The Scary Side of Public Relations

By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, Public Relations Foreman It's that spooky time of the year -- so it seems like a good time to rehash some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print.   2. Negative comments on blogs and social media.  Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 14043read more >

Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard Rejoins Sonnhalter as Public Relations Foreman

CLEVELAND – June 2018 – Sonnhalter, a communications firm marketing to the professional tradesman in the construction, industrial and MRO markets, recently announced Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard is rejoining the firm as public relations foreman. In the role of public relations foreman, Ascherl-Lenhard will oversee developing clients’ public relations strategies, as well as planning and implementing B2T (business-to-tradesmen) public relations programs and initiatives for the Sonnhalter client base. Prior to rejoining Sonnhalter, Ascherl-Lenhard was senior communications strategist at NMV Strategies. Ascherl-Lenhard previously held the position of public relations foreman from 1998 to 2015 at Sonnhalter. In the past she also held public relations positions at Magic American Corporation and Saifman Richards Communications. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio. “We are excited to have Rosemarie rejoin our team. Her background and experience in our niche of marketing to the professional tradesmen will be an asset to our clients,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “I am extremely thrilled to be back at Sonnhalter, serving clients in an industry segment I’m especially passionate and knowledgeable about,” added Ascherl-Lenhard. About Sonnhalter Established in 1976, Sonnhalter is the leading B2T marketing communications firm to companies that target professional tradesmen in construction, industrial and MRO markets. Sonnhalter is located in the historic Brownell Building in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Sonnhalter’s brand identity highlights its expertise in marketing to the professional tradesmen. Its tagline, “Not Afraid To Get Our Hands Dirty,” promotes the employees’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and dig deep into clients’ businesses, also, it refers to the market it targets: the tradesmen who work with – and dirty – their hands every day. Sonnhalter developed the acronym “B2T,” which stands for “business-to-tradesmen” to capture the essence of its specialty. For more information, visit the company website…read more >

3 Ways PR Can Contribute to Your SEO Strategy

By Andrew Poulsen, PR Technician, Sonnhalter You can have the most beautiful website to ever exist, or have a smooth e-commerce system that buyers will love, but if they don’t find you, is it worth it? First and foremost, make sure you’ve got your site setup with SEO in mind. Create the appropriate tags and optimize your other settings... especially make sure your site is turned ON for search engine indexing. After that, strengthen your SEO with content and PR. At Sonnhalter, PR encompasses traditional public relations and media relations, as well as social media and content strategy and development. Generally speaking, PR elevates your brand. When your brand is elevated, your search engine rankings benefit. Here are just three ways that PR can contribute to your SEO strategy: 13728read more >

9 Tips for Using Public Relations to Further Your Message and Marketing

Public relations should be a part of any size company’s marketing plan. Effective communication with your current and prospective customers, industry trade publications, electronic media and the general public is not only essential to your company’s success, but a cost effective way to get your brand and products exposure. In our latest Tip Sheet, we’ve laid out 9 strategies for making sure you’re integrating PR into your marketing efforts and how to re-use the content you produce. You can sign up to download it here. Interested in setting up a PR program? Give us a call or email. And check out our other Tip Sheets here. SaveSaveSaveSaveread more >

Incorporating Awards into Your Communications Initiatives

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter It feels good to win an award. But beyond being able to bask in the glow of recognition, can awards help you reach your marketing goals? Entering for awards is one tactic we work into the public relations mix for our clients. Winning an award, or even being nominated for one, can go a long way to boosting brand recognition and can act as an endorsement for your product/service/organization. 5 Questions to Ask Before Entering 12797read more >

Making a Thought Leader

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter “Free advertising,” who doesn’t want that? One of the best side effects of the boom in content marketing is the growth of brand-neutral trade magazine articles. Pay-for-play has been relegated to the back burner as more and more publications see the benefit of offering knowledge-based problem solving articles. That’s also an offshoot of the lack of skilled workers, as more and more knowledge retires, there’s an increased need to transfer that knowledge. With less opportunity for direct, apprentice-based, transfer, white papers, problem solving articles and general knowledge pieces gain added importance. So, how can your company benefit? Create thought leaders. A bragging title most people would reject, it can still help you promote your business and create a knowledge warehouse. How to Create Thought Leaders 11927read more >

Sonnhalter’s Rachel Kerstetter Awarded “Rising Star Award” by Greater Cleveland Public Relations Society of America Chapter

