THE BLOG

Women in Business Q&A: Susan Lindner, Founder, Emerging Media

02/27/2015 11:06 am ET | Updated Apr 29, 2015

Susan Lindner founded the award-winning Lotus Public Relations in 2002 in the midst of the first burst tech bubble, growing it into one of the top 20 fastest growing PR firms in NY by 2005. In 2009, recognizing the powerful advent of social media, Lotus became Emerging Media - a full service BRAND, PR, MKTG and SOCIAL agency dedicated to helping disruptive companies reach their maximum potential.

With more than 15 years experience in public relations, Susan has worked with innovative Fortune 500 brands (BP, National City Bank, Xerox), dynamic tech companies (Akamai, XMPIE, Equitrac, PokerStars), more than 40 international startups, and has helped 10 companies to get acquired in the last 10 years. The Holmes Report, Bulldog Reporter, PR News, Golden Bridge Awards, Top PR Agencies and the Stevie Awards have recognized her and her team at Emerging Media among the top ranked agencies, year after year.

Susan's passion for helping innovators to communicate and connect began prior to her work in corporate communications, stemming from her background as an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Susan studied and worked in Central America, Southeast Asia and throughout NYC, developing and implementing disruptive programs to support social development, microfinance, entrepreneurship, and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Susan speaks four languages and is an active board member of Tricycle Magazine and the Entrepreneurs' Organization and a volunteer teacher at the Workshop in Business Opportunities, helping minority, women and immigrant entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
As a cultural anthropologist by training, that lens has allowed me to see different viewpoints without a lot of judgment. I'm fundamentally very curious about people and their purpose, and then weighing those viewpoints out. So for me, being a good leader is being a good listener, considering lots of unique perspectives and creating a solid strategy from there. That approach, whether it's meeting with health workers in northern Thailand to work on AIDS campaigns or collaborating with startups on their launch campaigns, it's about listening to people.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Emerging Media?
Working as an epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control taught me how to be a disciplined leader, and instill within me the need for everyday creativity that sometimes government service does not often allow you to have. So, the rigor and objectivity in working in science was incredibly helpful to working with journalists who demand those same principles. What's great about PR is ability to build a full story around the data in a way that moves people to respond and act.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Emerging Media?
The highlight of growing Emerging Media is watching my team's hard work in building incredible campaigns turn into real business results for clients. Observing a young startup going from zero to hero, and participating fully with the executives and teams of those companies to make it happen, is the most gratifying experience for me.

The challenge of running Emerging Media is always staying one step ahead of our clients' needs. That means always anticipating their needs, even before they can express them. For example, we might see a client doing phenomenally well in the press, but with a less than robust social media presence. To me, that feels like we're losing opportunities. It's my job find a way to help them grow, and relentlessly get better at everything they do. We're here to help them validate their way of disrupting their industry. That's a 24/7 job.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
My advice is to forget fear. Just be very clear about three things: your purpose, your vision, and your personal mission is for your own life as well as for your clients. Also, be 100% sure of your core values and be willing to send the people who do not live up to those standards on their way.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't. I love what I do, and I do it all the time. But, I will designate screen-free times when I am with my family so that they have my undivided attention. In 2015, I'm going to try to get more balance in, but it's a struggle.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women in the workplace is looking from micro to macro. It is women inserting their incredible ideas, getting heard, and leveraging their success for promotion and that must be driven by the woman herself.

From an organizational standpoint, it is a willingness to give women the flexibility they need to be successful. So whether that is flex time, maternity time, or working from home, organizations must to respond to the needs of women in order to grow and be successful because without them, they will not remain competitive.

McKinsey & Co. did some incredible research on the impact of diversity on corporate performance in the US and Europe, and found that diverse executive boards produce greater success for customers and shareholders alike. We're talking 53% higher return on equity and 14% higher EBIT margins. We know that including women, and giving them the reigns makes business sense. Owning our rightful and earned place is personal and institutional initiative that should be a priority for smart women and smart companies everywhere.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
One of my greatest joys is mentoring young employees at Emerging Media and watching them grow. I look to other entrepreneurs to help me watch out for pitfalls in my own entrepreneurial journey. I think it's critical to have people support you and challenge you, but most of all, to hold you accountable to obtain your long-term goals. I'm lucky that my team does that for me as I hope to do it for them.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! because I think she is the one person capable of bringing that company back to its former glory, and beyond. She has increased mobile advertising revenues from $125M million when she started to a projected $1.2 billion this year, and is set to surpass Twitter in mobile ad share in 2015, behind Google and Facebook. Few could have seen that coming, or done it in the last 5 years.

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, who helped expand the global vision for Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg could not have achieved on his own. And lastly, I admire Oprah because she taught women that they could be who they are while being incredibly successful, and that true success is purpose driven success.

What do you want Emerging Media to accomplish in the next year?
Our big hairy, audacious goal is to be the number one agency for disruptive companies. So whether that's in 2015, or that's a longer-term goal, that is always our goal. We want Emerging Media to be the best place to work for people who share that vision as much as for the companies that we serve. Most importantly, I want us all to enjoy the ride.