Category Archives: Uncategorized



Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in this case, hiding out in the dugout), the most recent PR snafu has involved the major league baseball club Houston Astros and their getting caught for electronic-stealing of “signs” (they were able to decipher and transmit signals the opposing teams’ catchers relayed to the opposing pitcher. Ergo, their batters knew what pitch was coming). Huge, and illegal, advantage in the playing of America’s Pastime.

As such, the Astros baseball club was fined $5 million by baseball’s commissioner, docked draft choices for the next two years and the team’s manager and general manager were suspended for the season (they were subsequently discharged by the club as well.)

There were no penalties for the team’s players, and the Astros did not have to vacate their 2017 World Series championship and all the spoils that go along with it. Turns out, the team had been stealing signs for almost two (or three?) years until it had the conscience to suddenly ‘stop’ late 2018 (just before they played and swept our Cleveland Indians in the first divisional playoff round. Hmm.).

Anyway, why the diatribe in our February PR e-newsletter? Well, it’s one thing to be caught. Another to apologize (and really mean it BTW!), and another whereas an organization you screw up so proficiently the entire US sporting press screams for you to hire a good PR practitioner:

The Houston Astros had PR companies across the globe pointing and laughing at them.

Andy Nesbitt, columnist in USA TODAY Sports, is attributed the above pull-quote taken from his recent article “I was wrong for calling the Houston Astros cowards, turns out they’re just idiots”

The best writeup of the bunch was last week’s by Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri, Breaking Down the Astros’ Latest Public Relations Meltdown Subtitle: A public relations expert analyzes the Astros’ poor effort to apologize for their sign-stealing scheme.

Well, that expert is Tony D‘Angelo, our past PRSA National Chair, and director of Syracuse University’s Master’s program in communications management (note of transparency here, I served with Tony on the National Board back in 2007–09).

His advice is so right on folks when it comes to handling a crisis – and eventually, we’re all going to find ourselves, our client or our organization in some type of predicament – that I urge you all to click and read through.

And then consider if the Astros were your client, or Jim Crane was your boss: What would you do? And taking an intentional pass is not an option.

And BTW, this is at least the third or fourth huge PR screw up for these guys – another good read, from October 2019, is Al Yellon’s feature The Houston Astros demonstrate how not to handle a PR Crisis!  Subtitle: The A.L. Champions are really bad at media and public relations.

Well duh.



Posted with permission from Andrew Poulsen from Sonnhalter. Check out his original post here. This campaign won a Cleveland Rocks Award at PRSA Cleveland’s annual awards event in December. 

Lately, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of influencers in the trades. In fact, it has grown so much so that Sonnhalter clients are forming partnerships and relationships with these influencers much in the same way we would with traditional media. What defines an influencer can sometimes be broad, so there are categories like “micro-influencer” and “nano-influencer” that distinguish these social media content creators by the size of their audience. Many influencers make a full-time living by working with brands to make sponsored content that involves financial compensation. However, there are plenty of influencers who are slightly less established and are looking to start a relationship with a brand and are willing to make content in exchange for free product and cross promotional opportunities. Since the company is only sending product samples, unpaid influencer partnerships are great for increasing brand awareness and social media numbers when you have a limited marketing budget. Below is a real-world example that outlines some of the pros and cons of unpaid influencer partnerships.

The Origin of the Campaign

One of our clients had a strong reputation overseas as one of the leading manufacturers of spirit levels, laser levels, and layout tools, marking and measuring tools, but had yet to make a major splash in the U.S. We had experienced a decent amount of success in getting this client featured in many key trade publications, but with the rise of influencer marketing in the woodworking, construction and DIY markets, we thought we could gain more traction with our time by exploring this new, grassroots approach. We wanted a better method for conveying the client’s product ingenuity in a way that was more interactive and visual. We figured that the quickest way to grab the attention and build our client’s credibility amongst the professional tradesmen on Instagram was to target key influencers within these communities that were connected to their followers and whose word would spread fast.

