to those who show exemplary service to the Academic All-America Award program, an awards program which highlights the top student-athletes in the nation for both the academic and athletic performances from the junior college to NCAA Division I levels.

“I was honored and surprised when I was presented with the Lester Jordan Award. I had no idea that was in the works,” Davis said. “It’s always nice to have your work be honored. It is an esteemed list of people who have previously won the award. It’s a compliment to be included in that type of company. It was more special to me to have the award presented by my friend, Bernie Cafarelli. We have a great relationship. She’s a true professional who has been great to me over the years. It was cool to have her be the one to do the presentation and the interview, but I’ll get her back for that surprise. She and Jim Seavey totally duped me.”

Beginning his career as a student-broadcaster in the late 1980s at the University of Alabama, Davis says he’s been “keenly aware of the tremendous partnership between those of us in the media and SID staffs.” He has been involved in CoSIDA since 2011 as emcee of the Academic All-America Hall of Fame banquet. What began as a corporate sponsorship agreement with ESPN continued on at the urging of the late Dick Enberg, who previously served as emcee for the banquet.

Rece Davis (left) is presented the Lester Jordan Award from Bernie Cafarelli, associate sports information director at Notre Dame. Photo by Jeff Hodges.

“Sometimes the goals are in conflict, but I have a high regard for the SIDs that I work with regularly and we know if there’s a difference in goal or opinion it will be resolved professionally. Other than coaches and staff, no one spends more time with players or gets to know them better than the SID. Few spend more time with the coaches than the SID. They can help us discover the stories that need to be told and the ones that we want to be part of College Gameday. I’m happy to be a part of a program that’s so important to the bigger scope of college athletics,” Davis said.

In addition to the Lester Jordan Award, Davis was honored among his College GameDay colleagues with the 2019 Keith Jackson Eternal Flame Award

“Anytime you get an award bearing Keith Jackson’s name it’s gratifying. Keith was synonymous with college football. He was a part of the fabric of the sport. He was the one who connected fans with the game during his era. We strive to show that same pure, authentic love for the sport on College Gameday and have that same relationship with the fans. We were honored to receive the award,” said Davis, who was joined by Lee Corso and producers for the ceremony.

This is not the first time CoSIDA has honored its longtime friend. Davis was also presented the 2017 Jake Wade Award, presented to “an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to the field of intercollegiate athletics.”

Davis, a 1988 graduate of the University of Alabama and native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, joined ESPN in 1995 and served as the primary studio host for ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of college football and college basketball. He was named host of College GameDay in 2017. Davis was named the University of Alabama School of Communication Broadcast Department’s outstanding alumnus for 2001. He was inducted into the university’s Communication & Information Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.

CoSIDA is comprised of more than 3,000 intercollegiate athletic communications and media relations professionals from colleges, universities and athletic conferences at all divisions of competition in the United States and Canada.

Written by Chris Megginson, The Scorer’s Table

Dr. Damion Waymer Named Advertising & Public Relations Chair

Dr. Damion Waymer, the new Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations.
Dr. Damion Waymer, the new Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations.

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Damion Waymer as the Department Chair for Advertising and Public Relations (APR). Waymer joins the APR faculty as former chair Dr. Joe Phelps returns to full-time faculty. In addition to his duties as Department Chair, Waymer has also been appointed as a tenured professor for APR.

“I am excited to be joining the award-winning and highly regarded Department of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama,” said Waymer. “I only hope to build positively on the very strong foundation that has been established by my predecessors, current faculty and staff and decanal leadership.”

Most recently, Waymer served as the department chair for liberal studies at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Waymer received his Bachelor of Arts in corporate communication with a minor in business administration from the College of Charleston in 2000 and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in communication in 2003 and 2006, respectively, both from Purdue University. Waymer has written three books and been published in more than 30 scholarly articles about communication and public relations, including four articles published with APR associate professor Dr. Kenon Brown.

