Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, “we feature Wendy Hagen. Photography for the “up close and personal” series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Wendy, please provide us a short bio.
I’m a branding and communications strategist, which means I lead brand development and integrated communications campaigns for nonprofits, government agencies, trade associations and corporate clients. In addition, I provide agency search services on behalf of select organizations. Prior to founding my own consultancy in 2009, I was EVP and partner with the global public relations firm of Porter Novelli; EVP and chief marketing officer with Arnold Worldwide; and director of creative resources for Lockheed Martin, where I directed the corporate branding and global advertising program. And, I am a Georgetown University grad (Hoya Saxa!).
Are you involved in any organizations?
This year I joined the board of the DC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMADC) where I lead a new initiative exclusively for chief communications and marketing executives, the CMO Leadership Circle. For the past six years, I’ve served on the board of Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and I chair the marketing committee. I am also a Trustee Emeritus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, having served on the board from 2001-2011.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I’m a proud parent of two accomplished musicians who inspire me with their creativity and dedication to their craft. Our son plays lead guitar in a touring post-punk band based in Chicago, and our daughter is a singer songwriter in New York City. Both kids discovered their passion for music early on – our first clue was when we caught our 10-year-old son playing “Stairway to Heaven” on his cello. Our daughter majored in music at the University of Miami. Their ability to push boundaries, reinvent their sound, give it their all regardless of how many people are listening – not to mention their sheer talent – continues to amaze their non-musical, and admittedly biased, parents.
Who are your personal role models?
I’ve been fortunate to have two strong professional role models who took a chance on hiring me and gave me the chance to take on new things and grow professionally: Sheila Campbell, who has been involved in advertising for decades, hired me right out of college and taught me the fundamentals of working in an agency. Twenty years later, Susan Pearce hired me at Lockheed Martin – my first client-side job – and taught me how to build consensus and lead change in a corporate environment.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
I don’t recall specific words of advice, but they both instilled in me the importance of taking calculated risks, taking ownership and taking time off. These were bold, boundary-pushing women who encouraged me to “lean in,” long before anyone had even heard of Sheryl Sandberg. They pushed me to improve my writing and speaking skills. They had my back when I took on risky new endeavors – and made sure I was extremely well prepared. They set clear expectations and then got out of my way. That helped me become a better manager. And, they both had a love of travel and learning, so they never once complained that I was taking every single one of my vacation days.
What professional advice do you have for others?
I’ll repurpose some great advice from Bill Bernbach: “Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques.” Every great campaign is built on audience-driven insights translated into a differentiating strategy and a powerful core idea. Without that core idea at the center, all you have is a bunch of random tactics. I actually sat in a brainstorm meeting once where before there was a strategy or core campaign idea, the team decided it would be cool to have a yoga event in Times Square! Bill Bernbach would not have been amused.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire in business?
A copywriter at DDB once told me I dressed like Cyndi Lauper’s mom. That’s pretty much been my fashion inspiration ever since. Unless I’m meeting with clients, I’m pretty casual, wearing jeans around the office. My philosophy on buying current styles: if it works for work and with jeans, it’s a good value.
Where do you buy most of the business clothes you wear?
I love to shop. My go-tos are Eileen Fisher, Anthropologie, Madewell and Swedish designer Gudrun Sjödén.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’ve been an avid skier since I was a kid growing up in Germany – I was on the high school ski team. My bucket list includes going skiing in Chile … in August!
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