Fresno County Communications Team Wins 2024 Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communicator of the Year Award


The California Association of Public Information Officers (CAPIO) has awarded the Fresno County Communication Team the 2024 Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communicator of the Year Award for their extraordinary efforts to educate the public on the dangers of winter storms that struck the County in 2023. The number of atmospheric storms that impacted the Central Valley and the County had severe public safety scenarios that could have led to a more significant loss of life and injuries. The Fresno County Communications Team provided vital warnings and educational information on easy-to-reach channels to get the word out.

“It takes work during a natural disaster to cut through the chaos and get the right info to the right people at the right time so they can make informed decisions,” said CAPIO President Lael Wageneck, APR. “The Fresno County Communications Team coordinated with various partners to get the word out in a language that was easy to understand. They went above and beyond with their media production to make it easy for residents to know what to do during the storms that threatened their communities last winter.”

The Fresno County Communications Team’s strategic way of reaching out to their community was practical and innovative at the same time. They effectively implemented a digital media campaign that drove traffic to their social media posts and website. One notable and practical method was the implementation of an easy-to-remember URL, to circulate information to the public. The website had all the resources residents needed for assistance, sandbags, and maps. The website contained tips and educational links, and the team produced long and short videos to show the gravity of the impacts of rainstorms. Their Public Service Announcements were provided in English, Spanish, Hmong and Punjabi. Their efforts in gathering these materials showed that they knew their community well. In 2023, the County had only 13 flood rescues compared to 112 in 2022.

The team’s partnership with other County departments, law enforcement, CalFire, elected officials, and other organizations was vital to reach as many people as possible. The team utilized CAPIO as a resource to spread information out to local chapters while sharing their best practices.


CAPIO is the premier professional association for California’s government communicators, serving more than 1,000 professionals across the state.

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, an act of terrorism, or a reputational crisis.

For more information about the Frank Potter Cowan Crisis Communications Leader Award or the California Association of Public Information Officials, please visit