Emerging Voices: Lindsay Malone

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Lindsay Malone serves as the digital marketing manager for Prophet, a consultancy that helps its clients find better ways to grow. She is responsible for the development, management and implementation of the digital B2Bmarketing strategy.

Please summarize your professional career and its high and low points. (How did you work your way up the ladder? What have you learned along the way? What factors most contributed to your success?)

I graduated from undergrad in December of 2008, just after the recession began. Marketing jobs were few and far between, and few employers were hiring for entry-level positions. I accepted a position as a store manager at a video rental store. It was not my dream job, but it allowed me to flex my marketing muscles a bit. I developed in-store promotions, created merchandise displays and organized grassroots marketing events to drive business. After a few years, I started looking for the next step in my career. The economy was still hurting, and so I decided to go to grad school and get a master’s degree in advertising and PR.

During graduate school, I took a graduate assistantship with University Programming. I managed social media and coordinated on-campus events and concerts. I found that I naturally excelled at event planning as I’m extremely organized and detail oriented, and the promotions component allowed me to develop and execute marketing strategies. As I neared graduation, I narrowed my job search to only include event planning positions. I decided I wanted to move to Chicago, and so I started scouring the Best Place to Work in Chicago lists to find relevant job openings. I was thrilled to find an available position for a marketing and events coordinator at Assurance, and even more excited when I got the job!

In my first role with Assurance, I planned internal company events and external-facing webinars and seminars. To my surprise, I was most interested in the work I was doing to promote the webinars and seminars as I could use data to help guide my efforts in driving increased registration and participation in the events. I could prove that the work I was doing was making an impact, and that was incredibly motivating to me. My manager noticed my strengths in digital marketing and offered me a promotion to integrated marketing specialist. The new role came with new responsibilities including the development and execution of email and social media campaigns.

While many of my peers were jumping jobs and switching companies every few years, I enjoyed the work I was doing and had opportunities to grow and develop while working for the same employer. After five years at Assurance, a recruiter from Prophet reached out to me on LinkedIn and let me know they wanted to consider me for a digital marketing manager position. It was the first such inquiry that I considered, and after reviewing the job description and taking time to learn about the company I realized that it was a good opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone, and out of the insurance industry, and really put my skills to the test.

When I joined Prophet, the company was growing and expanding into new global markets very quickly. I had no experience marketing a business globally, so it was a big challenge but I enthusiastically jumped in and began to learn the intricacies. In this role I was responsible for our global digital marketing strategy, from website experience to lead generation, and everything in between. In my time at Prophet I have been promoted twice, taking on management responsibilities, mentoring junior talent, overseeing a budget, making process improvements and more.

As my career has evolved, I’ve taken on every opportunity to learn, develop and grow personally and professionally. When there were forks in the road, I allowed my passion and interests to guide me. I have been incredibly loyal, and while I don’t know how it would have played out otherwise, I feel that it’s allowed me to develop incredibly valuable professional relationships, broaden my skillset and take on new opportunities, find work/life balance, and inevitably “climb the ladder,” too.

According to The Holmes Report, women make up about 70% of the PR workforce, but they only hold about 30% of the top positions in the industry. Why do you think there is a shortage of women leaders in PR? What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

I believe one of the most significant barriers to female leadership is the lack of female leadership. Without females in leadership positions, it’s hard to overcome the societal norms and perceptions about gender characteristics in the workforce. And, it’s difficult as a woman to imagine yourself in those roles if there aren’t women in those roles.

Additionally, female leaders who do take on leadership positions tend to downplay their role as a female business leader because they don’t want to be viewed differently than their male counterparts. Because female leaders are few and far between, their success is often framed as success “for a woman.” They’re often asked questions that start off with: “As a woman in business, X…” This isn’t a question that gets asked of men and alludes that the woman’s success was either because they are (or despite) being a woman. It’s not a result they achieved because they are a person who worked hard, for many years, to get to where they are at. As a result, I’ve witnessed senior female leaders opt out of events, interviews, and awards that emphasize their role as female business leaders. And, while I understand their stance on this, sometimes I wonder if it’s to the detriment of junior female talent that could learn of their success, see them as role models or mentors, and follow in their footsteps.

What can organizations (and the industry as a whole) do to prepare women for top leadership positions? What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in leadership?

