Member Spotlight: Lindsey Duke

Lindsey Duke is a senior public relations consultant at CarMax, where she recently celebrated her five-year anniversary. She leads the company’s proactive consumer PR efforts, where currently her biggest area of focus is creating awareness of the CarMax offerings that enable customers to buy or sell a car safely in the current environment. Lindsey earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech.

How long have you been a member of PRSA and what do you like the most about being part of the chapter?

I started attending PRSA meetings as a guest shortly after joining CarMax and became a member a couple of years ago. I love the camaraderie that comes with meeting new people in the PR profession who are just as passionate about their jobs as I am. I get very inspired when I hear the amazing work that’s being accomplished by folks based right here in Richmond. I also appreciate the professional and educational resources that are available, and I think the Richmond chapter does an excellent job communicating with members and keeping us engaged. I was very impressed with how the chapter managed to pivot to a virtual recognition ceremony for the Virginia PRSA awards in such a short amount of time – well done!

Tell us how CarMax is adapting and what your biggest challenges are right now. Any surprise positives happen as a result of these changes?

There’s no question that the pandemic has had a huge impact on retail, and that includes automotive retail. The pandemic has changed how we shop for and buy cars in a lasting way. Customers continue to keep safety top of mind and need the ability to buy on their own terms. Fortunately, CarMax has been investing in technology for several years and building out our online platforms, so we were able to quickly adapt to the changing retail environment and make the necessary business modifications so that we could continue to offer our services. We launched contactless curbside pickup just a few short weeks after the pandemic began, so we could continue to support customers who needed to buy a car but needed to do so in a safe and socially distanced way. Those in the industry who have been slow to adapt, or worse, refuse to adapt, likely won’t be successful.

At the onset of the pandemic, our PR team was in crisis mode and it was all hands on deck. The incredibly high volume of work meant I needed to pivot away from my focus on proactive consumer-focused campaigns and over to crisis response, which included supporting the company’s internal communications needs. Our associates are our number one most important audience, so I contributed to writing communications and key messaging that helped keep associates updated during a time of rapid change. This was a reminder that having strong writing skills and an ability to communicate clearly and effectively is always a critical need for organizations, especially during a crisis. As communications professionals, we have the skills and expertise to take on stretch assignments and contribute to other areas of the business, which is a testament to the important role those in our industry play within our organizations.

Tell us about your home workplace set up.

We have a tiny room about the size of a walk-in closet that connects our master bedroom with my youngest daughter’s room. It has served a variety of roles throughout the years – storage space, toy room, diaper-changing station, you name it. Now – it’s my proud office. I added a plant to my desk recently, so now it feels official.

What is working for you to remain productive and innovative in your work life right now?

I have three daughters, ages 11, 7, and a toddler, so flexibility is crucial to finding a work-life balance while working from home. I take time every morning to assess my goals for the day and week and adjust my schedule as needed to ensure I hit my deadlines. I save a lot of time by not commuting to work, so I’m logging in earlier and working longer into the evening. That way, throughout the day, if my 7-year-old needs help with schoolwork or my toddler needs to go down for a nap, I feel confident I can take work breaks as needed because I’ve baked in that extra time. But let me be clear – this is NOT always easy and some days are more challenging than others. Just be patient and remember we’re all human and trying to do our best. A routine that works for one person may not work for you – and that’s okay.

How has working through the pandemic changed your perspective on communications?

It’s incredible to consider the impact technology has had on how we are now communicating with one another, and that applies to both internal and external audiences. Fortunately, at CarMax, we were already utilizing Microsoft TEAMS internally, so we were able to adapt quickly to using the platform as our primary tool for collaborating as a team. It’s also been fascinating to watch how broadcast news has had to quickly embrace this alternative form of communication as well. From reporters conducting interviews via Zoom to broadcast anchors reporting live from their dining room tables, we’ve come to realize that the method of communication is indeed irrelevant, as long as the source is trustworthy, reliable and informative. It’s more important than ever to ensure the news you are pitching reporters is clearly demonstrating how your product or company is meeting the needs of consumers and being a part of the solution during this uncertain time.

Favorite place to get a meal curbside/delivery?

Our family LOVES the build-your-own taco kit that you can order online from Tazza Kitchen and pick up curbside. Taco Tuesday is any day of the week at my house!