“Our Advertising and Public Relations department is one of the best in the country, and Dr. Waymer will only help us to improve,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “Given Dr. Waymer’s research profile and experience, our students and faculty will be very fortunate to work with and learn from him.”

The University of Alabama Department of Advertising and Public Relations is one of the top programs of its kind, regularly ranked in the top five nationally. With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees available, the APR department is a place for students who share a passion for advertising and public relations and who want to set themselves up for professional success.

3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association

Three C&IS Alumni Selected as American Library Association Emerging Leaders

3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association
3 UA SLIS Grads were named as Emerging Leaders by the American Library Association

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Three alumni of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) have been named as 2019 Emerging Leaders of the American Library Association (ALA). Hannah Bowser (2017), a virtual services librarian in Wilmington, NC, Jina DuVernay (2017), a visiting archivist for African-American collections at Emory University, and Sabrina Dyck (2013), who currently works at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Ala., joined 46 other library and information professionals as participants of the class.

“This year’s class joins a distinguished group of alumni, many of whom continue to make significant contributions to ALA,” said Audrey Barbakoff and Pauline Stacchini, co-chairs of the Emerging Leaders program.

According to ALA, the Emerging Leaders program participates in an online and networking environment, culminating in a poster session at the ALA 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., from June 20-25.

“To have three SLIS alumni chosen among a national class of 50 is a huge accomplishment and speaks to the success of the Master’s of Library and Information Studies Program,” said Jim Elmborg, Ph.D., director of SLIS.

SLIS is a top-ranked program for library, information and book arts education. SLIS aims to develop creative and critical thinkers and leaders for the information world through a supportive teaching and learning environment, collaborative research and community engagement.


Stepping Out and Stepping Up

Industry Immersion Develops Professional Confidence in Undergraduate Students

Anxious. Nervous. Excited. This is how Emma Adcock of Nashville felt two years ago when her parents dropped
her off at the airport, bound for a Washington, D.C. Industry Immersion trip. Months before, she had been so nervous that she backed out of an interview entirely, removing herself from consideration for a similar trip to New York City. Yet somehow, she mustered up the courage for this trip and followed through. So, with her suitcase in her hand and her heart in her throat, she stepped onto the plane.

“It’s a very daunting thing,” Emma said. “I didn’t feel like I was put together enough to be on the trip. I just didn’t
feel like I was enough.”

Industry Immersion student leadership team president, Emma Adcock (left),works with Ellora Lalla (right) to build a trip itinerary.

As it has been for hundreds of C&IS students, stepping onto that plane would launch a pivotal transition for Emma to develop professional confidence and build essential, personal skills to help her excel in an industry setting. The Industry Immersion program at C&IS is a professional development opportunity for University of Alabama students to travel to leading job markets, explore various industry settings and engage with experienced alumni and industry professionals.

The program places motivated undergraduates in the middle of board rooms in the heart of some of the country’s most dynamic cities, swapping business cards with its top talent. Trips include tours of agencies and organizations, coaching in professional development and Q&A time with industry tycoons. Like Emma, not every student is ready to step right into a career in that environment—few students are. So, the Industry Immersion student leadership team prepares them by developing itineraries that introduce participants
to company cultures, city life and a variety of roles.

“Once students are accepted for a trip, we work with them to make sure that they’re ready,” said Ellora Lalla, the director of professional development on the Industry Immersion student leadership team. “We coach them on how to act in professional settings, ask strategic questions, tailor their resumes, professionalize their social media and craft their elevator pitches.”

The result? Students march into well-known, global companies such as Disney, Ketchum, Edelman, Google and Time, Inc., with poise and determination. By the trip’s end, students have a pile of business cards, traction for their career and a supercharged mission upon returning to campus. Some students have even landed jobs and internships on the spot.

“After Industry Immersion trips, every student has a story,” said Dr. Litsa Rivers, Director of Experiential Learning and Outreach at C&IS. “The stories aren’t all the same, but they all include an element of self-discovery, either defining exactly what they want their career to be or learning that they should pursue a different path. Both are equally valuable.”

