Tag Archives: PRSA Cleveland


By Jan Gusich // akhia communications

Employees will fill information gaps with their own story–and it won’t be the right one. 

COVID-19 is bringing many challenges to businesses. One has been the need to communicate efficiently and effectively with multiple audiencesfrom employees and customers to suppliers and shareholders on topics that include everything from supply chains and operations to work-from-home policies, safety measures and, in many cases, about the pandemic reaching our own doors.

One thing is certain: For comms professionals, changes will continue to evolve. Each phase of America’s reopen plan will bring new challenges. Planning will be critical. Three areas worth considering now are internal communications, crisis communications and communications around mergers and acquisitions.

Internal Communications: Building Trust Amidst Uncertainty

Though we’ve been talking with employees almost daily, we’re moving into a new phase of employee communicationone that will require extra skill and sensitivity as we begin returning to work. Five minutes on Facebook gives a clear picture of how deeply divided people are about reopening. Some have been protesting for it; others are deeply anxious. Communicators will need to balance instructional communication with sensitivity to employees’ concerns; they will have to straddle fences and build bridges. It will be more important than ever to bring employees together toward common causes, potentially around an organizational rally cry. In all communication, put your organization’s values first.

Work on building a transparent workplace that fosters trust. Even when information is difficult, being honest will have long-term payoffs. Next, focus on employee relationships; they will need help talking about their differences and adapting to a new normal. Communications can play a critical role. Finally, keep your eye on culturefind new ways to cultivate a culture that binds people, bridges differences, and promotes healthy and frequent dialogue and camaraderie.

Crisis Communications: Being Prepared for Anything

Perhaps the most obvious area for attention from COVID-19 is crisis communications. Most organizations have crisis plans. Nearly all need to be dusted off and updated around pandemic communication. Does your organization have a team identified to work through the communications issues that will arise? A policy for employees who contract the virus? A set of procedures to manage such a situation? A trained spokesperson in case the media learns of health issues in your facility? A plan for handling criticism and/or misinformation on social media? A methodology in place to text employees around the world or to track illness at your multiple locations? The list of new things to be added to your crisis plan is extensive and should be given a fitness test by organizational leaders and outside professionals.

Mergers & Acquisitions: Setting up for Success

There’s no question that COVID-19 has impacted corporate bottom lines. As a result, we’re likely to see an uptick in mergers and acquisitions as companies try to save themselves, gobble up competitors or vertically integrate. If any of these could be a potential outcome for your organization, begin planning now. Mergers and acquisitions create angst for employees, customers and suppliers alike. For employees, will duplication of services lead to positions being eliminated? Will their pensions and benefits remain the same? Will future opportunities be erased? Employees will fill information gaps with their own storyand it won’t be the right one. So will customers. What does an acquisition mean for them? Will the customer service rep they’ve counted on for years be replaced? Will pricing change? Will contracts be honored? It’s never too early to create a communications matrix identifying all stakeholders, thinking through their specific concerns and developing messages for each. A merger or acquisition that looks like a financial success but is a communications disaster, can easily lead to failure.

What’s Next: Figuring it out Together

There’s no question that communicators will continue to be challenged over the next months and even years as the pandemic plays out. Planning that includes stakeholder identification, scenario development and messaging will always make us better.

That being said, I’m happy to help talk about these topics and more with you. Let’s dive in and see what specifically we can do to help your organization.

Jan Gusich is the founder of akhia communications and specializes in crisis preparedness and reputation management. She has decades of experience helping companies prepare, respond and prevent crisis situations from escalating. She can be contacted at jan@akhia.com.


If you are a recent graduate with a major in public relations, communications, marketing or a related field of study, you are qualified for a free one-year association membership ($60 value) as part of a scholarship available from the PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter.

Enjoy the networking, professional development, internship and membership benefits available to PRSA members.

The Chapter has 12 scholarships available thanks to the generosity of two firms—Sonnhalter and Falls Communications. An awards committee will review all applications.

Submit your application today to prsacle@gmail.com. Include your college, your major and home address. Be sure to tell us why you deserve a scholarship. Mention whether you were a PRSSA member—a sure fire tie-breaker. The deadline to apply is July 1, 2020. Act now! The decision of the awards committee is final.

For more information and an application kit, click here. If you have any questions, please email Beth Thomas at e.a.thomas88@csuohio.edu.

