June 1, 2015 | 9 a.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
In one month, Kristi Piehl ’96 went from winning two regional Emmy Awards for her investigative reporting on KSTP-TV in St. Paul to being laid off, along with 20 others at the news station. At the time, she remembers telling her husband it was a blessing, but she also had no idea what she was going to do. “I remember praying, ‘Jesus, bring the rain, but give me an umbrella,’” she says. “It was a hard place to be, but had I not gone through that, I would never be here.”
And “here” is now a new calling as the founder and CEO of Media Minefield, a public relations company focused on doing media relations differently. In five years, Piehl’s company of one has grown to 13 employees and was recently awarded one of the 100 Best Companies to work for by Minnesota Business Magazine. Comprised mostly of former journalists, Piehl’s crew takes a client’s request for news coverage, looks at what is happening in the news, and figures out how to best connect client needs with topics reporters are covering. So far the formula is working: Media Minefield has a 100% placement rate, meaning that every client requesting news coverage has received it.
Piehl’s friend and fellow Bethel University alumna Laura Hunter describes Piehl as “an amazing woman of faith and an accomplished and passionate business leader who is making her mark both locally and nationwide.” Bethel’s National Alumni Board agreed, and has chosen Piehl as Bethel University’s 2015 Alumna of the Year.
Enrolling at Bethel was one of only two times Piehl recalls God’s clear calling on her life. She was all set to attend college in Missouri to study broadcast journalism, but an extra day off school motivated her to visit Bethel. She remembers sitting outside the admissions office and feeling convicted to enroll. Once at Bethel, she majored in English to hone her writing skills for her future goal of working in television news. After graduating, she worked as a broadcast journalist for 12 years and accomplished her career goal of winning an Emmy. But even at the time, she sensed her dream job was not as fulfilling as she had imagined.
After the lay-off in 2008, Piehl spent more time with her sons, Eli and Alec, and did some work at her church, Wayzata Free Church in Plymouth, Minnesota. It was during a summer class there that she felt God’s clear call a second time. In her church basement, God gave Piehl the vision for her company, and even the name, she says. “I’m asked all the time, ‘How did you come up with this idea?’ and I answer that it came to me in the church basement,” she says. “I love how God did that. I can never separate this from my faith and I can’t take the credit. It opens up so many conversations.”
Not only does Media Minefield take a different approach to public relations, Piehl takes a different approach to running a business. “We have a lot of non-traditional policies,” she says, explaining that employees have unlimited vacation and sick days, working parents are allowed to bring their babies to work, and work hours are flexible, allowing family to come first. The main requirements for employees are to get their work done, follow the core values of the company, and be respectful.
Despite the daily challenges of running a successful business, Piehl says she rests in the strong sense of call that led her here in the first place. “If I didn’t feel this is what I was supposed to be doing, I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” she says. “I think there is sometimes a perception among Christians that to change the world you have to have a seminary degree. I think wherever you’re called to be, you will be used.”