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.

Public Relations Society of America, Greater Cleveland Chapter