CCA instituted the Michael Graznak Award as a memorial to an outstanding younger member who met an untimely death. It honors members age 35 or under who have made superior contributions to cooperative communications and who give promise of having a brilliant and successful future.
Hollins is ‘O’ so deserving
By Karen Jones, Growmark
Casey Hollins, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative communication specialist, recipient of this year’s Michael Graznak Award.
The 2016 CCA Institute took place in the “Big O” of Omaha, and other “O” words abounded in praise of “Hurricane” Casey Hollins, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative communication specialist, recipient of this year’s Michael Graznak Award.
Words like Opportunity. Hollins has the opportunity to do many different things in her role at Rappahannock. She coordinates a comprehensive annual communications plan which includes not only regular communications efforts but also special projects and campaigns. She’s involved in her cooperative’s membership magazine REC Review, employee newsletter Power Lines, annual report, social media, print advertising, website, photography and videography.
Graznak committee member Amber Sheridan, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers, said, “Her portfolio is the most diverse of the group – she is a top-notch communicator with polished skills in video and social media, plus the traditional writing and publication prowess. She is doing a wonderful job at making her cooperative relevant and communicating with its membership on platforms its members value.”
And Observant. With a reputation for being observant and constantly looking for ways to improve her cooperative’s communications, Hollins isn’t afraid to jump right in. From convincing management to give social media a try and then watching it grow exponentially to putting on her boots and heading out into the field to find the right people to tell the right stories, she has a keen sense of what her audience wants and needs to hear.
Hollins also pays attention to what makes cooperatives unique. She earned the Certified Cooperative Communicator designation just two years after beginning at Rappahannock. She now serves as a director on the national Certified Cooperative Communicators board.
“Many hours in the evenings and weekends were spent increasing her knowledge of cooperative philosophy and history,” said Ann Lewis, REC director of communications and public relations and Hollins’s supervisor. “When presented with opportunities to learn, she will take advantage of them to help her grow both personally and professionally.
A third “O” word mentioned was Original. Despite working in an industry with many seasonal reasons to communicate – winter storm preparedness, energy-saving tips during the summer – Hollins consistently looks for ways to present the “same old stuff” in a fresh new manner.
Nominator Kevin Flores, vice president and group creative director of Padilla CRT, said, “She is never content with recycling the same communication tactics. She understands the importance of keeping member communications fresh and relevant, and relentlessly strives to improve the effectiveness of her cooperative’s communication with each campaign.”
Her efforts have been recognized by both CCA and NRECA in areas including social media, writing, publications, advertising, video production and annual reports. She’s made presentations on topics such as writing, member engagement and social media to various groups, including her CCA peers.
Finally, Casey Hollins is Outgoing. She is an active member of CCA, serving on the contest and education committees, the 2014 Institute committee, the 2015 and 2016 professional development workshop committees, and the MCC task force, and regularly attends Institutes, workshops and webinars.
“Her resume and letters of recommendation paint a picture of a well-rounded, versatile communicator who knows how to get results,” said Graznak committee member Michelle Ricard Geans, Baldwin EMC.
Nominator Rhonda Curtis noted, “She exhibits an extraordinary ability to understand the viewpoint of the REC member, with potential questions and needs they may have.”
Hollins joins 40 years’ worth of young cooperative communicators to receive the Graznak award, presented annually to CCA members under the age of 35 who have outstanding communications skills and show promise of a bright future.
The honor is named for Michael Graznak, a native of Pennsylvania who served his country in World War II as an Air Force staff sergeant and went on to earn degrees in agricultural economics, soils and field crops. He found his passion in the world of cooperative communications, first at Missouri Farmers Association Oil Company and, a few years later, at Farmland Industries.
Graznak loved taking photographs and writing stories about the people and places he experienced, even compiling a book of poetry and pictures entitled “Fragments from our Heritage,” which is presented to each Graznak award winner. At age 51, doing what he loved best, he died of a heart attack, while on assignment. Six years later, the Cooperative Editorial Association — now CCA — established this award in his memory.