Kelly Ehlers



Iowa State University - Journalism and Public Relations

In change, Kelly Ehlers saw a chance.

For 12 years, she worked in traditional marketing, PR and branding. Then, when social media and mobile technology began to dramatically alter the industry, Kelly embraced the change and took a chance. She launched Evoke Brand Strategies, a firm specializing in the mobile, digital and social space. From one-time consultations to turnkey management of a company's digital strategies, Evoke works to connect a company with its consumers and to promote and build its brand.

Social media doesn't sleep (and neither do babies some nights!), so Kelly faces the challenge of being a new mom and running a fast-paced business. But she finds balance in her own personal definition of "having it all" and thinking about how her job allows her the flexibility to be a mom, when and how she wants to be.

Kelly also believes charitable giving is the foundation of a great business. She volunteers in her community and has started building the framework for a national female mentorship program and yearly summit to help match young women with a professional mentor. Now that's a cause we can get behind.

I’m convinced the nice girl can finish first.

How did you discover your current job?

I think my current job discovered me! After 12 years in the traditional marketing, PR and branding arena, I could tell there was a shift on the horizon; one that would change the way companies communicate with their audiences.

That shift is what we call the social and mobile media revolution. I started Evoke Brands under the premise and attitude that “it’s business – and it is personal.” The idea of transparently communicating with your audience is new to most brands and in some cases, even the savviest consumer brands are still catching on. The discovery of how to integrate mobile and social technology to increase sales and develop loyalty is a niche in the marketplace; that’s where Evoke comes in to play. It’s incredibly exciting to be on the forefront.

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

Although the word typical might not apply, I will tell you my work routine always begins with a quick check on all social media platforms – both to stay up-to-the minute and to keep a watchful eye on the platforms we monitor for our clients. Social media doesn’t sleep or take a vacation day, so for our team we’re connecting in some way 24/7, 365 days a week. How’s that for "typical?"

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

We started working with one of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the world this year, and to have their team commend us on the solutions we're providing from a social and mobile perspective is very rewarding. Additionally, in March I was nominated by clients, peers and colleagues as one of the Top Business Women in Phoenix by the Phoenix Business Journal. It was such an honor to be recognized for both my business acumen and charitable endeavors.

The most challenging?

Being a new mom and running a fast-paced business at times can be a challenge. Like most working women, it’s a juggling act and it’s about balance. Finding that balance can be hard and it takes discipline to remember to take some time to breathe and celebrate even the small victories.

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

Lately my career has me traveling quite a bit, speaking about and training large corporations on social media and mobile technology. I enjoy the experiences, but there’s also something magical about being home to tuck my little one in at night.

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

Trust your instincts. They're always right. There have been a few great learning experiences in my career where I can look back and now realize I didn’t "go with my gut," as they say. Always remember: if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

I think there’s a misconception with women in the workforce who believe you "can’t have it all." But what does that really mean? The other day I was taking my son to his 15-month check-up and on the way, I got tears in my eyes, thinking about how my job allows me the flexibility to be a mom, when and how I want to be. To me, that’s having it all. Women today need to define boundaries and get rid of the notion that they are somehow viewed as lesser in the workforce. The only reason that would ring true is if you let it. After all, there’s no crying in baseball, right? Same with business! Define your guiding principles, stick to them and never compromise your values.

Who are your role models?

My list of role models isn’t necessarily your typical business executive or well-known philanthropist. I’m blessed to have role models in my day-to-day life, including my husband, my brother, sister-in-law, mother and father. Each one of these people represent a different aspect of life that I consistently strive to be better at. From my sister-in-law who’s Super Mom, to my mom who is quite possibly the most resourceful person I know, to my father who’s a serial entrepreneur, my “personal board of directors” (as I secretly call them) are incredible people who are just a phone call away. Their every day greatness inspires me.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Simple: the golden one. As trite as it may sound, there are a lot of businesses -- and individuals -- who forget the fundamental concept of treating others as you wish to be treated. I’m convinced the nice girl can finish first. To all of the young women out there, recognize that honesty, generosity and a big heart opens doors and creates relationships that last a lifetime. It’s far more important to me to be seen as a kind, charitable woman than a fierce, cutthroat CEO.

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

Never stop learning; be curious and enthusiastic in all you do. With the social and mobile revolution upon us, it’s ever-changing and staying ahead of the curve in today’s world is status quo. Always say yes to new opportunities – you never know where the road will lead or what door it might open.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Running a successful agency that produces consistent annual growth and has a reputation as a leader in social media and marketing. A mother. A wife. And a philanthropist on a local and national scale.

Charitable giving is the foundation of a great business. That being said, I’ve started building the framework for a national female mentorship program and yearly summit and am always looking for other leading women to get involved. I truly believe having a strong mentor is an essential component of a successful career and I’d love to be the catalyst to make that happen for young women.

What are three things you love aside from your job?

Great hair, red wine and over-accessorizing. I try to indulge in at least one every day.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

A fun tidbit I remind myself of daily: always aim BIG!

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the girl who’ll decide where to go." -Dr. Seuss