Industry Immersion participants visit with C&IS alumni such as Graham Flanagan
at Business Insider and Mary Buzbee at Lewis Communications.

These trips serve to complement the educational process. Students who are actively learning about the full spectrum of communication in their courses are transported beyond the university setting to witness the environment firsthand. The textbook skills and fundamentals take on a new and deeper meaning as they see it, feel it, reflect on it and experience it with their peers.

As a C&IS Board of Visitors member and longtime advocate and host of Industry Immersion, Lindsay Garrison believes in the value of this transformative student experience. As proof of her dedication, Garrison spearheaded a Board of Visitors endowment of $100,000 to help create more opportunities for all C&IS students to participate through scholarships.

Industry Immersion trip participants network with leading professionalsat Ketchum, a top public relations firm in New York City.

“The benefits of Industry Immersion go well beyond networking. They help students truly envision their careers
in the rapidly evolving field of communication,” said Garrison, senior vice president at Edelman. “Meeting with alumni in their work environment gives students invaluable context to what they’re learning in the classroom.”

For each trip, the eight members of the Industry Immersion student leadership team craft a unique experience for the participants, including a thorough orientation to the city and a detailed outline of the companies they visit. The participants who engage in the meetings, strive to make connections and follow up with them after the program tend to see opportunities open up in their search for internships and jobs. At the very least, their confidence and competence equip them to pursue those opportunities on their own.

Two years after that first plane ride, Emma now serves as the current president of the Industry Immersion student leadership team. She admits she still gets butterflies in her stomach as she steps into those high-profile meetings with industry superstars. But overall, her experience with Industry Immersion has been transformative.

“I’ve gained so much from being involved in Industry Immersion,” Emma said. “I have a newfound confidence going into meetings, my resume and elevator pitch are stronger, and I feel very capable asking critical questions
and interacting with professionals.”

It’s easy to see Industry Immersion participants walking the halls at some of the nation’s most impressive companies and imagine what’s next. Years from now, students like Emma Adcock will welcome a new generation of University of Alabama up-and-comers into their board rooms and be a part of the process that introduces these students to the kind of careers their future holds.

Brantley and Grace to Host NPR Investigative Podcast ‘White Lies’

Chip Brantley (left) and Andrew Beck Grace (right) host White Lies, an investigative podcast out May 14, that exposes the lies that kept James Reeb’s murder from being solved for 50 years. Photo credit: Fernando Decillis/NPR

Seven-part serialized investigative podcast, hosted by native Alabamians Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace, available May 14.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019; Washington D.C. — In 1965, Reverend James Reeb — a Unitarian minister and civil-rights activist — was killed during the voting rights movement in Selma. After three men were tried and acquitted for his murder, the city’s white community buried the truth. More than 50 years later, two native Alabamians return to Selma to uncover the truth about who killed James Reeb, and to delve into the systems of oppression and violence that allowed it to happen.

In White Lies, a narrative podcast available May 14, co-hosts Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt, memory, and justice that says as much about America today as it does about the past. In a place where a legacy of impunity and silence conspires against them, Brantley and Grace scour Selma for living witnesses, guided by an unredacted copy of an old FBI file. They meet people who know the truth about the murder but have lied for decades — until now.

“Working with the NPR investigative team, Chip and Andy’s reporting answers questions about James Reeb’s death that have lingered for over half a century,” said Anya Grundmann, SVP of Programming and Audience Development. “This is a deeply told story about a piece of our history that contains hard and unexpected truths that still reverberate today.”

Hear a trailer now on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, Pocket Casts, or wherever podcasts are available. New episodes of White Lies will publish each Tuesday for the next seven weeks.

