Storytelling & A Perspective Shift: Meet Marketing Expert Kristen Wessel
Her title may read Vice President of PR & Digital Marketing for ChicExecs, but that only scratches the surface when it comes to Kristen Wessel. Sure she’s a journalist, storyteller, and marketing professional but she’s also a mom, wife and Christ-follower who is willing to roll up her sleeves and meet you where you’re at. Wessel gets vulnerable with Risen about loss, the importance of transparency with her family and the blessings of a career circling back around to use her TV skills in a new endeavor.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Let’s start with ChicExecs, your involvement with the company, and the exciting landscape that is ahead for everything that you’ve been working on.
Kristen Wessel: I’ve been with ChicExecs for almost 10 years, and we represent over 200 clients. We’re a full service agency where we provide PR, retail strategy, and social media services. So it’s been awesome to be on the ground floor of something from the very beginning. When I started with this company there were four employees and now we have almost 90 employees! It’s been so rewarding to watch it blossom and to watch God bless the company and everyone involved. The founders are Christians and that’s what really drew me to the company in the first place. I think that’s the biggest difference of any company I’ve ever worked for in that ChicExecs was founded on Christian values. And that’s more important to me than I think I realized at previous jobs. So it’s been very rewarding.
RM: Share a little bit about your story and how you’re able to do television segments representing your clients, you’re a contributor to national organizations, and this all stemmed from the start of your career in the news media.
KW: Exactly. I was a news anchor for almost 10 years and then when I was pregnant with my son, I realized I didn’t want the brutal schedule of the morning show demanded where I was getting up at 2:00 in the morning. I found ChicExecs and started working there part-time not really knowing what it would turn into… and now, of course, it’s turned into this wonderful thing, where I’ve been able to use my media skills to give insight and give knowledge to these different mediums. I’m a contributor for Forbes and for Red Tricycle, Today.com, and then most recently I’m doing segments for KTLA. So I feel like my career has come full circle where now I’m back on TV again. I’m definitely in such a different place of my life, but it feels great to be able to use those skills that I worked so long, and hard, to achieve in this new endeavor.
RM: It’s such privilege to share someone’s story, and I know that is something you don’t take lightly. Talk about how you really try to showcase the story behind the brand, rather than just highlight a product.
KW: Absolutely! We’re all about promoting the entrepreneur behind the brand. Many of our brands are startups so we feel their blood, sweat, and tears that got them to where they are today. So, when we’re representing a product it’s so much more than just, as you said, just the item, it’s about the story behind how they got there, how they named it, how they even decided to come up with the brand in the first place, how they’re giving back in the community, organizations that are important to them, and a lot of them donate a certain amount of proceeds from their products to others. So that’s really rewarding to be a part of. And at the end of the day, we are entrepreneurs ourselves. So we understand struggling and starting a brand from the beginning. I think that gives us empathy for our clients to really go above and beyond and try to tell their story.
RM: Obviously storytelling has been part of your life since day one getting into the news business but the world has changed so much since those beginnings. How does ChicExecs navigate this unpredictable time full of culture wars, political polarizations, a global pandemic… this list is too long!
KW: Right. We try to stay away from anything controversial. We want to set our brands up for success, but we also don’t want to represent a brand that we can’t really stand behind the mission or what they’re trying to represent. Oftentimes we will have to be discerning with the type of brands that we work with. We want to believe in the product and the mission and the founders and everything behind it. We would be doing a disservice to brands to just take everyone on. So I think that in order to set brands up for success, we want to make sure that the media will feature them. So if a controversial product or brand comes to us, we’re usually going to have to turn them away.
RM: You mentioned once you started a family, it made you evaluate some aspects of your career. Would it be fair to say you had to shift your goals or re-envision your dreams? Walk me through what that time looked like.
KW: When I was working at the news, a lot of it was doom and gloom. We were reporting on tragedies a lot. And I think that I enjoyed that fast-paced lifestyle, but then once I had kids, everything changed, and I decided that I really wanted to focus on more positive stories. ChicExecs allowed me the opportunity to do just that. And now I would consider myself more of a lifestyle expert for these different outlets where I get to bring the positivity. I get to be the one bringing the fun products. And I’m enjoying that a lot more in this stage of my life. I think, especially being a mother and really taking things a lot more sensitively, I have a hard time watching the news and watching the doom and gloom all the time. So I think God knew that I did need a change and a shift and I’m where right where I’m supposed to be.
RM: I feel like we’re living in such a fantastic time in the world where there is opportunity to carve at a career and have a family, and do it well. What have you found to be successful when it comes to managing business and mom-mode?