CLEVELAND – December 2016 – Rachel Kerstetter, public relations architect at Sonnhalter, was honored with the inaugural “Rising Star Award” at this year’s annual Cleveland Rocks Awards, presented by the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Greater Cleveland Chapter. This year marked the 14th year in which the PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter honored the area’s best in marketing and communications with more than 50 awards across more than 30 categories. The first recipient of the Rising Star Award, Kerstetter was recognized as an outstanding public relations professional with seven or fewer years of experience. At the ceremony, Kerstetter was honored for her high level of professionalism, proven abilities in aligning PR strategy and execution with client goals. “In a short amount of time, Rachel has become an invaluable asset to not only the PR objectives of our clients, but also to the many inner workings necessary to make our agency thrive in our respective niche,” said Matt Sonnhalter, vision architect at Sonnhalter. “Sonnhalter is proud to see a well-deserving candidate such as Rachel be the first to receive this award. With a long career ahead of her, we look forward to watching her grow as an accomplished young professional and seeing how it will move our public relations efforts forward.” Kerstetter joined Sonnhalter in 2011 and served as public relations engineer prior to her promotion to public relations architect in 2015. Kerstetter is an active member of the PRSA, serving on the board of directors, and is vice president of membership of the Greater Cleveland chapter. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Mount Union, located in Alliance, Ohio. About the PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter The PRSA Greater Cleveland Chapter is the professional organization that brings together public relations, communications and marketing practitioners throughout Northeast Ohio.…read more >

Take the Interview

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter It’s time when we start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. Which means we’re making plans to improve ourselves over the coming year, as well as improve our marketing efforts. Here’s a PR resolution for your organization this year: Take Every Interview. Every time you have an interview request from your local media or trade outlets, take it. One of the biggest frustrations for a public relations practitioner is turning down editorial opportunities. An editor of a trade publication that we work with regularly at Sonnhalter told me this week that one of his biggest struggles is getting companies to take advantage of editorial opportunities with the magazine. 11729read more >

Get Your Message Across in an Ad-Blocked World

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter A recent report shared that 32% of global page views are impacted by the use of ad block and mobile sees three times the rate of ad block use than desktop. Did you know that even some people who work in advertising block ads? Let’s face it, website ads are mostly annoying. If you’ve ever opened a webpage and had an ad start talking to you that you couldn’t turn off, you know what I mean. Although digital advertising has a solid place in integrated marketing programs, accompanying it with other tactics can get your message to audiences that wouldn’t be reached otherwise – those who use ad blockers. How do you get your marketing messages past ad blockers? 10247read more >

Are You Ready to Talk to the Media?

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter We're officially in trade show season, which means planning booths, putting together promotions, connecting with customers and preparing your staff for the show. One often overlooked aspect of trade show participation is the media. When you exhibit at a trade show, you can trust in the quality and relevancy of the attendees as potential customers. You can also trust that the media that is most important to your ideal customer will be at the show, so make sure you prepare to talk with them as well. I once supported a company at their biggest industry show. I'd set up meetings with media at the show and spent a lot of time in their booth. During a lull when I didn't have anything scheduled, I decided to go eat lunch. When I returned, the sales rep in the booth handed me an editor's card and told me he'd stopped to see you. I asked about the interaction with the editors, what had been shown to him and so on, just to find out that they had given him my card and sent him on his way. Throughout the show, the booth staff was so laser focused on getting leads that every time they encountered the media, they said two words, "See her" and pointed them to me. It's important to treat the media personnel at a show as if they are just as important as a customer ... if not more. Trade media have a huge audience of hundreds or thousands of the people who you want to reach. 10317read more >

Anyone Can Write a Press Release

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Given the appropriate details, anyone can write a press release, however, not everyone should write a press release. Too often when companies try to DIY their press releases rather than have a public relations professional write it, their message gets lost. Here are the most common mistakes that we see with DIY press releases: It isn’t actually news. If you’re going to ask for the media’s attention, you need to actually give them something, that something is news. If you inundate an editor with press releases that don’t contain news, you’ll do more to damage the relationship than build it. It isn’t written in a useable format. Press releases need to be written in AP Style; it makes them incredibly simple for the media to use. It’s a sales pitch. Sales pitches are not press releases. It puts the important information last. When was the last time you actually read to the end of an article? It assumes the reader knows anything about you upfront. A press release came across my desk once that was announcing a new tool and relied so heavily on the tool’s brand name, it never actually told me what the tool is used for. Press releases are a valuable public relations program basic that when done well can earn you media coverage and help build relationships. Don’t assume that just anyone can write a release well. Press releases have changed over time, here's a quick look at the Modern Press Release. https://youtu.be/rW9rISgnt5Uread more >

Learn My Name!

