Skip to main content

‘Walking the walk’ for more than a decade

Red Shoes Inc. celebrates 15 years in business, reflects on changes

share arrow printer bookmark flag

November 2, 2023

APPLETON – A public relations firm in the Fox Valley has been walking the walk for the past 15 years – and they’ve got the red shoes to prove it.

Maria Nelson, vice president of Red Shoes Inc., said there’s an important meaning behind the company’s bold logo and name.

“(Lisa Cruz) started Red Shoes Inc. in 2008,” she said. “When it came time to name her new company, she chose red shoes because she remembers having a pair of red shoes and always feeling powerful when she wore them. She wanted to build a brand around that feeling of power for women.”

Lisa’s red shoes have accumulated an additional 12 pairs over the last 15 years, and Nelson said the now team of 13 works to provide their clientele with the best service possible – from advertising and public relations to creative design and crisis communication.

Success despite the recession
Though Cruz started Red Shoes right before the 2008 recession, Nelson – who has worked with Cruz for the last 20 years – said it wasn’t much of an issue.

In fact, she said it was more of a benefit.

“(Lisa) jokes about her luck of starting a business during a recession,” she said. “But what we’ve learned, and what research tells us, is that during a market downturn, companies look for marketing agencies to help. Sometimes that’s because they had to lay off staff and still have marketing needs, but instead of having staff to do them, they look for outside agencies to help.”

Services, changes over the years
As a full-service marketing agency, Nelson said “whatever falls under the bucket of communication” is what Red Shoes does for its clients.

“Everything we do is rooted in strategic communication,” she said. “That means… we dig with our clients to get to the root of problems or why they’re coming to us, and find what the best solution is (for them).”

In most cases, Nelson said those issues fall under four different categories that Red Shoes provides:

Communications – internal communications, public relations/media relations, government relations and community relationsMarketing – marketing plans, traditional advertising, digital advertising and social mediaCreative – branding, design, website and content developmentCrisis communications – 24/7 support, crisis planning, crisis response and media training

Red Shoes helps with communications, marketing, creative design and crisis communications. Photo Courtesy of Red Shoes Inc.

However, with constant technological advancements, Nelson said Red Shoes is evolving all the time to meet industry needs and stay relevant.

“Things do change overnight in the marketing, communication and branding world,” she said. “If you’re stagnant, you’re going to get lost in the shuffle. You need to make sure you’re doing the right things to stand out to your target audiences.”

Those changes, Nelson said, started happening for the agency right from the beginning.

“2008 also was the rise of social media,” she said. “We quickly began providing social media services to our clients as businesses were trying to navigate what things like Facebook and Twitter meant for them.”

And, as Nelson said, the team at Red Shoes quickly found out, “we continued to grow as our clients’ needs did.”

While change can be scary or difficult, she said one of the values the company prioritizes is curiosity – and everyone on the team enjoys learning.

“We all know we need to stay on top of things because that’s what our clients demand of us,” she said. “We’re always paying attention to what’s coming around the corner, finding things that just started so we can best leverage them for our clients.” 

And, although technology and other demands are changing constantly, Nelson said Red Shoes will never jump into anything without proper preparation and knowledge.

She said the company even tries new strategies themselves before bringing them to clients.

“We base everything on strategy, so it’s never something we are willy-nilly about,” she said. “We’re… doing the research, figuring out how things work and then bringing it to clients and saying, ‘hey, we think we should try this – this is how we think it’s going to help you.’”

Red Shoes serves clients all across the country, but Nelson said the majority come from Wisconsin.

Culture, culture, culture
Nelson said not only has Red Shoes changed outwardly with its clients, it’s changed internally with its team as well.

“One of our big focuses is on our people and our culture,” she said. “One of the most recent things we’ve done is begun our journey to become a culturally competent organization…. So, we’re applying that now to how we work. That means looking at everything from our values to onboarding materials to make sure we’re doing everything in a culturally competent way. And that has been a great opportunity for us as a team to embark on together.”

One of the ways Red Shoes helps add to its culture, Nelson said, is each employee is given an allowance to purchase red shoes of their own.

Lisa Cruz named the public relations firm after a pair of red shoes she owned. Maria Nelson said Cruz always felt powerful when she wore them – and she wanted to build the brand around that feeling. Photo Courtesy of Red Shoes Inc.

“(It’s also) a great branding idea because Lisa always talked about how people would comment on her red shoes and how great they looked,” she said. “That became an early benefit of the company we provide.”

The team also has a cowbell in the office they ring when something good happens, a tradition Nelson said came from Cruz.

Reflecting on 15 years
Nelson said Red Shoes being in business for 15 years is “extremely significant.”

“(We’ve been through) a lot of life events – marriages, children, death of loved ones,” she said. “I went through breast cancer. A lot of things you go through together, and that makes you closer as a team and as a company.”

Nelson said she believes one of the reasons Red Shoes has been successful is because the company acknowledges its people “don’t come in as just an employee.”

“There are all these hats we wear, I think especially as women, that if you’re not looking at somebody as a whole person, there’s no way you can be a good employee,” she said. “We focus on providing people the flexibility to do their jobs and to take care of their families as needed. And we know we need to have a work environment that works for families and works for our employees.”

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending