Here at LiveMom, we love meeting new moms (and dads) doing interesting things around town. Our monthly features give us an excuse to learn more about these hardworking Austinites.
For years, the Trail of Lights was on many Austin families’ lists of can’t-miss holiday events. When the lights dimmed in 2010 for two years, City residents were heartbroken. In 2012, the Trail of Lights returned, shifting from public to private funding. The 2014 event was bigger and better than ever.
One of the driving forces behind the success of last year’s Trail of Lights is Kathleen Lucente, the President and Founder of Red Fan Communications and mom of two. We are happy that Kathleen was up for answering some of our questions. Read on to learn her take on the perfect day in Austin, what she would improve upon if she could and why she set aside life in the fast lane in New York City to make the move here 9 years ago.
Kathleen: Mark and I have two children: Gillian Grace Lucente, age 11 — I gave birth to her in Hong Kong where I was working as the VP and Regional Heading of Corporate Communications for JPMorgan Chase Asia Pacific; our son Owen Michael Lucente is 9 years old— born right here in Austin, Texas, at St. David’s hospital.
LiveMom: What is one piece of unsolicited advice you’d give to a new mom?
Kathleen: Don’t get overwhelmed with all of the mommy books, mommy groups and the pressure to over-schedule your kiddo and yourself. In the end you need to have the right mommy social relationships and remember that a few good friends go a long way. You need to be able to fill your own cup and take care of yourself or you’re no good to anyone. So, make time for yourself — as well as that baby music class you’re trying to get to.
And, remember: when in doubt, you truly do know what’s best for you and your kiddos — so don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise (books, moms with lots of opinions, etc.). If you’re getting stressed out, step back and breathe! If you feel out of kilter you probably are — so sit back, make the right adjustments, say “no” to things and get into a rhythm that works for you and your family.
LiveMom: What brought you to Austin? How long have you lived here?
Kathleen: Nine years ago I had an option to stay with JPMorgan and move from Hong Kong to NYC and then to Chicago to head PR for the newly merged Chase/BankOne. After running a fully integrated marketing and communications strategy across Asia Pacific, nothing really looked that exciting or challenging to me. So I instead, decided to take a different path.
I had this amazing opportunity to sit back and think about where I wanted to live in the US, where I wanted to put down roots and what environment I wanted to surrounded myself with. I had been to Austin a lot during my career. In the early 90s, I was at an agency in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I oversaw PR for Motorola’s 68000 microprocessors out of Austin. Then again, when I was at Ketchum in NYC, I wound up in Austin overseeing Tivoli’s integration with IBM. When I was manager of PR at IBM Research, I was in charge of announcing all the big chip breakthroughs from silicon-on-insulator (SoI) to the 64 Gigbyte chip to the (now-industry-standard use of copper on chips) — and each time I was back to Austin! It’s as though there was a magnetic force pulling me here. So when it came time to think about where I might want to live in the US — it was at a time when I had already given birth to Gillian in Hong Kong — I realized that I needed to start making decisions that would be good for my new family.
Richard Karlgaard’s book, Life 2.0, came out and his focus was on how people across America were transforming their lives by finding the “where” of their happiness. No surprise: Austin was one of those places in the book and although Austin had changed since the book was originally written, it was even more attractive to me as a place to put down roots! We bought our home in Austin without jobs. We wanted to live in the city, have one car, be within walking distance to one of the best public elementary schools, be near the UT campus and be able to really begin to make a forever home for ourselves. We hit the jackpot because it has been such a good fit for our family, for our lives, and for me to start my own business and run it the way I have always dreamed of running it.
LiveMom: What was it like for your firm to manage the outreach efforts for the 50th anniversary of the Austin Trail of Lights, one of our town’s most beloved holiday traditions?
Kathleen: Tremendous. One of the first things I did when I moved to Austin nine years ago was visit the Trail of Lights. It was a magical experience and very much captured the essence of the American spirit and the Austin community.
Red Fan has now spearheaded the PR efforts for the Trail of Lights for the past two years. In those two years we helped establish the Trail of Lights Foundation, which works to secure funds for the Trail through corporate sponsors and community donations. We worked with the Foundation to educate the community about Trail logistics and infrastructure – how to buy ZiP passes and what that entails, the best ways to plan your visit to the Trail, what not to miss, introduce the weekend gate fee, etc. We also helped establish the media partnerships for the past two years and worked closely with them (and all media) to make sure the community knows the best way to plan their trips to the Trail and ensure visitors are up to date on any new components year to year.
We have found that working with the Trail of Lights team is incredibly inspiring. You get to see the community partners, companies and individuals coming together to keep this tradition alive.
With the 50th anniversary, we saw Austin’s corporate community start to really step up in their commitment to the Trail, making it a tradition to support for years to come. We’ve seen the Trail put Austin on the map with media both locally and nationally as a city that believes in tradition and rallies. Even as we grow, we want to keep these beloved traditions alive for generations to come.
While my PR agency works to launch companies, help businesses go public on the NYSE, release new products, avoid crisis situations and more, we are very proud of the important campaigns we work on right here in the Austin community, certainly including the Trail of Lights.
LiveMom: What trends are you noticing in the field of public relations?