There’s a woman that I know from a local professional organization. We’ve been “formally” introduced multiple times. After the first time we met, I knew her name, her face, we traded cards and connected on LinkedIn.read more >

Doing the Right Thing, and Not Patting Ourselves on the Back

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter As human beings, and companies made up of human beings, sometimes it’s important to do the right thing and not talk about it. This may be a little strange coming from a PR person, but there’s a point where the “R” in “PR” (remember PR= Performance then Recognition) goes away and we simply need to perform like human beings. A good communicator recognizes that point and smart companies rely on the counsel of good communicators. In the wake of crisis situations such as natural disasters or community safety crisis like what we’re seeing with Flint Michigan, we simply need to do the right thing and not seek praise for being human and helpful. By stepping up but not shouting out, we do the right thing, no one questions our motives and the real heroes get the credit. For example in Flint, the plumbers who spent a weekend installing new faucets and water filters for residences for free deserve the credit. The organizations who donated the supplies and food for their efforts aren’t pounding their own drum and saying, “look at us, we did something good.” No, they’re working together with their competitors to directly help people who need it. If your organization’s values are in the right place and your actions align with them, there’s no need to pat yourself on the back.read more >

Don’t Get Lazy

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sonnhalter has used several services for a very long time… as in decades. I’m not sure how we started working with these services, but  I had to assume there was a reason. However when I took over the contracts with these services, no one seemed eager to provide the most important service of all… customer service. Coming into my new role, I wanted to understand our various contracts so I reached out to the most recent person assigned to us. No answer. I reached out to the company referencing our account number. No answer. I attended a conference and visited the service provider’s table, and immediately got attention because they thought I was a new customer. The sales person apologized up and down and said our rep would be in contact with me. He was able to look up answers to some of my questions. More than a week after the conference, I had no contact. When it comes to your customers, it’s crucial not to become lazy. Don’t expect your relationship to maintain itself just because you’ve been with them for years. Don’t focus all of your time and attention trying to win new business that you forget your current business. As I learned in Marketing 101 in college, it’s cheaper to maintain an existing customer relationship than to build a new one. When you ignore, forget or don’t serve your current customers the way that you should, you are in danger of losing them. At the conference I met with several competing service providers who would be happy to have me as a customer, what makes our current providers think we’ll stick with them if there’s someone else who isn’t lazy? In your personal life, if you were to call your mechanic…read more >

How to Define “PR” in 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter Sometimes I get scared that others in the industry don’t know what PR actually is or stands for. The textbook definition of PR is simply put as Public Relations, the way that you communicate (relate) with your audiences (publics). For 2016, I challenge you to think of PR differently than ever before. Banish words like “spin” or “promote” and instead think about PR as Performance, then Recognition. Meaning, your organization needs to perform, do something, before seeking recognition or media coverage. The articles that practitioners like myself get for your company is called earned media, the “earned” part is very important. PR Pros can help you identify recognition-worthy aspects of your company, but we can’t create it for you out of thin air. As you go about your business this year think about the cool things your company does, such as launching a product, breaking a world record or being the first to provide a service that adds value, and recognize that these are opportunities to communicate with your audiences. PR is more than just getting headlines, it’s telling the stories of your company. Make 2016 a year of action stories for your public relations team to tell. Doing this will help you build your organization’s credibility in 2016.read more >

Online News and the Press Release

I’ve been reading the book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” by Ryan Holiday at the recommendation of a colleague. It’s full of interesting, and damning, tidbits of information about today’s online publishing world.read more >

Takeaways from 2014 PRSA International Conference

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the 2014 PRSA International Conference in Washington D.C. For three days I was exposed to an incredible amount of expertise, knowledge and thought-provoking ideas, that left me motivated and energized when I returned to my office.read more >

Choose Your Words

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter I spend about 90% of my time in the office writing something - news releases, feature articles, testimonial stories, ad copy, social media updates, blog posts, emails, etc. When you’re writing anything from a formal proposal to a memo or a social media posting, the best advice to keep in mind is: Choose Your Words. When choosing your words, make sure that your message is clear and concise. Why would you write 50 words when you could write 5? Keep it short and clear. Make your point and let your busy audience move on.read more >

