Writer, editor, strategist, facilitator, innovator, connector, independent thinker, multiple-points-of-view perceiver, information synthesizer, movement builder, politico, advocate and public affairs expert, Steff Hedenkamp provides top-notch professional communications services, valuable creativity, and critical insight to help actualize goals and objectives, communicate key messages, and manifest new success.
“My primary objective is to stay curious and keep learning, all the while applying my deep expertise and successful background in professional communications, public involvement, and efficient operations to advance community-informed solutions.”
Steff is an entrepreneurial public affairs and operations professional. She brings 20 years of experience in strategy, messaging, advocacy, movement building, community engagement and stakeholder involvement efforts. She specializes in special-project, inflection-point and launch initiatives, and is a seasoned project and program manager. She guides public- and private-sector clients to plan and implement actionable, practical approaches to engage with target audiences in meaningful ways.
Steff is a successful strategist with significant experience. She clearly communicates complex ideas and programs, precisely crafting the “words and design” of creative and effective communications and public affairs tools. She is highly skilled at researching, designing, writing, and editing compelling ghostwritten content, key messages, talking points and speeches, backgrounders, award submissions, reports, plans, presentations, proposals, and other internal and external work product.
Steff is a creative catalyst. She works collaboratively to increase awareness, promote understanding, extend and enhance internal and external dialogue, and foster consensus and results. She serves to not only advance communications efforts, but also strengthen overall organizational operations, mission, objectives, brand reputation and social impact.
Steff brings great value to bear. She has served a wide variety of clientele and sectors, including private-sector firms in the architectural design and construction engineering sector; international and domestic nonprofit organizations and campaigns in mental health, maternity care, and water and sanitation; government authorities; community development agencies; and media and consulting companies.
Steff founded Red Quill Communications, Inc. in 2000. She provided her clients the benefits of having their messages spoken with a clear, authentic, and imaginative voice. The firm specialized in helping businesses, governments, agencies and organizations actualize communications and advocacy goals and operations, as well as manifest their intended success. Her most excellent clients were typically word-of-mouth referrals.
Steff joined WSP as a Senior Communications and Public Involvement Manager in 2022. After 21 years as a single-shingle entrepreneur, Steff decided to throw her red quill in with the stellar team of WSP, a global engineering firm based in more than 500 offices across 40 countries.
WSP is one of the world’s leading professional services firms. WSP provides technical expertise and strategic advice to clients in the Transportation and Infrastructure, Property and Buildings, Environment, Industry, Resources (including Mining and Oil and Gas) and Energy sectors, as well as offering project and program delivery and advisory services. WSP experts include engineers, advisors, technicians, scientists, architects, planners, surveyors and environmental specialists, as well as other design, program and construction management professionals. And now, Steff, too.
“I so enjoy working on meaningful, transformational projects.”
A LOOK BACK AT STEFF’S WORK
Steff launched the Where’s My Midwife? initiative to help build back midwifery and community birth in the United States.
The initiative’s first project, the Where’s My Midwife? Crowdmap, launched in April 2020 to connect midwives trained in out-of-hospital birth with pregnant people wishing to give birth in community (out-of-hospital settings), such as private homes and freestanding birth centers. The initiative’s second project is Where’s My Midwife? A Podcast, that tells the stories of midwives and the families who love the excellent maternity care their midwives provide in communities across the nation. The trailer and first three episodes of the new long-format podcast were released in April 2021.
Steff shares that “when we say ‘build back midwifery and community birth,’ it is important to recognize the truth of how midwives have always been with us across all of human history. It is also essential to unflinchingly examine how it is only in the last 120 years or so that midwives have been pushed back, pushed out, and pushed down by Big Medicine in the U.S. There are many strong words to describe the actions taken by the AMA in the U.S. to eliminate midwives at the turn of the last century, and more words and phrases to call out the ongoing attempts by organized medicine to restrict and confine midwifery and community birth to this very day. If you ask me, some of those descriptive words include tragic outcomes for women, arrogant and unchecked medical hubris, and deliberate restraint of trade by physician competitors.”
Steff led the launch team for the #ZeroReasonsWhy Campaign (#ZRW), a teen-led storytelling and community mobilization campaign to drive peer-to-peer conversations, remove the stigma surrounding mental health struggles, and expand suicide prevention efforts. The campaign is based on the belief that by committing to education early and often and by building community support, we can remove the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide prevention and open the way for more teens to seek help, be receptive to social emotional programs in schools, and ultimately reduce the number of teen suicides.
Traditionally, adults are the voice of suicide prevention. #ZRW is addressing the unmet community need to have a teen-led, community-wide framework to confront the rising challenge of mental health struggles and teen suicide, with teen voices at the forefront. #ZRW assists communities to create their own custom plans with strategic initiatives and tactics developed by teens, parents, educators, health professionals, civic and government officials, faith-based representatives, nonprofits, and their community’s advocates.
“We work to elevate mental health as equal to physical health.”
Steff served as the Communications Manager of Bridge Space and helped to launch this coworking space + entrepreneur incubator in the old (now restored) post office in the historic downtown of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Steff collaborated to develop the workflows, processes, and voice of this new brand devoted to accelerating the advancement of entrepreneurs, creating a hub for founders and owners to connect to business success, and a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.