My company has a dedicated task force driving an effort to understand why there’s a lack of female leadership and how they can enable and/or empower women to step into leadership roles. I believe this is an introspective exploration that every business should undergo; to identify what barriers are present within their own workplace environment and what can be done to establish a more inclusive, and positive environment for all.

I’d like to see women own their role as female leaders. Because we aren’t even close to gender parity in leadership, female leaders are an anomaly. Female leaders should explain what helped them break through the glass ceiling and reach the top. Female leaders should discuss the barriers they faced in their own career development, and actively work toward breaking down those barriers for future talent. Female leaders should be proud that they’re a female leader, and use that position to mentor, inspire and develop the next generation of female leaders.

As a role model for women, what advice do you have for women interested in a career in public relations?

My advice to women interested in a career in PR (or business), is to let your passions guide you, always keep learning and challenging yourself, and take good care of the relationships you develop personally and professionally.

Let your passions guide you: The old phrase, “If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” is a total lie. You’re not going to love your job every day, but you are going to have to work every day (well most days). If you find that your interests and passions are taking you in a different direction, follow that instinct and figure out how you can find more fulfillment in what you are doing every day.

Always keep learning: Set yourself up for success. Broaden your skillset, challenge yourself and always seek opportunities to grow. Doing so will make you more marketable to prospective employers, more essential to the companies that employ you, and more valuable to the people who follow your leadership.

Take care of relationships: authentic relationships are some of the greatest assets in business. Developing quality relationships can lead to career opportunities, potential collaborations, and even result in increased revenue for your business.

What are three ways you inspire and encourage teamwork among your team?

I manage a globally dispersed team, and yet most often it doesn’t feel as if we’re on different continents. For our structure, these are three things I do to encourage teamwork on my team:

  • Always meet face-to-face. Working in different offices makes it challenging to develop personal relationships with teammates, and so I think it’s paramount that my team does video conferencing to build deeper connections and bridge the location barrier so that teamwork isn’t transactional.
  • Be a teammate. Hierarchy and teamwork are contradictory. There is no task below any person on the team. Since we’re all working toward the same objective, all members of the team should always be willing to jump in and help in any way that helps us achieve our goals.
  • Be inclusive: Every member of the team has valuable insight and ideas to contribute. No matter what we’re planning, I seek ideas from all members of the team and encourage working together to nurture the best ideas (not just my ideas).

How did you manage the transition from the classroom to the boardroom? What was the biggest shock or surprise during that transition about the profession?

Honestly, I don’t remember there being much of a shock or surprise when I started my first job. I had enough internships and experience through my graduate assistantship to understand the office dynamics and what was expected of me as an employee. However, what I find most with students that I mentor is that they are afraid. They are afraid to ask questions. Afraid to speak up and contribute. Afraid to not have all the answers. Afraid to get it wrong.

Your employer hired you, knowing that you were recently a student, because they valued what you had to say in your interview. They know it’s early in your career and they’re not expecting you to know everything, but they are expecting you to contribute, be eager to learn, experience and grow, and they’re even expecting that you’re going to get it wrong sometimes. Always do your best, always try to figure it out on your own first, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’ve done all of these things, there’s no reason to not be confident speaking up.

What’s something you wish you had learned in college but didn’t? What do you do to be an eternal student?

I live by the advice I gave previously – always be learning. When working for Assurance I took all the insurance licensing exams to ensure that I understood the ins and outs of the products that I was marketing. When I started becoming interested in digital marketing, I enrolled in a post-graduate certificate through NYU. When we’ve taken on new software or technologies, I participate in all the trainings because regardless of whether I’m going to be the administrator or using it every day, it’s helpful for me to know how all the systems are working together, have the knowledge to support my teammates, and understand what each system’s capabilities are. Every day I’m seeking new opportunities to learn and grow.

With the myriad of industry changes, what inspires you to stay motivated and encouraged?

Change motivates me. Technology is ever changing and so it keeps the work from becoming mundane. There’s always something to learn, there are always ways to improve, and there are lots of opportunities to make a measurable impact.

The Plank Center created the Millennials in PR series for rising public relations professionals to detail their experiences and share messages of counsel with students and other professionals.

Published: March 7, 2019