All posts by Rachel Kerstetter

Legends & Leaders Barb Paynter

By: Brittany M. Thompson

Barb Paynter has more than 30 years’ experience in public relations, and is a trusted advisor to clients in a variety of industries.

Paynter graduated from the University of Missouri, where she majored in journalism, with a focus on news and editorial. During her four years of college, she never took a PR class, but she’s learned a lot about the industry during her thirty-year career.

Paynter started her career as a newspaper reporter but eventually started freelancing while her children were young. During this time, Paynter evolved into a brand journalist. She spent seven to eight years freelancing for various companies, nonprofits and schools, doing media relations and helping to create newsletter content for their organizations.

“Content marketing isn’t new – the medium is. What we do as PR professionals hasn’t changed – the name has,” says Paynter. For example, she used to create a newsletter for a local travel agency.

This newsletter would eventually be inserted into a monthly publication for distribution. Even though it was an advertising tool for her client, it was content driven and focused.

After freelancing, Paynter became the Director of University Relations at Walsh University. During her three years there, she handled several university crises and found that she gravitated towards the more complex PR specialties.  This pull eventually led to her joining Edward Howard, now Fahlgren Mortine. During her time with the agency she often volunteered to work on crisis management projects that helped clients navigate tough situations.

“When constantly reacting it becomes very difficult, but proactive planning will let you manage the message,” says Paynter, who still does crisis work but also focuses on reputation management, doing more on the front end of crisis management. This switch allows her to help strengthen the brand and reputation of a client and prioritize the brand audience.

Paynter continues to remind clients, “Develop relationships with the publics most important to you [and your brand] and stay focused on those relationships.”

Paynter has been a PRSA member since 1993 and has valued her time in the organization. She has used her time within the organization networking with her peers as well as for professional development. She recommends all new PR professional join the organization and get involved with the organization to keep learning and growing within the field.

Paynter received her APR after working in public relations for a few years and used her APR as a way to strategically demonstrate her expertise as a PR maven. Paynter has won two Silver Anvil awards from PRSA National plus Best in Show from the Greater Cleveland PRSA, annual awards show, ROCKS. She advocates for local PR professionals to participant in the annual awards program.

“PR professionals are not always front and center, most of the work we do is behind the scenes. This is an opportunity to be recognized for the work that we do.”

Paynter will be recognized for her contribution to the PR industry when she is inducted into the 2017 College of Fellows on October 7th.

Barbara Paynter is a Cleveland-based communications consultant specializing in strategic communications, reputation management, crisis communications and issues management. Paynter Communications also provides litigation support and media relations services to its clients.

Brittany Thompson is a PRSA Board Member.


Legends & Leaders: Beth Hallisy

By: Rachel Kerstetter, VP of Membership, PRSA Greater Cleveland

Beth Hallisy, APR, Fellow-PRSA, is the president of Beth. (The name of her company is said, “Beth period.”) She describes herself as a writer and a PR and marcom addict.

“I’ve always viewed myself as a writer first,” she said. Wanting to refocus on writing was part of why she started working for herself after retiring at an early retirement age.

It started with an internship…

“I was fortunate to get an internship at a boutique agency that worked with nonprofits,” Beth told me. “That segued well into my first job where I worked at a nonprofit high school—my alma mater, Villa Angela Academy (now Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School).” Beth’s career path has had a distinctive nonprofit leaning since.

Working with nonprofits can be rewarding work, but can also be frustrating due to resources not always being available. But she still finds it rewarding and continues to also be involved with nonprofit boards and volunteering.

Positive changes in communication

Beth’s first thought was technology. But she ruled it out.

“Technology has too many negatives associated with it.  It can get in the way of effective human interaction,” Beth explained. Rather she identified transparency and expectations of ethical behavior as positive changes in the industry.

“We can’t manipulate or force messages on people,” she explained. “It forces us to be truthful, relevant, and interesting. We have to offer value or die on the vine.”

Beth’s biggest challenge

“By far the biggest thing I’ve ever had to face in my life is having Lupus,” Beth said. “It’s an incurable autoimmune disease, which presents itself in different ways.”

Beth’s Lupus causes her joint and muscle pain as well as fatigue. She also sometimes experiences what is referred to as “Lupus fog.” Beth isn’t alone in having to overcome challenges caused by her own body. Many in our chapter balance health conditions and the demands of our profession.

“I overcame it in a number of ways. I did everything I could to take care of myself,” Beth explained. “I made the decision to openly talk about my illness with my partners, colleagues and even clients. Because they were supportive, I was able to be successful.”

Beth’s decision to share her health condition proactively had up and downsides.

