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North Carolina Public Relations Professionals Recognize Kelly Williamson with the 2019 Michael L. Herman Award

RALEIGH, N.C. – As the leading organization for public relations, communications, and marketing professionals, the North Carolina chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is proud to honor those who have worked to elevate their profession. The highest honor the chapter bestows is the Michael L. Herman Excellence in Mentoring Award.

This year’s winner of the Michael L. Herman Award is Kelly Williamson, president of the North American region of APCO Worldwide. Williamson started as an intern in 1999, and over her two decades at APCO founded the Raleigh office and built it into a success. As she rose through the ranks, Williamson prioritized helping others achieve. She is an adjunct professor and board member of the Hussman School of Media and Journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serves as a mentor, and helped launch the Triangle Women in STEM initiative that supports women with a desire to pursue a career in STEM.

“Great mentorship looks different for everyone. I was lucky to have a mentor who advocated for me; helped me see my potential; and also taught me to be patient when I wasn’t ready for the next step,” Williamson said. “I’m honored to be able to serve as a mentor to others, whether they’re returning to work after having their first baby, as they start their career in communications, or as they reach for new heights of leadership. I’m thankful to NCPRSA for recognizing me with this award and helping myself and others in the chapter continue to live Michael Herman’s legacy.”

“The Michael L. Herman Award sets a very high bar,” said Chris Cowperthwaite, APR, president of NCPRSA. “Recipients achieve a significant level of personal success, but also exhibit a passion for improving the broader PR profession, while helping put others on a path to advance and achieve. Kelly’s contributions to the profession are inspiring and we’re thrilled to recognize her with the 2019 award.”

Prior to his passing in 2015, Michael L. Herman, APR, was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows and earned the Gold Anvil Award, PRSA’s highest individual award lifetime career achievement. Herman served as a mentor for countless PR professionals in North Carolina through his work, as a leader in NCPRSA, and as a faculty member at N.C. State University’s School of Communication.

Previous winners of the Michael L. Herman Excellence in Mentoring Award include Raymond J. Hornak, APR (2015), Tracy Phelan Lathan, APR (2016), Chuck Norman, APR (2017), and Valerie Fields (2018).

The Public Relations Society of America is the nation’s largest association of public relations professionals and among the world’s largest associations of communicators. Its tag line is “Advancing the Profession and the Professional.” Since 1967, the North Carolina Chapter has helped set the standard for excellence in all aspects of the profession. NCPRSA provides leadership, counsel, understanding, networking and educational growth opportunities for those within the profession and to those who may need public relations services.


Corinne Watson
NCPRSA Awards Director


Past recipients

(Included are excepts from each recipient’s nomination form)


Raymond J. Hornak, APR, Owner & Principal, Forge Communications

“[Ray] is the best kind of teacher: one who aids his mentees in dealing with the real world. He has helped many practitioners at all levels learn how to interact with clients, bosses and vendors. He has coached many agency teams to successful client pitches. He has helped numerous writers find the clarity and vision to connect with an audience. And he has helped provide perspective for many individuals struggling to take those next, best steps in life…whether professionally or personally, even when it has meant seeing a dear friend or trusted colleague move on to the next adventure.”

“Ray is a true coach who knows how to encourage people to bring out their best, even when they don’t know it’s there. And there’s no one better or more willing to listen and offer smart advice, whether it’s about work or life.”


Tracy Phelan Lathan, APR, Account Strategist, Clairemont Communications

“Tracy mentors junior team members on day-to-day account management best practices and leads regular client service lunch-and-learn sessions for the agency.”

She “served in a mentor role as one of the first two professionals [IMRE] hired in Raleigh. Tracy was largely responsible for training and mentoring the additional employees the agency hired.”

“For the past five years, Tracy has served in the role of Accreditation chair on the Public Relations of Society Board of Directors to help other PR professionals in the Triangle work through the process to achieve this important designation…[She] meets with APR hopefuls to explain the process, provide study guides and recommend resources for areas of lacking knowledge. She is available for additional coaching throughout the several-month process.”


Chuck Norman, APR, Owner & Principal, S&A Communications

“Throughout his career, Chuck has promoted education, professional development and sharing of best practices. At S&A Communications, employees are encouraged to joint professional organizations, attend professional development events, and contribute their subject matter expertise to blog articles and guest articles in trade media. Student interns perform hands-on client work rather than just administrative tasks.”

“[Chuck’s] continued passion for sharing his knowledge and experience are evidenced by his participation in every NC State PR Day event to which he’s invited, his agency’s environment of welcoming interns and student shadows, and his participation in Leadership Raleigh and Leadership Cary.”


Valerie Fields

“Receiving NCPRSA’s Michael L. Herman Award was an honor and an humbling recognition. I am grateful to my PR colleagues for their vote of confidence, and I appreciate the support from those who deemed my service and my work worthy of recognition.”