Kathleen: It’s interesting that if you read about trends you’ll hear all about how content is king. But the truth is, content has always been king. PR is about generating content that is newsworthy. The platforms have expanded and changed, so the content needs to be structured differently for key audiences, but that’s what any great agency does on a regular basis.
Integrated campaigns are nothing new, but companies are finally seeing the light, realizing that compartmentalizing their advertising, marketing, PR, internal communications and social media efforts is bad for business. The value of having these teams synergize and collaborate is essential.
Measuring results in PR is something that so many companies ask for, and I’m pleased to see the tools are evolving. Today we have tools that allow us to immediately see the voice a company has across press, how that’s spreading through social media and how that measures up with the competition. This helps us set a benchmark before a campaign launches so we can be sure we’re moving the mark appropriately. This is a whole new level of insight we can provide to our clients upfront, as well as throughout the campaign. In the past, that would have cost far too much and taken thousands of hours to generate.
LiveMom: What projects are you most excited about in the coming year?
Kathleen: After bringing Q2 public on the NYSE last march, we are excited to bring them to a new level. This year it is all about success stories and bringing to light how this company has such a great culture and leadership. We’re very proud to be representing them and bringing added value to the Q2 Client Connect 15 conference and other key things.
We’re also working on a number of companies that are challenging their vertical space to do things differently. Our brand positioning audits for companies like Atlas Wearables really empowers company leadership to be thoughtful in the language they are using to position themselves as breaking out from the norm with technology and user interfaces that won’t be fleeting gadgets of the moment.
LiveMom: A 2007 report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that Austin ranked 48th out of the 50 largest cities on giving. Through your work with Austin Gives and Red Fan’s other philanthropic efforts, do you see Austin’s culture around giving changing?
Kathleen: Austin is a city with an amazing corporate culture running through the DNA. The leaders of companies and the employees here want to make a difference. So whether it bubbles up through the company from the staff or it is part of the desire of the management teams initially — at the end of the day these companies are actively doing good — with their hands, their hearts, their expertise and their donations. What’s unique about this city is that this effort is natural and authentic. We see this when we work with Austin Gives, which was modeled after similar efforts in two other cities outside of Texas. Those efforts have been going on for years and yet with Austin Gives we’ve overshot all other cities in the level of members and involvement. We’re also able to reveal some truly amazing stories about small, medium and large companies that are doing things they aren’t naturally publicizing or promoting. These are inspirational stories about giving back to the community in ways that will keep Austin true to itself even as we grow. If these values stay intact in the way we are seeing them now — I believe they will magnify and help this city remain unique.
LiveMom: If you could create a day full of your favorite family-friendly activities, what would that look like?
Kathleen: I’m a sucker for a good hike – a trip to Enchanted Rock or a hike with our dog at Turkey Creek Trail (Emma Long Park) very early with a picnic of breakfast tacos from El Chilito really sets the day right. A mega-play date at a pool in the summer like Shipe and then a group dinner with good friends and their kiddos at our houses with BBQ, amazing wine and good music.
Living in Austin means good weather most of the year but even when it’s hot, I’m game, because it’s about getting up early making the most of that morning, heading in from the sun during mid-day and then breaking out again in the afternoon for another outdoor activity. It’s a place where taking in live music is something you can do with your kids and your friends. Unlike many cities — where adult playing excludes kids — Austin is an easy place to raise a family.
LiveMom: What do you like most about Austin, and what would you change if you could?
Kathleen: Austin is a city where you can truly be yourself. I never feel pressured to be anyone else. Maybe that’s just me, or the social circles I’ve selected, but I love the way we’re able to morph from family fun to adult date nights without a lot of fussing. Or we’re able to merge the two and all have a blast!
I’d like to see the city have a better plan for development and passion for refreshing places like The Drag, or stopping the easy growth of strip mall type roads. I think we’re better than that and some city planning and zoning would help to embrace the weirdness of Austin while making the growth and transportation options improve Austin as place to live.
LiveMom: Your bio says that you are interested in wine, culinary events and live music. What are some of your favorite places around town where you go to enjoy your favorite things?
Kathleen: Austin has a ton of incredible places to eat or drink no matter the occasion. Some of my favorites are Drink.Well. for wine with the girls and tasty bites or Josephine House for a business lunch. For a close-to-home date night my go-tos are Emmett Fox’s Fino or Asti, Vino Vino or Kome Sushi. For special occasions and an off-the-chart wine lists, I visit laV but my favorite to grab a bite with friends is Arro. The wine list a this French favorite is curated beautifully. For food-inspired events, I enjoy the Austin Food and Wine Festival with a VIP pass for a super fun and worthwhile time. I’m also looking forward to Texas Monthly’s BBQ Fest where I can take the family to compare BBQ options from around town.
While new restaurants are always on my list — I am always tickled to take in a 5-course wine pairing at Wink — an exceptional restaurant that has been consistently amazing. I’m also very much looking forward to the opening of Juniper, a new Italian restaurant coming to town that our client, Sanders Architecture has been a part of. There is also Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, where you pick up an amazing cheese plate for those nights you are entertaining guests and I can’t forget Tecolote Farms which delivers remarkable fresh, organic produce straight to your house or office!