Kathleen Lucente

The Faces Behind the Fan: Meet President & Founder, Kathleen Lucente

Kathleen is Red Fan’s founder and president. With more than 20 years of experience she’s influenced the public relations industry in New York, Boston, Hong Kong and back again. Settling in the great city of Austin, Kathleen considers herself to be a proud Texan (although a Northeastern accent escapes from time to time).

After serving as JPMorgan’s vice president and director of corporate marketing and communications for Asia Pacific, it was time to journey back to the red, white and blue.

Her flight over the Pacific Ocean sparked an idea that set into motion what Red Fan is today. Want a deeper look into the thoughts, passions and endeavors of our fearless leader? Read on.

You previously nailed a corporate position that relocated you to Asia. Name a cherished memory you gained from this cultural experience.

Each country has its own way of doing things and learning what works with the press in Korea vs. China vs. Japan or Australia is so amazing and fun. After a job like that it’s hard to come back and think of any position that would be as fulfilling. I was solving problems daily, hourly, while proactively building out great opportunities to showcase the JPMorgan brand along with its successes and commitments to the region. It showed me that I live for the challenges and I’m really good at them. My team members across Asia taught me so much and it showed me that you’re only as good as your team. I loved building it out and having other banks wonder how we had created such a stellar group.

Of course, on the personal side, I will never forget giving birth to my first child in Hong Kong. Gillian is representative of so much that is wonderful about my 4.5 years in Asia. I’m a better person in so many ways for broadening my horizons and I don't think the desire to keep growing will stop anytime soon!

What major challenges did you face in the early phases of establishing your own startup?

I really hit the ground running but was faced with the challenge of a client coming to town for a big meeting along with a former governor from Massachusetts. I realized I was running the business from my home and the client wanted me to host the meeting.

Luckily, we had a wonderful lobbyist friend who said, "Kathleen, you’re a rock star, and your clients know that. Take my office overlooking the capitol and use the conference room for the full two days. You’ll have your own office space some day." Today, I do have my own office, and I will never forget her generosity and how proud it made me feel to know that another impressive woman cared about my business and believed in me and my team.

What was your first memory of working in the fierce world of PR?

When I was a high-tech journalist in Boston I remember PR pros coming in to meet me with their clients, and that helped me have a bird's-eye view of who was great at this career and who wasn’t. That’s when it dawned on me that I could do this and do it very well. Interestingly enough, Motorola asked their PR firm to recruit me because of my ability to take technical announcements and make them respectfully tangible to the public, while still intriguing to a more tech savvy crowd of engineers.

My investigative reporter instincts have paid off many times in PR by helping my clients stay on their toes. That instinct is stronger today than ever before and it’s allowed me to traverse sensitive terrain to support my clients in good times and in bad. All of this helps reporters trust us and strengthens the relationship while ensuring an accurate article in the end.


What is your most proud PR moment to date?

There are many moments from my 24 years in the industry that have been proud moments. The truth is every day I’m proud because clients place their trust in me and in my Red Fan team. Clients look to me in good times and in bad times because they need someone in their corner who is looking out for their reputation. And that’s what we do and do so well. This makes me proud of what I do.

I’ve solved a lot of PR crisis situations in my career and it takes trust to let someone know there’s an issue or blunder that needs addressing. This is true in supporting the reputation of a company or an individual, and we do both all day long!

What is the most rewarding part about what you do?

I’m an avid learner, problem solver and a natural networker. It’s in my DNA. In my profession and in my personal life these skills come together in wonderful ways. I love that I get to meet different people every day and become a part of their lives. Some of these are business relationships, some are long-term friendships, but at the end of the day I’m around people I enjoy supporting. I’m around people that I want to help in ways that empower them to make their mission or vision come alive.

If you were to magically transform to a physical location, what location would you choose and why?

Italy. Because everything slows down, and it seems that you can savor each moment. But, I could only be there until I get enough and then I’d need to be back in the action. I’m an action kind of lady. I get fired up by fresh challenges, solving problems and helping my clients succeed.

This is why I picked Austin. Nine years ago I could have moved anywhere in the world to raise my family, start a business and be with wonderful people. I picked Austin and I’ve never looked back.

How would I improve on that? Well, with a little dreaming, let’s imagine me in Austin, Texas with a private plane to my home in the mountains of Colorado or Vermont for cool getaways and a fast dash to the beaches when I need my toes in the sand.

Word on the street is you’re a Grateful Dead devotee. Is this deadhead talk true?

Now that is true! I went to college in Burlington, Vermont and Phish played all the time at Nectar’s. We would go out on a limb to get to a Dead concert, though.

