WRAL Voters’ Choice Awards Shine Despite Quick Transition to Virtual

Bill Leslie & Sloane Heffernan

The 2021 WRAL.com Voters’ Choice Awards presentations had to quickly shift to virtual, but hosts Bill Leslie and Sloane Heffernan helped the team pull off a great ceremony on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

With a change of venue and a big change of plans, the 7th Annual WRAL Voters’ Choice Awards winners were announced and celebrated on Thursday, January 13, 2022.  Due to the spike in COVID cases, the ceremony took place via live stream, with only a few days’ notice to transition from the planned in-person event.

Former WRAL-TV Anchors Bill Leslie and Sloane Heffernan stepped up to host when the event went virtual.  But despite all the change, the excitement of the announcements was still just as real for the finalists and winners.

“Thousands streamed the WRAL Voters’ Choice Awards show on January 13 after we completely pivoted to livestream only just a few days before,” said WRAL Digital Director of Marketing Laura Worthington.  “Similar to an in-person event, there are always a flurry of tasks the day of. Final edits to the script were locked into the teleprompter, music for the show was sent over to our production team, scripts were printed for hosts, and one of my final tasks was running over to Raleigh Cheesy (a 2x VCAs winner) to procure treats for our host and production leads.”

Worthington was on-site coordinating the awards show, which the team executed live instead of as a prerecording as they did in January 2021.

“Bill Leslie and Sloane Heffernan were amazing to work with,” she said.  “They were a huge part of our success for the awards show, and I hope to work with them again soon.”

VIDEO: Watch a Recap of the 2021 WRAL Voters’ Choice Awards
(by WRAL-FM Radio & Graphics Producer Joe Ristaino)

2021 WRAL Voters’ Choice Awards Recap from WRAL Digital Solutions on Vimeo.

A big team leapt into action to make the in-person-turned-virtual production happen.

Laura Worthington

The 2021 WRAL.com Voters’ Choice Awards presentations had to quickly shift to virtual, but WRAL Digital Marketing Director Laura Worthington (front) led the team to pull off a great ceremony on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

WRAL Digital Marketing/Promotions Specialist Samantha Boyette took the lead on communicating with VCA finalists about the change, ensured promotions transitioned to focus on the show and then to celebrating the winners.

WRAL-TV Engagement Editor Donna Natosi and WRAL-TV Multiplatform Producer Kathy Hanrahan handled social media the night of the awards show.

“It was fun to see the reactions from so many local businesses on social media,” said Worthington.  “Those reactions are a reminder of why we do this every year. They illustrate how far we’ve come since the first awards in 2015 and just how excited local businesses get for the awards.”

Worthington hopes that COVID numbers will continue to decline to allow for a certificate and window cling pick up day in the spring for the finalists and winners.

She praised the large number of staffers who came together to make the 7th WRAL Annual Voters’ a sccuess.

“Special thanks go out to WRAL Digital Vice President John Conway, WRAL Digital Director of Content Jodi Glusco, WRAL-TV Local Production Manager Don Ursich and WRAL Digital Senior Account Executive Lisa Chappell for their support throughout the VCAs which has basically become a year-round project,” she concluded.

The VCAs will return in September, and the team is already planning again for an in-person event in January 2023.


Find the full list of winners here:

Read more about the quick transition to a virtual ceremony:

Thanks to WRAL Digital’s Laura Worthington and WRAL-TV’s Sloane Heffernan for these Capcom photos.


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