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June 14, 2013

PRSA Selects LIVESTRONG Foundation Executives as 2013 Public Relations Professionals of the Year

NEW YORK (June 14, 2013)— The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has named LIVESTRONG Foundation executives Katherine McLane and Doug Ulman as its 2013 Public Relations Professionals of the Year.  This prestigious award celebrates the highest level of public relations achievement by an individual or team. The annual award was presented as part of PRSA’s Silver Anvil Awards ceremony, held last night at the AXA Equitable Center in New York.

McLane, Vice President of Communications and External Affairs, and Ulman, President and CEO, were selected by PRSA for this honor because of the deft manner in which the LIVESTRONG Foundation managed its crisis during and after the resignation of its high-profile founder, Lance Armstrong, which occurred during a week devoted to the Foundation’s 15th Anniversary celebration.
“The LIVESTRONG Foundation’s ability not only to weather this crisis, but emerge from it with a stronger, more financially secure, more compelling brand demonstrates the vital role public relations plays in mitigating crises,” said PRSA Chair and CEO Mickey G. Nall, APR, Fellow PRSA. “The LIVESTRONG Foundation plays a crucial role in the worldwide fight against cancer, with thousands of cancer survivors relying on its resources daily. Doug and Katherine were able to grasp the gravity of the situation and the significance of their actions for cancer patients worldwide, and their swift, decisive response helped to ensure the viability of this important organization for years to come.”
Through a highly disciplined communications strategy, the LIVESTRONG Foundation was able to not only separate the Foundation from its founder and insulate its work from the controversy surrounding Armstrong’s cycling career, it also succeeded at increasing donations at a time of intense scrutiny and negative media attention.

Having concluded that transparency was of paramount importance in order to engage donors, stakeholders and the general public, McLane and Ulman took care to address media questions about Armstrong openly, with dignity and candor, while using the opportunity to highlight the free support services the top-rated non-profit provides to cancer patients, survivors and their families to help them cope with the practical, emotional and financial challenges that accompany a diagnosis.
In addition to their media strategy, McLane and Ulman spearheaded a rebranding of the Foundation, which included immediate updates to all public facing materials including the Web site, printed collaterals and boilerplate; upgrades to marketing materials advertising the Foundation’s free patient support services; a refreshing of the LIVESTRONG Foundation mark; and deployment of an external affairs team to serve as a nation-wide speakers’ bureau.
Moving forward in the post-Armstrong era, the Foundation now is highlighting the needs of cancer patients and survivors, rather than relying on Armstrong’s celebrity to gain attention. The Foundation is telling its story through the lenses of ordinary Americans who are showing courage in the face of cancer.
“On behalf of the LIVESTRONG Foundation, we want to thank the Public Relations Society of America for honoring our work with this prestigious award,” said McLane.  “Our success has never been based on one person – it’s based on providing great service to patients and survivors every day, who approach a cancer diagnosis with hope, courage and perseverance.  Our doors remain open to them and any of the 14 million Americans living with cancer today.”
In addition to having its executives honored, the LIVESTRONG Foundation also received a Silver Anvil Award in the crisis communications category. Recent recipients of PRSA’s Public Relations Professional of the Year Award include IBM Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jon Iwata, the Pepsi communications team and former White House Press Secretary Robert L. Gibbs.
About the Public Relations Society of America
PRSA is the largest professional organization serving the U.S. public relations community. With a mission to “advance the profession and the professional,” PRSA provides news and information, thought leadership, continuing education and networking opportunities; sets standards of professional excellence and ethical conduct; and advocates for the business value of public relations and greater diversity among public relations professionals. Based in New York, PRSA comprises 112 local Chapters; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on specific industries and practice areas; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is active at more than 320 colleges and universities.
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