Singleton, ROKK Solutions SVP, Brings Diplomacy to Downtown D.C.
Besides the 98 freshmen Members of Congress, there’s another new name to know in Washington these days. Lindsay Singleton, who joined ROKK Solutions as Senior Vice President, is a long-time communications strategist but spent over half of her career serving the U.S. government overseas.
“Now that I’m back in D.C, I’m excited to tackle a range of policy challenges and apply my diplomatic experience to the partisan divide,” Singleton told The Well News. “ROKK Solutions (a bipartisan firm) has been the ideal place for me to do that.”
That experience comes in handy on a daily basis for Singleton, who cut her teeth managing crisis communications at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela during the 2010 Wikileaks scandal. “We were dealing with real people who had risked their safety to engage with the U.S. government. It went beyond assessing vulnerabilities and controlling the narrative, we had to make sure our stakeholders were protected.”
Now, working with a range of corporate, advocacy and non-profit clients, Singleton draws upon lessons learned in high-stakes situations when dealing with reputational attacks, product recalls, and congressional hearings. And in this age of the 24-hour media cycle and social media, those lessons learned are applicable to communications strategies, as well.
Staying on message in Venezuela was critical, not just on an enterprise-level, but personally, as well, Singleton said. According to her, Caracas was an environment where Americans were particularly scrutinized and any misstep- or misstatement- could justify being kicked out of country by the Chavez regime. “As a U.S. diplomat in Venezuela, where the government was hostile to us, the importance of message discipline became part of my professional DNA. That is the standard I hope to apply to all of the teams I work with now that I’m in the private sector.”
Since operating under the high-stakes conditions in Venezuela, putting this discipline into practice overseas and at home has now been Singleton’s MO for over a decade. Her government work took her all over South and Central America, with her last overseas tour in Mexico City on behalf of the Department of Justice.
“This was an incredibly interesting and challenging assignment,” Singleton said. “Mexico was undergoing an historic criminal justice reform and, since the U.S. government had advocated for and was involved in implementing it, we had to help explain the changes to the Mexican people and media alongside the Mexican government,” she explained. And beyond messaging to Mexican citizens, Singleton still had to advocate for specific legal reforms, communicate within the U.S. interagency about ongoing challenges and successes, and make the case to Congress for funding. “It was a complex problem set, but those are always the most rewarding,” she said.
According to her, that is precisely why she was originally drawn to foreign affairs and communications. Singleton, who caught the international bug as a 16 year-old studying abroad in Italy and in Russia during college, learned early the power of language and how we communicate with different people. “Knowing your audience is a big lesson when you live and work overseas. Some cultures are more formal than others, and some belief systems are part of the lifeblood. This isn’t that different from corporate America and what my clients today need help navigating,” Singleton explained.
A key to successfully navigating those challenges, as Singleton discovered in her foreign posts, was relationship building. “Even in a place like Venezuela, you have to remember that the other side is made up of human beings,” she said. “To this day, I am in touch with members of the regime and the interim government alike. I may not see eye to eye with them, but I recognize that dialogue is an important ingredient of resolution.”
According to Singleton, this is a large reason why she often proposes corporate social responsibility and stakeholder engagement components to her client strategies. “Particularly in the current climate of consumer expectations for brands and a Democrat-controlled House, companies are increasingly challenged to communicate their values,” she said. “Being purpose-driven is hugely important to our clients these days, but as a consultant, I also feel it’s important to walk the walk.” And Singleton said this philosophy was a major factor in joining ROKK Solutions.
“The bipartisan angle is huge for me. [Ron] Bonjean and [Rodell] Mollineau are veteran D.C. communicators, and they teamed up because they believed the best solutions bring all stakeholders together. Besides just really liking each other, this is the principle that binds us,” said Singleton.
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