Blog Archives

Penna Powers took home some serious hardware at the 30th annual Golden Spike Awards Gala on Nov. 16. We earned six Golden Spike awards and one finalist award at the 2017 Golden Spikes in categories ranging from research for governments/non-profits to community relations.

2017 Golden Spikes

Golden Spike Awards

Harmons Grocery Local Print Ads

Category: Print display advertising
Harmons Grocery has been operating in Utah since 1932. What started out as a farmstand has blossomed into a progressive chain of grocery stores committed to quality food, unsurpassed service and community wellbeing. Supporting local vendors has always been at the forefront of Harmons mission, in fact, Harmons has been an integral cog in helping many local businesses get started. Over 2,300 products sold in Harmons are local items. With this in mind, Harmons asked Penna Powers to develop print ads with an emphasis on local. The ads featuring local products and produce were placed in various local Utah publications reaching more than 250,000 in readers.


UCAIR & Penna Powers: Show Them UCAIR

Category: Community relations
UCAIR and Penna Powers have conducted fully-integrated educational campaigns for the past several winters, when Utah’s air quality suffers most. Research in early 2016 showed that Utahns are concerned about air quality, but many believe air quality challenges are beyond their control. However, research participants activated around the issue when presented with the health impacts poor air can have on those they love. Building on this insight, UCAIR and Penna Powers created the “Kidult” campaign, inviting Utahns to “Show Them UCAIR” by changing behaviors to reduce emissions.


UDOT & Penna Powers: UDOT 1-15 Tech Corridor

Category: External audience videos
Utah County is growing rapidly, resulting in commute-time traffic jams. The Utah Department of Transportation planned to expand I-15, but funding wouldn’t arrive until 2020. In 2017, the State Legislature approved a bond to accelerate construction.
A public awareness survey showed that only 24 percent of locals knew a project was coming. UDOT developed a video to educate stakeholders on the project and announce the accelerated timeline. The video link was emailed to government and business leaders and promoted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to area residents and commuters.


UDOT & Penna Powers: UDOT TravelWise

Category: Research for government/non-profits
In order to establish a baseline around the TravelWise Program, UDOT conducted a general public telephone survey of Wasatch Front residents through Lighthouse Research & Development, Inc. The research included a total of 810 interviews. It was the first time that research of this scale had been done on the TravelWise campaign. It substantiated our belief that the campaign is necessary, surprised us in the level of program awareness, and provided actionable insights that are currently being pursued by the team.


IDOT & Penna Powers: Iowa Zero Fatalities “Impaired Sports”

Category: Social media for government/non-profits

With 32 percent of all traffic fatalities caused by alcohol related crashes, Zero Fatalities Iowa identified a need to address impaired driving with residents. In an effort to reduce fatalities, Iowa Zero Fatalities implemented a social awareness campaign during NFL and NCAA sporting seasons targeting men ages 18-49. Event targeting reminded spectators to get a sober ride home after the game. The campaign successfully, reached 59.8 percent of the target audience and helped lift overall Zero Fatalities awareness by two percentage points.


UCAIR & Penna Powers: UCAIR Illustrated Inversion Education Video

Category: Photography and illustration
The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) is a non-profit dedicated to clean air. UCAIR and Penna Powers have conducted fully-integrated educational campaigns for the past several winters, when Utah’s air quality suffers most. Part of the challenge of getting Utahns to engage around air quality is overcoming their general low awareness that what they do does, in fact, make a difference in pollution levels. Many believe nothing can be done about Utah’s poor winter air episodes due to the meteorology and geography of the local airshed. During the 2016-17 winter campaign, we produced an illustrated educational video to attack this issue head-on.


Gold Spike Finalist Award

UDOT & Penna Powers: Zero Fatalities

Category: Community relations
To reduce traffic-related deaths between Memorial and Labor Day, Zero Fatalities implemented a multifaceted campaign called the “100 Deadliest Days.” As titled, the campaign focused on educating Utahns about (1) the 100 DD of summer when roadway deaths nearly double in Utah and (2) how to best prevent a traffic-related tragedy during the summer. Not only has the campaign performed exceptionally well in reach, frequency and engagement – As of August 23, there have been 12 less roadway related deaths this summer when compared to this same time last year.


The Golden Spike Awards measure effectiveness regarding research, planning, execution, evaluation and project content. A Golden Spike Finalist is awarded to entries that earn at least 80 out of 100 points; the highest scoring entry earns a Golden Spike. The annual competition is sponsored by the Utah Chapters of the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicator and the Utah Society for Healthcare Communication and Marketing.

Additionally, President and Managing Partner Dave Smith, APR received the Professional of the Year award.

