All posts by Rachel Kerstetter

Legends & Leaders: Tracy A. Oliver


By: Andrew Poulsen, Public Relations Technician, Sonnhalter

 For more than three decades, award-winning public relations professional Tracy A. Oliver has been an industry staple for the city of Cleveland. As the director of media relations and local community affairs for Dominion East Ohio, Oliver oversees all media and public relations efforts and local community affairs for a company which has more than 1.2 million customers. Since 1984, Oliver has worked several communications and external affairs positions for Dominion and currently serves as the co-chair the community investment board.

I spoke with Oliver to reflect on what she’s learned over her illustrious career as a PR professional, the benefits of PRSA and what advice she has for new professionals in the field.

AP: What was your first job in public relations?

TO: My first job in PR was a media relations representative with the East Ohio Gas Company, now Dominion East Ohio. After working in radio for three years, I finally landed my first real PR job.

AP: What have been some of the most positive changes in communication throughout your career?

TO: I have seen communications being used much more strategically than when I first started in the industry. Communications professionals are bought into crisis management and communications planning much earlier, as senior executives see the value of utilizing PR professionals in promoting overall business interests. Certainly technological enhancements, such as social media and digital communications platforms, have changed the whole communications game. I am also very impressed with the level of skill, experience and credentials that newer PR professionals are bringing to the industry fresh out of college. Finally, I’m seeing more diversity in PR practitioners coming into the industry, who bring a variety of broad perspectives.  However, I think there is always room for more inclusion.

AP: Can you recall any specific challenges you faced in the industry? If so, how did you overcome them and was there anything you learned from those challenges?

TO: I cannot recall a specific challenge that I have faced, but I know that I have used each setback in my career, and in my personal life, as a learning opportunity. Often in my professional world we dissect a crisis to see what we could have done differently. As the old saying goes, you learn from your mistakes.

AP: Why did you join PRSA?

TO: I joined PRSA to expand my network of colleagues, to take advantage of professional development opportunities and to learn more about the industry. My membership in PRSA has served me well over the years.

AP: What advice do you have for those who are newer to the field of public relations?

TO: I believe the basic ethical practices of public relations continue to be honesty and transparency, building relationships and managing the reputation of your company or your client without compromising your own integrity. I believe that is a strong foundation for newer professionals, as well as seasoned pros in this field.

Oliver earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and journalism from the University of Delaware. She and her husband reside in Cleveland Heights and have two children.

Andrew Poulsen  has been a member of the Greater Cleveland chapter of PRSA since 2015. Andrew is a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. His work has appeared on and in Ohio Magazine, Cleveland Magazine and other publications.

Legends & Leaders: Davis Young


By: Megan Confer, Account Manager, Prosper for Purpose

Over the past forty years, Davis Young has been a standout in the PR profession. Young is a recipient of the Best of Silver Anvil Award, presented by PRSA to honor the single best public relations program of the year. Young is a former president of the Greater Cleveland PRSA Chapter and former president of Edward Howard & Co.

I had the opportunity to speak with, Davis Young, about what he’s learned during his impressive career in the field.

Davis started his career at a small firm Walker & Company as the only PR person.

“It was great,” Davis said. “I got to do everything! There was nothing I wasn’t involved in.”

He spent a number of years running the public relations operation for a large Cleveland ad agency, then moved over to the former Edward Howard & Co. in 1988, serving as president from 1989-2000.

In recent years, he has taught more than 200 college classes on communications at varying institutions, including Kent State, John Carroll, Baldwin-Wallace, Case Western Reserve and Ursuline College.

“I’ve seen so many young people become educated and coming out of school with a lot of preparation that I could have used,” Davis explained. “I think the industry has become more professional and that’s a very positive change.”

Davis explained that the most important thing he’s learned over the course of his career deals with the importance and responsibility of professionals who serve their organizations and clients.

“Our industry is really important. People make decisions based on what we say or write. All of us have a huge responsibility to be fair, accurate and timely. Everything that goes on in an organization requires communication and public relations people need to be at the center of that.”