“When you show vulnerability, some people will use it against you. You have to be careful who you trust and how much you share. You have to come up with strategies for making it work,” said Beth. “Everyone has something that they’re dealing with. You need to think about what you need to do for your health and work with others to create the environment you need to be successful.”

From PRSSA to PRSA Fellow

Beth’s PRSA path started at the student level with PRSSA, it was a natural progression to join PRSA, then she chose to get her APR early in her career as a way to gain professional confidence and credibility, as well as a way to elevate the profession. Beth viewed joining the College of Fellows in a similar manner. Becoming a Fellow was the next level.

“It’s a pretty high bar, so it was gratifying to be able to achieve that,” she said.

Beth recommends pursuing accreditation as a way to ensure you’re practicing at the highest levels and the opportunity to interact with the most talented and knowledgeable people in the industry.

Beth Hallisy is a communications strategist with 30 years’ experience in crisis and change communications, issues management, executive positioning, internal communications, media relations, event management and digital/social media strategy. A recipient of six national Silver Anvil awards, Beth is a Fellow and accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, and a recipient of PRSA-Cleveland’s president’s award and Cleveland PRSA’s Lighthouse Award for career achievement and community service.

Rachel Kerstetter chairs the New Pros and Student Day committees. She is the Public Relations Architect at Sonnhalter, the leading B2T marketing communications firm.

2017 East Central District Diamond Awards


We’re excited to announce that it’s time for the 2017 East Central District Diamond Awards!  Click here for complete information.

The East Central District of the Public Relations Society of America is once again calling for shining examples of public relations campaigns and tactics for its 40th annual Diamond Awards competition.

The Diamond Awards are presented to public relations practitioners who have successfully addressed a communication challenge with exemplary skill, creativity and resourcefulness.

The Diamond Awards are open to any public relations professional who is a member of the 17 chapters of PRSA East Central District, or any nonmember whose place of business is within the district’s boundaries. The East Central District covers the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

We’re also pleased to announce that the Central Michigan PRSA chapter is leading the Diamond Awards process this year and next and has some great plans in store. This year we are using an online entry program, Omni Contests, that will allow you to enter and pay for your entries completely online.  You can also start your entry at one time, then complete it at a later date.  Also, if your chapter uses the Omni Contest system, you can use your same user name and password from your chapter competition to enter the same award at the District level! Be on the lookout for messaging support soon within your chapters for the Diamond Awards!  In the meantime, we would ask that you share this Call for Entries with your chapter members.

Speaking of which, take a moment to Save the Dates below to ensure you’re planning accordingly (each deadline has a separate entry fee):
Early Entry Deadline: Friday, September 8, 2017
Regular Entry Deadline:  Friday, September 15, 2017
Extended Entry Deadline:  Friday, September 22, 2017

Now is an excellent time to begin reviewing your campaigns and tactics for submission. If you’ve already won at the chapter competition level, this is the perfect opportunity for the potential of additional professional recognition.  Remember that strategic, multifaceted public relations campaigns that exemplify the four-step process and meet specific goals are ideal for campaigns. A single project designed to accomplish a specific purpose that may be part of a larger campaign is perfect entries for tactics.

Start your planning now! We’re so looking forward to seeing all of the entries and winners this year. For more information, contact

If it doesn’t come from the news media, is it still news?


By: Rachel Dill, Account Executive/Digital Specialist

It’s no secret the popularity of video has been on the rise for several years now. People love the direct connection and engagement social media ‘stories’ and live streaming bring to the table.

Brands, politicians, celebrities, editors and consumers are using social media ‘stories’ and live video feeds to reach more people at a much faster rate than traditional publicity. Now, users can watch interviews, events, blogger streams, product introductions, behind the scenes sneak peak announcements and even news stories as they happen… instead of reading about it a few hours or even days later.

What does this mean for our industry?

Well, it depends on what side of the coin you land on. On the news side, social media live streaming and ‘stories’ can undermine the role of journalists. Anyone with a smart phone and an audience can record and distribute news. And as Pew Research revealed in 2016, 62% of people now get their news from social media. But with great power comes great responsibility, so people need to err on the side of caution when recording and reporting on their own.

On the flipside, social media ‘stories’ and live streaming create huge opportunities for marketers to directly engage with target audiences without gatekeepers… and in a very cost efficient way. Brands such as GE and Airbnb are doing a great job of taking advantage video content.

Over time there is likely to be a two-fold implication for our industry. People and brands will work harder than ever to grow their own following so they can rely less on gatekeepers. In response, it will be crucial for media to become fully ingrained with social media…especially with social media ‘stories’ and live streaming. The perfect example of this is the streaming of April the giraffe giving birth. People searched for the news outlets that were streaming the highly-awaited birth in-order to be involved with the community that grew around it.

Additionally, there is a good chance someone interested in a live stream or recorded story will also follow-up by searching for in-depth articles on the topic.  Journalists may not cover the story first…but they will have all the facts when viewers want additional, reliable information.

Of course, none of this will happen overnight. But as digital capabilities evolve so will traditional publicity. And no matter what side of the coin, it’s important to acknowledge this shift and include social media live streaming and ‘stories’ in your future marketing or editorial plans.

Rachel Dill is an Account Executive/Digital Specialist at Sweeney, a full-service creative and strategic agency with offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Raleigh, Wilmington and Denver.

Legends & Leaders: Richard Batyko


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

Richard Batyko, has more than 30 years’ experience in Fortune100 and nonprofit publication relations, marketing and brand management. He is a PRSA Fellow and a champion for PRSSA. It was an honor to speak with him and learn about his career path.

Batyko landed his first PR job at a nonprofit in Southeast Ohio where he wore many hats. Although it was challenging at times, he acknowledged and embraced the opportunities he had working in a small organization to sharpen his skills. From his first job to his current role as senior vice president for marketing, communications and development for Team NEO, Batyko has had his share of challenges and positive growth.

“The digital world has been a positive change in communication throughout my career,” Batyko said. “But, PR has always been prepared for it.”

When discussing social media with Batyko and the importance of understanding the value proposition, he noted a challenge that he overcame for his own professional development.

“Crisis has and will always be a challenge. However, breaking through management and executive leadership was a challenge I overcame during my career,” Batyko said.

Batyko’s ability to layout his case, strategy and metrics to executive leadership continued to show his value to the team and company.

However, it’s taken much more than a few instances for Batyko to get to where he is today. Prior to joining Team NEO, Batyko served as director of communications for Babcock & Wilcox; as director of communications and brand management for AlliedSignal; as manager, e-media and news management at Honeywell International; and most recently as an officer and vice president for marketing and communications at The Cleveland Foundation.

“Personal and professional growth was a number one goal for me,” said Batyko.

This included his goal to acquire his APR. He finds value in his APR for current and ongoing professional development.

“Acquiring your APR is evidence to me [or an employer] that you’re dedicated to personal and professional growth. Acquiring your APR isn’t a onetime thing,” Batyko explained. “I encourage other practitioners to aspire to earn accreditation as well. I don’t want to hire and work with someone who had done good work, I want to hire and work with someone who is doing good work.”

In addition to his strong work ethic, Batyko invests his time and resources into networking.

“My advice for those who are newer to the field of public relations is get out and network”, said Batyko.

With 30 years of PR experience, Batyko continues to find value in networking and engaging with professionals in PRSA, both locally and nationally. He encourages all PRSA members to review the national network directory,  and connect with someone that you find interesting.


Batyko has more than 30 years of Fortune100 and nonprofit public relations, marketing and brand management experience. He is a graduate of Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism with a major in public relations, and received his Master of Arts in public relations from Kent State University in 2012. He holds his Accreditation with PRSA and is an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, teaching courses in the Masters of Public Relations program. He’s currently a member of the PRSA Investment Committee.


Rachel Burns is a PRSA Greater Cleveland Board Member. 


Be a Part of New Professionals Week


PRSA New Pros Week is August 6-12, and there are a lot of ways you can get involved, whether you’re new to the field or not. This year’s theme is “Careers in Bloom: Creating a plan for career success.”

New Professionals:

  • Sign up for speed mentoring on August 9th
  • Join a Twitter chat – the New Professionals Section will be hosting a Twitter chat on August 7 on planting the seeds for career-long growth
  • Take a webinar – you can get primed for speed mentoring by participating in the Mentorship & making lasting connections webinar
  • Follow and engage with other new professionals on social media

Seasoned Professionals:

  • Volunteer as a mentor at the speed mentoring event on August 9th 
  • Take a new pro or intern in your organization or network for     coffee or lunch and have a conversation about their career goals
  • Let a new pro know that they’re doing a good job
  • Consider nominating a new pro for the PRSA Cleveland Rising Star Award (nominating opens in September)
  • Check out the New Pros week hashtag #NewProsWeek and engage in the conversation

New Pros Week and the New Professionals Section of PRSA aim to help those entering the field find the tools and develop the skills they’ll need to build a career in communications. For more information on New Pros Week, check out the New Pros Section blog The Edge. The aim of the New Pros of PRSA Greater Cleveland is to foster connections for those in the industry among peers and mentors as well as offer resources to get plugged into the Cleveland PR and communications community.

If you’re interested in receiving more information about New Pros activities, contact Rachel Kerstetter.

Rachel Kerstetter is the VP of Membership for PRSA Greater Cleveland and chairs the New Pros and Student Day committees. She is the Public Relations Architect at Sonnhalter, the leading B2T marketing communications firm.