I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristi Piehl, Founder and CEO of Media Minefield. Kristi is a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization and C200 Protégé Class 2017. She is a graduate of Bethel University, and in 2015, Bethel named Kristi Alumna of the Year. Media Minefield has won numerous awards, including Minnesota Business Magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For” four years in a row, and most recently, named one of the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
For 12 years, I was a TV news reporter and anchor. To move up the ladder, I worked at five different TV stations and finally landed my dream position as an Investigative Reporter in Minneapolis. In 2008, I was laid off.
Without a job, a plan or a clue what I was going to do, I started volunteering, networking and taking classes to explore my passions and strengths. During one of the classes in a moment of divine intervention, the idea for the business was formed, and within 30 days, I was registered to do business in Minnesota.
Why did you found your company?
Traditional public relations tactics are ineffective when it comes to news. As a reporter, I saw it every day: PR professionals trying to secure news coverage with press releases, free pizza or lengthy emails. Traditional PR doesn’t have a solution to secure proactive news coverage for their clients. And when it comes to handling the media during a crisis, the traditional PR mindset of “no comment” is wrong.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I don’t want to just disrupt an industry; I want to create a new one! At Media Minefield, we hire former journalists who understand news to create content and to coach clients prior to interviews.
We have a 100% placement rate, which means every client we’ve ever worked with has received press. We focus on earned media, the kind of news coverage that is not paid for. I am on a mission to teach companies how to leverage and secure “real news” to positively impact business.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
Elizabeth Tumulty, former Pres. of CBS, is my mentor. She is my chief cheerleader and truth teller. Liz tells me what I need to hear even if I don’t want to hear it. We talk regularly, and she has been to the office to meet with my team.
In the early years, I hired an acquaintance to meet with me to help me understand the basics of business. As an English major who spent years in the news business, I needed to rely on her and books to learn strategies and trends.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I developed our NewsabilitySM cycle in the first year of the business when I was sitting alone at my kitchen table trying to figure out how to guarantee quality news coverage to clients. The team is bigger now, and they’ve made it even better. We are on target to achieve our goal of securing 20,000 news interviews for our clients by 2021.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
“Piehl, you can do better,” Steve Hemmingsen, long-time KELO-TV managing editor and anchor As a young reporter, I was working on a story and was on a very tight deadline. Steve had to approve the script before the photographer and I could put it together for the evening news. I wasn’t sure if the breaking news story would make it to lead the newscast. With me watching, Steve read it, highlighted the entire script and deleted it all. He said, “Piehl, you can do better.” Those words have been my go-to self talk ever since. He, a revered newscaster, believed in me. I proved him right; the story made air.
“The time is right. The leader is right. How can I help you?.” Liz Tumulty, former President at CBS Being an entrepreneur leading a growing company is not something I ever expected to do. During my first conversation with Liz Tumulty, I was explaining my background and my vision for the company. She stopped me, offered words of encouragement and offered to help. It was startling that someone with her background and experience would offer to help me. She saw something in me and the company that I wasn’t able to see. Liz also is a daily reminder of the importance of paying it forward and giving back.
“You can do whatever you want, but no one will want to work here.” Mark Edwards, COO Media Minefield During the early years, as the company was experiencing growth, I needed to make many policy decisions that impacted employees. I don’t remember what policy we were discussing, but Mark interrupted and told me that I could do what I wanted, but no one would want to work at the company. I’m grateful for his brutal honesty. We changed course, and I did some soul searching which led to progressive policies that range from unlimited vacation to babies in the office. More importantly, Mark’s comment highlighted the importance of surrounding myself with people who will challenge me.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
StrengthsFinder changed my mindset from thinking about my weaknesses to focusing on my strengths. My pastor introduced me to it after my layoff. Once I learned about my strengths, I considered what careers would allow me to tap into them. It impacted me so much, every employees’ Strengths are listed outside their work area. New employees are given the book in a welcome basket sent to them before they start.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Brene Brown! Her books gave me the courage to develop myself and grow the business. When I had the opportunity, I flew across the country just to hear her speak, and it was so worth it. Her books and TEDTalk are part of the development track for our company leaders.
How can our readers follow you on social media?