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Duluthian named Communicator of Year by PR Week

Sharon McMahon, a former teacher who has a podcast and Instagram presence dedicated to providing factual, unbiased information about politics, history and the United States government, was recognized at the PR Week awards ceremony in New York City on March 16.

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Sharon McMahon (Photo courtesy of McMahon)
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DULUTH — Through her efforts to battle misinformation and provide her followers with factual, unbiased information, Sharon McMahon of Duluth was recognized as PR Week's Communicator of the Year at its 2022 awards ceremony.

The award, which is given each year to a person who PR Week believes has done an exceptional job of communicating an important message, has previously been awarded to Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai Malik.

“I was totally floored," McMahon said of learning she was selected for the award. "I had zero idea that PR Week even knew who I was.”

Former teacher McMahon's communication skills in conveying facts about politics and history have earned her the title "America's Government Teacher" by her fan base, the "governerds." Although she may be considered an internet influencer, with 840,000 followers on her Instagram @sharonsaysso and millions of downloads on her Sharon Says So podcast, McMahon's goal isn't to influence, it's simply to inform.

“I was the kid paying for Newsweek subscriptions with my own babysitting money,” Sharon McMahon said about her early passion for political science.

"My goal is never to get people to think like I think," she told Trevor Noah on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in early 2021. "My goal is to provide you with fact-based, nonpartisan information, so you can form your own educated opinions."

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McMahon was recognized as Communicator of the Year on March 16 at the PR Week U.S. awards ceremony on Wall Street in New York City. McMahon said the black-tie event, which is commonly known as the Oscars of the public relations industry, was "not a little hometown production." Her Communicator of the Year award can be compared to the Oscars' Lifetime Achievement Award.

"Our 2022 Communicator of the Year, Sharon McMahon, is someone who upholds the values of fact-based nonpartisan information at a time when this has never been more needed," said Steve Barrett, editorial director at PR Week. "We need more of this as we emerge from a torrid time, and business and brands can also play a part in restoring civil discourse to a febrile and fractured society."

She received her award and gave a speech at the beginning of the ceremony, and said she was able to get in a joke about her Minnesota accent. Present at the ceremony were representatives for global brands, agencies and celebrities and other public relations professionals.

“This is truly the biggest brands and celebrities in the world, so the fact that this organization knew who I was and decided I was worth of this award, I was shocked and honored,” McMahon said.

In her speech, McMahon encouraged the powerful communicators in attendance to set aside political games that have caused a divide across America.

"The amount of hand wringing and mud slinging in American politics is not just exhausting. It’s not just morally wrong, it’s a national security threat," she said. "What we do makes a difference. And because it makes a difference, it’s time for us to start deciding what kind of difference we want to make. ⁣

Before the ceremony, McMahon was among less than two dozen people from the PR Week awards ceremony who were invited to ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq stock market. McMahon got a behind-the-scenes look at what happens at the stock exchange, and was broadcast on the Times Square video display screens.

McMahon's content on her platforms varies from explaining the Electoral College and the history of the Second Amendment, to debunking conspiracy theories, to answering questions during and after the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. She strives to provide direct, non-partisan answers and conversations about the government. Recently, she's been explaining various aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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As of March 18, her followers have donated more than $669,000 for food and care packages to help Ukrainians, and have raised $4.2 million overall for causes including medical debt forgiveness and classroom supplies for teachers. McMahon also hosts monthly virtual Government for Grownups workshops.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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