By Deborah Hudson, ABC
IABCLA Vice President, Member Retention; Past President

I want to start by pointing out that if there were a worldwide competition in communication, the degree of difficulty for the 2021 awards would be off the charts. The entries in crisis communications would include ongoing communication of the COVID pandemic, the January 6 Insurrection, weather disasters, and second impeachment of a U.S. president.

In individual all-round communications, the favorite is of course
Dr. Anthony Fauci. The calm, factual, authoritative infectious disease specialist proved himself able to withstand not just the dizzy changes in the landscape of COVID-19 but acid social media and harsh political winds. He leads a field of skilled epidemiologist-communicators who have done outstanding work at unraveling the twisty mysteries of COVID.

The storytelling award goes to the House Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection for opening its hearings with the vivid personal testimony of four of the police officers who were involved and injured during the day’s attack: the human face of crisis. As The Washington Post reported, “The outlines of their stories were known, but over the course of their testimony, they brought home what it was like to be in the thick of the battle, at times fighting for their lives amid threats of death, racial slurs and insults and accusations that they, not the attackers, were traitors to democracy.”

Each story was different, shaped by unique experience and background.

  • “January 6th still isn’t over for me,” Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told lawmakers, describing how protesters called him the n-word.
  • Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell, a naturalized American citizen and Iraq War veteran, who required surgery to repair theinjuries he sustained, characterized the bedlamas like something from “a medieval battle.” 
  • D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury, and said he heard rioters threaten to “kill him with his own gun.”
  • DC police officer Daniel Hodges said, “If that turned into a firefight, we would’ve lost.”(Hodges may be familiar as the police officer who was crushed in a door by protesters trying to breach the Capitol.)

This year has had its fair share of changes, crises, organizational upheavals – and successes. 

I know that IABC honors great communications, but I say NO ONE ever got too many awards or medals or certificates. What communicators/communications teams do you know who should be honored for their outstanding work in this difficult year? Let me know.