The AVMA earned the PR News Platinum PR Award in the crisis management category for its public relations campaign following Hurricane Katrina.
PR News is a weekly publication for public relations professionals. Nearly 1,000 entries were received for the 2006 competition. Awards were presented in 29 categories.
AVMA President Roger K. Mahr and Rupa Patadia, AVMA marketing manager, were on hand to accept the award during the ceremony in New York, Oct. 18.
"It was apparent, from the very high-profile companies being recognized, that these are highly prestigious awards," Dr. Mahr said. "The AVMA has every reason to be extremely proud of its staff, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams, and the entire veterinary profession for their response to the horrific disaster of Hurricane Katrina. This award underscores the value of their contributions."
J.B. Hancock, director of the AVMA Communications Division, added, "It's a thrill to win this prestigious, national award, especially in light of the fact that AVMA was the only not-for-profit among the finalists in the crisis management category, which included Bayer Healthcare (Consumer Care Division), Comcast South Florida, and Porter Novelli."
Shortly after Katrina made landfall, the AVMA executed a campaign to help the animals and veterinary professionals in the affected region—all on a $10,000 budget.
One of the key objectives of the campaign was to publicize the AVMA's relief efforts involving the VMATs, which care for injured animals and provide advice concerning public health issues. The VMATs were established by the AVMA and are funded primarily by the AVMF.
A unique element of the campaign involved publicizing the VMATs on NBC News' "Today Show" and MSNBC during a weeklong feature titled "Humanity Plaza."
During the feature, Habitat for Humanity International used Rockefeller Plaza, just outside "Today Show" studios in New York, as a huge construction area where volunteers built houses, which were later shipped to displaced families along the Gulf Coast. Throughout the week, AVMA, VMAT, and AVMF representatives operated a booth on the plaza where they collected donations for the AVMF relief fund. Dr. Lisa Murphy, a member of VMAT-2, was spokesperson for the groups. She was interviewed by Ann Curry on the "Today Show" segment and Chris Jansing on MSNBC.
Another highlight from the campaign came when the AVMA Executive Board allocated a one-time donation of $500,000 to the AVMF relief fund to motivate matching donations. By Nov. 30, 2005, the AVMF reached its goal of $1 million.
Donations were used by the AVMF to offer $2,000 humanitarian grants to veterinarians affected by the 2005 hurricanes. Veterinarians located outside the disaster areas who provided care to animals affected by the storms were also eligible to receive $2,000 reimbursements from the Foundation.
The AVMA also provided support to veterinarians through the section of its Web site devoted to disaster preparedness, www.avma.org/disaster. Within two days of the disaster, the existing Web site was expanded to include daily disaster situation reports including VMAT activities, links for affected members, volunteer information, and more.
Meanwhile, staff members at AVMA headquarters volunteered to take two-hour shifts to manage the overwhelming number of incoming phone calls.
"The mission of the AVMA is to improve animal and human health and to advance the veterinary medical profession," Dr. Mahr said. "Nowhere was this better exemplified than in the response of the veterinary profession to this catastrophe."