Lara Kretler’s blog

PRogress not PRfection

Lara Kretler’s blog Columbus Ohio

This blog is officially retired.

December 12th, 2013 · No Comments

Congrats – you’ve found my retired blog!

If you’re looking for great, but slightly outdated, social media and PR content, feel free to peruse the archives here.

If you’re looking for my current writing on PR and social media, visit the Fahlgren Mortine blog.

If you’re looking for my current mom blog, which also includes fun things to do in Columbus and around Ohio, please visit Lara-Mom Blog.

Thanks for reading!

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

A Change of Direction

January 11th, 2010 · 23 Comments

New life!I’m sure no one else has been as devastated by the slow decline and decay of this blog as I am personally. I began blogging here with the best of intentions. I teach people every day that the key to a positive presence in social media is consistency in content and a commitment to building relationships over time. And yet I’ve been a bad, bad blogger here in the very online space which bears my name.


My negligence and neglect here at are by no means an indication that my interest in PR and social media is waning – on the contrary, I remain as passionate about my chosen field as ever. I continue to spend my working life embroiled in learning about, using and advocating for the latest new media applications for business communications. However, it’s become nearly impossible for me to spend as much of my off-work time focused on those topics because, well, I’ve become completely obsessed with something else since July 2009.


Some of you may be wondering if my new focus is my dog – especially since I’ve blogged about Jack and his time-intensive special needs here before – but that’s not it. Sure, Jack is still a high maintenance dog (God love him!), but he’s actually doing really well these days. Both he and his Facebook fan page are thriving.


In fact, what has been keeping me so busy/occupied/locked in a daydream since July is the happy news that my better half and I are expecting our first child at the ripe old ages of nearly 40. Not a puppy or kitten this time but a real live, honest to goodness human infant. Since learning this news, I’ve been absolutely single-minded of purpose and trying to learn anything and everything I can about pregnancy, childbirth, babies, motherhood, parenting philosophies, kids and family management. I’ve been using social media to do all this, of course, but still – it’s sidelined me from writing about social media. [Read more →]

→ 23 CommentsTags: Blogging · Motherhood · social media

Social Media as Lost and Found

October 31st, 2009 · 14 Comments

Lost and FoundImagine this scenario: you drop or misplace your phone and despite re-tracing your steps repeatedly, you cannot find it. You’re home alone for the weekend. And, as icing on the cake, you made the “smart” move some time ago to get rid of your land line. Totally phoneless!

This happened to me yesterday after work and for three hours I panicked, feeling isolated and cut off. I couldn’t pick up a phone to dial my cell and hope that a good Samaritan would pick up and tell me where it is. I couldn’t call a friend and ask them to help. Talk about feeling like a little lost soul; I was E.T. the Extraterrestrial longing to phone home! Literally, my only link to the outside world was social media. But what a link it is.

I thought about using Twitter for the immediacy factor, but I don’t truly know everyone who follows me on Twitter. So instead, I posted about my dilemma to Facebook, where I still don’t know everyone personally but I definitely know the lion’s share of my network. My desperate status update read:

I either misplaced or dropped my cell phone right at the end of the day. Not cool – especially since we got rid of our home phone. Feeling very isolated! :P

Anxiously, I waited to see who might respond. Several people did right away, and they seemed sympathetic enough for me to quickly post my cell phone # and ask if anyone would consider calling it to see who answered. Ultimately, I believe in the innate goodness of people – I hoped that if someone in my social network could connect with the phone-finder, we’d be able to work something out. [Read more →]

→ 14 CommentsTags: Networking · social media

Best of Columbus: Waterfront Dining

June 13th, 2009 · 11 Comments

view from Bel Lago, Columbus, OhioThis post is the first in a new series on this blog where I’ll shed light on local businesses worthy of your attention, time and money. I’m calling it my Best of Columbus series, and there will be some broader Best of Ohio posts as well. This may seem like a bit of a departure from my usual niche of PR and social media, but not really – it’s me helping out wonderful local establishments with a bit of well-deserved online PR and word of mouth. I’m also adding some tips at the bottom for how Bel Lago or other restaurants could use social media to help build their business.