Is work fun? (Fun At Work Day)

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter Today is Fun At Work Day! Is your work fun? Do you have fun on the job? Too often, we hear that work isn’t supposed to be fun, but a valuable part of internal communication is to help your staff enjoy their jobs and working environments. One way to infuse a little fun into work is with internal events. Whether you do something semi-annually, quarterly or monthly, I recommend looking beyond a yearly holiday party. Here are some ideas of employee events: Have a picnic or barbeque during lunch. Who wouldn’t want to have their bosses grill them a burger or serve them baked beans? Host internal competitions. Whether it’s a health initiative that includes counting steps or a simple tree decorating or pumpkin carving competition that lets your crew get creative. Every year, Sonnhalter has a summer photo contest and we submit photos from our summers that are judged by our Idea Builder for their composition and adherence to the theme. (You can see some of the winning photos in our Facebook album.) Celebrate strange holidays.  At Sonnhalter, we celebrate National Tradesmen Day, World Toilet Day, Fire Prevention Day and many other trade holidays. Other companies celebrate the more obscure holidays like National Pi Day or Squirrel Appreciation Day. Go to sporting events. Build your team by cheering on a baseball, football, soccer, hockey, basketball or other sports team. Make something together. We like to get our hands dirty at Sonnhalter, so most of our events follow that theme including making our own pasta, painting pottery and glass blowing. Serve your community together. 2014 is the 5th year that Sonnhalter will hold an August Tool Drive to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Our team comes together for a good cause and we have a…read more >

Perspectives from 2013 International PRSA Conference

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a motivational week of education and networking at the 2013 PRSA International Conference. The entire three days of the conference I was bombarded with incredible amounts of expertise and thought-provoking ideas, but several of the impressions stood out.read more >

Relevant Social Media and SEO

Today we have a guest post from Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, about the evolution of social media and SEO. In our B2T niche, as well as in the general B2B market, we use the word “relevant” frequently. When it comes to B2T social media, quantity does not equal quality. Quality social media engagement can’t be measured in simple number of followers or likes. The relevance of those follows and likes is where we find the quality. It can be hard to keep up with current SEO tactics that will land you on the first page of Google search results since the algorithms change every day, but as social media continues to grow, SEO is getting easier because it’s no longer optimizing for search engines that will land you on page one of Google. Social engagement is becoming the new SEO. One of the many benefits of being involved in social media that I explain when we create social strategies is improving search visibility. I was reading, “6 Reasons Social Media is Critical to Your SEO” on Social Media Today and Stephanie Frasco explained the concept so well when she wrote about the old SEO strategy of link building, “Think about it - why did Google ever allow links to determine which websites ranked above all the others? The answer is simple: links were like "votes" for your website. The more votes you get, the better off you are. So SEO companies started building links (aka "votes") manually[…]The idea behind links as a ranking factor is a very good idea, but since it's become so easy to manipulate, Google has been forced to turn to social media channels which do the same thing but are much harder to manipulate. Link building was always about social proofing.” The shift toward social…read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

Today Rosemarie and Rachel from our PR department are sharing some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print. 2. Negative comments on blogs and social media. Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 3. Giving interviews is intimidating. When we set up interviews with trade publications, they often send some sample questions ahead of time to help you prepare. Knowing how you…read more >

The Scary Side of Public Relations

Today Rosemarie and Rachel from our PR department are sharing some of the aspects of public relations that can be the scariest to clients. We find the realm of public relations to be fun, exciting and consistently fresh, but some areas of our field can be scary to our clients. Here are the top five fears people have about public relations, and why you shouldn’t be spooked by them. 1. You can’t control what the media does with a story once you’ve given it to them. “Earned media” is highly credible because readers know that you didn’t purchase the space to promote your company. Public relations and media relations professionals cultivate positive relationships with media, we work with these folks on behalf of multiple clients most of the time so we’ve built the foundation for positive coverage before they even get your story. In B2T public relations, we’re working with trade publications primarily and their goal is to be a source of helpful information for their readers. It can be scary not to see the actual article before it’s published, but with long lead times of trade media, it can be a sweet surprise to see your words in print. 2. Negative comments on blogs and social media. Your responses to negative comments offer an excellent opportunity to show off your wonderful customer service. Negative comments happen, and if they happen on your social media, you can control the outcome with your response and the community response from your other fans. It’s actually scarier to hide your head in the sand or cover your ears when it comes to social media. 3. Giving interviews is intimidating. When we set up interviews with trade publications, they often send some sample questions ahead of time to help you prepare. Knowing how you…read more >

