During COVID, Awards Illustrate the True Rewards of Community

These have been strange times for everyone—and especially for regional leaders of geography-based offices. The hallway banter and kitchen catchups (or Ketch-ups as we call them) at our NYC headquarters mirror the bustling Manhattan vibe of Sixth Avenue and 52nd Street a few floors below us.

Or they used to.

It’s a challenge to keep our colleagues feeling connected and part of a community during COVID. After eight months of remote working, the former versions of these traditions seem like distant memories.

We have found creative ways to continue time-honored New York office customs remotely, including our long-held ritual of recognizing and rewarding colleagues at our Milestones of the Month office gatherings (the highlight moment of spinning a wheel for prizes translated perfectly during lockdown thanks to a digital version of the wheel); we’ve held virtual dance parties and meditation sessions, hosted by New York and other global marketplaces; we rebranded our annual summer party as a “Summer Innings” and did an all-office trivia-quiz, complete with teams, breakout rooms and prizes.

And yet. This week, the annual PRSA New York Chapter’s Big Apples award show reminded me that, in the end, what also connects us is the work we do together.

The virtual show brought us together in a way that we’ve experienced only fleetingly since March. It wasn’t really about the wins (though it certainly makes us #KetchumProud that we were awarded six Big Apples, seven Honorable Mentions and one of the show’s coveted Best of 2020 Awards for Gillette’s “We Believe” campaign). Instead, it was more about the connection that comes from sharing such moments with our teams and clients.

For those of us tuned into the virtual broadcast—and following along on social media, or celebrating the wins during emails, texts and calls—the awards created a moment to come together and remind ourselves why we do this, and what inspires us to continue bringing our best. It reinforces what we have in common, and drives us to keep doing our best, and inspiring each other to greater heights.

In the end, awards are a symbol of all that matters most: They’re a reflection of the grit, creativity, passion, client dedication and empathy that goes into earning them. These traits don’t have their own award categories. But they are the vital ingredients for producing award-winning teams, and they’re the reason we continue to show up every day with the same energy we had when we were gathering in person at the office.

It turns out that even during a pandemic, these ingredients ensure that anything is possible—we have a community, no matter where we set up our desks. And the work that comes from this community is essential to keeping us feeling connected in this crazy, remote not-New-York-yet-always-New-York work environment.

Sarah Devaney is a senior vice president, account director and marketplace leader for Ketchum in New York. After an early career as a former journalist and editor, Sarah transitioned into the PR, marketing and corporate communications field. A seasoned communications counsellor, Sarah spent several years in-house on the client side, helping her to empathize and relate to our client’s most pressing needs. She has worked across many verticals including CPG, Travel & Tourism, Tech and the Sciences. Sarah’s skillset is to combine strategy with creative to drive killer storytelling that results in award-winning campaigns. As co-marketplace leader in New York, Sarah loves nothing more than to use her inclusive nature to empower and inspire others.