Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Tips for Interacting with Journalists


By: Chris Lynch APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Vice President, Falls Communications and Director, Greater Cleveland PRSA Chapter

I recently attended a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) event and was asked to share a few tips and best practices for contacting and conducting a meeting with members of the media.

How do you know the best way to communicate or connect with a journalist?

Check the website of your journalist – usually this information can be found under the “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections. You can also use media database and monitoring services such as BurrellesLuce, Cision or Meltwater. These media platforms will list reporters and editors, which beat or vertical they cover, as well as their preferred method of contact (email, phone, text, etc.).

In addition to using these paid platforms, you can also use free services such as Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter Analytics to help you learn more about the journalist. These tools can show you what they’ve posted, tweeted, liked, pinned, etc., and might provide additional insight on how to approach them.

How do I pitch a journalist after making contact?

Use the information from your research to tailor your pitch to their particular angle or industry focus.  Remember to keep your pitch concise and newsworthy. You want to be able to connect who, what, when, where, and why, but don’t forget the importance of the emotional appeal of the story.

How do I conduct a meeting with a journalist?

Once you’ve secured a meeting or call – be prepared. Understand their focus or beat and make sure you can tie into how your product will be a good fit for their audience. If their audience wouldn’t be interested in the story, then I’m afraid neither will the journalist.

Any additional tips for communicating with journalists?

Don’t forget to be cognizant of their deadlines and competition. Offer them an exclusive interview, product test, event walkthrough, etc. You can only give an exclusive once, and you’ll want to make it count. Remember, journalists have deadlines just like you – be aware of their timeframe when scheduling interviews.

Are you looking to add to your summer reading list?


PRSA Cleveland hosted Joe Truncale for an outlook on the PR Industry and he suggested a few books to round out the skilled professional.  Each book has a particular focus on helping to find your passion, create value within your company, expanding your skill set, plus the importance of continuous learning. Truncale also reminded us that in today’s technologically driven world, the only real defense against functional obsolescence is a well-developed learning system.

The Age of Paradox by Charles Handy

In this striking sequel to his best-selling book The Age of Unreason, Charles Handy shows how the changes he predicted are upon us. New developments in technology, radical changes in the global economy, and the relentless pursuit of productivity have altered forever our organizations, our careers, and our lifestyles. These changes are inevitable and irreversible, and they bring a host of new problems and paradoxes. This book identifies the unintended consequences of change and provides a set of guiding principles to cope with the paradoxes of modern life, leading to a more balanced existence for individuals, greater rewards for organizations, and a more just society for all.

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

The Fifth Discipline, is based on fifteen years of experience in putting the book’s ideas into practice. As Senge makes clear, in the long run the only sustainable competitive advantage is your organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition. The leadership stories in the book demonstrate the many ways that the core ideas in The Fifth Discipline, many of which seemed radical when first published in 1990, have become deeply integrated into people’s ways of seeing the world and their managerial practices. 

There is Life After College by Jeffrey J. Selingo

There Is Life After College offers students, parents, and even recent graduates the practical advice and insight they need to jumpstart their careers. Education expert Jeffrey Selingo answers key questions—Why is the transition to post-college life so difficult for many recent graduates? How can graduates market themselves to employers that are reluctant to provide on-the-job training? What can institutions and individuals do to end the current educational and economic stalemate?—and offers a practical step-by-step plan every young professional can follow. From the end of high school through college graduation, he lays out exactly what students need to do to acquire the skills companies want.

Grit by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Happy Reading!


Finding a Cool Cleveland Career


By Rachel Kerstetter, New Pros Chair, PRSA Cleveland

Finding the perfect job is not easy. However, Cleveland is home to a number of excellent organizations the offer challenging and rewarding career opportunities.

There are several ways to get connected with these opportunities. The first and foremost is us! Whether you’re looking for an internship, first communications gig or next career opportunity, our Jobs page is a great starting point. There are also other job listing services for the area, including HunterComms job newsletters for a variety of career levels.

Often landing a job or even getting your foot in the door for an interview takes more than just finding the opportunity and sending a resume. It takes connections. Getting to know others in the Cleveland communications community can give you a huge boost. It amazes me time and time again how interconnected our PR world is. Make networking a part of your career search process, whether it’s emailing a board member to meet for coffee or attending an event.

One of the missions of PRSA Greater Cleveland is to connect people, so take advantage of the organization. We can connect you with an experienced professional through our mentorship program, provide you with resume building experience through chapter volunteering and even help you find someone to review your resume.