To be fair, I love the music but I really loved the adventure of getting the tickets through the old mailing system, getting to the event, setting up in the parking lot, grilling and just enjoying life with friends who would come from near and far. It’s like a pilgrimage and the people watching is outstanding! Truth be told my music choices are vast from Duke Ellington to Lady Gaga and many quirky stops in between. I’m always on the look out for fresh sound.

Work hard, play hard. It’s all about having a great balance and the friends I have made that love the Dead are still friends today. We are all secretly wearing tie-dyes under our professional wear.

Kathleen Lucente

We see that you’re always on top of your fashion game. Do you have a high point and low point of your fashion life thus far?

At every stage of my life it seems I’ve had a look. Classic merged with contemporary is my favorite feel. However, I’m always looking to add that little something special to my look. It may be the surprise colorful lining of a normally conservative jacket or the selection of unique necklace, but I often do it for myself more than for anyone else’s pleasure. The feel of a fabric or the glance at a thoughtfully selected necklace during a busy day makes me feel great.

I think we all have those things that put a knowing smile on our faces. For me, one of those things is the thoughtful selection in a wardrobe. Something that says this is part of your mark of distinction.

Kathleen Lucente

You value family time (involving Hank) and hard work that leads to great results. Are there any other secrets to your success?

Let me first say that I probably don’t sleep as much as I should. But, I have a full life and I love it. My family comes first (including Hank)! That’s why I left the corporate world and proactively selected to move to Austin. In my corporate position I had a lot of responsibility and was expected to work on the weekends or be on call for crisis situations. When you’re overseeing 18 countries for JPMorgan you can imagine that those calls came more often than not. I loved being able to solve those problems but I also wanted to build out a career for myself that would empower me to have uninterrupted time for my family, my friends and myself.

Starting my own agency was part of that plan. I started dreaming about it long ago, and it was just a matter of time before it became a reality. Today I’m on boards, I run my own firm, I volunteer my guidance for key groups but I also have two beautiful children, an amazing husband and a great group of friends. It’s a juggle, but I’m magically able to make it all happen thanks to everyone around me that makes it work: my team, our great afternoon nanny and my Pilates instructors that make me sane after a hectic day.

Do you have a philosophy by which you live?

Be good to all. Live each day with passion. Make dreams come true. Live more, sleep less. Good wine, good food and good people go together!

Kathleen Lucente

Who has made the greatest impact on your life?

My parents because they raised two daughters, who are self-sufficient, and boy did they get more than they could handle! I set my sights on being on my own and financially independent as early as junior high. It wasn’t necessarily a goal of being wealthy but of standing on my own two feet, doing what I love, and being confident and happy in life. I was also clear on wanting to have my own style in life, which is, in big part, thanks to the influence of my two grandmothers.

My New York-based grandmother, Regina Hulbert Kenney, was a society woman raised in NYC, a mother of four, both incredibly graceful and generous. I spent a lot of time with her, watching her be such a wonderful hostess, a good friend to all, worldly and generous. I often dreamed in her home of being from a far-away land and I remember realizing that every single room in her home had a story, pieces from travel, paintings or jewelry from far-away places. She gave me the passion for travel, socializing and the value of family.

My other grandmother, Lillian Grace Bittman, was a pioneer in the telephone company and seemed to take care of everyone in the family at all stages of life. She was able to get the telephone company to keep her on even after she got married (which back in the day was not the norm). Married women were not expected to continue in their jobs and were often forbidden. She just juggled it all and was wide eyed in taking life in with great stories. The things she heard over those phone lines…

I’m always grateful for the life lessons I have learned from both of these women and how I often find myself thinking what would they do in this circumstance? So, when I was asked to move to Asia, the voices of these women said, “This is the journey you were meant to take. You’re bigger than what you have experienced thus far. Go for it.”

Career wise, my path has been one that only someone who is open to learning could take. It wasn’t a straight path to my career. Instead, it was opening my heart and mind to take in everything around me and learn what I was meant to do. I think the moment I moved abroad to Asia my life changed dramatically and I blossomed into the person I was supposed to be. I thank Fred Hill at JPMorgan Chase for believing in me, trusting me to give him the lay of the land from afar, and knowing I was the right person for the job. That move made a big difference in my life professionally and personally.

Nothing is the same once you have taken in what it’s like to live in 18 other countries, how business is done in those countries, how a success or a crisis is managed in different cultures. I’m a better, stronger, more worldy woman from that experience. I no longer need to dream at my grandmother’s home about what life is like in remote lands. I’ve been there. I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything.

Finish this sentence: Kathleen Lucente is…

...living in the moment and has her eyes on the future at all times for herself and for those around her.

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