I’m starting the series with a look at Bel Lago Bistro, the stellar new restaurant in the gorgeous waterfront location previously occupied by the Hoover Grill. Disclaimer: I know the executive chef, Jeff Heisler, and he’s a great guy. I promise that’s not why I’m raving about this place, nor am I the only one; Columbus Alive’s G.A. Benton and City Scene‘s reviewer also enthused about it.

The first thing that strikes you about Bel Lago is definitely the location and the view. Perched alongside the beautiful Hoover Reservoir in Westerville, Bel Lago makes you forget you’re in landlocked Columbus, Ohio – especially if you time your meal for a sunset view. It’s simply gorgeous and idyllic.

A terrific view alone does not a great meal make, however. The prior incarnation of the restaurant was mediocre to good, but not exceptional. I’m happy to say the changes made by the new Bel Lago have all been wise ones. The menu features a great variety with a decidedly Italian flair.

We started with the risotto balls at the recommendation of our server, and it was quite possibly the best appetizer I’ve ever had. When I was a kid on Long Island, pizza joints used to serve rice balls – a fabulous breaded and fried orb of cooked rice and mozzarella cheese. Bel Lago’s risotto balls took me back to those delicious childhood memories but surpassed them by a mile. Served hot with three dipping sauces – pesto, red sauce and alfredo – these were crisp on the outside, chewy and parmesan-melty on the inside, and utterly delicious. My husband and I agreed we could eat about a dozen more each and then die happy.

Several of the salads on Bel Lago’s menu sounded wonderful, but a glance at the tables around us told us they were huge, so we skipped the salads and went right to dinner. My husband raved about his molasses-barbecue baby back ribs and fresh asparagus, while I devoured my plate of home-made spaghetti topped by a large and tasty meatball. As noted by ThisWeek newspapers recently, fresh pasta is hard to come by in Columbus and Bel Lago is one of a handful of places making their own.

You might think that after our delicious appetizer and entrees, not to mention the wonderful hot, cheesy rolls and garlic butter we plowed through, that we’d be content to skip dessert and simply gaze at the water. You’d be wrong. We each felt called by a particular dessert on the menu and I’m happy to report that both the chocolate cake (husband’s weakness) and cannolli (my all-time favorite dessert) were excellent. The cannolli shells were chocolate-dipped and I’m a bit of a purist, preferring them plain with a bit of powdered sugar, but other than that they were terrific.

The best part of dining at this location always used to be the dreamy waterfront view. While that’s as gorgeous as ever, the food at Bel Lago is now just as sublime. The combination adds up to a simply spectacular date night, celebratory group outing or special occasion. Better yet, you can either dress up or go in wearing nice but casual attire – your choice.

Bel Lago Bistro can’t be beat - I’ve not found its equal. While Confluence Park downtown does have spectacular riverfront city views, Bel Lago is the only place in Columbus where the view of the water goes on for miles. Bel Lago’s food is superb, service is great and the decor inside is very attractive – but sit outside if you can. There’s just no getting over that view.

How Could Social Media Help Bel Lago?

My CTO, otherwise known as my blog technical advisor, also known as my better half, just let me know that this blog post does not belong here. He said that my personal brand has to do with PR and social media, not restaurant reviews, so he didn’t like this post. I do not want to start yet another blog (two blogs and multiple social networking sites is plenty), so I’m going to enhance this post by adding some thoughts about how social media could help Bel Lago Bistro.

If this were my restaurant, I’d probably start a Twitter account to start engaging with my local community. I’d follow anyone in Columbus but especially media, food bloggers and anyone who Tweets often about restaurants dining out. I’d hook up with the Tastecasting folks and invite them in for a special VIP tasting event. I’d also host a Tweetup for all local Twitterfolk to come in and enjoy a sampling of small portions at a reduced cost or possibly even free with a cash bar.