Whether you moved to Cleveland for a job or moved here for school, family, love or sports and are searching for a job, it’s always an adventure to navigate a new city or region. So from all of us at PRSA Greater Cleveland: Welcome!

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.

Making Entering Cleveland PR More Inclusive


By Rachel Kerstetter, New Pros Chair, PRSA Cleveland

We’ve changed the name of the group that you previously knew as the YoungPRos. Many enter into the PR industry from other fields, not necessarily straight out of school and we want to include everyone new in the field. Transitioning into PR or communication from journalism, marketing, underwater basket weaving? Well then, you’re welcome here!

The Greater Cleveland PRSA New Pros group is open to anyone with seven or fewer years of experience in public relations. You’re welcome to join our mailing list, events and LinkedIn group regardless of whether you’re a PRSA member yet or not. Our mission is to provide opportunities for professional growth while building a strong network of peers.

Want to get involved with the New Pros? Contact me to be added to the mailing list and join the conversation on LinkedIn. Just as the YoungPRos welcomed the young-at-heart pros, we want to continue to learn from those of you who have more experience than us. Even if you’ve been in PR for more than seven years, please feel free to join us at events and online.

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.

Legends & Leaders: Chris Lynch


By Bobby Batyko, Manager, Social Influence at The Adcom Group

Legends & Leaders moderator, Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA, has amassed a career that includes campaigns with household brands such as Dirt Devil, The Home Depot and General Motors, to name just a few.

I had the opportunity to speak with, Chris Lynch, about what he’s learned during his admirable career in public relations.

The journey for Lynch began in Muskegon, Michigan. Lynch joined the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce as Manager of Member and Media Relations. Lynch was one of only about 10 employees. In other words, everyone had to do everything.

“I learned more there than I did in four years of undergrad,” he said. “In a business sense, everything from political action to legislative action, environmental councils, workers comp, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and more.”

That immediate exposure to a spectrum of media and public relations challenges was the genesis of an exemplary career. Lynch is currently Senior Vice President at Falls Communications, a leading Northeast Ohio agency where he has worked for 25 years. In that time, he has built a client list of numerous Fortune 500 companies, and maintained a unique perspective on changes throughout the profession.

It is that same unique perspective that guided Lynch through a past national campaign with Dirt Devil involving a Super Bowl commercial and CGI usage of the late Fred Astaire. “There were a series of spots that came out during that era that used superimposed iconic figures, with the approval of the families and estates,” he said. The ad “was a natural extension of Astaire’s career, using settings respectful to it.” Even still, the ad drew substantial attention following the Super Bowl and remains a benchmark moment today, a technique recently used in this year’s Kia Super Bowl ad featuring Melissa McCarthy and the Star Wars: Rogue One movie.

After building an impressive portfolio of PR experience, the next step was to acquire his Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). That meant a ‘boot camp’ class in Cleveland with around a dozen fellow professionals, an experience he still remembers fondly.

“For me, it was a rejuvenation of the profession. We were able to debate, talk [about key issues] and inspire each other,” he said. “Everyone had experiences they could share with each other. In fact, I’m still friends and colleagues with much of my pledge class.” In a broader sense, these experiences speak to the need for organizations like PRSA in order to grow as professionals.

For newcomers to the field, Lynch speaks to the importance of expanding knowledge bases as much as is realistic. “Be as well read as humanly possible,” he said. “Be it culture, history, sports and trends. Pay attention to what’s happening on the coasts, the beltway, how it affects our clients/companies, and senior management.”

That includes studying some of the more remarkable PR campaigns and lessons. A favorite example for Lynch of simple but incredibly successful strategy: Harry Houdini. “Ahead of upcoming shows, he would suspend himself from the fourth or fifth floor of a building in a strait jacket.”

The buildings of choice – local newspaper offices.

“It was brilliant. It guaranteed front page coverage pre, during and post-show. All pure branding for Houdini, and all free. One hundred years later, we’d be remiss to think of campaigns that well thought out and clever.”

From his first days at the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce to now Senior Vice President of Falls Communications and a national leader in the profession, Chris Lynch serves as an outstanding example of the skill, determination, professionalism, and leadership new and experienced practitioners can learn from alike. The PRSA College of Fellows carries very high standards, but given membership includes practitioners like Lynch, it’s an honor well worth building a career towards.

Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Vice President, Falls Communications has over 20 years industry experience. He earned his master’s degree in Mass Communications from Kent State University and his undergraduate degree in Journalism from Central Michigan University.

Batyko has responsibilities that extend too many aspects of the public relations, account services and marketing fields. He graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Public Relations in 2014, and is currently on the PRSA Cleveland New Pros Committee.