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Kathleen Mazzocco 25 January 2008

Kathleen Mazzocco

Independent public relations consultant

Here are the consistent threads of my life: a wanderlust begat of a bi-cultural childhood spent in Italy, Brazil and the Ivory Coast; a fascination with cultures and micro-cultures; an inclination towards the arts as guideposts to where we are and where we are going; a need to tell stories; and an inquisitiveness on root causes and end results.  My favorite historical period is the Enlightenment (which includes the U.S. revolution) and its concept of progress.  My professional career reflects these myriad interests: I’ve worked for a Broadway producer, a ballet company, an international foreign aid advocacy group, an international conservation organization, and, since 1995 mostly in high tech PR agencies where my clients have been Microsoft, SAP, Siebel Systems, and The Strategic News Service to mention a few.  More recently, as an independent consultant I’ve helped launch tech start ups, raise visibility for the flagship higher arts education institution in Oregon, and create a set of communications platforms for a strategic design consultancy, among other projects. I’ve learned so much from my clients; it’s one of the rewards that give meaning to the work.  What I like best about being around technologists and designers is their optimism — a sense that there are solutions to any problem and that progress is possible.

What are you up to?

Well, with the world of PR, journalism and communications changing so much, I’m enthralled by the process and being a part of it. Even for those of us who monitor these changes every day, predictions on how it will all end up are impossible to make. But change it will and it’s a fascinating time to be in communications.  It is what makes this current electoral cycle so interesting to follow, as one example.  My clients ask a lot of questions about social media and it is always exciting to see that “aha!” moment occur when they realize the power of it.   I put in several hours a day on each of my three current clients, an architectural firm, a strategic design consultancy and an arts organization.  All three are inspiring creative organizations on the brink of iconic status, IMHO. Luckily, I don’t have do much business travel; the business flights to Europe, San Francisco, Seattle and New York ended when I became independent and sought out Portland-based work. I was just on a flight to L.A. and was reminded again why not having to travel is the new luxury.

What are you into?

As a news and media junkie, the answer to that question is often “getting through my feeds and pile of publications.”  My friends say I’m a repository of data, put I pay a price for that in never feeling I’m caught up. Sound familiar? I do recycle everything I subscribe to by taking it all to the gym once I’m through or have given up getting to it.  That way in addition to Gym World the gym rats can also pick up The New Yorker, Good, Food and Wine, W, Business Week, Travel & Leisure, Fast get the picture. There isn’t a magazine I haven’t wanted to read.

Occasionally I review a restaurant for a food blog, and at least every weekend cook up something special that takes at least three hours.  I’m a member of Slow Food USA, where events transpire at a leisurely pace over good food.  What I like about Portland winters is that there is no pressure to go outside, so I can indulge indoors pursuits like cooking, films, books and desultory hanging out with friends and family. Of course, when the sun is out, mornings and evenings are for long walks with the dog and weekends are for hiking.

Now that our daughter is in college, my husband and I are freer to think about “the next trip.” In 2007, after a particularly bad experience on frequent flyer miles, we decided to use up the remainder as fast as possible and traveled to central Mexico, northern Italy and central Japan within 12 months on a few years’ worth of miles. That was a good travel year! Now mile-less, we’re being more conservative and have to choose just one destination out of a long list for 2008. When I’m moved to opine on the various and sundry I post on my own blog Lately I’ve been doing lots of thinking on the concept of slow, having been inspired by my ergonomic injuries to question the wisdom of multi-tasking for hours and falling for the idea that doing more is always better.

There is usually a personal project or two that I work on during the course of a year.  In 2008, I hope to attend the annual Slow Food Salone in Turin, Italy in October, network with Slow Food people from around the world and blog about it. The concept of slow, more developed in Europe than in the U.S., is one I’ve been thinking about a lot.  Did you know that there are now Slow Cities in Italy, places designed to foster a leisurely pace, restore traditional social rituals and nurture an appreciation for living in the moment?

What do you like most about Portland?

Since succeeding in working with mostly local clients, I’ve been around more and it’s been so great to be able to re-discover my own town.  In my view, it is the best city in the U.S. It’s not for everyone, but that’s part of the appeal.  If you really care about balance, Portland is probably the best place for ordinary folks to achieve it. If you want nature plus culture, this is it. If you like a sense of frontier, with all the comforts of civilization, there is no better. This town is full of pioneers in a broad range of endeavors and they give it its pulse. Some characteristics are emerging that if developed could give Portland a really distinctive 21st century character: a merging of play and work so that play is creative and work is fun; a commitment to craft, whether in its beers, wine, food, athletic shoes, industrial design, arts or general DIY ethos; a community spirit that is built on tolerance (after living in New York and Washington, D.C. it was so refreshing to find such a total lack of attitude here) and an authentic optimism.

Why PR?

In the end, it comes to this: the urge to tell stories. But in the beginning, it was about falling into place. Coming out of graduate school, I applied for a position with an organization that worked in poor areas of the southern hemisphere.  That position was taken, but they offered me a different one, managing media relations.  On my first day, a media crisis hit.  It turned out to be fun!  It would not have been a great career if I had not been so fortunate as to work with fantastic clients, people who really wanted to change things whether that involved maternal health or the world of work.

What would your friends say about you?

Well, truthfully, they would say “Opinionated.” I know because I’ve been asked this question before in team building workshops and that ilk of get together, and after the debrief this is what someone will say and everyone else will laugh as if to say “It’s true.” They would also say “Restless.”  These are fine because I respect engagement with the world, a sort of non-Switzerland kind of being. (Had to throw an opinion in there).  But Portland’s openness over the years has worn me down and although I have my own strong points of view, I’ve developed a habit of looking for alternative outlooks as a matter of course.  The friends would probably also say “Can be too serious,” but I’ve been serious about having more fun and my opinion is that I’ve succeeded.


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