KW: First, I’ll say it’s hard. Being a working mom is hard, and anyone who says differently, they’re lying [laughter]. It’s so hard. But what I really appreciate is the flexibility. I try to make my own schedule as much as I can. And I try to really be there for my kids for all the things that are important, like graduations, Christmas concerts, class parties. I’m there for all of those things. And so I’m still able to juggle both working and then also being there for my kids since it’s the most important thing to me.
Fortunately, our founders at ChicExecs are really all about family and they’re about promoting that balance and the lifestyle of working and having a family. I think you can do it all, but it’s hard. And I think that I want to bring more light to that where it’s not just like, Oh, I work, and I’m a mom, and I have this and this.” It’s not easy, but it is worth it. It’s worth it to provide for my kids with all the privileges that they do have. I feel very blessed in that way, but it does come at a cost too. It’s not easy by any means.
RM: As you shared, ChicExecs was founded on Christian values and the leaders are believers. What has your faith journey looked like? And was there a defining moment in your spiritual walk?
KW: I was raised Catholic, and then I started going to Santa Fe Christian School in seventh grade. At that point I dedicated my life to Jesus and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been Christian. I’ve always been involved in a Bible studies, I’ve sang in the Christian choir, I went to Southern Methodist University — so religion has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But a defining moment for me, and my family, was when we lost our son a few years ago. I had a stillbirth and it forced me to reevaluate what type of Christian I wanted to be for myself and for my kids. I had to allow God to really work with me in every aspect of my life.
I was reading my Bible, praying every night, and a Christian, but I think I stepped up my game once I went through that tragedy where it shifted to, I cannot make any sort of decision, or do anything without God at the center of everything. Even before you came over, I was praying to have the right words to articulate to connect with readers. We would not have gotten through anything that we did without God, and I give all the glory to Him.
I think it really changed our lives and for the better, and that’s a hard thing to say when you’re going through such a tragedy. But our family is so strong. I’ve always heard that you come out of adversity stronger, but I’d never experienced it. And since then we’ve had our beautiful miracle baby Savannah, and we have such an appreciation for her and for our family. I feel it’s such a gift to have that perspective and I hope to take it with me the rest of my life. I hope to have this closeness that I have with God, the rest of my life too. And I know I will.
RM: Thank you for sharing that vulnerable aspect of your journey. And little Savannah is such a blessing. I know since you have two older children, a boy and a girl, before you lost your son… how did the family navigate the loss because I’m sure to many outsiders looking in your family looked “perfect” and we all know how quick people can be to place their lens on you, or judge the situation.
KW: Absolutely. I think that with social media it’s so dangerous. For this period of time and for our children, I worry about that, because it’s a highlight reel of your life. Not that I was ever faking my happiness, but it was almost like everything was good, and so I didn’t really have too much to complain about, but you don’t really ever know what people are going through. And so after we lost our son, I remember people coming up to me and being like, “wow, you look so great. Seems like you’re doing better.” And on the inside, I was just dying and depressed and feeling hopeless for years before I was able to get pregnant again.
And I think that I’ve really learned empathy. Meeting people in their grief and meeting people where they are is such a gift that you can give someone. And I had so many wonderful people in my life really go to those dark places with me, where I was just on my hands and knees wondering why did this happen? And I don’t know. I feel like that’s a gift that I hope to now give to other people. I have been able to be there for people and I’m not afraid to go there with them because life is hard. And I think that if you pretend like everything’s okay, or don’t clue people in your circle into what’s going on, that’s a missed opportunity to either share your faith, or to bond and be there for them. I think that’s what life’s all about.
So it’s changed my perspective on everything. Yes, I still love to take my family photos and have my Christmas cards and stuff, but I’m hoping that there’s more depth to it, to be like, we’ve been through a lot as a family and we’re celebrating now because things are good, but there will come a time where things will be hard again and we’re going to go through tragedies, and everyone will. So I think just being vulnerable and open about that is actually a sign of strength and not weakness.
RM: When something so profoundly changes you, it does across all aspects of your life. How have you grown since your early journalist days, and what wisdom can you share now a little more seasoned?
KW: I think I just care more. I think I’ve always been a sensitive person and an empath, but I think I just really feel more. I feel deeply for my clients. I feel their success. I feel their struggles and I want to do everything I can to help everyone around me. And I think that whether it be with my kids and their friends or our community or our clients, I think that as long as I can know at the end of the day that I’m doing everything I can to help this person or this company, that I know that I’m doing my best, and I think that caring and giving it all to God is really what keeps me moving, it keeps me going.
We have a purpose while we’re here, this short amount of time that we’re here to just try to help as many people as we can and spread the Gospel and be a light to people and have people look at you and know you’re walking with Jesus. I don’t want it to ever be a question of, I don’t know, is she? I want it to be like, oh no, no she is. And I want my kids’ friends to say the same thing. They’re walking with Jesus and their family is all about Jesus. And I think that’s most important to me. It’s most important to my husband. And so that’s what we try to do.