3 Takeaways from 2023: Insights from Wixted as you Plan for the New Year

December 19, 2023

2023 has been a year of growth and new opportunities – with our clients and within our own team. The communication field – PR, crisis and training – can be challenging but incredibly rewarding. Each practice demands creativity, resilience and commitment to the craft, but, more than that, the work forces us to continually grow in ways that few other professions allow for (or demand!). There are endless learning opportunities – staying on top of trends, world news, industry insights and the ever-changing media landscape – that help us grow in both knowledge and skill. We feel immense gratitude for both our valued clients and talented colleagues who continue to inspire us, make our work fun, provide endless possibilities to be the best we can be and enable our success this year and beyond. At Wixted & Co., we have plenty of reasons to be grateful this holiday season, and more reasons to be excited for the continued success and collaboration in 2024!

In this spirit, our team has been reflecting on the amazing opportunities of the past year and our valued partnerships with you, our clients. No project is ever the same and the nuances that make up opportunities and challenges are unique to the individuals and businesses we serve. That is why we love this work! Even so, the conclusion of one year and the start of the next allows us to take stock of the past 12 months and curate a list of things for you and your teams to consider as you head into 2024.

-Jake Brus, vice president and managing director & Tamera Hanson – vice president of strategic communication



I saw a lot of “thinking faces” in the training room in 2023. Many of us are so focused on what we’re saying during a presentation or interview that we forget how we’re saying it. I was reminded in a recent training session with an executive that warmth and connection go far beyond a smile. Let the audience see your passion, how much you care and your drive to meet a goal or make something better. The way that shows up for each person is different and that equals authenticity. You can’t fake that and the audience will instantly feel a connection to you. While you’re thinking of the next thing to say, your audience is listening with their eyes. I coached many clients this year to let the audience see on the outside what you feel and believe on the inside. Here’s to a new year of bringing a little bit of yourself to all of your communication.

-Lauri Freking, senior communication trainer



As I reflect on 2023, one thing I am proud of, excited about and grateful for is my acceptance in the Leadership Iowa 2023-24 class. As Iowa’s premier issues-awareness program promoting leadership and civic responsibility, the personal and professional development opportunities are abundant. Each month we travel to a new Iowa town or city, where we learn from leaders and businesses within a particular industry. As I am learning about these industries and getting an inside peek into their success, as well as challenges, I can’t help but apply what I’m learning to my clients at Wixted. I see ample opportunities for storytelling everywhere we go!

The 23-24 class is filled with smart, talented, kind, funny and interesting people –it’s personally fulfilling to spend 2 ½ days each month surrounded by such talent and having incredible conversations. I am grateful to Wixted & Company for investing in my professional and personal development, and look forward to sharing my learnings, insights and newfound connections with my colleagues – and clients – in 2024.

-Kristie Bell, strategic communication director


In 2023, we saw a return to more in-person interviews across the country. While there is a benefit (and ease) to doing an interview from the computer, there is nothing that replicates the warmth and connection that comes from a face-to-face interview in studio (or on location). One of our favorite memories was helping a nonprofit secure an earned media opportunity to talk about the launch of their new store that helps central Iowans who are homeless. There was an initial apprehension and nervousness to do the interview, but with some coaching and training – the interview went wonderfully, and the impact of the coverage made it all worth it. Remember, it’s all about leaning into your discomfort – especially when it comes to growing your cause and your mission.

-Meredith Garman, director of media relations & Katie Ward, senior trainer and media relations advisor



There are a lot of lessons learned from working with a Division I football team over the past eight years that, I believe, are reflective of life and work. Every season brings with it opportunity and hope. Yet, at the end of the 12-game schedule – the win-loss count is final, the statistics are in the history books, and the team will be defined and remembered by a few key plays, actions, players or coaches.

What I have found fascinating over the past eight seasons is in how a team evolves. What happens from the days of strength and conditioning in the winter, to spring ball, and then summer camp, is a similar process year after year. But how the team comes together from those experiences can be vastly different. Some teams have more athleticism but aren’t resilient. Others have more players injured than not, yet they have grit and find a way to win. How does that happen? 

While there are likely many factors, I believe it comes down to the people who make up the team. How does the individual show up, is he accountable and coachable, does he possess an optimistic outlook and a belief that he can contribute? There are lots of words that people use to describe teams – selfless, loving, and cohesive. But a team is not selfless unless the individuals are selfless, or loving unless the individual has the capacity to love, or cohesive unless you are willing to be one. 

Each season there are injuries and questionable calls, close games that are lost in the final seconds, and opponents who are just faster, stronger and better. It is how the team responds, how the individual responds that defines the team and the season. That is also true about our organizations and companies. How we show up to work, the culture we create, and the mentality of our teams determine our success. Our attitude, determination, vulnerability and communication shape both how we show up and how we can encourage others alongside us.

As I reflect, the lesson of 2023 is all about you and me. The individual. How we show up is the beginning of the team.  And we must show up with optimism and hope that this next season will be the best yet. That no matter what we accomplish this past year, our best is yet to come. So, strike up the marching band and sing loudly the fight song, a new season is upon us.

-Eileen Wixted, president