(Please note: While the national PRSA dues ($60) are being paid for, any winners would still be responsible for the $35 annual dues to the Greater Cleveland Chapter. )

–Ed Stevens, Stevens Strategic Communications



A note from PRSA Greater Cleveland chapter President Chris Lynch: 

Greetings All – We have a lot going on and wanted to provide some quick links to ensure you, valued members of the Greater Cleveland PRSA chapter, have easy access to information and immediate availability to sign up and attend one of our great upcoming programs, and/or submit yourselves or others you’d like to nominate for our nonprofit prospective members and student scholarships.

Back in October of last year, I contacted Kent State’s PR Department and asked if someone would like to talk to the chapter about planning the 50th commemoration of the May 4, 1970 campus shootings. I figured it would be a pretty big media day, probably a lot of live feed news trucks on campus – how was their team going to handle all that? Might be a pretty good story for you, our members, to hear! 

Rod Flauhaus, who is the project manager for the entire weekend program(s) of remembrance, put together an exhaustive and detailed plan for the event. And now that it’s been announced that Jane Fonda will be giving the keynote address – Rod told me that back in October (and he said don’t tell anyone – and I didn’t!), I figured we might have some ‘you-know-what’ it the fan, like it did last week with the Ohio Secretary of State openly opposing the choice. So, now add, ‘What’s it like planning to host an event with a controversial’ keynote speaker to the presentation’s Q&A session!!

What’s the program entail? Well, to fully grasp what it was like to have our own government troops come onto an American campus, and ultimately kill four young people, and what it was like for the PR professionals to manage the events that took place – you truly have to understand the landscape of the country at that time. So Rod, joined by Dr. Chic Canfora, will be telling their story – the planning, protesting, messaging, media, candlelight vigils, even coordinating the concerts (Joe Walsh, who was on campus that day, and David Crosby – yes they will be playing “Ohio”), and Jane Fonda, too; should make for a fascinating communications discussion.



Every year PRSA National offers some special offers that should not be overlooked.

Check these out:

January 1 to March 31, 2020

  • Free Chapter dues ($70 value)
  • Free Section dues (There are 12 PRSA sections, most at $65)
  • Associate Members (three years or less in PR) (From $60 to $200)

April 1 to June 30

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card for new regular members ($260 duesz0

July 1 to August 31

  • Free one-year Chapter dues ($70)
  • Initiation fee for new members waived ($65)


  • Free one-year Chapter dues and $65 initiation fee waived—$125 savings
  • TRIPLE PLAY— Free one-year Chapter dues ($70)

Free one-year Section dues (most at $65)

Free Initiation/Reinstatement fee ($65/$35)


  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • Waive one-year Chapter dues ($70)

Contact Ed Stevens, APR, VP Membership for details—estevens@stevensstrategic.com



“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”  — Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams made that statement in 1992 and it is even more relevant today. We are inundated with a tsunami of fake news, which circulates with unprecedented speed thanks to the power of the Internet.

Fake news has the power to destroy reputations overnight and no business is immune to its impact. New research conducted by Kroll and Forrester Consulting reveals that “84% of businesses feel threatened by market manipulation through the spread of fake news, most commonly fueled by social media.”

Fake news presents unique challenges when it comes to crisis communications. Do you know how to manage a crisis created by fake news? Do you wonder how it differs from other types of issues? What can you do today to prepare?

You have questions — and we have answers!

Please join us on Tuesday, Feb. 18 for the presentation “From Misinformation to Disinformation: Minimizing and Managing Fake News.”

Based upon analysis of 21 interviews with public relations practitioners who have first-hand experience with fake news accusations and/or crisis communication, this presentation shares insights about how to avoid falling prey to a fake news crisis and effectively manage a crisis originating from fake news.

Speakers include:

  • Michele Ewing, APR, Fellow PRSA, Associate Professor, Kent State University
  • Cheryl Lambert, Assistant Professor, Kent State University
  • Barbara Paynter, APR, Fellow PRSA, President, Paynter Communications LLC


  • 7:30 a.m. Registration, networking and breakfast buffet
  • 8:15 a.m. Program begins
  • 9:30 a.m. Event concludes

Tickets: $22 — $135


Lago East Bank

1091 West 10th Street

Cleveland, OH 44113

PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter Recognizes Northeast Ohio’s Best in Communications

CLEVELAND – December 5, 2018 – The Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Greater Cleveland Chapter recognized the area’s best in marketing and public relations at the 16th annual Cleveland Rocks Awards on Tuesday, December 4, at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park.

This year, more than 65 Gold, Silver and Bronze awards were given to corporations, nonprofits and agencies and their clients in recognition of excellent communication programs and tactics.

The Cleveland Foundation’s community relations campaign, “Common Ground 2018” won the coveted Best in Show award.

Falls Communications, an integrated marketing and communications agency, won the Judge’s Choice Award for its press release entry titled, “Erie Insurance Reveals Surprising Driving Distraction.”

“We were excited to celebrate another year of the PRSA Cleveland Rocks Awards at Rocksino,” said Bob Rotatori, president of PRSA Greater Cleveland. “This year’s awards recognized the best work in public relations and communications being done right here in Cleveland.”

Annually, the PRSA Cleveland Rocks Awards acknowledge Northeast Ohio’s outstanding PR programs, which incorporate research, planning, execution and evaluation. Award winners demonstrate leadership in public relations and contribute to advancing the profession locally.

The San Diego chapter of PRSA judged this year’s award entries.

Falls Communications served as the platinum sponsor for the 2018 Cleveland Rocks Awards and the Hardrock Rocksino served as presenting sponsor and host for the awards banquet. The event’s Gold Rocker sponsor was First Energy and

Gold Rocks Award winners:
Campaigns: Community Relations
Common Ground 2018, Cleveland Foundation

Campaigns: Events
Amplifying the 2018 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Campaigns: Integrated Communications
My Body Matters Campaign on Behalf of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Prosper for Purpose

Campaigns: Media Relations, Local/Regional
Bridgestone Invitational: Maximizing Local and Charitable Impact, Falls Communications

Campaigns: Media Relations, National
Vitamix Media Relations: Reaching new audiences, communicating a “better me”, Falls Communications

Tactics: Annual Reports
MAP to Growth: RPM International Inc.’s 2018 Annual Report, Roop & Company

Tactics: Best Paid B2C Social Media Campaign, >$500
Behr Color Clinic 2018, Marcus Thomas LLC

Tactics: Best Social Media Campaign for a Non-Profit and/or Governmental Agency
Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2018 Social Media Campaign: Listen. Believe. Support., Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

Tactics: Best Use of B2B Blog
Blogging the Way to Small-Business Growth, Roop & Company

Tactics: Best Use of Influencer Promotion
FrogTape® Paintover Challenge® Room Makeover Influencer Campaign, Falls Communications

Tactics: Best Use of Twitter Account
Cleveland State University Announces 7th President on Twitter, Cleveland State University

Tactics: Books, Guides or Resource Directory
Digger Dog Storybook: “Digger Dog Uses His Nose and Becomes A Safety Hero”, Fahlgren Mortine with Columbia Gas

Tactics: eNewsletter
Sherwin Williams Aerospace Coatings ‘E-Finish’ Electronic Newsletter, Falls Communications

Tactics: Op-Ed
Vocational Guidance Services Op/Ed, Falls Communications

Tactics: Press Release
Erie Insurance Reveals Surprising Driving Distraction Press Release, Falls Communications

Silver Rocks Award winners:
Campaigns: B2B Campaigns
Eriez Exceeds 90% Placements in Tier One Publications, Stevens Strategic Communications

Campaigns: Brand and Reputation Management
ADA Becomes Relevant Again, Stevens Strategic Communications

Campaigns: Community Relations
The Cleveland Museum of Art – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, The Cleveland Museum of Art

Campaigns: Crisis Communications
Personally Responding to Employees When Their Identities are in Danger, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Campaigns: Events
2017 Open House is the Number One Event in the Number Two Business, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Campaigns: Integrated Communications
Helping Californians Beat the Beep – Kidde Educates Consumers on CO Safety, Fahlgren Mortine with Kidde

Campaigns: Internal Communications
Martin Senour 2017-2018 Internal Sales Promotions Guide, Falls Communications

Campaigns: Media Relations, Local/Regional
Vocational Guidance Services Local Media Relations Program, Falls Communications

Campaigns: Media Relations, National
The North American Menopause Society National Media Relations Program, Falls Communications

Campaigns: Pro Bono Program
15th Annual PRSA Cleveland Rocks Awards, Falls Communications

Tactics: Best Paid B2C Social Media Campaign, >$500
Improvements Catalogue Social Media Campaign, Falls Communications

Tactics: Best Social Media Campaign for a Non-Profit and/or Governmental Agency
“Let’s Ask” Video Series, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Tactics: Best Use of B2C Blog
Cleveland Plus Living Here Blog, Citrus Social

Tactics: Best Use of Influencer Promotion
Troy-Bilt Flip the Yard Challenge: 4 experts. 4 projects. 1 weekend., Marcus Thomas LLC

Tactics: Best Use of Instagram
The Ohio Lottery Instagram Challenge, Marcus Thomas LLC

