All posts by Rachel Kerstetter

Trust Your Gut: Everyday Ethical Decisions

By Rachel Burns, PRSA Cleveland New Pros Chair

Earlier this month, Young Pros of PRSA’s Greater Cleveland Chapter had an engaging dialogue with a panel of PR professionals, Lorraine Schuchart, APR, founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose and Holly Mueller, owner and Chief Communications Officer of Holly M Communications, at a recent PRSA event, “Trust Your Gut: Everyday Ethical Decisions”. As the title of the event hints at, the topic of conversation was ethics and expanded from everyday ethics, to crisis ethics, to graphic design ethics and much more.

“Ethics are part of an organization and start from the top down. You’re judged by the company you keep,” said Schuchart. “Employees of Prosper for Purpose sign the PRSA Code of Ethics as a term of their employment.”

The PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards (BEPS) – with the support of the Arthur W. Page Center – recently published the second of three studies related to public relations practitioners’ roles and responsibilities to provide ethics counsel. However, the study also found that most millennial practitioners indicated that they did not feel prepared and are unlikely to offer ethics counsel. Making this a perfect environment to discuss real-life ethical scenarios for young pros.

“We’re hired to be an advisory role. Be confident,” said Mueller. “We’re not the bad guys, we’re finding all the facts and putting it together.”

How can young pros proactively implement or learn more about ethics? Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Trust your gut. “If it feels icky, it probably is,” said Schuchart. Staying true to yourself and being transparent contribute to ethics.
  • Stay ahead of trends and technology. Ethics change and broaden based on the evolution of technology and other aspects of a business.
  • Talk to your company IT department. Learn from them about privacy and confidentiality. Understand the legal issues or implications around communications.
  • Identify or offer to create a social media policy. Research examples such as a response tree for complicated or larger organizations.
  • Be prepared for a crisis. Digital makes everything immediate. Encourage or help lead crisis communications exercises in advance and ensure your team has a plan of action.
  • Continue the conversation. Every professional deals with ethical decisions. Encourage your colleagues and peers to discuss the topic and share insights and thoughts with one another.

Remember: PRSA National has an established Code of Ethics available for you to reference and share at any time.

Upcoming events: The Cleveland Rocks Awards, PRSA Great Cleveland’s signature event, is on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Additional ticket and event information can be found here.

Language Matters Today More Than Ever

By Jenn Elting, Senior Public Information Specialist, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

On October 19, members of PRSA’s Greater Cleveland Chapter had the privilege of learning from Dr. Tameka Taylor, CEO of Compass Consulting Services, LLC. Her program, “Language Matters: Communicating Effectively and Respectfully with Diverse Audiences,” not only examined the business case for diversity in the workplace, but examined language and its impact on others.

“There are very tough judgement calls when communicating with stakeholders,” said Taylor. “If you question ‘what’ or ‘how’ to say something, ask someone.”

She explained that 90 percent of the times language goes wrong, the person is well-intentioned. “Step back and think,” said Taylor.

One famous example is the verbiage used to caption two photos taken during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Associated Press used the word “looting” to describe one photo, whereas AFP/Getty Images used “finding.” Can you identify why these word choices might be problematic?

It is critical that you not only look at your perspective, but what is the perspective of others, cautioned Taylor. She said that is natural for us to base decisions and ideas on preconceived notions.

“Diversity is so much more than we often think,” said Taylor. Especially when hiring in our workplaces. “As much as I like ‘me,’ I don’t need a bunch of ‘mini-mes’ floating around.”

Diversity can be internal and includes things that neither change nor tend not to change, such as race, gender, physical ability and age. Diversity can also include external factors which do change. External dimensions include marital status, income, educational background, religion/spirituality and appearance, along with other factors.

She concluded with a great discussion about words that cause anger among the audience, as well as examples of today’s preferred terminology. She added that our terminology is not about being correct, but more about how the words we choose impact our stakeholders.

“The impact outweighs the intention of what you write,” said Taylor.

Join PRSA Cleveland for “Expand Your Network Night” on Thursday, November 16, 2017, at Market Garden Brewery. We will hear from Marilee MacAskill about effective networking strategies and tips for maintaining conversations with strangers. More info about this great program, and many others, is available here.

New in Town? Tips for Cleveland Newbies

By Rachel Burns, Coordinator of Communications & Operations, University Hospitals

Moving to a new city can be exciting and challenging for many reasons. Here are a few professional tips that I learned after moving to Cleveland from Chicago a year ago.

Settle in and explore.

You just moved to Cleveland. Take a moment to settle into your new home, neighborhood and city. You’ve likely heard Cleveland has changed and grown over the years, use this time to explore all that it has to offer. I love to read Cleveland Scene for local news and events.

Become involved.