I’d probably also start a blog to share recipes, guest posts from customers with great stories (engagements and other special occasions at Bel Lago), and tips or news from the restaurant. I’d create a presence on Facebook with a branded URL and put a profile on Majelly, the Columbus social networking site. On all of these sites, I’d engage with other members in a very human, non-commercial way to build relationships. I’d also start encouraging guests to post reviews on and other local and national restaurant review sites.

How about you – where’s your favorite place to dine out in Columbus? And what other ideas do you have for Bel Lago or other local restaurants?

→ 11 CommentsTags: Best of Columbus · Ohio

Social Media Saved My Dog Again

June 1st, 2009 · 6 Comments

Jack in his inflatable Pro CollarUsing social media to affect positive change is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Most of you have probably heard me talk about my dog Jack and his recent health struggles. When Jack was stricken with a rare and hard to diagnose chronic illness late in 2008, I found out everything I could about it through the existing resources - a great Yahoogroup community, a  few Youtube videos and the odd blog or Twitter post. We were less than happy with our veterinarian but found the answers we needed through social media.

Once we had learned to manage Jack’s condition,  I created an online community for other families and caregivers of dogs with this disease. I wanted to make it even easier for the next person whose dog was diagnosed with Megaesophagus (ME). On the new Ning site, I tried to consolidate all the other great ME resources I could find online. It was my way of giving back to the folks who had helped us find hope in Jack’s diagnosis – the people who said do NOT euthanize him, despite what the vets may say about his condition being hard to manage. [Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: Ohio · social media

The Great Twitter Sod Giveaway

May 23rd, 2009 · 6 Comments

Sod modelingIt’s Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. For many people, this involves a roadtrip getaway, paying respects to veterans who gave their lives to protect this country, or at least a cookout.

At our house, however, long weekends usually involve some sort of hardcore DIY project undertaken by my husband, the king of home improvement. (Don’t believe me? Check out this video I shot of him two stories up, hanging off a ladder, last 4th of July weekend. And don’t get me started talking about the time he moved our shed single-handedly on his Columbus Day holiday a few years back.)

This weekend’s project had multiple parts. First, Eric rented a sod cutter to carve out some of our front and side lawn so that he can replace the grass with flowerbeds. Then, we rolled up the sod strips into manageable pieces and moved them in a wheelbarrow to our back yard where Eric used some of the pieces to sod over our former garden. I made a video about the sad demise of said garden (short version: it’s my fault). I also did a little sod modeling, as you can see from the picture above. Don’t ask – you simply had to be there.

The Great Twitter Sod Giveaway

Wondering how Twitter factors into this story? Well, at this point in our day, we realized we had way more sod on our hands than we needed. This grass is super healthy, well cared for, fertilized, weed-free and a gorgeous dark green. We hated to waste it, but we had absolutely no use for it – so I had the bright idea to give it away on Twitter. At this idea, my beloved snorted – a sound which spoke volumes. Eric’s not a fan of social media in general, and is especially peeved by the idea of Twitter. He can’t imagine who would find it useful or why. I figured this little sod story would make a nice Twitter case study if it worked. I also hoped that someone in my local Twitter network would need or want some sod.

And so, at about 2 p.m. on a beautiful sunny Saturday, I made my offer to the Twitterverse:

 Columbus Tweeps, does anyone need some sod? We have good, clean, healthy grass/sod up for grabs – hate to waste it and we don’t need it.

Within a minute, my offer was re-Tweeted and then about ten minutes after that, I had a taker. She was thrilled because she had planned to buy grass seed or sod sometime this weekend – and now she gets all the sod she wants for free. Score!

I love it when social media can help real people in real-life situations like this. This particular social media experiment may not be saving the world or improving lives, but it’s still a cool, green, local, friendly example of how to use Twitter. It saves us the trouble of disposing of the sod, saves my sod recipient the cost of buying it or the trouble of coaxing grass seed to grow, and who knows – maybe this will even start to make a Twitter believer out of my hard-working husband.

So, what did you do with your Memorial Day weekend – and would you like some leftover sod?

