“Whether it’s a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or a reputational crisis in the media, stress levels are at their highest and the most important thing to remember is that we grow and learn from these experiences and we survive together,” CAPIO Board President Christine Brainerd.



Jamie Hansen
Sonoma County Office of Education


Thomas Christensen, County of San Diego
accepts award on behalf of County of San Diego

2018 Frank Potter Cowan
Crisis Communications Leader Award 


2018 Frank Potter Cowan
Crisis Communications Leader Award


(Photo: Kristeen Farlow- CAPIO VP Conference, Tom Christensen -
County of San Diego, 
Christine Brainerd, APR - CAPIO President,
Sarah Macdonald - CAPIO VP Awards)

Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communications Leader Award

Established in 2017, the Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communications Leader award recognizes a Public Information Professional (or Team) who demonstrated extraordinary success in leading a team during a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or a reputational crisis.

Background Information

CAPIO developed this award to recognize the men and women who lead teams during a crisis.

The inaugural Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communications Leader Award was presented to Frank Cowan at the 2017 Award of Excellence Gala in San Diego. Frank Potter Cowan has been instrumental in developing training courses for communicators who are faced with an unexpected emergency. In 1984, he developed the California Specialized Training Institute, CSTI, which is offered through the State of California Office of Emergency Services. Cowan personally worked as a Crisis PIO during three major earthquakes in California, two major urban/wildland fires, a statewide flood, an oil spill off the Ventura coast and a biker rally in Hollister. Real life lessons learned during those disasters were integrated into the training. Throughout his career Frank Potter Cowan has mentored PIOs who have faced the stress of being under pressure during an unexpected emergency and has always been generous in mentoring former students and colleagues during times of crisis. 

Nomination Information (Nominations for 2019 will open in Janaury)

The Crisis Communications Leader of the Year award may be given to an individual, and/or a team of an agency who demonstrated leadership during a crisis.  This can be a crisis such as a fire or earthquake or flooding, or it can be a crisis of confidence.

How to Nominate

All entries and supporting documents must be submitted electronically to CAPIO via email to [email protected].

Nominations should include a written narrative no longer than two pages in length. Supporting documents that reinforce the written narrative and demonstrate the candidate’s achievements are recommended.

In nominating an individual or team for the award, a nominator should review the Crisis Communication Leader Award scoring rubric  and might consider:

Key considerations when nominating an individual, team or agency:
Individual (Team or Agency):

  • Exhibited strong leadership
  • Excelled in getting accurate information to the right people fast
  • Displayed the ability to work quickly as a team
  • Effectively used of all forms of media
  • Provided strong, clear emergency public information 
  • Effectively used Maps, other visuals and graphics
  • Provided information relevant to affected populations
  • Showed effective use of regular, consistent briefings
  • Worked well with unfamiliar agencies / PIOs
  • Provided support for their team example: morale or emotional support, pizza for long shifts etc.

When submitting your nomination, you may share information used such as a function chart, graphics, images or links to briefings, etc.  To submit supplemental information for the nomination, you may email it to [email protected].  You may also provide quotes or support from those involved such as local and regional reporters, evacuees, affiliated partner agencies and support teams. You may share facts from the incident, discuss ramp up time, discuss political issues, and any other complicating factors that the person, team or agency faced during the crisis.

Crisis Communications Leader Award scoring rubric 

Recipient Selection

The final selection will be made by the Board or appointed selection committee prior to the Annual Conference in April each year.

Award Honors

The award winner will be honored at the CAPIO Annual Conference. In addition, CAPIO will send a news release and supporting photograph(s) to the award winner’s employer and to local media following the announcement.

Nomination Deadline & Contact Information

Nominations submitted to the CAPIO office via the entry area below or via regular mail or email.  Please enter your nomination below. Nominations for the 2019 Award will be open beginning January 1. All nominations are due no later than Friday, March 5 at 5 pm.  If you have questions, call us at 1-844-CAPIO55 or email [email protected]