Christine Pietryla Wetzler: CEO, Pietryla PR

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Christine Pietryla Wetzler is the CEO of Pietryla PR and has assisted many energy, healthcare, sustainability, and professional service clients by serving as lead strategist, company spokesperson, and primary communications counsel. Clients often hire her as an interim CMO during early growth stages. Because of her personal investments, she also serves within leadership positions at a few startup companies. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Journalism and proudly serve on its PR Department Advisory Board.

How did you get into the industry?

I went to the University of Florida and attended the College of Journalism and Communications. While there, they had a PR 101 class which I found fascinating. I didn’t know such a skill set existed. From then on, I found my path. I graduated in 1999 with a job at an agency in Chicago. For the first few years of my career, I worked in two agencies for more than 25 clients. I went off on my own when two of my clients offered to fund my startup.  

Any emerging industry trends?

The last few years has been interesting experiencing the shift from print to digital. I’m thankful I got a chance to work in both so I can see the strengths and weaknesses of both models very clearly. I believe the way we consume information is always changing but THAT we consume the most compelling has not. So, I think the key to success in PR is always to be listening to/watching how people get their information. I think emerging PR leaders are going to have to have a great grasp on digital marketing to be successful. It’s not just about great writing, but knowing how to push your content past the other noise – you’ll need that skill too.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The downside of the deluge of content is – there’s a ton of content to wade through! Ha. Again, I think writing for an online/searching audience is going to set some practitioners apart. And, the race to “startup” and remain nimble has stripped the quality out of marketing. I think sometimes the new paradigm of “fast versus perfect” can be taken to the extreme. Even if you do a short market survey online in one afternoon, don’t skip it. I’ve seen a lot of businesses fail because they didn’t road test their messaging. It reminds me of the John Wooden quote, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

My goal since 2002, has always been to make executive-level thinking and marketing/PR execution available to early-stage manufacturing, healthcare, energy, cleantech, materials, and professional services companies. I work best with companies disrupting an old market. For example, my latest client has dramatically improved a medical procedure that’s been the industry standard for 10 years. The audience is very specialized and there’s a high barrier to entry. This is where a shallow strategy just isn’t going to work – and where Pietryla PR excels.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The lines between disciples are going to continue to blur. To be successful you need to specialize, but be very aware of how all of the other disciplines impact your business – especially digital. The next frontier right now is mobile. More than ever before, people are using their mobile devices to consume content. Mobile marketing budgets are going up. Mobile can’t be an afterthought; it has to be a part of the main strategy.  

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Quality control. You can be quick and effective at the same time. I’m personally investing in technology that takes a lot of heavy lifting (which traditionally slows down execution) off the plate or accelerates it so the marketing team can stay focused. My consulting firm Pietryla PR & Marketing created One Time List to expedite marketing and sales research. At the beginning of a relationship, we do tons of market, media, and lead research. We wanted to offer this to companies whether or not they are ready for a longer-term agency relationship.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

2009 – 2011 were the worst. The economy was horrible, so people stopped investing in PR and marketing services. Before that time, I had a great stable of clients that I had worked with for more than five years each. I got complacent in doing my own marketing. In hindsight, had I done a good job of branding myself as the more cost effective solution to an agency I might have been able to pick up some of the business that fled expensive agencies. I just didn’t invest in myself from a PR standpoint, and I learned never to do that again.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

My most viable and long-term relationships are with companies just starting out that need a good marketing and PR mind but can’t necessarily afford a $250,000-year executive. For half of that investment, I serve as an executive-level Interim CMO. We can work within a company’s existing marketing department, build one and make it self-sufficient, or stay on as a management resource.

How do you motivate others?

In my experience, when someone has a good idea, is great at their job, and has a forward-looking goal they believe in – motivation comes from within. Admittedly, I’m not great at training people, but I’m a fantastic sounding board and mentor. I love talking strategy and really admire critical thinking in other people. The groups I belong to that motive me, and in which I hope to motivate others, are full of creativity and drive. When I have been responsible for motiving a team, I favor an approach that groups people together to spark this kind of excitement. When people feel like they are part of a group that values their ideas, validates their thinking, and encourages them to improve, I think motivation is a natural result of that atmosphere.  

Career advice to those in your industry?

Read everything. Keep learning. You think because you are in B2B PR you don’t need to take a coding course? Wrong. Do it. Learn how to do keyword searches and why you’d buy ads versus earned editorial. You must be able to sit in the same room with other people and see the world from more than just your view. Successful people can see all the moving parts – in meetings and in life.