All posts by Rachel Kerstetter

Legends and Leaders: Laura Hammel


By: Brittany M. Thompson, Account Executive, Business Wire

At the age of 10, Dr. Laura Hammel, Fellow PRSA, knew she wanted to be in public relations. As a child, she spent her summers promoting a muscular dystrophy carnival in Geauga County neighborhood. Hammel, spent the summer promoting her event and pitching a neighbor to publish the carnival in the Chagrin Valley Times. Since then, Hummel’s career has lead her across Northeast Ohio and through multiple industries.

I recently had the chance to speak with Hammel on her career trajectory and her love of community in Northeast Ohio.

Brittany Thompson: What was your first job in public relations?

Laura Hammel: I was hired as the PR Assistant at the Cleveland Orchestra & Musical Arts Association. After my time at the Cleveland Orchestra, I worked with the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cuyahoga Community College and a small ad agency, Wesley & Associates. I then spent the next ten years at East Ohio Gas and Near West Theatre before going back to school to teach public relations full time.

BT: What has been your favorite campaign throughout your career?

LH: I worked with Mayor Michael White on the ‘Save our Browns’ campaign. We were right on the verge of internet, and our campaign went viral before there even was a viral campaign. I engaged with Browns fans from all over the world, Japan, Ireland, etc. We organized a letter, email and phone campaign to contact the NFL Commissioner to explain why Cleveland need to have a team. There were so many emails, that they couldn’t handle the bandwidth and their site crashed. Once we did that, we had everyone’s attention and I handled the media relations, setting up interviews with former players to save our team. That campaign was incredibly fulfilling – I felt like I was doing something for the city.

BT: What has been your experience with PRSA?

LH: My junior year at Miami University, I was a founding member of our student PRSSA chapter. I’ve been involved with the organization ever since then. It provides an opportunity to network and engage with your peers and provides professional development.

BT: As Fellow & APR, why do you think accreditation is so important?

LH: It showcases that you can make good ethical decisions and provides third party validation of your expertise and service to the industry.

BT: What has been the biggest change that you’ve witnessed in communications?

LH: Gender equity. In the early 80’s and 90’s public relations used to be called the velvet ghetto. It was an industry dominated by women with artificially low salaries. This is no longer the case – there is more gender equity across the industry and salaries are starting to reflect that.

BT: What advice would give new professionals entering public relations?

LH:  Take as many business classes as you can because public relations is part of the business function & understand the importance of research before and after a campaign to help you build a better campaign. Be social media savvy & very discreet on your own social media channels – i.e. don’t do dumb stuff. Find something that you love and do it.

Laura Hammel, PhD, Fellow PRSA, is a life-long cheerleader for all things Cleveland. She particularly loves teaching and was honored to have received the PRSA Davis Young award for exemplary mentoring in 2013. Dr. Hammel and her family split time between Lakewood and Newbury caring for two horses, three cats and three dogs.

Brittany Thompson is the PRSA Greater Cleveland Publicity Chair.

Barbara Paynter Elected into Prestigious College of Fellows


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has announced that Barbara Paynter, president of Paynter Communications, is among 11 new members elected into the national organization’s prestigious College of Fellows. The College is an honorary organization within PRSA comprised of more than 350 senior practitioners and educators, each of whom has left a significant footprint on the public relations profession.

The 2017 College of Fellows inductees will be welcomed officially on Saturday, Oct. 7, at a special ceremony and dinner in Boston.

“These 11 College of Fellows inductees are prime examples of the standard of excellence all practitioners are striving to achieve. They demonstrate strategic leadership that includes serving as sage counsel, mentors and role models for the entire profession,” said PRSA 2017 National Chair Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA. “I congratulate them on their well-deserved honor and encourage them to continue challenging their peers to strive to be leaders at every level.”

Paynter has more than 30 years’ experience in public relations, and is a trusted advisor to clients in a variety of industries. She specializes in strategic communications, reputation management, crisis communications and issues management. She has helped clients communicate effectively during high-stake situations, including environmental incidents, sudden leadership changes, accusations of unethical and criminal behavior, labor disputes, medical malpractice, data breaches and product recalls.