→ 6 CommentsTags: Networking · Ohio · social media

Social Media for Social Good

May 19th, 2009 · 11 Comments

Now is GoneYesterday afternoon, I attended a small, private blogger meet-up at The Columbus Foundation with special guest Geoff Livingston. I was honored to be invited as I’ve been a fan of Geoff’s blog, his book Now is Gone, and his work in the social media space for a long time. It was a great event – just as billed, it was a very informal conversation about the intersection between social networking and philanthropy.

It was exciting to be in a room with such smart people sharing ideas about how we can use our blogs and social media networks – aka our “powers” – for good to help nonprofits, support charitable causes and affect real change. We learned that Geoff and the folks at the Columbus Foundation have  been working together on a study about social media for social causes, with full results being released later this spring.

Fellow blogger Shane Haggerty did a great job summing up the afternoon. Many of us also Tweeted as the discussion progressed, so you can find some key insights at the Tweetstream for hashtag #TCF. In fact, the Columbus Foundation was the number three trending topic among Twitter users in Columbus yesterday, as tracked by, a Twitter trend aggregator that shows you what people are buzzing about in your particular city.

I can’t lie that in the days leading up to this event, I felt a great amount of pride for our fair city. Forget the coasts – our own little Columbus, Ohio is really making its mark as a social media epicenter with top national bloggers and social media pros coming to visit us. First Central Ohio PRSA brought Brian Solis to town, now the Columbus Foundation reveals it has a terrific partnership with Geoff Livingston, and next month the Ohio Growth Summit event brings Chris Brogan to Columbus as keynote speaker. There’s lots going on in social media in this town, and I’m happy to be part of it. 

While we’re thinking about using social media for social good, here are a couple of good resources:

So you tell me – what’s your favorite cause, social media related or not? Have you thought about how you can use social media to affect change?

→ 11 CommentsTags: Blogging · Networking · Ohio · PR · social media

What’s a birthday without cupcakes?

May 10th, 2009 · 19 Comments

Mini cupcakes from Baked by MelissaOn May 2, my blog and I celebrated a birthday. I neglected to commemorate the blog portion of this special occasion last week, but better late than never. Besides, if my blog is anything like me, it celebrates each birthday for an entire month – which means I’m not late at all but right on time.

Blogging here for the past year has been a great experience for me. Keeping the content smart and fresh is a commitment requiring a lot of discipline – I vow to improve my frequency and consistency in year two –  but I do love it. Blogging publicly has opened me up to visibility, opportunities, learning and connections I could not have gained any other way. Blogging has also made me a better PR person and a more informed and credible social media practitioner as well. And although it sounds trite, I truly couldn’t have done it without the support and engagement of  each of you who read and comment on this blog.

Leo Bottary does a phenomenal job thanking all of the commentors on his blog and I’ve always admired that practice. You all are the cupcakes at this blog’s birthday party. Please enjoy a little link love as I celebrate this blogaversary with you – and if you see a blog or person below that you don’t know, I encourage you to pay them a visit. We enjoy all flavors here.

Thank you!