Davis has been deeply involved with PRSA throughout his career. He is a past chair of the PRSA Counselor Academy, chaired/co-chaired two PRSA National Conferences and was a member of the first elected class of the College of Fellows.

“The first guy I worked for was an active member of PRSA, and he was a great role model.  I carried that forward and at Edward Howard, we expected everyone to become APR.  Earning that designation really amounts to a personal commitment to do things the right way.”

Closing our conversation, he had great advice for those who are newer to the field of public relations, encouraging young professionals to take an interest in understanding business per se.

“What we do touches everything. Learn as much as you can about the business of your organization.  Understand what’s important to your senior leadership.  If you really want to add value, think like a CEO.”

Davis Young, APR, Fellow PRSA is a former president of Edward Howard & Co and former president of Greater Cleveland PRSA.

Megan Confer serves as the primary contact for clients, managing their day-to-day needs and ensuring projects remain effective and efficient. Megan has spent her career immersed in the agency world, working with both B2B and B2C clients in a variety of industries on marketing strategy, branding, social media, public relations and media relations. Megan graduated from Kent State University with her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing.  She is an active member of PRSA Cleveland and a Cleveland transplant.

Introducing our Legends & Leaders


Before attending our Legends & Leaders event on May 17, join us here for a digital introduction to our panelist. These industry legends are an esteemed group of PRSA College Fellow inductees, Silver Anvil Winners and Greater Cleveland PRSA Lighthouse honorees.

Over the past two weeks, members of our News Pros group, interviewed our panelist, learning about their unique career paths, challenges, triumphs as well as their outlook on the evolving PR profession.

On May 5 and 12, we will share our findings – a look into the distinctive experiences that have made them our local legends and leaders.  The panelists include:

  • Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA, Falls Communications Sr. Vice President
  • Davis Young, APR, Fellow PRSA, former president of Edward Howard & Co.
  • Tracy Oliver, Director, Media & Local Affairs, Ohio at Dominion East Ohio
  • Michele Ewing, APR, Fellow PRSA, Associate Professor at Kent State University

Moving forward, we’ll introduce you to a new set of legends and leaders every quarter. If you know of a legend that you’d like to see featured please email our publicity chair, Brittany Thompson at

One basket. Two powerful eggs.


By: John Znidarsic, Senior Copywriter,  AdCom

Ditch the scary masks. Toss those heart-shaped chocolate boxes to the curb. When it comes to candy consumption, no other holiday makes a Peep like Easter.

According to Nielsen data, Americans bought $823 million in candy during the week preceding Easter in 2015. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies, consumers fill Easter baskets with treats that are often only available for a short period.

This year, The Hershey Company took a unique approach to marketing two of its powerhouse brands – it consolidated efforts. For the first time, the company decided that there was plenty of room in its branded basket for two of America’s favorite candy egg brands to go-to-market together.

Previously, each brand had a separate media program for the holiday season. They used traditional tactics that included public relations pushes to introduce new products. This year, Hershey’s left the media kits on the shelf and turned to Facebook for a more engaging approach. In humorous videos, they coupled the Reese’s egg with the Cadbury bunny to launch its campaign.

Senior associate brand manager of Easter at Hershey’s, Tashima Garner, described the strategy: “We wanted to create content that would be shareable and that consumers would engage with and comment on. Video is a very shareable format – we know that consumers are constantly sharing videos on their phones through Facebook and other social media platforms. Video made the most sense because we wanted to get consumer talking.”

And, talk they did. In the first two days, the videos had more than 280,000 views on Facebook. What’s more impressive is the fact that these videos outperformed Reese’s efforts in a paid engagement as the official candy sponsor of the NCAA March Madness tournament.

For years, public relations professionals have been sharpening their elbows to secure the lead for their brand. Given the recent success of this Hershey’s partnership, perhaps we are entering a time where practitioners should prioritiz
e inclusion over exclusion.

After all, isn’t sharing the true currency of social media?

John Znidarsic is a PRSA Greater Cleveland board member & senior copywriter at Adcom, an advertising agency headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.