Your Most Important Audience

Today we have a post from Rachel Kerstetter, Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer. I have noticed in some companies that internal communication is not made a priority. External communication in the form of advertising and marketing seem to be pretty important though. Here’s the problem: Within a company, if you can’t communicate internally enough to get everyone on the same page, how exactly do you expect to communicate with anyone else? One of my mentors once told me that internal communications is definitely “public relations,” because a company’s employees are its most important audience. Think about it: Would you want to hear news about your company from a source outside of your company? If a friend comes to you and says, “Hey, I heard your company just started Initiative X,” but you have no idea what they're talking about, it's embarrassing to you and your company. Internal communication is really very simple, talk to each other. Clue your employees in and let them know what you're doing. Word-of-mouth recommendations are incredibly valuable and have to be earned through solid communication. We live in an age where we look at online reviews before purchasing a pair of flip flops, so if your staff knows what your company is doing, they can be an excellent resource for recommendations. I know that my answer to the question: How’s work going? is a lot more interesting when I know about new things happening at Sonnhalter. Internal communication is also important if you’re hiring outside help... for example, an agency. There’s a reason for a reporting structure, even for outside help. It saves you not only hassle, but also money, if everyone on your team is on the same page, because your outside help won’t have to decipher what your messages and goals are.read more >

Evolution of a Press Release

Today we have a guest blog post from Rosemarie Ascherl, PR Foreman at Sonnhalter, discussing the evolution of the press release. Yes, it still is a legitimate marketing communications tool.   Perhaps this will date me, but I remember the days when issuing a press release on behalf of one of my clients meant printing copies, stapling and affixing 4x5-inch prints or slides, folding, stuffing in envelopes and metering for postage. Whew! Eventually, many media outlets requested that the press release be faxed. The press release of today, while no longer issued on paper, still bears some similarities to press releases of yesterday. It should be well written, factual, using A.P. Style [which updates its guidelines each year]. Same as always, it shouldn’t present information in an opinionated or sale-sy style. But, today’s press release must be written with digital in mind. It will appear online first, that is, if it is properly optimized. To be effective, it should be clear and very concise. This is not the time for long-winded sentences filled with industry jargon. The headline, with proper key words for search, is key, and adding a subhead helps by adding more searchable key words near the top. It should include logos, photos, charts and videos to convey information. It should also contain two or more key links, directing readers to more information. Because of digital, the modern press release is getting to its audience faster and with even less filtering than in the past. Now, press releases are often published as-is on blogs, websites and e-newsletters. At Sonnhalter, when we issue a press release on behalf of our clients, within minutes, the press release shows up on trade publication websites. Occasionally, the debate will surface that the press release has run its course, and is no longer…read more >

A Powerful Story

Today we have a post from Rachel Kerstetter, Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer. Working in public relations gives me the opportunity to tell stories. I get to tell stories about company histories, professional successes, how products came into being, etc. Stories are a powerful tool in getting messages across. I’ve been thinking about safety since June is National Safety Month and one powerful story stood out to me. Here’s the headline: Laborer Dies in Trench Collapse and Lives to Tell the Tale It compelled me to read further and it brought me to a more in-depth account of Eric Giguere’s story about how not focusing on safety cost him his life and the tough decisions that those around him had to make, which ultimately brought him back. That article is here. Basically his team had been working in an unsupported trench without incident for quite some time, then it unexpectedly collapsed and buried him. The people around him had to make tough decisions about how to dig him out and then administered CPR. One of Eric’s statements about safety stuck with me: “I’m a guy who got comfortable doing things the wrong way.” By not taking the proper safety precautions, they were saving time on the project. But the cost was great. Eric’s story is powerful and carries more weight than statistics can. It’s not a horror story to scare people into following the rules rather, it’s a lesson in consequences for taking short cuts and an example of tough decisions, made quickly in a time of crisis.read more >

Awards: When Are They Worth It?

Awards competitions can sometimes be valuable, but they can also be a waste of time and money in some situations. Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer Rachel Kerstetter is with us today to talk about when awards are worth it and when they aren’t.read more >