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Marci J. Hait: Publicist, Bisson Barcelona, Barrington, NH

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What do bartending and newspaper editing have in common? They are two of the skills that Marci Hait brings to the table as a publicist with Bisson Barcelona, a full-service PR firm in Barrington, NH.

"I have worked as a bartender and waitress for more than a decade to supplement my income. I believe that the hospitality industry has given me the confidence to be the social butterfly I am today, and without that characteristic, I may have missed out on a lot of opportunities. Because I am comfortable approaching complete strangers and talking to them like I have known them for years, I tend to put people at ease and gain their trust quickly. This has benefited me greatly, both with clients and the media," said Hait.

Hait graduated from the University of New Hampshire with degrees in English instruction and English journalism. "For the past five years or so, I had been pursuing the latter career. I freelanced for a while for several local publications and then took a full-time job with a small-town newspaper in Southern Maine. I was ultimately promoted to editor and served in that capacity for a couple of years," said Hait.

During that time, a lot of press releases came across her desk, and according to Hait, about 90% of them were bad—really bad. "I always thought that I could do better, and in addition, I realized that my true passion was networking and dealing with people one-on-one to help them spread the word about the stories they were pitching. It was then that I realized I was in the wrong profession, though I must confess that the pay and hours are much better on this side of the table, as well," said Hait.

About five months ago, Hait made the transition to full-time public-relations work. "A lot of people—including my mother—are always saying, 'Okay, so what does a publicist do?' It's not an easy thing to sum up because it differs with every client and each campaign, but for the most part, my job is to place my clients in the media with the goal of building awareness about their business or area of expertise," said Hait.

"Aside from working with the media, writing press releases, and pitching story ideas, I also dabble in promotions, write copy for websites and other promotional materials, and take on any other tasks that may help brand my clients as experts in their field."

"My background in journalism is indispensable. I have the insider knowledge of what editors and journalists are looking for and what makes for a good story. I also have trained writing and editing skills that enable me to submit clean copy that easily translates into a strong press release or announcement. I am able to provide media training for our clients and help them navigate the etiquette of an interview."

Variety is what Hait said she enjoys most about her job. "Every day and every client are so different that I never find myself getting bored. And if I do get bored, it's my own fault because I came up with the campaign timeline. I really like working with people who value a partnership, who genuinely understand how PR can benefit them, and who believe I have their best interests at heart," said Hait.

On the flipside, she said she found dealing with the media a surprising challenge. "I know firsthand how challenging it can be to be an editor or a reporter. Your days are harried, and you are constantly stressed by looming deadlines. On top of that, you receive hundreds of emails every day, and the phone is ringing off the hook with questions that should not be directed to you," said Hait.

"I feel for members of the media these days because I am always reading about cutbacks, and I know many news organizations are understaffed. Because of this, members of the media rarely return phone calls, and as a publicist, you are lucky if they even acknowledge your emails. That is why building relationships with journalists is so important. If they get a story pitch or news release from a publicist, they recognize and trust—they know they are getting quality work and that we are not making their lives more difficult."

How I Got a Job
"As part of my college studies for journalism, I had to do an internship with a local newspaper. I did that for a few months, fulfilled my credits, and maintained that relationship on a freelance basis for a year or so after graduation. When a position opened, a mentor at the paper gave me a heads-up and I applied. I got the job and was later promoted to editor of the paper.

"It's all about who you know. In my field—and in any industry, for that matter—that saying could not be more true. When I decided to make the switch to 'the dark side,' as the media likes to call it, I looked for a job for months. I had a great resume for a newspaper gig, but I didn't have any PR experience to back it up. That alone made it really difficult to get in the door. And when I did get an interview, it was often for entry-level positions. Though that didn't bother me, I constantly heard that I was overqualified for the job, based on my management experience at the paper.

"In the midst of my job search, just as I was really getting down about the situation, a PR guru I had worked with on some stories agreed to meet me for coffee so I could pick her brain. I didn't have any expectations and, in fact, I didn't even know her firm was hiring. More than anything, it was an opportunity to meet someone in person whom I had made friends with via email and over the phone. After we chatted for a while, she told me to send her my resume. I did, and the rest is history."

According to Hait, something that all PR professionals struggle with is measuring the return on investment. "Apart from weighing the costs associated with advertising versus free media placement, it's tough to provide a tangible ROI measurement for clients," said Hait. "For instance, I once had a client who was on dozens of radio shows, was featured in several local and national publications, and was even on TV. From my point of view, this was one of my most successful campaigns yet."

Although the client's website traffic soared, she did not sell more products, and in her eyes, the campaign was an utter failure. "I know that I had branded her as an expert in her field because I had journalists from all over the country calling me to speak with her, but she did not renew the campaign. If she had, she might be on Oprah today, and I bet that product would be selling like hotcakes! Clients have to be willing to put themselves out there and be prepared to dedicate at least six months to a year to see good results," said Hait.

Recently, Hait has spent much of her time contributing to a book that is coming out this spring. The project began more than a year ago when she was asked to contribute as a writer to a book called Faces of Freedom. The book, which is being compiled by a TV news anchor in Virginia, tells the stories of 52 soldiers—one from each state as well as DC and Puerto Rico—who lost their lives in the war in Iraq.

"Journalists from all over the country were asked to volunteer their time for this effort, and I was invited to write the story about the New Hampshire hero and later helped edit the book. All of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to two charities that help veterans and their families. This is a project that I am particularly proud of," said Hait.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I like to drive to the ocean and rub my feet in the sand, read a good book, and hang out with friends. I love to cook and try new recipes, and I am always up for a game of Scrabble. I particularly like shouting my answers at the TV when Jeopardy is on.
Q. What CD was most recently in your CD player?
A. It's going to sound pathetic, but it is probably the cheesy 80s mix that my best friend made for me eons ago. It's my favorite, and it is laden with Michael Jackson and Prince hits. I want to dance just thinking about it!
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. US Weekly. I have a real weak spot for trashy magazines.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. CSI, Law & Order, Without a name it. If it has crime-scene drama, I'm there! It's the only way I can get the hard-news-reporter fix I crave now and then.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Hmmm...good question. I would say my mom or my sister because they are truly amazing women. But overall, what I want to become is a person who is respected and sought after for her knowledge, humor, and care for others. And more importantly, I want to have fun getting there.

Right now, Hait is working on a campaign that will raise money for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, research. "I have written the text for some of the promotional materials, have helped script and produce a video that will be incorporated in the project, and have played an integral part in trying to get a major Hollywood personality to be the spokesperson for this year's campaign. Though the campaign is not even close to nearing its completion, I feel really great about being a part of it, and I have learned a lot and heard the stories of some really inspiring people," said Hait.

Hait's advice to anyone with an eye on a career in public relations is to never throw out a business card and to always be gracious. "As soon as you start thinking that you have all the answers, you will realize that you need that person...and their number," said Hait.

Hait describes herself as a coffee junkie who worships sleep and cannot get up in the morning without hitting the snooze button at least three times. "In fact, I have even put the alarm clock across the room so that the procrastination of getting up is more of a challenge," said Hait. "I am the last person in the office in the morning, but I am also the last person to leave at night. I hate rude people and people without a sense of humor."

"I love photography and spending time with my friends and family [and] with my cats. A surprising facet to that last comment is that I actually do have a boyfriend (most cat ladies can't say that), though he thinks I'm crazy, and he loves me anyway. I'd like to think that I have a fairly refined palate, and I enjoy good food and really good wine. I'm a glutton at heart."

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 degrees  local newspapers  English  professions  publicists  emails  errors  Bisson Barcelona  TV  Puerto Rico

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