“Working in public relations is a great way to connect with all the different industries in Santa Barbara,” says Jennifer Zacharias. “From nonprofit to corporate, some great businesses have started in S.B. There’s great synergy among them and we get to tell their stories.”
Since 2008, Jennifer has been the owner of JZPR, a full-service public relations firm in Santa Barbara that specializes in the lifestyle, hospitality, entertainment, and nonprofit industries. “I love to be able to tell all of our client’s stories,” she explains. “It’s challenging but it’s also fun.”
One of the things that she cherishes is getting to choose her clients. “I hold myself to really high standards, so I work hard to do my best for my clients,” explains Jennifer, who is certainly one of the best at what she does in our region.
Born in Montpellier, France, Jennifer’s parents “were a bit hippie and adventurous.” Her dad went to medical school in Mt. Pellier while her mom worked as a nanny, taught English, and worked at a patisserie, amongst other jobs. She attended the University of Arizona to study communications and French; as a junior, she attended the international college in Cannes, where she also worked for the city’s renowned film festival. When the local Canal+ television affiliated offered her a job, she took it, and didn’t return to college.
After growing homesick, she contacted her friend and mentor Wendy Walker, an executive producer of the Larry King Show. The show was about to move to the West Coast, and Wendy had a home in Rancho Santa Fe that was wired to produce via satellite. Jennifer started as her assistant and eventually became a field producer, working long hours and always on-call for five years.
In 2002, she moved to Santa Barbara and, having been close with Larry King’s publicist, landed a job at a small PR firm in town. A few years later, she started her own firm, and her client list quickly grew to include such diverse institutions as the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara Polo Club.
When I ask whether Santa Barbara reminds her of France, she responds, “I see a lot of similarities with the South of France: small town culture with a big world draw.” But she is also quick to call out the challenges of our community. “It’s a hard place to live in for it’s expensive,” she explains. “Those challenges are the same that the clients I work with are facing. It makes it competitive. Our hospitality clients have to be the very best.”
These days, the ever-cheerful Jennifer is even a bit more joyful. That’s thanks to her beautiful baby girl named Genevieve, the love of her life. “I love working and I love being a mom,” she says. “I’m still juggling on how to do both well.”
It isn’t easy. “What I do is hard work,” she says. “You’re an extension of your client. I’m always available to my clients.”
Jennifer Zacharias answers the Proust questionnaire.
What is your most treasured possession?
My confidence. And the little onesie with “Property of Cottage Hospital” printed on it that Genevieve wore in the hospital just after she was born.
What is your current state of mind?
Full of hope and determination to make this an amazing year. Despite the unrest and unknown in the world these days, I’m ready.
What do you like most about your job?
In PR, it’s our job to have our fingers on the pulse of everything going on, so it’s fun to be in the know. I love meeting all the remarkable people I have the privilege to represent, and share what they’re doing, and what they’re passionate about with the rest of the world.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting in the sunshine on a crowded patio, people-watching, enjoying a fabulous lunch spread, unlimited supply of rosé champagne on hand, with my whole family there. Happy place.
What is your greatest fear?
Although I’m a fearless flyer, I have this totally irrational fear of the plane crashing. But I love flying!
Who do you most admire?
My parents. They’ve been together since the 8th grade, lived abroad throughout their lives, and raised four kids that are best friends, and value family above all. Despite struggle and sacrifice, they built a truly beautiful life together. Everyone who knows them and anyone who meets them will agree that they are two of the most exceptional people they’ve ever known. And they throw the best parties.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Shoes. And handbags. And really good champagne. And flying first class every now and then thanks to my husband’s frequent flyer miles!
What is the quality you most like in people?
People with great energy. Nothing is more fun that a group of people with positive energy — it’s contagious, and brings out the best in everyone.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Lack of drive or motivation. And people that are unkind. Life is simply too short.
What do you most value in friends?
Friends that are genuine, honest, and who can be themselves around anyone. The what-you-see-is-what-you-get friends.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Exclamation points. I’m so busy! No way. XXOO. And emojis… for sure, the kiss-blowing emoji. And the see-no-evil monkey emoji — I love that one!!!
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to have a photographic memory. And write code. And speak all languages fluently. And know how to make great wine… that would be amazing.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I have a tendency to overthink things, like challenges and certain scenarios. And this questionnaire! Sometimes I’m grateful for this quality (patience to think strategically about the best approach), but sometimes I wish I could just come to quick decisions and move on.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Creating a human being (with the help of my husband, of course). And building a business that helps others be successful in their own businesses.
Where would you most like to live?
If I ever had to leave Santa Barbara, I would love to return to France, where I was born, and lived several times growing up. Paris or somewhere in the South of France… sigh.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My husband. He rhymes, he makes up ridiculous songs, and he entertains me nonstop. He can make me laugh no matter what the situation.
What is your motto?
Rosé all day? Just kidding. Joie de vivre!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Does Carrie Bradshaw count?!
On what occasion do you lie?
Telling my two-year-old that candy is “too spicy” for her, and that Nemo’s mom “went to the store.”