about us

What’s with the name

No, it’s not that place in Nevada (they spell it differently), but it is pronounced the same. One of the main, and arguably, most important nerves in your body is called the vagus. It is what connects your head with your heart. And that we believe is what the most effective pieces of communication accomplish.

Who we are

Vagus is a public relations and social media firm providing strategic solutions that appeal to both a consumer’s rational way of thinking and their emotional desire to act.

What we believe

Decisions are never purely rational, never simply emotional. It’s always a mixture of both. We believe the most effective way to gain a consumer’s loyalty and influence their intent is to show them something about a brand that appeals to both their head and their heart.

With this philosophy, our primary directive is to help our clients achieve their goals. Whether it’s trying to hit short term sales objectives or build long term brand awareness, we believe the only way to produce great work is to form close, open, honest relationships with our clients. In other words, we want to connect with their heads and hearts as well. We look to work as partners in the endeavor and find our most successful work gets done as a team.

Finally, we believe everyone involved should enjoy the process. We love what we do and hope the enthusiasm rubs off.

The Team

Beth (Brophy) Strautz


A Chicago native, Beth (Brophy) Strautz is President and Founder of Vagus, Inc. With over 20 years of experience successfully branding and driving revenue for some of the world’s largest companies including Hyatt, Marriott, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Ben & Jerry’s and Darden, Strautz provides the experience and expertise to quickly grow any brand in any market.

Before forming Vagus in 2004, Strautz served as an Account Director at Point B Communications. Her main responsibility was to act as team leader in planning and executing integrated marketing strategies for accounts including Gemstone Resorts, Sofitel, Marriott International and Vail Resorts. She oversaw strategy, content development and creative execution of all campaign initiatives. Campaigns included everything from collateral, broadcast, print media and direct mail to public relations and interactive.

Prior to joining Point B in 1999, she served as Marketing and PR Manager for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns and licenses over 60 restaurants nationwide. While at Lettuce, she created and directed public relations strategies and promotional programs for restaurants including Everest, Tru, Wildfire, Big Bowl, and Maggiano’s.

Before joining Lettuce, she worked at Hyatt Hotels Corporation where she managed marketing and PR for over 104 hotels and resorts in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. At Hyatt, she learned the inner workings of the hospitality industry first hand. Her responsibilities included marketing hotel openings and acquisitions, and creating company-wide promotions.

Her experience also includes a marketing position at the Chicago Office of Tourism where she handled public relations for journalists on assignment in Chicago and acted as liaison with Foreign Consulates and the Chamber of Commerce.


Erika Gimbel

Senior Copy Writer

With over 20 years of proven public relations experience, Erika has successfully developed, managed and executed integrated marketing programs for a wide range of industries, from business-to-business financial services to consumer packaged goods.

At CKPR, her work included concept development, team management and implementation of media-driven programs. Erika led media relations for ABN AMRO and LaSalle Banks, publicizing products and services ranging from B2B e-commerce to corporate bonds. Both banks received regular coverage in major financial trade publications as well as consumer outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today and on CNBC, and her efforts won a Golden Trumpet Award for financial public relations.

Erika also successfully led national public relations strategy and activities for Alberto Culver brands Mrs. Dash, Molly McButter and Baker’s Joy.

Previously, Erika worked with a team at Grant/Jacoby to market Microsoft educational products and services. She publicized Microsoft’s laptops-in-schools program as well as products such as Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, Microsoft Interactive Teletubbies and Microsoft Magic School Bus.

Other clients have included GlaxoSmithKline, CareerBuilder, the MacArthur Foundation, IMAX, Hyatt Hotel Corp., the American College of Prosthodontists, and Spiegel Catalog.

Prior to working in PR, Erika worked in Russia for several years on U.S. government-sponsored programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern.


Kelli Packer

Media Specialist

Kelli Hartsock is a PR professional with nearly a decade of public relations experience, living and breathing the B2C space, specializing in food/beverage, hospitality and health/wellness lifestyle communications. Her expertise lies within strategic planning and media relations, as well as creative content creation, brand ambassadorships, and event management.

Currently, Kelli is a freelance public relations strategist and media relations expert, consulting on and managing a number of local and national clients. Some of her notable media placements include: The New York Times, TIME magazine, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Men's Health, Women's Health, Working Mother, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, to name a few.

In past positions, she has supported multiple U.S.-based hotel, resort, and restaurant openings, and brand /product launches, as well as managed and a number of high-profile spokesperson campaigns for major CPG brands, with house-hold names such as Bob Harper of "The Biggest Loser", Miranda Cosgrove of "iCarly," American Idol, Jordin Sparks and Marcus Samuelsson of "Top Chef Masters.”. Additionally, Kelli has also worked with a number of leading CPG health brands and products in the fitness and wellness spaces. Some of her past clients include Burger King, Curio By Hilton, Kraft Foods, Marriott Hotels, Morton's Steak House, NBTY: Osteo Bi-Flex, Optimum Nutrition, Pycnogenol, and Quaker Oats.

Outside of the office, Kelli is an active member of Camp Campbell - an organization of Campbell Soup Co., comprised of professional and influential women in food and business. She also lectures at Columbia College Chicago, sharing public relations best practices and trends, as well as personal brand marketing insights.


Kate Pacholek

Account Coordinator/Social Media Manager

Kate is an Account Coordinator and Social Media Manager at Vagus PR developing social media strategy, custom content and creative, as well as community management and reporting. Kate also provides support on all client accounts including writing, media relations, event support, and agency's day-to-day operations, award program, and more.

Kate has over a decade of combined experience in marketing, advertising, and public relations domains. Her background includes working with a myriad of clients in industries such as travel and hospitality, retail, F&B, CPG, technology, education, non-profit, healthcare and more.

Over the years, Kate has executed a variety of roles, including management of product and service branding and launch, hotel and restaurant openings, media buying and execution, creation and printing of marketing and materials, promotions, in-store demo planning (Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Publix), trade show planning and execution, and more. She has also been involved in PR strategy and media relations, media events, grand openings, and national and local influencer marketing and partnerships (Goop, Cherry Bombe).

Kate has worked with a number of brands ranging from hotel chains to independently or family-owned businesses, including Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Marriott International, Autograph Collection, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, Eaglewood Resort & Spa, Lincolnshire Marriott Resort, Chicago Marriott Naperville, Walgreens, Maple Hill Creamery, and Kate’s Real Food.

She garnered press for clients in national, regional, local markets including Daily Herald, Chicago Tribune, WDRB/FOX41, WAVE3/NBC, and a number of national outlets like EatingWell, WholeFoods Magazine, Main Line Today, BuzzFeed, Reader’s Digest and more. 

Kate has also managed relationships with local chambers and CVBs for clients including Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville, Inc., Visit Lake Geneva, Travel Wisconsin, to name a few. She has also secured numerous awards multiple  Stella Awards, The Daily Herald Business Ledger Annual Awards for Business Excellence, and  The Daily Herald Business Ledger Diversity in Business Awards for a number of clients.

ideas that connect the head with the heart