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.


Public Relations Society of America, Greater Cleveland Chapter