Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Greg Kihlström, founder and CEO of Carousel30, an agency in its 10th year in the DC area, and president of DC Ad Club. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Greg, please provide us a short bio.
I started with a creative and marketing background and in my years of experience have had the privilege of working on campaigns and projects for many great brands such as AOL, GEICO, MTV, Porsche, Starbucks, Toyota, United Nations and many others. I’ve had the opportunity to talk as a keynote presenter, panelist and moderator around the world from well-known conferences such as Internet Week New York, SMX Social Media and Internet Summit. I am a regular contributor to Search Engine Watch, iMedia Connection and the Washington Business Journal. I also volunteer to speak to students about the marketing and advertising industry and have presented at Georgetown University, American University and Virginia Tech, among others.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
In addtion to being president of the board of directors of DC Ad Club, the D.C. chapter of the American Advertising Federation, I’m also the Division 1 Chair on the national board of directors of the American Advertising Federation, representing the largest chapters in the nation. And, I also serve on the National Advisory Council’s Marketing Sub-committee of the Trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, tasked with restoring and improving the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I’m very proud of having successfully started and run an agency for the past 10 years and counting. This was obviously not done alone, and I’m proud to have such an amazing support network of friends, peers and colleagues who, in many ways, offered and gave me help and assistance with no expectation of anything in return.
Who were your personal role models and why?
I feel fortunate to have had many role models at different points in my life who have helped me to achieve what I have been able to accomplish so far. Many of these people continue to serve as mentors to me and I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with some of them as well.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
I try my best to remember my role model’s willingness to help, with no expectation of getting something equal in return, and approach new opportunities and relationships in the same way. If you enter into a relationship with only selfish interest, it will never flourish. My role models taught me how to give unselfishly and trust that others will do the same when they are able to.
Another role model reminded me that anyone who is truly ambitious will always feel like they could have “done more,” and while that may sometimes be true, it’s a reminder that even though you need to give 110% to everything you commit to doing, you also need to take care of yourself and not stretch yourself too thin.
Finally, the best advice I’ve ever been given, regarding public speaking, is this: When you are standing in front of a group of people who have taken time out of their busy schedules to attend an event, or paid hard-earned money to do so, they all want you to succeed. Everyone is rooting for you when you get up there to talk. No matter what your doubts are or how much more time you wish you would have prepared, you should know that you have a room full of people that really want you to do a great job because they are there to learn. Putting myself in that mindset has helped tremendously.
What professional advice do you have for others?
While it’s talked about often, building a solid network of people is invaluable in so many ways. Get involved in an organization that allows you to grow professionally, gives you a group of peers that understand the challenges you face, and can also provide a great resource when you’re hiring, looking for new opportunities, new clients or partners. For me, DC Ad Club has been an invaluable resource for this, though there are many great organizations depending on your focus and needs.
The other piece of advice I have is to never be afraid to try new things. You may not always be good at everything you try, but even learning to fail gracefully is an important skill that many never learn out of fear. There are many things to be learned even if you try something and don’t succeed. At the very least it keeps you in a learning mindset.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for your organization?
While some days we can be more casual than others, generally speaking we are having clients in our office just about every day. Business casual for us includes wearing jeans, though I would say we can be a little more dressed up than the typical digital agency can be.
Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
I don’t really have a particular favorite, though I must say I buy everything I wear online these days!
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
In the spirit of continually learning new things, I recently learned how to paint and actually sold my first painting a few months ago. Despite a full workload and my volunteer commitments, it’s great to have an activity that is purely done for relaxation and recreation.