After nearly four decades working in local media and communications, Steve Jagler is striking out on his own.
Jagler, who was the executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee from 2002 to 2015, has launched Steve Jagler Executive Branding LLC, a communications and media relations consulting business based in Oak Creek.
The move follows a two-year stint in public relations, most recently as director of executive communications at Milwaukee-based Kane Communications and director of corporate communications at Milwaukee-based GRAEF-USA Inc. Prior to that, he was a journalist for 34 years.
Being his own boss has been a longtime fantasy, Jagler said in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee on Wednesday morning. "This is what I hope will be the final chapter of my career, and I'm hoping that it'll be one of the most fun chapters of my career," said Jagler.
Jagler left BizTimes Milwaukee to join the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2015, where he was business editor for the newspaper and wrote a weekly C-Level column on executive leadership. Before joining BizTimes Milwaukee, he was managing editor at the Milwaukee Business Journal.
His career experience in telling the stories of Milwaukee-area business leaders, Jagler said, is what sets his services apart from those of PR agencies and other competitors.
"Having been on the receiving end of the press release for three decades, I think I'm uniquely qualified to be on the sending end of the press release and how to make messages stand out among the noise," he said.
Steve Jagler Executive Branding LLC will employ brand journalism to help businesses and business leaders tell their story, raise awareness and build an audience, he said. Jagler described his offerings as an "anti-agency experience." In his view, that means taking the time to understand clients' needs and propose a plan to deliver on those needs, rather than working by the "billable hour."
For Jagler's first client, Cudahy-based metal fabricator Lucas-Milhaupt, it'll be a first foray into the world of public relations.
"We're really looking to raise the brand of Lucas-Milhaupt to be an employer of choice in the local community, and we do a number of civic things in the community and we'd like to raise our brand with that as well," said Rich Ballenger, president at Lucas-Milhaupt.
Ballenger and Jagler first met while working to select the Business Leader of the Year, an annual award given by the Harvard Business School Club of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At the time, Ballenger was the chair of the program and Jagler was editor at the Journal Sentinel.
"From my viewpoint, Steve was extremely well respected in the business community. If he didn't already know some of the the CEOs we were looking to nominate, he knew how to get a connection there," said Ballenger.
A few years later, as Lucas-Milhaupt embarked on plans to develop a PR strategy for the first time, Ballenger's first thought was to call Jagler. He wasn't interested in a traditional PR agency experience.
"Steve's multi-decade career in the Milwaukee area, with his work with businesses and specifically CEOs -- that's what I was looking for."
Jagler said he's currently in talks with a handful of potential clients, but no contracts have been signed.
A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate, Jagler has received several regional and national awards for his reporting. He is a past president of the Milwaukee Press Club and has served on the board of directors for the Press Club and the Alliance of Area Business Publications.