Paynter currently serves on the Board of Directors of JumpStart, as the public representative on the Board of Directors of the Federal Bar Association-Northern District of Ohio Chapter, and on the Marketing Committee of the Beck Center for the Arts. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Cleveland. She has served as president of both the Cleveland and Akron Chapters of PRSA, and is a member of PRSA’s Counselors Academy.

Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including two PRSA Silver Anvils, the industry’s highest honor, and a “Best of Show” Cleveland Rocks Award from the Cleveland Chapter of PRSA. A graduate of the University of Missouri, she began her career as a newspaper reporter.

Election to the College, which was created in 1989 as part of an initiative focused on the future of public relations, is considered the pinnacle of a professional’s career. Fellows are seen throughout PRSA and the profession serving in Chapter, District, Section and National leadership positions, mentoring students and professionals, and teaching and engaging in professional practice.

To qualify for admittance into the College of Fellows, the public relations practitioner or educator must have at least 20 years of experience, hold the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential, and have demonstrated exceptional capability and accomplishment in the practice or teaching of public relations. Fewer than 2 percent of PRSA members are accepted into the College of Fellows.



Get Ready for Rocks

Have you launched a successful campaign this year? Did your team create a wildly effective tactic? Or perhaps you’re working with a rising star in Greater Cleveland? Whatever, the case – make sure you enter your work for the 2017 PRSA Cleveland Rocks Awards.

Submissions will open Aug. 14 at (Deadline for entries is Sept. 21.)

We’ll be hosting a special info session on Aug. 16 to go over this year’s changes and a few award-winning tactics in advance of the Member Appreciation event that night. Register for the info session here (it’s free).

Based on your feedback, we added a few new categories as well as condensed categories to reflect today’s PR and marketing strategies and tactics. We also broke down the categories into two distinct sections – campaigns and tactics. Additionally, Team of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year have joined the Rising Star Award recognition for outstanding people in the profession.

This year, we are expanding the awards from gold and silver recognition to include bronze as well.

All the categories, requirements, and recognition descriptions can be found here.

Five Tips for Agency Success


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

Since I’ve transitioned from agency to corporate communications, I often reflect on what I’ve learned at a handful of agencies in Ohio and Chicago. Here are five tips that helped me successfully navigate that landscape:

Remember the importance of networking – externally and internally.

Whether you’re new in your career, a new city, a new job or a seasoned professional, it’s likely you’ve engaged in a conversation that sparked an interest, thought or potentially an unknown opportunity. Take your own approach to networking, both externally and internally, while keeping in mind it can open doors for meeting a potential hire, new business or simply a different perspective on things. Taking the initiative to attend events, volunteer for a project, find a mentor or mentee or engage with professional organizations is a great way to find networking opportunities.

Realize that you can’t do it all, but you have a team.

With deadlines, client demands and ongoing everyday tasks, everyone keeps track of their workload in their own way. However, be sure to acknowledge to a manager or mentor when you feel it becomes unmanageable. Be aware of your personal working style. Never be afraid to re-evaluate your to-do list, ask for help or say no, but offer a helping hand when you can. Be a team player and be willing to be the “account executive” to help get the job done.

Understand your colleagues’ roles and skills.

As teams and departments continue to integrate talent and collaborate on out-of-the-box ideas, understanding all the roles at the table could strengthen your working relationships and strategic approach to completing the project together. If you don’t understand the importance of a planner or creative director joining the team, schedule a meeting with them to educate yourself on how their work relates to the project and keep an open dialogue.

Remind yourself regularly of your client’s goal.

Creative thoughts and brainstorming ideas can always be a positive. Remember to continuously remind yourself of the goal and objectives of the current scope of work. Is the work being conducted, and the time spent, meeting your client’s needs? Does it meet their goal?

Enjoy learning and share knowledge.

Agency life offers opportunities that you may never have expected or that you’d get the chance to have. Embrace your curiosity and be willing to join a new team or project and take advantage of speakers or events offered by your agency. In addition, take the opportunity to volunteer and present on an area you’re interested in or if you’re a subject matter expert to extend knowledge to your colleagues.