Chris BroganJoel PostmanLeo Bottary - Carlson’s Loveable Llamas - Andrea HillBlogWorldExpoPR4PiratesITS InsiderCool Moms Rule - The Cheezits - Best Seller Authors - The 270 Rocky Van Brimmer - Mike McBride - Jennifer Laycock - Saul Colt - Carlita Pitts - Sameer Vasta - Alaina SheerDavid Mullen Nathaniel Fuller - Cara Keithley - How Not to Write - GirlfriendologyWine Me Dine MeAdvergirl - Daniel Johnson, Jr. - Thought Gadgets - Radian 6Megan Hofmann - Shane HaggertyKensington VictoriaHolly Michael - Ryan SwigertSarah ZaengerPR Buzzsaw - Joseph HurtadoBrandy JDawn FriedmanRyan SquireJody DzuraninCliffielandDan RockwellSara Nichols BartonChristina ChristianOberers Flowers - Sundays with Stretch PantsScott Risner - Angelo MandatoMary WehrleKatie McCartney - Katawi Cato - Carl McKinneyWalker Evans - Nice Genes - Fabulously in the CityBike ColumbusBuckeyes BlogRestaurant WidowTell A Friend PromotionsChristina MackTechLife Columbus - CMH GourmandRichard BrennanKelley Bell - Linas Simonis - Country SavvyChris AbrahamTarot by ArwenGary HuntJenny McCutcheonTim EbyGary MoneysmithJames SeayInnoGageAndrew Miller - William HessianSavvy Auntie - Fernway ManorBiffy BeansSandy Blanquera - Webbed MarketingMaureen McCabeClinton MiddletonAndrew MillerAwake and DreamingTip TailApplesassy - Sean Carpenter - Kim RatcliffSandeep AroraThe Social PathSparkplug 9Nathan McGeeAmy Johnson - Columbus ImPRessionsGeorge BlackDan HarrisKrista HollowayFahlgren Mortine PR - Patty SeyboldHoye Mastery CenterExperience Columbus - LJ Jones - Jason BaerLee Odden - Fahlgren AdvertisingMatt BettsAlison BolenEyeCubeSocial Media ShowdownOnline Media Boot CampBrian SolisBaskets by BonnieBarbara WaymanMarina GoldshteynRalf Appelt

My gift to you

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→ 19 CommentsTags: Blogging · social media · Travel

Personal branding through social media

April 14th, 2009 · 6 Comments

me2.0Last night I spoke about personal branding through social media for a new chapter of the Scioto Ridge Job Networking Group. Before my talk, I got to sit in on part of their meeting and was impressed by what I heard. For anyone who is in career transition, expecting a layoff or searching for a job, I highly recommend this group for networking, assistance and support. They seem like a truly great bunch of people.

Personal branding is all the buzz in the blogosphere again this week due to a popular new book - plus several social media movers and shakers changed jobs and took their personal brands with them. Personal branding will continue to be a hot topic while we’re in this recession because with many folks seeking jobs, it’s one of the best ways to differentiate yourself and rise above the rest.

In my presentation last night and in this post, I don’t cover how to find or develop your personal brand – I don’t claim to have any expertise in that beyond my own personal experiences. I will however offer my tips on managing your personal brand. These are taken right from an answer I provided on LinkedIn yesterday in response to a question by Perry Maughmer.

My top tips for managing personal brand through social media and real-world networking are:

1. Offline, online and at all times, be sure your actions match your words. Be a person of integrity. Be consistent whether in public or in private and whether at work or on personal time. Remember that what you say online to one person, one time you are really saying to all people, for all time. Confused about whether you can maintain a separate personal brand and “professional identity” online? I’ve seen people attempt to manage multiple identities, but my take is that it’s best to have one unified personal brand online that incorporates your personal side and your 9 to 5 side. Everything you do online leaves tracks, and it’s pretty easy for those in the know to connect the dots between your two profiles or identities. Social media can get you hired… but it can also get you fired.

2. Google yourself (set up Google Alerts or an automatic calendar reminder to do this monthly) to be sure the results that come back are positive and reflect well on you, your personal brand, your family and your profession/chosen career. Know that you’re being Googled by others including employers, future and current employers, colleagues, clients, prospects, lawyers checking you out for jury duty, even friends and family members. Act accordingly (see #1 above).

3. If something comes up in your Google results that you view as negative – or if there are no results at all for you – take steps to correct that if you can. Be sure you are consistently producing enough good content through blogging and blog commenting, meaningful social networking and other forms of online content generation and participation so that the good stuff far outweighs the bad and pushes the negatives down farther in the search rankings. I’m no pro on search engine optimization, but I know where to find the good stuff to learn what I need. When in doubt, check the most popular bookmarks on Delicious tagged SEO.

