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Q&A with Foggies D&I Campaign of the Year and Standout Tactic of the Year winner, Landis Communications

We recently celebrated our 2020 Foggies Award winners and now we're taking you deeper inside our chapter award program, to learn more about them – what makes them tick, how their winning entry came about, how much work went into it, and more. Please meet 2020 D&I Campaign of the Year AND Standout Tactic of the Year winner, Landis Communications. We sat down with Polly Winograd Ikonen, Senior Counselor to learn more.

Congratulations on your Foggies win, two years now!

Tell us more about yourself.

I’m a longtime MarComm professional, with many years spent in-house at major nonprofit organizations on both coasts, bookended by time at small agencies. I’ve been at Landis Communications Inc. (LCI) for just over three years.

Tell us about your winning campaign/entry. How did it come about, what were the highlights, how much work went into it, results, etc.

LCI is so excited and proud that two of our campaigns received Foggies this year. Both of them were a complete delight.

The D&I Campaign of the Year award recognized the work of my colleague Robin Carr on behalf of our client Becoming Independent, an amazing nonprofit organization in Sonoma that supports adults living with developmental disabilities. Robin had the brilliant idea – and all the right contacts – to create an opportunity for two of BI’s participants to live out their dream of being professional sportscasters for a night. BI’s mission is all about empowering their participants to pursue their personal goals; this project embodied that vision. Using her deep knowledge of local pro sports (Robin worked as PR Manager for the SF Giants for many years), she arranged for Mauricio and Austin to cover a home Warriors game for their own sports channel on YouTube. They got press passes, attended the pre-game conference with Warriors coach Steve Kerr- and asked him really substantial questions – and then covered the game from the press box. To amplify this opportunity for our client, Robin invited KPIX-TV and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat along to document Mauricio and Austin’s most excellent adventure. It was an amazing feel-good story that showcased BI’s work. It also gave a deserving shout out to these two inspiring men who, despite their personal challenges, held their own and expertly demonstrated their sports know-how in the professional press corps.

LCI’s Standout Tactic of the Year award for the Coyote-Badger viral video campaign for Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) means a lot to me personally.  When that video was leaked 2 days ahead of when POST had been planning to share it, our lives quite literally exploded.  For 3 days straight, we pitched and fielded media requests from around the globe – from Stephen Colbert/CBS to CNN, the BBC and news networks in Russia and Vietnam. I confess I had never experienced anything of that intensity in my 30+ years in the business. I feel particularly proud of how we were able to harness all of the interest to boost the social following and highlight the critical work of this incredible regional land trust to support the biodiversity of the Bay Area – one of the world’s top 25 biodiversity hotspots! The highlights for me were definitely when Captain America (aka @ChrisEvans) shared the video early on with his 14+ million followers and having Stephen Colbert open his monologue with it – on the same night that the Senate voted to acquit Trump on impeachment charges!

Landis Communications accepting their 2019 Foggies award


What does it mean to your team to take home this win? How will you celebrate?

It always is meaningful when our professional peers recognize the creative and strategic power of our work as an agency, especially in our own market. But an agency like LCI doesn’t operate in a vacuum – it’s really our clients’ successes that are being celebrated.  What moves me most is that these two award-winning campaigns were for relatively small, highly localized nonprofits doing exceptional work in their communities. Seeing how proud they are to have their work and their missions recognized - and how that recognition serves to elevate the MarComm teams within their organizations and their fields - is really the best reward.  And, yes, we have definitely raised virtual glasses with them via Zoom!

What should the Bay Area know about you/your team?

LCI is an amazing Bay Area institution that just celebrated 30 years in business this fall. Hats off to David Landis for making it work for so long! I know we’re known for our longtime service to nonprofits, but what folks may not be as aware of is our strength in tech and healthcare as well – a really versatile group of people with so much knowledge in many areas. In these strange times, it feels like a plus to be small, nimble and working within a group of seasoned PR pros.

How has the pandemic affected your approach to communications?

The news cycle is CRAZY! So you have to be monitoring not only what’s being covered but who is covering it – it’s been musical chairs out there, especially at newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle. Just figuring out who is writing about what has been a challenge. So staying in frequent touch with journalists is key. And approaching them with empathy, knowing that they’re working from home, juggling kids and deadlines and getting pulled into lots of different directions.  That also means we’ve had to educate our clients more about the vagaries of news coverage. A story that may seem like a slam-dunk in normal times may get ignored simply because all the oxygen in the room is devoted to the pandemic. Or the election. Or the protests.  Good luck with that product launch!!

What advice do you have for handling PR during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I once worked with a publicist who had spent time managing resorts in the Caribbean. Her motto, “You’ve got to sway with the palm trees” has always stayed with me and has been very useful.  Be flexible, be creative and, when necessary, hunker down until the winds calm down.

Anything else you want to share with our Bay Area PR community?

I want to gratefully acknowledge my privilege in living here in the Bay Area, where COVID has been managed better than most other places, and in continuing to have important work to do. I also want to give a big shout out to all my fellow PR/marketeers for working so very hard in such difficult times. We all deserve a pat on the back and a bottle of champagne for making it to December.  Stay safe out there!

Polly (center) and colleagues during their annual office Easter egg hunt
Polly (center) and colleagues during their annual office Easter egg hunt)