August 2019 Magazine

Boss Lady

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Overachiever Natalie Ghidotti’s award-winning agency reflects her ‘dual citizenship’ in journalism, PR

by Greg Graham | Photography By Jamison Mosley

The door to the corner office at Ghidotti Communications on the 29th floor of the Regions Bank building in downtown Little Rock has a sign Scotched-taped to it that reads, “Boss Lady’s Office.” Scribbled by Natalie Ghidotti’s 11-year-old daughter, it’s a tribute to her mom’s laid-back personality and sense of humor.

And it’s also accurate: Ghidotti is the boss.

But don’t confuse “boss” with “bossy.” Ghidotti simply has always been the person willing to do jobs that others shy away from. “I’ve had trouble saying ‘no’ to anything,” she says, “but I’m getting better at it in my 40s.”

The “getting better” part is up for debate; she doesn’t shy away from much. Ghidotti volunteers and serves on committees and boards for many local and national organizations including Girl Scouts (local and national), Rotary Club (she is a past Rotarian of the Year), Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church and School, Catholic High School, Public Relations Society of America (local and national), Reach Out and Read, Museum of Discovery and Centers for Youth and Families.

Ghidotti constantly is contributing on multiple fronts. But her dream job? “I want to be the ultimate stage mom,” she quips, “but I can’t get either of my kids interested in acting. I may just have to adopt one of my friend’s kids and become their stage mom. Or maybe my nephew or niece would will want to act.”

In the meantime, she’s doing a good job with her award-winning PR agency, Ghidotti Communications, which recently won a coveted Silver Anvil Award from PRSA.

A classic overachiever

Born and raised in Benton, Ghidotti is the oldest of five siblings in a close-knit family. In many ways the classic oldest child, Ghidotti has been accused of being an overachiever. She started volunteering at her high school and in the larger Benton community in her teen years. “I worked on the school newspaper and yearbook and was captain of the majorette line.”

She also volunteered for Main Street Benton, a group dedicated to helping improve downtown Benton, as well as serving on the student advisory board for the former Benton State Bank. “I did that type of stuff because I enjoyed it, and it also was good for college applications.”

Ghidotti threw her family a curve when she decided to attend Texas Christian University rather than the University of Arkansas like both of her parents. “I never wanted to go to school in state. I wanted to be away and independent,” she says. “My parents were excited for me but sad to have me far away.”

Ghidotti initially thought she would take a shot at broadcast journalism but found herself drawn to the writing aspects more. At the same time, she found advertising/PR really interesting and chose it as a major. But she immediately starting to work as a reporter on the TCU Daily Skiff, a student newspaper that printed Monday through Friday. Thus began her “dual citizenship” in journalism and PR, a path that continues to influence her work to this day.

By her senior year, Ghidotti was named editor of the Skiff. “I was the only editor the newspaper had ever had who was an ad/PR major. Most ad/PR majors who had big roles at the paper were on the advertising side.”

Upon graduating, she chose to begin her career path with journalism, but “I went into journalism knowing I’d end up doing PR work.” She took a job as a reporter for the Fort Worth Business Press and eventually was promoted to special sections editor. While in Fort Worth, Ghidotti continued her volunteering ways, serving as a court appointed special advocate for kids in the foster care system. “I spent a lot of time with that organization,” she says.

Ghidotti loved Fort Worth but missed her friends and family in Arkansas. And her mom wasn’t giving up hope of getting her daughter closer to home. One day at work, she received a fax from her mom—a copy of a classified ad for the special publications editor-in-chief position at Arkansas Business Publishing Group. A fax at work from her mom about another job… “I was like, ‘Mom, you can’t do that!’” But it worked.

Ghidotti applied and got the job, becoming editor of Little Rock Family and other ABPG publications. “By the time I moved back, I was ready to come back home,” she says. After five years at ABPG, she made the inevitable move to PR with a job at Mangan Holcomb Partners.

Two sides of the same coin

In Ghidotti’s mind, public relations and journalism are two sides of the same coin. “I feel like that’s why I’m good at the PR business, because I know what journalists and the media are looking for.”

Rather than seeing conflict or competition, she sees common ground. While her journalist friends teased her about going to “the dark side,” Ghidotti stayed the same amiable, hard-working person, just now writing content for clients.

“We help companies tell their story to the media,” she notes. More than simply communicating, Ghidotti and her team help clients make sure all their communication is coordinated and working together while also helping them get in touch with what people really find valuable. Former journalism majors fill much of her staff.

Ghidotti’s formula is effective. She launched Ghidotti Communications in 2007 and the firm has grown from just her to a staff of seven plus numerous part-time subcontractors. The Ghidotti team is making waves in the PR world. The Silver Anvil was awarded in the category of “Integrated Communications” for work with the Little Rock Police Department’s Minority Recruitment Campaign. Other Ghidotti clients include Riceland Foods, CHI St. Vincent,  Arkansas Children’s and all McDonald’s owners and operators in Arkansas and the Shreveport area.

Ghidotti found her way back to “journalism-type stuff” in 2018 by launching a podcast called “Arkansas 100” that included in-depth interviews with movers and shakers in central Arkansas. This summer, she rebranded it, “The Ghidotti Podcast,” with a two-fold purpose.

“I just like being a place where people can go and hear ideas about changing the community for the better,” she says. “At the same time, we are building our expertise in a medium that we encourage our clients to explore.”

The 30- to 45-minute podcast enables Ghidotti to connect with interesting and influential people in the area, introduce them to listeners and allows for “diving deep into a subject.”

Despite all this overachieving, Ghidotti doesn’t project “all work and no play.” Her best time is quality time spent with friends and family.

“We drive everywhere,” she says. “We like to go off and do stuff outdoors. We floated the Mulberry and then hiked up to White Rock. It’s amazing the beauty I’m just now discovering in Arkansas.”  

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