Once you’re settled in and have had a chance to see Cleveland, take the time to research professional or volunteer opportunities. A new city is a new chance to explore your interests and become involved with an organization and meet like-minded people. Reach out to members to learn more about the opportunity, it’s a great way to build your professional and personally network. Also, Engage! Cleveland is popular among Cleveland’s young professionals and is a resource for getting them connected and established in Cleveland.

Looking for a job?

If you’re new to Cleveland and looking for a position, there are a variety of resources at your fingertips. Be sure to check out the current jobs posted on Also, HunterComm is an e-newsletter you can subscribe to and receive the latest communications and marketing jobs in Northeast Ohio. In addition to online research, networking and attending professional events is a fantastic way to learn about opportunities or a new company that might not appear in your online searches.

Build a network.

Be sure to engage with others and build your network beyond the period of your job hunt. Take the time to schedule meetings with individuals that share similar interests or careers and try to stick to regular meetings with them. This is also a great opportunity to develop a mentor and/or mentee relationship. Looking for a place to meet? The West Side Market Cafe is in a popular Cleveland destination and has available parking, which is always a plus.

Lastly, PRSA always welcomes professionals that are new to the Cleveland area. Check out our events or reach out to any of the board members if you’re interested in learning more about the Cleveland chapter.

Promote Your Company or Client and Support PRSA Cleveland’s Scholarship Program

It’s Cleveland’s most prestigious Public Relations event of the year, and this year it’s better than ever. It’s the Cleveland Rocks Awards, our city’s opportunity to showcase the best and brightest in public relations campaigns. The 15th annual ceremony will be held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on December 12.

How can your company or client get their brand in front of hundreds of the region’s public relations, marketing and special events professionals? Consider donating to the Cleveland Rocks Awards Silent Auction! All proceeds benefit the PRSA Cleveland Student Scholarship Fund.

What makes a great silent auction prize?

Anything really, but here are some ideas:

  • Gift cards to Cleveland restaurants
  • Tickets to area concerts, events, or attractions
  • Themed gift baskets
  • Consulting or other professional services from your firm
  • Handmade gifts, perfect for the holidays!

Any donation is accepted, and donations may be bundled with others to create themed gift baskets.

If you wish to support PRSA Cleveland Student Scholarship Fund, please contact Jenn Elting at Donations will be picked up by a PRSA Cleveland Board Member or can be mailed to an address provided by Jenn. Donations must be received by November 30, 2017.

Thank you for all of your support for the PRSA Cleveland Student Scholarship Fund!

Language Matters – Our October Program Dives into Diversity and Inclusion

By Lisa Sands, APR

No one can deny we are in some interesting times— for our culture and our profession. Our companies and clients rely on us to be the experts on matters of communication. But, how and when to say things seems a bit harder these days, doesn’t it? We’re second-guessing ourselves and wondering if we got it right. We’re trying to think of issues from every angle and predict how different audiences will perceive our messages. We’re called upon to be effective but we also need to be sensitive, inclusive, genuine, and, yes, politically correct.

2017 has brought many new conversations to the forefront and perhaps some that, while not new, remain unresolved. When we created our fall programming calendar, our chapter wanted to address some of these challenges head-on. We wanted to have an honest and open dialogue about how we talk to each other, while taking into consideration our individual experiences, our biases and predispositions. We want to better understand how race, gender, religious beliefs and all the things that make us unique citizens of the world affect how we speak, listen and believe.

Our October program is called Language Matters: Communicating Effectively and Respectively with Diverse Audiences. Our speaker is Dr. Tameka Taylor, CEO of Compass Consulting, who will lead us in a discussion specific to communications professionals on matters of diversity, inclusion, respect and understanding.

Dr. Taylor says, “Diversity is more than race. We’ve got to expand the different aspects of diversity to include religion, age, family structure, socioeconomic status and other characteristics.” We’ll discuss the real meaning and application of “inclusion,” intent and impact, and we’ll take a closer look at behaviors that may be emotional triggers for people around us.

We understand that talking about these things isn’t always easy. We guarantee a safe space, mature conversation and takeaways that will help you engage more fully with others.

Please join us on October 19 at 7:30 a.m. (program starts at 8 a.m.) at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown for this program. Be sure to register any coworkers and colleagues who may also find value in this program. RSVP here.

5 Reasons to Enter the 15th Annual PRSA Cleveland Rocks Awards

Each year, the board and members of the PRSA Greater Cleveland chapter look forward to the annual Cleveland Rocks Awards that honor the programs, projects and people doing great PR and Communications work throughout the year.

Need a reason to enter this year’s awards? How about five?

  1. You’ve always wanted to take the stage at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Our December 12 awards ceremony venue.)
  2. You want to add another Accomplishment to your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Your trophy shelf has an empty space. (Or you need an excuse to build a trophy shelf!)
  4. You’re too shy to brag about your own great work.
  5. You, and your work, rock the PR world.

And here’s your BONUS reason #6: You have plenty of time to get your entries and nominations in now because we extended the deadline to October 2 (at 11:59 p.m.).

We can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on! Enter now.