However, since the client was so new to the idea of influencer relations, we had no budget for sponsored posts or any paid content. Therefore, influencers could only be compensated with free products and by having their profiles and content exposed to our client’s audience. Knowing that some of the macro-influencers in these markets would likely turn down our offer of free tools without also receiving financial compensation, we worked strategically in finding influencers in the U.S. and Canada in the nano- and micro-influencer categories who would be willing to feature and review our client’s products for free tools and promo items. After receiving confirmation from an influencer, we drafted personalized letters to accompany each package of product samples. These letters not only expressed our appreciation for their interest, but also outlined all the key features and benefits of each product to help them better understand what makes them unique.

Since we were not paying for their posts, we would express to these influencers that we were pretty flexible in terms of the content we expected in return. This content would range from Instagram stories of influencers unboxing the tools, static gallery posts with a review of the tools or application shots of them using the tools in their garages and workshops.

Potential Risks of Unpaid Partnerships

While letting the influencers express their thoughts about the products in a flexible, authentic manner likely made them feel comfortable working with us, this method did come with its share of risks. The most obvious risk was not making the influencers sign a contract or agree to any particular terms as far as what kind of content we expected them to make or what kind of timeline we expected them to adhere to. In some cases, there were influencers who received products and never got around to posting anything about the tools they received, even with multiple follow ups. Fortunately, to date, we have seen about a 75 percent response rate in the influencer sample packages we send out, many with which we have maintained a long-term relationship. Another potential risk was the cost of the products and shipping that the client would have to sacrifice if we never received coverage. However, with most of our client’s most popular products ranging between $15-$100 retail, those costs paled in comparison to the average sponsorship fees from the industry’s popular influencers. For the influencers with whom we had established trust, we would send the company’s higher-end products as a thank you for their work.

The Overall Results

Over the past two years, we have sent more than 150 of these influencer sample packages. Our client has seen a tremendous uptick in sales as a result of partnering with dozens of respected influencers with Instagram audiences ranging from 1,000-200,000 followers, all of which made content for free product. In the timespan from when we started the program in the fall of 2018, our client’s Instagram audience has grown seven times the amount of followers. By having real people share photos and videos using the products on their building projects, the company was able to leverage the innovation and creativity of its tools in ways it couldn’t have achieved using more static and traditional marketing initiatives.

Final Thoughts

The success of this influencer program has both opened the door to working with some of the industry’s leading influencers, as well as convinced our client that this is a worthwhile endeavor worth investing more resources to. Moving into 2020, our agency and the client plan to make influencer relations an even higher priority and are exploring the use of paid influencer relations on a trial basis.



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—



“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

Greater CLE chapter concluding its APR candidate classes; looking for accredited members to help in portfolio review process

by Chris Lynch, APR Fellow PRSA

More than a dozen candidates in the CLE chapter will be completing the last of their classes this month in preparation for the accreditation exam later this year.

However – they all need to present and complete with their portfolio review in front of a panel of accredited members.

So, if you’re an APR member, and would like to assist in APR candidate review (probably 1-1/2 – 2 hours), we will be setting up the first round of review sessions the weeks of Oct 20th – Nov 18th.

Scheduling these sessions will be very flexible, based on availability of the candidate and the judges; If you’re APR and interested in helping during a session, please contact Chris Lynch to be added to our judges pool.

Thank you!

Great achievers are inspired by great mentors

by Kendra Davis, VP Membership

PRSA Cleveland wants to match you with a mentor or mentee! The members-only Mentor Program is open to new professionals, senior practitioners and anyone in-between. The program strives to build the strength of Greater Cleveland’s PR community by passing valuable wisdom and experience from one generation to the next.

If you’re interested, please review the guidelines below and complete the mentor application, mentee application or both.


  • Mentors and mentees must be members of the Greater Cleveland PRSA chapter.
  • Mentors must have a minimum of 10 years of professional experience in PR or related fields.
  • Both mentors and mentees must agree to not pursue their mentor/mentee for new business or job opportunity.
  • The mentor is not expected to provide tactical or program consultation.
  • Mentor and mentee must connect (face-to-face, over the phone, or via email) at least once per quarter. Mentor charged with reporting meetings to the PRSA Cleveland Mentorship Program coordinator.
  • The mentor and mentee relationship will have a defined one-year stop date. Any decision made by the pair to meet outside that time period is at their discretion.
  • Mentees may request a new mentor at the end of one year.
  • All conversations will be conducted with the expectations of the strictest level of confidentiality between the mentor-mentee.

Questions? Contact PRSA Greater Cleveland VP of Membership Kendra Davis.