Honoring Pittsburgh excellence in communication, the local chapter of the Pubic Relations Society of America (PRSA) held its annual Renaissance Awards on January 29 at the Renaissance Hotel. And the site you’re on right now happens to be one of the winners.

The NEXTpittsburgh website design team at Mullen Pittsburgh took home the Award of Merit in the Online/Social Media: Website category.

“We wanted something that was going to offer a fresh look to the online publication world,” says Tyler Oberley, one of the designers at Mullen who left recently for Brunner. “At the same time we wanted to present something that was going to provide an easy user experience for its readers. The main goal of the creative process was to give the NEXTpittsburgh brand a modern spin with a very distinct look and feel.

“We wanted the brand to be very ‘conversational’ which is how we ended up with the speech bubble concept,” he adds in reference to the NEXT logo.

The Mullen team, which included web developer Brian Howe and account manager Diane Walter, worked on the design with NEXTpittsburgh publisher and founder Tracy Certo, events editor Jennifer Baron and contributing writer Deb Smit.

“I’m really happy with the way it turned out and with the level of success that NEXTpittsburgh has had since launch,” Oberley adds. NEXTpittsburgh launched in March and last month had more than 210,000 visitors to the site.

Diane Walter of Mullen with the Renaissance Award for NEXTpittsburgh.

This year’s master of ceremonies, Chuck Finder, manager of media relations at UPMC, handed out awards in more than 20 categories, including media relations and marketing communications campaigns, social media tactics, community relations and more.

“(The judges) looked for creative work that delivered results and moved the needle,” says Meredith Amoroso, 2015 president of Pittsburgh’s PRSA. “We try to raise the bar each year.

“The industry keeps changing. We’ve added categories to include digital campaigns and websites. It’s not just about pitches and press releases,” she notes.

This year, Amoroso says she noticed a trend toward more pro bono entries than in previous years.

“It just goes to show that we as a community believe in something, and we believe in good work. That’s really exciting,” she says.

One standout winner was the blog The Motherhood, honored with the first ever People’s Choice Award for their Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood national toy campaign for the Fred Rogers Company. The campaign also won in the online/social tactics category.

Judged by the Philadelphia chapter of the PRSA, other top winners included Renaissance Communicator of the Year (For-Profit), Sheri Manning, UPMC Health Plan; Renaissance Communicator of the Year (Non-Profit), Susan Stuart, CORE, the Center for Organ Recovery & Education; Renaissance Rising Star, Laura Shore, Havas PR; Agency of the Year, Gatesman+Dave and Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship Award, Jordan Mitrik, Waynesburg University.

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.