Women in Business Q&A: Lindsey Carnett, CEO and President, Marketing Maven

Lindsey Carnett is the CEO and President of Marketing Maven. Named a Folio: Magazine 2015 Top Women in Media Rising Star and featured in the Forbes Most Powerful Woman Business Leader issue, Lindsey Carnett has taken her business expertise globally to enlighten marketing peers, clients and students about best practices in using PR to drive sales, improve organic SEO and grow a positive online reputation. Having spoken at high profile national marketing and consumer products conferences and guest lectured at universities, Carnett has gained the reputation as an expert in the field of marketing and public relations. In addition to her speaking success, Carnett's copy has appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Allure, and she has appeared on TheStreet.com, National Public Radio (NPR), The Doctors, The Jeff Probst Show, Telemundo, and local ABC, NBC and CBS morning news programs, as well as USA Today, PR Week, Forbes Woman among others. Most recently Carnett received a Top Women in Business Award from Pacific Coast Business Times, a Silver Stevie Award as Female Entrepreneur of the Year, was named a Top 25 Largest Women Owned Business in San Fernando Valley Business Journal and received multiple 40 Under 40 Awards as she started her business in 2009 at the age of 26.

A recent graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and current VISTAGE member, Carnett also sits as the Content Committee Chair for the Electronic Retailing Association, the Vice Chairman of the California Lutheran University Victory Club, Advisor for the PRSSA and former 4-year PR and Marketing Chair of Women in Sports and Events (WISE) Los Angeles. A NCAA collegiate women's soccer captain and officer in the American Marketing Association, Carnett received her B.A. degree in Spanish and Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and Advertising. Her business certifications include WBE, WOSB, 8(a), DBE, CUPC, Metro and WBENC.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up as the daughter of a Spanish teacher (my mother) and a clinical psychologist (my father) who grew a large private practice. Growing up, I saw my father go through the ups and downs of owning his business and being an entrepreneur before it was a trendy and a major in college like it is today. My parents always encouraged me to do whatever I set my mind to and put forth 110% to be the best I could be. This helped me to develop confidence, which is one of the leadership traits I express to my staff, my clients and my peers today.

When I was five, I decided to open a café, made a menu then used my allowance to purchase inventory at the grocery store. I had a special shelf in our kitchen cupboard where I could get my supplies, make food with my mom's supervision then personally invited my neighbors to eat at my restaurant. This taught me the value of money at a very young age.

Leadership also requires thinking outside of the box to accomplish a task. I had the opportunity to travel to China representing Washington Cultural Exchange to play international soccer and I looked for methods of fundraising for my teammates and me. While others believed it would be impossible to raise the funds, I leveraged our local media securing several feature stories and the checks started rolling in. This also helped me realize the power of publicity at a high school age.

I learned about leadership through by role as the captain of my club soccer, high school and college soccer teams. You must lead by example and encourage others. This is what creates a team culture of positivity, one of the primary ingredients to success.

When I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to work in biochemistry so I took the pre-med science classes then later learned about my passion for communications, Spanish and marketing. This knowledge has really come full circle for me since we have so many healthcare and nutrition based clients at Marketing Maven. Part of my job is to take very complicated science and make the messaging more consumer friendly.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Marketing Maven?
My previous employment experience has taught me to have tough skin, always have a strategy, show tangible results and work harder than your peers. My first PR job was for an agency with a strong celebrity focus. I had to deal with so many egos that if I didn't have tough skin, I wouldn't have survived. I learned to have a strategy as the marketing director of a publicly traded company since everyone within a larger organization always has their own hidden agenda. Tangible results are how you show your value. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many hours you work if you can't get results that help make your business or your client money. Growing up in direct response marketing has taught me how to measure tangible results and directly connect them to the bottom line for my clients selling consumer products. Hard work ethic is something I stand by as a former collegiate athlete. My team knows that they will work very hard but we also get to play hard to celebrate our successes.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Marketing Maven?
One of the highlights during my tenure at Marketing Maven has been helping to help an entrepreneur grow from a one product invention to growing a multi-product line globally. From securing PR coverage on the Today Show, in Real Simple magazine and others, they were able to grow their retail sales channels both domestically and internationally.

Other highlights have been securing large brands as clients, winning RFPs, winning awards for our most successful campaigns against significantly larger agencies and having top talent approach Marketing Maven because they want to be a part of our very special culture.