Photo credit: Fernando Decillis/NPR

“The story of Jim Reeb’s murder occupies a strange place in our country’s history,” said Andrew Beck Grace. “As we reported this story and discovered the lies that had been crafted to hide the truth about his murder, we saw a chance to correct this narrative. And as white southerners, we felt we had a responsibility to do that.”

“We set out to make a dynamic and responsible piece of crime reporting, and it’s been a dream to have the support of NPR’s investigative team,” said Chip Brantley.

Chip Brantley is the author of The Perfect Fruit (Bloomsbury), and his work has appeared in Slate, the Oxford American, and The New York Times, among others. A senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Alabama, Brantley is a former director of TV development for Dogstar Films and the creative producer of Whitman, Alabama, an experimental documentary that was a 2018 Emmy finalist in the New Approaches in Documentary category. Brantley lives in Birmingham.

Andrew Beck Grace is nonfiction filmmaker whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS’s Independent Lens. His award-winning film Eating Alabama premiered at SXSW, aired nationally on PBS, and was awarded Best Documentary by the James Beard Foundation. Grace’s interactive documentary, After the Storm, was a co-production of PBS’s Independent Lens and The Washington Post. It has been exhibited internationally and was nominated for an Emmy in New Approaches to Documentary. Grace teaches nonfiction filmmaking and journalism at the University of Alabama.

NPR podcasts receive 31.8 million weekly downloads across all shows (Source: Splunk, NPR Podcast Logs). According to the Podtrac industry ranker, NPR is the leading publisher of podcasts.

Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace are faculty members in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, housed in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama. To learn more about C&IS, visit

Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry

2019 Holle Award Winners Announced

Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry at Honors Day 2019
Holle Award winners Sonia Farmer (left) and Alex Cherry at Honors Day 2019

The College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced the winners of the 2019 Holle Awards for Excellence and Creativity in Communication.

The awards are designed to celebrate and reward student achievement in the areas of book arts, filmmaking, media writing, public speaking and screenwriting. The awards also feature a $10,000 prize.

  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts is awarded to University of Iowa MFA student Sonia Farmer for her piece, “A True & Exact History,” a boxed set of unbound poetic fragments with no ascribed sequencing created in response to a seventeenth century description of the English Caribbean, Richard Ligon’s “A True and Exact History of Barbadoes.”
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking is awarded to New York University student Raven Jackson for “Nettles,” a film about stinging moments in the lives of different girls and women.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Rebecca Griesbach, a senior from Tuscaloosa. Her submission led one judge to remark, “Greisbach makes her mark in deeper research and explanatory journalism.  Both the piece on international enrollment and Sumter County schools shows the work of a reporter who is willing to invest the time and effort needed to explain complex problems, opportunities and solutions.”
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Senna House, a freshman from Hoover, Alabama. Her speech about concussion protocols in football and the health problems associated with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) sought to change public perception in support of measures the National Football League is taking to protect players from CTE. In her speech, House used a water bottle to demonstrate the effects of CTE on the brains of football players.

    The 2019 Holle Award for Public Speaking finalists
    The 2019 Holle Award for Public Speaking finalists
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting is awarded to The University of Alabama’s Alex Cherry for her work, “The Ties That Bind.” Cherry is a senior from Maryville, Tennessee. This script was praised by judges for its originality, imagery and precision.

“The 2019 Holle Award winners are some of the most gifted students we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “These students from around the country excel in communication and creativity, two things Brigadier General Everett Holle believed in and supported through his generosity in funding these awards.”

The Holle Awards are named for the 1950 graduate of The University of Alabama who served as an announcer, director, writer and producer during his 40-year career at NBC 13. Holle was a member of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ board of visitors where he passionately invested in the success of University of Alabama students for years.

The Hardest Working Person in the Room

In 2019, PRWeek named Alana Doyle the Public Relations Student of the Year. But what you may not know is that four years earlier Doyle didn’t even know what public relations was.

Doyle came to The University of Alabama from Scottsdale, Arizona in search of something new, something different. As someone who loved public speaking, she knew she wanted to do something in the field of communication; she just didn’t know what that was. As chance would have it, her work study placed her in the advertising and public relations department’s main office. She did not know it then, but that twist of fate would change her life forever.

“As a freshman undesignated communication student, I felt like I was learning many wide-range communication skills, but none of them honed me in on a specific role,” said Doyle. “After deciding on PR, I fell in love with the program, the faculty and the unique competitive/supportive student culture where everyone is genuinely excited about one another’s success.”

According to Doyle, everyone in the advertising and public relations office soon became her family. She bounced ideas for school projects off of the staff members in the office, Lisa Myrick and Darlene Smith. She asked department chair, Joseph Phelps, to proof emails and look over her work. In fact, Dr. Phelps would be the second person she notified that she had been selected as a finalist for the honor from PRWeek.

“When I found out I had been selected as a top-five finalist for the PRWeek student of the year, I called my dad and then I called Dr. Phelps,” said Doyle. “Of course, then I called my mom and everyone else, but as someone who really watched me and helped me grow, I had to let him know right away.”

When she was building her PRWeek campaign submission, Doyle wanted as much insight as she could get. She turned to her PR family to help her prepare. Like all good families do, they supported her. She asked Tracy Sims to proof her campaign for potential AP Style errors, shared her creative concepts with Susan Daria and asked former PRWeek student of the year, Maret Montanari, to look it over, as well. Then, having been selected as a finalist for such a prestigious, national award, one thing remained: the final pitch.

“Mark Barry helped me prepare for the final two-minute pitch,” said Doyle. “He gave me several tips, but then he told me this, ‘The person who prepares the most is going to be the one who wins.’ So, I said okay. I’m going to be that person. I may not be the smartest or most involved person in the room, but I can definitely be the hardest working.”

In the five days before her final pitch, Doyle wrote down as many questions as she could think of and asked her friends to grill her with brutal criticism and harsh questioning, all in preparation to respond to whatever feedback she received. She pored over her presentation, again and again, until it was perfect.

And all of her hard work paid off. Not only was she honored as the nation’s top PR student, she’s also already secured a job. After graduation, Doyle will move to New York as a Media Coordinator for Ketchum’s global media network. The young woman who years before asked her colleagues to explain what public relations was, will be working for one of its biggest names in one of the country’s largest cities. As she takes on the next challenge, she leaves her University of Alabama PR family behind, but she will take all of what she’s learned from them to New York, along with all of their support.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) at The University of Alabama develops global leaders who do the extraordinary across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about C&IS, visit

The University of Alabama AdTeam

UA AdTeam Wins District Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) AdTeam won first place in District 7 of the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). 2019 marks the ninth time that UA has won its district and the 25th consecutive year that UA has finished in the top four. UA student Katelyn Owens also won best presenter for District 7.

“I’m super proud of the work that this team did,” said Jay Waters, instructor in the department of advertising and public relations at UA and NSAC AdTeam adviser. Other faculty members assisting the 20 members of the team include advertising and public relations faculty Janet Walker and Mark Barry, as well as Gray Lloyd and Amy Martin from UA’s Digital Media Center.

The client for this year’s NSAC was Wienershnitzel, and the team was charged with elevating consumers’ opinions of hot dogs to create additional sales.

Next for AdTeam is the semi-final round, where the its members will compete against the approximately 20 other district winners around the country to determine who will be among the eight teams selected for the national title in Hollywood, FL this June.

“They all met all their deadlines, they kept an open mind throughout the process and they built a campaign that works because they were led by the data to a solution that creatively addressed the client’s problem,” Waters said. “It’s not just the quality of their work, which was exceptional, but professionalism they exhibited throughout the last six months.”

District 7 of the American Advertising Federation includes the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana. The other teams that competed in District 7 were: Louisiana State University, the University of Mississippi, Samford University, the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, East Tennessee State University and Loyola University New Orleans.

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