Tactics: Best Use of Twitter Account
KeyBank Tweets Its Way to Fans’ Hearts with the Off-Season’s Greetings Tweetstakes, Marcus Thomas

Tactics: Best Use of YouTube Channel (or other video-sharing site)
Erie Insurance Sheds Light on Dangers of Daydreaming While Driving, Falls Communications

Tactics: Books, Guides or Resource Directory
CORDURA® Brand Takes Media on Global Journey, Sweeney

Tactics: Feature Article
Adapting to Automatic Payments: KeyBank takes accounts receivable processes digital, Roop & Company

Tactics: Multimedia Content Online Newsroom or Digital Media Kit
Cleveland Clinic Performs Its Third Face Transplant on Youngest Recipient in U.S.: Katie Stubblefield’s Story, Cleveland Clinic

Tactics: Multimedia Content, Podcasts/Audio
“Prescription for Hope”, The MetroHealth System

Tactics: Press Release
CORDURA® Brand Teams with Carhartt on Full Swing Steel Workwear Line, Sweeney

Tactics: Website/mobile application
Tech Air Launches Rebrand with Revamped Website, Sweeney

Tactics: Whitepaper
What the Top 1% of Small-Business Owners Do to Achieve Sustained Growth, Roop & Company

Bronze Rocks Award winners:
Campaigns: Brand and Reputation Management, Modernizing Service Assurance: Monolith Software and Product Rebrand, Roop & Company

Campaigns: Community Relations
Kidde Helps Educate Missouri Community About Fire Safety in Wake of Tragic Fire, Fahlgren Mortine with Kidde
GOAT with the Flo, Progressive Insurance
Shack Opens First Ohio Location on Cleveland’s East Side, Sweeney

Campaigns: Integrated Communications
Redefine Campaign on Behalf of the Ohio Department of Liquor Control, Prosper for Purpose
Team NEO Digital Lead Generation Program, Team NEO

Campaigns: Media Relations, Local/Regional
Dunkin’ Spotlights Youngstown Employee Through Anniversary Celebration, Fahlgren Mortine with Dunkin’
Paving the Way for a New Construction Leader in Northeast Ohio: Rudolph Libbe Group, Falls Communications
Duck Tape Festival – Local Media Relations, Falls Communications
The Making of a Big Ash Deal, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
Book Launch Publicity for The Company of Demons, Roop & Company
Cantina Laredo Debuts in Cleveland, Stevens Strategic Communications
Shake Shack Opens First Ohio Location on Cleveland’s East Side, Sweeney

Campaigns: Media Relations, National
Media Relations Program Shines Light on North Dakota’s Legendary Travel Offerings, Fahlgren Mortine with North Dakota Tourism
Duck Brand Stuck at Prom National Media Relations, Falls Communications
U by Moen™ Shower with Voice Activation Launch Campaign, Falls Communications
Cleveland Plus: Bolstering National Coverage of Northeast Ohio to Benefit the Region, Team NEO – Dix & Eaton

Campaigns: Pro Bono Program
Media Relations Helps Increase Annual Event Attendance by More Than 50 Percent, Fahlgren Mortine with Cuyahoga County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

Tactics: Best Social Media Campaign for a Non-Profit and/or Governmental Agency
North Dakota Tourism Uses Social Media to Share State’s Legendary Sunflower Bloom, Fahlgren Mortine with North Dakota Tourism

Tactics: Best Use of B2C Blog
WOAH: Your goldfish become giant monsters if you release them into the wild, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Tactics: Best Use of Influencer Promotion
Dunkin’ Northeast Ohio Uses Influencers to Share the Brand’s New Dunkin’ Run Menu, Fahlgren Mortine with Dunkin’
Shake Shack Opens First Ohio Location on Cleveland’s East Side, Sweeney

Tactics: Best Use of YouTube Channel (or other video-sharing site)
Erie Insurance Shows Generational Differences, Falls Communications

Tactics: Feature Article
Viega “Go with the Flow: Best Practices for Maintaining Water Movement in Plumbing Systems” Feature Article, Sonnhalter
CORDURA® Brand Teams with Carhartt on Full Swing Steel Workwear Line, Sweeney

Tactics: Promotional Content, Media Kit
Union Bank & Trust Mingles with New Market, Sweeney

Tactics: Website/Mobile Application
Reinventing the Bernzomatic Digital Ecosystem, Fahlgren Mortine with Bernzomatic

About PRSA Greater Cleveland
The PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter is the professional organization that brings together public relations, communications and marketing practitioners throughout Northeast Ohio. For more information, visit prsacleveland.org.