Companies That Do Well by Doing Good


By: Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA

 America’s Companies Practicing the Best in Public Relations Do So through Good Corporate Social Responsibility


Corporate Social Responsibility. Chart with keywords and icons – Sketch. The Shutterstock image is solely provided for use with this article and is not to be shared, emailed or transferred to any other entity.

When Companies look to good corporate social responsibility practices, they need to remember the rules of engagement. They need to brush up on their best public relations theory models. In particular, those companies that look to converse through the two-way symmetrical model will find they can have an interactive communication stream that allows public interaction, potential recruitment to the cause, building of understanding and awareness, as well as mutually meeting many of the social needs both the company and its targeted publics face.

This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s worth asking: Why should organizations communicate in the first place? Well, remember Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations? The standard for PR textbooks accurately points out that as America moved into the 20th century, the excesses of large corporations, railroads, banks, utilities, and other elements of the business world fed the fires of reform and protest.

After that inauspicious start, it still took a long time for companies to think about doing well by doing good for their publics. That’s where today’s companies have recognized the opportunity – and ironically, the increased productivity and profitability – corporate social responsibility (CSR) represents.

A recent Forbes article on the subject notes: “We increasingly hear that corporate social responsibility has become a business imperative. All types of media glowingly describe the business benefits of behaving responsible. Executives are repeatedly informed that by demonstrating concern for the environment, human rights, community development, and the welfare of their employees in both the U.S. and abroad, they will make their firms more profitable.”

In Corporate Social Responsibility: Doing the Most Good for Your Company and Your Cause, Philip Kotner and Nancy Lee report the numerous benefits of CSR:

  • There’s the potential for increased sales and market share
  • The strengthening of a brand’s position in the marketplace
  • A chance to enhance corporate image and increased clout
  • An increased ability to attract, motivate and retain employees
  • The likelihood to actually decrease operating costs; and …
  • Provide an increased appeal to investors and financial analysts

Not surprising, in a Cone/Duke University study, consumers said they like to support companies who engage in social or environmental issues. In fact, more than 75% of respondents said it was either somewhat important or very important they would buy a product from companies supporting a cause.

The same study showed a vast majority of employees like to work for companies that care. In this day and age of onboarding, recruiting and retaining the best knowledge workers, it’s imperative to note how a company’s strongest ambassadors – its employees – are continually seeking more purposeful work.

For more innovative, specific CSR examples and trends, click on Mashable, Connectivity, and Forbes.

Corporate Social Responsibility – it’s just good business – in more ways than one.

Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Vice President of Cleveland-based Falls Communications.

 He has worked on numerous award-winning campaigns for a number of national and global clients including Sherwin-Williams, General Motors, General Electric, The Home Depot, Moen, Allsteel, Dirt Devil, Dutch Boy, 3M, Xerox and Huntington National Bank.

 He is past president of the Greater Cleveland PRSA chapter and a former Director with the national PRSA Board.

Thanks for Giving Back on Pro Bono Day


By: Ann M. Gynn, co-chair of Pro Bono Day

PR pros counseled over 25 nonprofits on April 7 at PRSA’s Pro Bono Day. A big thank you to Baldwin Wallace University for hosting us and handling the on-site logistics!

Twenty PR pros worked with the nonprofits that signed up to participate in one-on-one or roundtable counseling sessions. Their challenges ranged from small or no communication staff, social media, media relations and more.

Student volunteers attended some of the sessions and lunched with several of the pros.

Thank you to pros George Richard, Sue Searcy, Dan Karp, and Shawn Salamone, and student volunteers Emily Raber and Gabriel Kocher from Baldwin Wallace.

And thanks to all the other pros who volunteered: Amber Shulman, Ann Gynn, Barbara Paynter, Bob Rotatori, Brittany Thompson, Jason Lindesmith, Kathleen Stansberry, Kendra Wheeler, Kristen Tomins, Lisa Sands, Lynn B. Johnson, Rachel Kerstetter, Ralph J. Davila, Rodger Roeser and Sydney Stone.

Are you a nonprofit interested in improving your PR and communication? Plan to participate in our multi-week PR On a Shoestring Series this fall. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Ann Gynn, APR, is a Board member of PRSA Cleveland. She runs her own communication and PR consulting firm, G Force Communication.