Cathy Kightlinger is new to the Well Done family, but if you’re an Indy native you might recognize her name. Cathy’s past lives in journalism and public relations put her in touch with, well, just about everyone, including our own Lisa Vielee and Ken Honeywell, both of whom she knew professionally long before she accepted the position of Writer / Producer at our agency.
We sat down with Cathy to learn a little more about her, her adventures in the news biz, and get a few tips on conducting a good interview.
Thanks for doing this. I have to say, this feels a little high stakes.
Well normally these interviews aren’t with a professional journalist. I feel like you’re going to catch on pretty quickly that I don’t know what I’m doing.
Well, can I be honest with you? I have tried, very hard, to never be interviewed. I can think of maybe one time, when I was on the Hammer and Nigel Show right after the Super Bowl, and that might be it. I’ve really tried to avoid it.
Really! It’s a completely different mindset. As a journalist, or someone in public relations, your whole goal is to get information from other people so that you can tell their stories or promote them. If you’re a person who likes to do that, you tend to be much more comfortable in the corner than talking about yourself.
Hm. Then let’s talk about me for a second. As a journalist, how would you advise me to be a better interviewer?
You have to find a way to very quickly talk to the person that you’re interviewing as your friend. Find something that you understand a little bit about that they’re interested in, and you can usually begin to learn about their personality and who they are through that commonality.
Okay pal, why don’t you tell me a little about your background?
I’m from Marion, Indiana, which I believe is the world’s greatest high school basketball town. (I was also a Marion Giant, but I’m not biased.) In a way, my whole path to journalism began because I couldn’t sing. I wanted to be in the high school choir, but I was terrible. I completely bombed my solo. So I had to change my elective to newspaper. Between that experience and reading Rolling Stone, I figured out that journalism was what I really wanted to do.
I went to IU, where I worked at the Indiana Daily Student, and it was great. I loved being in newsrooms, and I decided, okay, this is what I’m going to do the rest of my life. I wanted to be a fashion writer, but after I graduated I got a job at the Danville Commercial-News, covering courts. For four years, I covered everything from white collar crime to a serial killer. It was really far from writing about fashion, but also the best thing that could have happened to me.
Over time I worked my way onto The Indianapolis Star covering city governments for places like Carmel, Zionsville, and Boone County, and continued trying my hand at different things. But what I really loved to cover was sports. I took over The Star’s Talk of Our Town column, and in the month of May I was pretty much only covering racing. Anything that wasn’t racing didn’t get in.
Is that how you began working for IndyCar?
Yes, I got to know everybody over at the race track really well. When I realized they could use a little help working with reporters like me, I became the Lifestyle Communications Manager at the IndyCar Series. I worked in their PR department, and worked with Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the same kind of thing. Any time there was someone who wanted to write features stories about the drivers or the track, or if we had an art project, I was involved.
What attracted you to Well Done?
I’ve known Ken and Lisa for a long time. The year they gave Ken the Tonic suit I covered him and Tonic Ball for the Star, and I knew Lisa from when she led Gracie Communications and pitched me story ideas for Sky Blue Window, an arts website that was operated by Central Indiana Community Foundation.
When I was trying to figure out my next career move, I called Lisa to ask if she had a copy of a story I wrote. She said, well, I don’t have the story, but would you be interested in talking to us about being a copywriter? I was super excited about that, because I love the culture of this place.
What are you most looking forward to now that you’re here?
I love Indiana, and I love Indianapolis. I love all the good things that this community is able to do. The way this city works together is unusual, and I know that Well Done’s clients are very much dedicated to doing positive things throughout the state and the city. I’m excited to be a part of that.