She served through International Architects Atelier providing internal and external communication services as the Communications Director for the Kansas City Museum as it was transformed through an intensive design and construction process into a premier museum of Kansas City’s history and cultural heritage through a multi-year, multi-staged restoration and renovation project.
Steff served as a strategic partner with Parson + Associates providing public affairs and communications services for a number of large-scale municipal projects for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, including on the redevelopment of the 18th & Vine Historic District, and the KC ADA Access project associated with the U.S. Department of Justice initiative Project Civic Access. She proudly served the Parson project team on the catalytic $74 million Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, home to the East Patrol Division Station and Regional Crime Lab in Kansas City, Missouri.
She previously provided strategic marketing communications services to pioneer Ann Geisler, CPCU, AU, AAI, president of Southern Cross Insurance Solutions and developer of The Midwife Plan, a specialized Professional and General Liability insurance policy created for birth centers and allied healthcare professionals. Ann and her team have blazed a trail to provide insurance plans designed for midwives and practices in all types of settings.
In 2016, Steff served via A. Zahner Company on the Kansas City, Missouri Bartle Hall Sky Stations Project and led the communications function for this special project. The Bartle Hall Sky Stations have helped establish Kansas City’s reputation as an “Art City,” and they have adorned the Kansas City skyline since their completion in 1994. During a 2015 inspection of the Sky Stations on top of the pylons at the Kansas City Convention Center (Bartle Hall), damage to the easternmost Sky Station sculpture was identified. After further investigation, it was determined this damage was due to a lightning strike. On May 8, 2016, the project team removed the 24,000-pound, easternmost sculpture from the pylon. The 40-foot-tall and 35-foot-wide sculpture was moved to the Zahner fabrication shop, disassembled and repaired, and then reinstalled atop the pylon on September 18, 2016. See the project video here.
Previously, Steff worked with advertising and PR company, Barkley, one of the top 10 independent agencies in the United States, where she managed national retail corporate accounts involving public relations, crisis communications, cause marketing, community relations, strategic planning, and business development. (Interesting update: in 2012, her PR chums at Barkley in Kansas City created the new communications company Crossroads to help all kinds of amazing brands align all of their communications efforts around common and authentic brand values.)
Previously, Steff served on Special Projects for the Community Capital Fund (CCF), which invests in innovative and measurable community development that aligns with and strengthens the financial, human, and social capital of under-resourced neighborhoods in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Since 2012, CCF has deployed nearly $1,000,000 to neighborhoods and grassroots organizations, organized eight Community Development Workshops, which have collectively attracted more than 2,000 community leaders, and fiscally sponsored ten social ventures that have raised more than $1,000,000. Steff also served CCF’s sister-organizations, AltCap and equity2, and previously, she served as CCF Interim Executive Director and also for five years as a member of the CCF Board of Directors.
In 2008, Steff helped to conceive and launch The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, which provides strategic planning and message development for state consumer and midwife groups that are actively working on legislation to license Certified Professional Midwives, specialists in out-of-hospital birth and envisioning the day when CPMs are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. She currently is one of the five Steering Committee members for the Big Push.
Steff served as an editor for The Way Women Work initiative led by Rania Habiby Anderson. In addition, from 2008-2012 Steff served in a fund development and communications role on behalf of Water.org, a U.S.-based international nonprofit organization co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White that is providing access to safe water and the dignity of a toilet to people in developing nations.
Steff is a Wildcat at heart, bleeds purple, and attended Kansas State University’s School of Journalism. She and her projects have received special recognition:
- Kansas City Business Journal Capstone Award for “Architectural Design”—Kansas City Museum: Communications Director to Project Team (2022)
- United Community Services (UCS) of Johnson County, KS “Excellence in Community Service Award—UCS recognized the Teen Council and Student Ambassadors, Johnson County Mental Health Center, partnering six school districts in Johnson County, and community organizations involved in the #ZeroReasonsWhy community mobilization and story campaign (2019)
- Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation’s “Preserve Missouri Award”—Bridge Space: Consultant and Communications Manager to Project Team (2019)
- Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street’s “Outstanding Special Project”—Bridge Space: Consultant and Communications Manager to Project Team (2019)
- Platte County Economic Development Council Business Excellence Award—North Patrol Division Station Consultant and Communications Lead to Project Team (2017)
- Kansas City Business Journal Capstone Award for “Community Impact”—Leon Mercer Jordan Campus Consultant and Communications Lead for Project Team (2016)
- Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City Cornerstone Award Finalist—Leon Mercer Jordan Campus Consultant and Communications Lead for Project Team (2016)
- Innovations in American Government Award Finalist (one of 18), Harvard University’s Ash Institute in the John F. Kennedy School of Government—Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO) within the City of Kansas City, Missouri, a public/private partnership—Communications Consultant to Program Team (2007)
- US Conference of Mayors Award—Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO) within the City of Kansas City, Missouri, a public/private partnership—Communications Consultant to Program Team (2006)
- Regional American Public Works Association (APWA) Project of the Year—Communications Consultant to the Project Team. (2006)
- PRISM Best in Show Award—Crisis Communications Program. (2000)
- PRISM Silver Award—Special Events in Business. (1999)
- Institute on Political Journalism through The Fund for American Studies at Georgetown University—(One of 70 participants selected internationally)—Concurrent internship at the White House, Office of Presidential Correspondence for the White House Chief of Staff. (1993)