Jeannette Bitz: Partner at Engage PR finds clients' personal stories

For Jeannette Bitz, who was made a partner at Alameda-based Engage PR in December, the difference between merely handling clients and helping run a company is a matter of degrees.

“All of a sudden, now you have some accountability in … the health of the business,” Bitz said. “My role has just evolved into finding ways to integrate traditional markets and how the market is growing.”

According to Bitz, who has marked more than 13 years in high-technology public relations, the roles complement each other.

“With a client, how I have to look at it is looking at their particular industry and look at how their message or products are understood in their industry,” Bitz said. “We’re finding their particular story and helping tell that story. And when you run an agency, some of it’s the same, but a lot of it is how you run the day-to-day.”

Bitz, who is from Mill Valley, said she has been eyeing the management track for some time, but has no plans just yet to enter into entrepreneurship and branch off with, say, her own agency. However, the former journalism major at Cal State Northridge said she may someday explore writing or publishing independently about her extracurricular interests, including wine.

Lately, she and her husband, who works in tech sales, have developed a passionate curiosity about wines and invested in a 1,200-bottle wine cellar. They not only are studying California, but also traditional wine-growing regions in Europe and some South American and Australian varietals.

“It’s not just to drink it but to understand how it fits into our culture,” Bitz said, “and what wines go with food.”

Like wine-growing regions, the usually fertile technology industry sometimes experiences dry spells, which was the case when Engage formed in 2002, a spinoff of an earlier tech PR firm. The dot-com bubble had burst and dozens of Bay Area companies were struggling to find a foothold in the new economy.

Engage started with 11 employees and seven clients, beginning with a strategy to help start-ups bring new technology to the sales market.

“Like anything, technology runs in ebbs and flows,” Bitz said. “We always had the feeling that technology would come back and it did.”

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