APR: Accredited in Public Relations

What is the APR? 

Accreditation in Public Relations is certificate for public relations professionals. This program was founded in 1964 and is currently administered by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), a consortium of nine leading public relations organizations, including:

Why do you need it?

Earning your APR showcases your level of public relations competence and highlights your industry experience, knowledge and understanding of ethics. This certification will also put you ahead of the competition when you’re in line for your next job, promotion or pitching a client. Additionally, professionals with their APR tend to earn more than their non APR colleagues. Davis Young, APR, PRSA Fellow, explained it best, “…we expected everyone to become APR.  Earning that designation really amounts to a personal commitment to do things the right way.”

What are the eligibility requirements?

Members of any UAB participating organization can apply for the accreditation public relations, including teachers of public relations, practitioners including military and armed forces civilian public affairs.  It is recommended that you have at least five years of professional experience before applying for the voluntary certificate.

How to get started?

After deciding that you are ready to receive your APR, you’ll need to apply to the UAB. Upon notification of their approval, which generally takes 4 weeks, you’ll have one year from authorization to participate and advance through the process which includes a panel presentation and computer-based examination. During this time, you can receive coaching and mentoring help from an APR to help you prepare for the panel presentation, build your portfolio and prepare for the computerized examination.



In Memoriam: W. Thomas “Tom” Duke

The PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter is saddened to announce the recent passing of one of our distinguished members. W. Thomas “Tom” Duke, 84, who passed away Sunday, June 18, 2017.

Born April 24, 1933, in Akron, Ohio, to Bill & Grace Duke, Tom was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend and colleague.

Tom was a veteran public relations practitioner holding managerial positions at Ohio Edison, Cooper Industries and The B.F. Goodrich Company and leadership positions at the Urda Company, Akron and Jackson-Dawson Marketing Communications, Greenville, S.C. Tom’s clients in the automotive industry included Michelin North America, BMW and TRW, as well as clients in other areas, including food, education, non-profit and textiles.

He was an Accredited Public Relations (APR) practitioner and a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) College of Fellows. He was the founding president of the Akron Area Chapter of PRSA in 1968 and 1969, having spun it off the Cleveland chapter, served another term as president in 2010 and was president of the South Carolina Chapter. He was made a life member of the Akron Chapter in 1994 and of the South Carolina chapter in 2005 in recognition of his service to the chapters.

In 2003, Tom was named the Outstanding Public Relations Practitioner in South Carolina and the South Carolina Chapter honored him by renaming this award after him in 2007. He received the Lighthouse Award from the Cleveland Chapter of PRSA for lifetime achievement in 2012 and the East Central PRSA District lifetime achievement award in 2013. Tom was a member of the PRSA National Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and a member of the Professional Advisory Board for the Kent State University (KSU) School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC).

He was named Outstanding Alumnus of the KSU JMC School (William Taylor Award), having graduated from KSU with a BS degree in Journalism and from The Ohio State University Advanced Management Program. He was a board member of the Akron YMCA Endowment Foundation and a member of the Communications Committee of the United Way of Summit County.

Tom was a director and officer of a multitude of organizations in Ohio and South Carolina. He retired from Jackson-Dawson Marketing Communications in Greenville in 2007. He lectured at Kent State University, The University of Akron, The University of South Carolina, Winthrop University, Furman University and Bob Jones University.

Most recently, Tom served as the chair of Akron SCORE, a volunteer organization that supplies advice and counsel to small businesses through mentoring and workshops.

Tom enjoyed a lifelong passion for sports, a quest for knowledge through reading and spending time with his family.

Tom is loved and survived by his wife, Juanita, of 28 years; children, Terrill (Gregg) Mervis, Greg (Carrie) Snyder, Tom Snyder, Ben (Shelia) Duke, and Andy (Shauna) Duke; grandchildren, Gracie, Isabella, Maxwell, Collin, Megan and Joe; and cousin, Jill (Wendell) Horn; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Joe and Linda Boles. Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Bill and Grace Duke and his sister and brother-in-law, Jackie and Jack Marshall.