4. Build a strong network online and off by making genuine, authentic connections wherever and whenever you can. Be yourself, be memorable and share knowledge and value – whatever that means for you and your situation. Always seek to give more than you get. The people I know with the best personal brands are the ones who are constantly connecting by sharing their knowledge and giving away tips, info and resources. For example, a colleague and friend of mine just started a job networking group specifically for marketers in career transition.  Great stuff. And to that end, I’m including a few more useful links – Me 2.0 is a hot new book on personal branding by Gen Y expert Dan Schwabel (give it a preview here), plus I’ve amassed a few other relevant resources on Delicious.

So, what have I missed. What are your favorite personal branding tips? Any other good insights for job seekers or folks in career transition?

→ 6 CommentsTags: Blogging · Networking · social media

Twitter guide to hot hashtags

March 27th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Human hashtags (CC) Brian Solis.

Welcome to the Friday Five – be sure to check out past posts in this ongoing series.

If you’re new to Twitter, you may be wondering why certain words in many Tweets begin with a hashtag (#). This is a system of organizing, grouping and tracking Tweets that started back in 2007. You can read all about it on the Twitter Fan Wiki. My take on hashtags is that they allow you to watch only the Twitterstream for a particular topic or theme, uninterrupted, without any of the constant distractions and clutter that can be ever-present on Twitter.

A recent update to the hashtag phenomenon is a hand sign (or gang sign, to those in the know) attributable either to Brian Solis or Robert Scoble. At the SXSW conference this year, this hand sign was all the rage with the digerati and was even featured in a clever game of SXSW bingo.

So why should you care about hashtags? Because they’re the best way to track conversation threads across Twitter. By using Summize (aka Twitter Search) and monitoring for particular hashtags, you can parse and group Tweets about a particular subject for easy monitoring or to follow along with a live event or real-time conversation. Most social media events have a pre-assigned hashtag – #SXSW being an obvious example – so it’s easy to follow the conversation stream as people Tweet live from the scene of the action.

So what are the hottest hashtags right now? In past posts I’ve blogged about #journchat, which heats up Twitter on Monday nights for PR folks and journalists. Now, here’s my guide to five other popular hashtags and how best to follow along.

1. Hot hashtags for PR pros: I keep a Summize screen open all day tuned to “#pradvice OR #PR” in order to follow Tweets tagged specifically for PR pros. This is a great way to find smart PR people to follow or find out what topics or blog posts are popular at the moment. 

2. Hot hashtags for healthcare: There appears to be a sudden influx of hospital and other health industry folks on Twitter right now, many of whom are tagging Tweets with “#healthcare OR#hcsm OR #hcmktg.” Those are all good tags to watch – and you can watch all three simultaneously using that link.

3. Hot hashtags for women in tech: This week I noticed both Ada Lovelace Day” and hashtag #ALD09 were trending on Twitter. After a quick visit to the Tweetstream on Summize, I found the Finding Ada blog which explained it all: Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. It was great to see women on Twitter and in blogs around the world extolling the successes of women in tech. Now I know for next year – March 24, 2010 I definitely plan to blog about my favorite unsung woman in tech.

4. Hot hashtags for social media info: Another screen I leave up all day is Summize tuned to “#smbiz OR #socialmedia OR social media OR #scrm” to keep up with the latest social media news, trends, links and blog posts shared via Twitter. It’s hard to stay on top of everything, but this and other shortcuts (like checking Delicious for what’s popular in social media) can go a long way to keeping you informed.

5 – Hottest hashtag of all for you: This may not require a hashtag at all, according to blogger Matt Browne who claimed last summer that hashtag use is dying. I think time has proven him wrong – more people are using hashtags than ever before, and there’s now a nice reference site that catalogs them all – but he makes a good point. The best search term or keyword for you to search on may still be hashtag-less. Just search on your hottest industry keyword or buzz phrase – whatever search term matters most to you or your business. This could even be your own Twitter @ name, so you never miss a Tweet that mentions you. Or, it could be your company or brand name, a competitor or a hot industry issue or trend.

Ultimately, it makes sense to keep a Summize screen open and rotate through your top keywords and hashtags throughout the day to ensure you never miss an important Tweet.

What are some other hot hashtags I’ve missed? Let me know which ones you’re tracking.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Blogging · Friday Five · PR · social media