PR News 2016 Diversity in PR Awards: Individual

Winner: Donna Allen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, VisitNorfolk

Donna Allen’s commitment to attracting a diverse traveling public to the City of Norfolk extends throughout every piece of the organization’s marketing, public relations and advertising.

Allen has championed both the Hampton Roads PRIDE Festival, an annual LGBT gathering on the Norfolk waterfront, while leading the successful effort to lure the MEAC basketball tournament to the city for a 5-year contract. What’s more, her commitment to diversity can be seen in the organization’s “Dynamic. Distinct. Diverse.” branding campaign.

Allen has ensured that the City of Norfolk positions itself as an attractive, welcoming destination for LGBT travelers, despite the region’s traditionally conservative world view. As a destination marketing organization, VisitNorfolk’s goal is obviously to generate much-needed tax revenue by filling hotels, restaurants and attractions with leisure and business travelers.

Allen has taken this effort a step forward, making VisitNorfolk a sponsor of the annual PRIDE Festival, a weekend-long event on the City’s downtown waterfront. Using the organization’s marketing resources to promote the event across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Allen has employed digital, print, social media and search engine marketing efforts totaling an estimated 17.4 million impressions while helping the event reach record attendance.

Bringing the annual Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) basketball tournament to Norfolk for five years was the culmination of Allen’s tireless efforts to lure the league of historically black colleges and universities to the city. Last season—in its second year at Scope Arena in Norfolk—attendance was up 27%, from 32,000 in 2013 to 41,000, and downtown merchants and hoteliers saw a noticeable spike in business.