Thank you to our clients for your continued partnership. While we are proud to produce award-winning campaigns, what matters the most is driving meaningful change together.

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Utah has a serious problem with fatalities on its roadways year-round. However, during the summer months fatal crashes nearly double. In order to create awareness for the Zero Fatalities’ 100 Deadliest Days campaign, we knew we had to capture attention on social media.

Using Facebook’s auto-play feature, our creative team designed several 100 Deadliest Days cinemagraphs to get people to stop scrolling through their social feeds. The isolated motion within the cinemagraphs is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also unique enough to capture attention among various Facebook advertisements. This offers a unique experience from other social ads.

The 100 Deadliest Days cinemagraphs were used across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some cinemagraphs featured major holidays or were used in a collection of statistics comparing your odds of dying in an unbuckled car crash to other events.

In order to highlight their full beauty on Instagram, we broke apart the images into smaller thumbnails that were accessible on the Zero Fatalities profile. Clicking on the center image would then deliver you to the full cinemagraph.

Check out our favorite 100 Deadliest Days cinemagraphs used for the Zero Fatalities campaign below.

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We can hardly believe it’s been five years since Justin Smart, or “Trusty Justy” as some call him, joined the Penna Powers team. From his role as Director of Public Involvement to Vice President of Client Services, he has provided our agency with exceptional growth, focus and joy.

Known for his way around a white board, Justin has a knack for communicating with people (particularly those who are fired up) and explaining things clearly while keeping a positive and upbeat attitude. No mountain is too high to climb in his eyes, so long as we have the right team in place and gear to support us.

Between strategizing, planning or managing a crisis, Justin has more meetings than anyone in the agency. And in the off chance he has a break, you’ll probably catch a glimpse of him in his sweater vest at the nearest gas station indulging his craving for a hot dog, which will likely take him an average of 54 minutes to consume. Don’t even get him started on the “best” Mountain Dew in town, he’ll drive however long it takes just to enjoy the perfect ice to bubbly soda ratio.

We’re so proud to call this techie, tenor (ask him about his role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), and father of four, one of our most trustworthy and fearless leaders.

Thank you for all that you do, Justin. We’re honored to celebrate you.

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We may need to invest in another cabinet to showcase our awards because Penna Powers is adding three more trophies to the mix. Our team took home three bronze awards from the 38th Annual Telly Awards, which recognized the best videos across all screens. With over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five countries, we’re proud to be recognized for our work by the selection committee.

Watch our winning videos:

Utah Zero Fatalities:

“Potty Mouth” – Television

“Slow Pour” – Television

Utah Clean Air Partnership:

“Causes of Inversion” – Online video

The videos were viewed on websites, social media channels, in-banner paid video promotions and in movie theaters.

Thank you to our clients for placing their trust in us to create innovative social change campaigns. While being recognized for our work is rewarding, what’s more important is the behavior change that we are able to accomplish in partnership with our clients.

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Sharpen the AxActors have rehearsals, sports teams have scrimmages and, though this may sound nerdy, communication professionals have pre-meetings.

Abraham Lincoln was attributed to have said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Pre-meetings are the sharpening time that makes cutting down the tree the easy part. The more time you spend preparing, the more time you save overall and the more buttoned up you look and feel at the “actual” meeting.

Pre-meetings are helpful in a wide array of situations like preparing clients to talk to the media, preparing clients to give presentations and preparing clients to answer questions about sensitive issues accurately to their friends and neighbors. I am going to focus specifically on pre-meetings to prepare multi-disciplinary project teams for public meetings. Here is a helpful process.

1. Hold a meeting with project leadership to discuss objectives, meeting format, roles and messages.

2. Send a meeting outline (including logistics, attendees, roles, audience, messages, visuals, room map and other important information) to the project team before the pre-meeting.

3. Discuss the following at the team pre-meeting:

  • Public meeting objectives – What do we want the meeting to accomplish?
  • Meeting logistics and visuals – Where is it? Where do we park? How do we dress? Who is setting up? What will the room set-up look like? What do the visuals look like?
  • Team member roles – Who will talk to media? Who is the expert on each topic? Who answers what questions? How will we address special needs/ADA? What if someone causes a major disruption?
  • Discuss the audience – What important attendees will be there? Is there a chance media will be there? Are there sensitive issues, past interactions and audience concerns that the team should be aware of?
  • Predict public questions and discuss messaging that addresses them – What are the most important messages? What words and jargon should we avoid?
  • Practice answering questions – What does each person, from each discipline, think will be his/her most frequently asked question? Does the team have input on what the answer should be?

Pre-meetings are where the magic happens except it only looks like magic to those who weren’t at the pre-meeting. So keep sharpening your ax.