Challenges have included hiring too many employees too quickly then needing to catch up with the number of clients. I think it is a constant battle for agencies that aren't part of a larger media conglomerate- just part of the growing pains, yet also part of the excitement.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in public relations?
My best advice to women looking for a career in public relations is to become an intern early in your college career. Join the PRSSA at your university and start networking with business leaders in your community. These professional communications skills will be essential to helping you be a better fit for a firm. Also do work on a project that doesn't involve a class in college. Real world experience with all of the typical unknown variables will make your training more realistic.

Don't be afraid to ask a PR practitioner for an informational interview. Ask to take a contact you meet at a networking event out for coffee and come prepared with 10 interview questions for them to answer over a period of 30 minutes. Also be clear about your goals. Are you more interested in political PR or technology PR? What questions do you have about working at an agency versus being in-house PR? Are you more interested in developing your social media skills and becoming part of a digital PR team as opposed to working with traditional print and broadcast media?

Be sure to follow up. A professional follow up email, a connection on LinkedIn or a handwritten thank you card goes a long way. If part of your job description will be following up with media, the PR leader you are approaching must see those same follow up qualities in you when looking to build a career in PR.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
The most important lesson I've learned in my career to date is not to be a "yes man" and speak up. Clients are paying you for your professional opinion as a marketing and PR professional so you don't have to agree with everything. In fact, you are oftentimes respected more for bringing up a point in contrary and supporting it with strong rationale. This insight is highly valued by the CEO of a company. Being the most quiet, polite person in the room won't get you far. In the field of communications, you will grow much faster if you can clearly articulate your professional opinion. Always keep in professional in written and verbal communication but perhaps indulge in a public speaking class to practice the tone of your voice, identifying if you have an upward inflection that sounds like a question as opposed to a statement so you appear to be more confident in what you are saying.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
The work/life balance has been a struggle throughout my career. Since the news happens 24/7, PR professionals are inundated by emails, tweets and headlines constantly. I have to set boundaries for my staff, my clients and myself in terms of expectations of how quickly I'll be responding to emails, phone calls, text messages and tweets. I have to put personal appointments on the calendar just as I would a business meeting to make sure it happens- from the gym to getting a massage to a date with my husband. It sounds extreme but it helps me to stay organized and mentally block out that time. This also helps my assistant not to book any business meetings during those times I have set aside for personal time.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is not communicating their big wins. I make a point to encourage my team, primarily made of women, to be proud of and celebrate their success. By nature, women don't like to brag about themselves. However, in the PR world it is essential to clearly communicate campaign wins to clients, which includes reporting on the success. I was once told that nobody will keep track of all of the career wins as well as you will so it is important to document these because others will quickly forget. These are the highlights to include in your LinkedIn profile, your bio and tout when you introduce yourself. This helps our client to get excited about the account manager for their campaign. Clients want to have confidence in you so you first need to have confidence in yourself. I also recommend my employees make a presentation showcasing all of their biggest wins since the last review period so they have a strong platform for negotiating pay increases. If they are successful, Marketing Maven is successful which gives me an incentive for them to grow in their careers and keep earning big wins for our clients then clearly articulating them and celebrating them.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been huge in my professional and personal life. There is a sense of comradery getting to have a candid conversation with a man or woman in your industry who has been around the block a time or two. They can tell you what to watch out for, what you are doing well, what you can do to be better or who to avoid. I think you can get more out of mentorship if you approach it with a strategy. For example, a mentor in your industry makes sense. Do you want them to be male or female? How frequently do you want to meet from them and what questions do you have for them? How can you provide value to them? Some of the most interesting mentorship stories I have heard from organizations like Women In Sports and Events (WISE) are surrounding the rewarding experience the mentor had from the mentee. Despite being older in most cases, a mentor oftentimes asks a mentee about being a millennial, communication protocol using social media, etc.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Jessica Mendoza, former USA Olympic Softball gold medalist because she is an advocate for the Women's Sports Foundation, she owns a national coaching business, she is a member of the media reporting on sporting events on national television and travels the globe with her husband and two kids. She is an inspiration to young athletes, women of all ages, members of the media and business owners. Jessica also gives back by speaking at events about her experience as a woman in sports, in media and in business. She is very personable, has not let her fame go to her head and still maintains a role as a loving mother and wife.

What do you want Marketing Maven to accomplish in the next year?
I have many goals for Marketing Maven over the next year. I just hired a Managing Director for our New York City office so I am looking to expand our east coast operation significantly over the next 12 months. I am also looking to win a government contract from our 8(a) certification. We are also looking to enter new Fortune 100 companies through their Supplier Diversity channels through our Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification.