( ENSPIRE Feature ) Shawn Zanotti on Finding Success in a Male-dominated Media Industry
ENSPIRE Contributor: Sophia Kang
Shawn Zanotti prides herself on being “one of the few successful females in an aggressive, male-dominated [media] industry.” A three-time author and former news reporter and writer at ABC News 4, Zanotti currently hosts The Journey Told, a podcast that delves into the success stories of professional athletes, celebrities, and entrepreneurs. In 2007, she founded a PR and personal branding firm called Exact Publicity because she noticed a “gap between the role of an involved publicist and the client.” Today, Zanotti boasts a star-studded clientele including Dwayne Wade, Amber Rose, and former NFL wide receiver Trent Shelton.
ENSPIRE spoke with Zanotti about her early career, the challenges of breaking into a male-dominated media industry, and how she balances running a company with being a mother.
Your career began in broadcast journalism. Why did you decide to shift to PR? How did you get started?
Yes, my career started in journalism, and I’m still a journalist at heart. I started Exact Publicity because I saw the need to continue to tell stories, shape brands, and help with the narrative of mass appeal. Let’s face it—every entity has a need for PR, and we want to be at the forefront of getting that story addressed. I saw the need for quality storytelling as a news reporter, and I wanted to make sure I led a company that played a factor in world narratives.
I started the company on a whim. My first client was Michael Jordan and his Jordan Brand tournament was held in Chicago. The league comprises 40 and up former NBA and overseas basketball players. In my first year, he came to the game and the Chicago media was present. Everyone was so eager to speak with him we had to somewhat barricade him in a room to control the media crowd. He came to each tournament for many years, and it began my name in the PR world. I still work with that account to this day.
How do you balance being a mother and running a company?
Some days are better than others. I haven’t quite mastered it but it’s much better now than at the onset of my career. I’ve learned how to instill boundaries with clients, which allows me to shift my time for my son. I also try to control my schedule of meetings in order to be present for his activities and to do special things with him. My son is 15 years old, so we just flow, and it works well for us.
What compelled you to start your podcast, The Journey Told?
Amid Covid, I saw the need to get stories out there that need to be told. I talked with countless people who experienced job loss, divorce, mental health issues, uncertainty, and fear. I thought to myself, “I have to get these stories out to the world,” and started interviewing guests. We have been in production for six months, and we’re syndicated on IHeartRadio, iTunes, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. The show is about the journey and the highs and lows people go through. I call it transformational programming. Past guests are athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Our interviews often trend on YouTube. The podcast has been amazing to put together and put out for the world!
Read Shawn’s full interview in our Entertainment and Gift Guide Issue! Get your print or digital copy here.