What do you do to get ready for a big meeting? Let us know in the comments.


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I’ve been accused of asking for advice and not taking it.

“Why did you even bother asking?” people say. This response always surprised me until I started working with clients on decision-making processes that involve the public.

It turns out that if you don’t explain what you plan to do with input before you ask for it, people assume all different expectations. Some think you will do exactly what they say even if they are the only one with their particular opinion. Some think you will go with the majority of public opinions without considering any other study or analysis. Some assume you won’t do anything with their opinion because you’ve already decided what to do and soliciting input is just a formality.

This is why when our clients need to decide the best way to use land in an environmentally sensitive area or whether to build a new road, we consult the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation to help determine what the public’s role in the decision should be, based on project goals, and what promises we can make to the public at the outset.

The spectrum includes five levels of involvement that increase respectively: inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower. Goals and promises for each level of involvement are listed below.

Goal: Provide the public balanced and objective information to help them understand the project.
We will keep you informed.

Goal: Obtain feedback on analysis, options and/or decisions.
We will keep you informed, listen to and acknowledge your concerns and aspirations, and provide feedback on how your input influenced our decision.

Work directly with the public throughout the communication process to ensure that we consistently consider their concerns and aspirations.
Promise: We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the options we develop and we will provide feedback on how your input influenced our decision.

Goal: Partner with the public in every aspect of the decision making process.
We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions and we will incorporate your advice and recommendations into our decisions to the maximum extent possible.

Goal: Place final decision-making in the hands of the public.
We will implement what you decide.

Setting the right expectations before anything else helps the public give more relevant input and be more understanding when a decision is made. Relevant public input helps decision makers see additional or hidden considerations, build positive relationships with stakeholders and avoid lawsuits.

Has setting expectations before asking for input helped you in a decision-making process? Let us know about it in the comments.


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PPBH Cares about UCAIR

Contributed by Crystal McMillan

PPBH is passionate about Utah’s air. Through the years we have helped clients like Clear the Air Challenge (competition starting July 1) and TravelWise become strong advocates in spreading the air quality message. And now, we’re fortunate to support another strong voice in the air quality arena: the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR).

UCAIR began as Governor Gary Herbert’s initiative to address air quality issues in Utah. Now the vision has evolved away from a primarily government based organization to a diverse, non-profit partnership created to make it easier for individuals, businesses and communities to make changes to improve Utah’s air.

With PPBH’s wide expertise in communicating air quality issues to the public, we have been enlisted to help with the transition from government initiative to non-profit entity and to be the ongoing communications team for the organization. We started by helping plan and execute a press event to officially announce UCAIR’s nonprofit status and unveil a new vision for the organization (see photos from the event below).

To learn more about UCAIR’s initiatives visit

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Young couple driving a car

Contributed by Lora Stead

With the lasting presence of the sun—finally!—roads are dry, school is out and there is fun to be had. I’m all for enjoying a fabulous summer, so let’s not ruin the season by getting careless on our commute. Consider this: the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is coined the “100 Deadly Days of Summer.” The reason for the climb in traffic fatalities is not only due to increased traveling, but largely to a lowered sense of danger while on the roads.

Sure, it’s easy to slow down, stay alert and buckle up during Storm Gandolf, but what about on our way to the BBQ Bash O’ The Year with the windows down, our favorite tunes playing and Aunt Betty’s famous watermelon pie getting consumed by the minute? With the emergence of the sunshine, please don’t let your responsibility to be a safe road user evaporate.

33,000 people are dying nationwide every year in traffic crashes and these tragedies can be prevented. So let’s all live it up this summer by paying attention to the road, pulling over when drowsy, designating a sober driver, slowing down and buckling up.

For summer driving tips by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, check out their advisory and interactive resource.

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Zero Fatalites Ambassador Workshops

Contributed by Kyle Kubovchik

As Zero Fatalities grows in Nevada, more schools, local law enforcement agencies and community and business leaders have asked how they can get involved. They got the chance on May 1st in Reno and May 2nd in Las Vegas, during two Zero Fatalities Ambassador Workshops.

Attendees from law enforcement, engineering, emergency services, and education shared successful strategies, heard victim stories, and even conducted media training. The goal of the workshop was to create Zero Fatalities ambassadors who can become part of the Zero Fatalities movement, spreading these key messages in their communities and at their agencies:

  • Don’t drive impaired
  • Always buckle up
  • Focus on the road
  • Stop on red
  • Be pedestrian safe

It’s all about coming together to save lives, and Zero Fatalities is a brand the entire state can rally around. Because when we ask ourselves, “What is an acceptable number of traffic fatalities for your family?” the answer is simple: zero.

Thanks and congratulations to all the new ambassadors!

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