By Terrence Williams The Keene Sentinel, N.H.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kathleen Soldati will serve as the Keynote speaker at The Keene Sentinel's "Extraordinary Women event" on Aug. 29. Soldati shares a little bit about her ever-changing passions which have helped her pursue multiple careers filled with meaning and purpose.
The Keene Sentinel, N.H.
From the Italian word "seguire," it means to make a transition without pause or interruption.
Kathleen Soldati, 68, a storied business leader, promotions and communications expert, event manager, even disc jockey, has given a good deal of thought to this word of late.
It wasn't long ago she talked to one of her sisters and her daughter about its meaning, given her many vocations, roles and, most recently, personal challenges.
She's settled on her sister's broader definition, that "segue" is not just about the moment one scene shifts to another, it's about what you leave behind from one life experience and what you take to the next.
"I do have a strong sense of having a calling," she says, adding that she has been guided numerous times by an internal voice, which tells her it's time to change.
She recalls this happening when, after 12 years of working at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, six of those years directing the nonprofit organization, it became time to move on.
"I went home, cried for a week, and then turned in my notice," she says. "If I have anything I want to do, I do it. I have a lot of fears. But I also have the willingness to face those fears."
This "voice," she describes, is powerful for her, sometimes leading to the unexpected, sometimes to the more obvious. She finds it even helps with simpler navigations.
"Oh, I should turn left here," she laughs, thinking about how it can influence her driving.
Soldati, keynote speaker for The Keene Sentinel's Extraordinary Women event on Aug. 29, was born Kathleen Barlow to devout Roman Catholic parents, who had nine boys and five girls. Her parents, Daniel and Teresa, now both deceased, were community and religious activists -- "walk-the-walk people," she says.
She grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., and Akron, Ohio, before enrolling at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind. She settled on political science for a degree and, after graduation in 1972, went to work for 1st MidAmerica, Inc., a brokerage operation in bustling Chicago, in 1973.
While at St. Mary's, she met a young man from New Hampshire, Lincoln Soldati, with whom she fell in love and would eventually marry. Missing him while in Chicago, she returned to South Bend, and took a job with the Rand Corporation.
The couple returned to Lincoln's home state, where he enrolled in the second class of the Franklin Pierce Law School in 1975.
Soldati went to work at United Life and Accident Insurance Company in Concord, where she handled corporate communications from 1975-79. The couple settled in Somersworth, where Lincoln practiced law.
Kathleen started, put aside and rekindled her own communications company, Soldati Public Relations, three times between 1978 and 2015 -- from 1978-81; from 2002-06; and from 2013-15. This business was always there for her, a segue of its own.
Sometimes this work coincided with other jobs, sometimes not, but it was always an operation to reignite through her scores of connections and a track record of successful communications and promotional campaigns. These efforts included getting one of her clients, an illusionist, on The David Letterman Show, and getting author Dan Brown, another client, on the Today show.
"I think having one's own business means that you have to really clarify what you bring to the table, what services you can offer," she says. "It's a different way of thinking of one's career -- different from thinking of finding a job that you can fit into."
In 1978, Soldati went to work at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen as shop publicity manager, and she steadily advanced, first to promotions manager, then to assistant director, then to acting director and finally to executive director in 1985. Her skills at promotion attracted coverage for the League from The New York Times, Long Island Newsday, Boston Globe and Self magazine.
The League razed and built a new flagship store in North Conway during her tenure, and she stewarded the annual fair, which drew 50,000 arts and crafts lovers to Mount Sunapee State Park.
It was during this time, the voice told her it was time to direct her energies in new ways.
"It has served me well," she says of her inner sense. While perhaps mysterious, it's simply a part of her, which she knows not to ignore. She's not religious, she says, "But I am spiritual."
Kathleen spent time at NH Public Television (now NHPBS) as a national underwriting associate and then at Fox Pavlika & Partners, a direct marketing company in New York City, as manager of new business development.
This work led to her co-founding the public relations company, Triple Dot Productions, in Portsmouth. Soldati and a business partner landed a bevy of clients, including the Turner Foundation, which underwrote a youth summit in Tanzania for famed primatologist Jane Goodall.
An event tied to that summit took place at the illustrious Manhattan Explorers Club, whose membership boasts the first person to the North Pole (Robert Peary), first to the South Pole (Roald Amundsen), first to summit Mount Everest (Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay) and first (and second) to the moon's surface (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin).
Triple Dot produced an even bigger gathering, this one for South African President Nelson Mandela; his wife, Graca Machel; and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, at a state dinner in Johannesburg.
Her clients at the time, the Dunfey family, famous for its hotel chain, liberal politics and philanthropy, founded the Global Citizens Circle, a regular gathering of diverse thinkers who pondered big ideas on social issues. The Dunfeys wanted to present The Global Citizen Award of the New England Circle to Machel, famous for shunning attention despite a lengthy record of accomplishment on behalf of women and children in Africa.
As part of the effort to present the award, Soldati arranged an interview with Machel for Sally Quinn, columnist for The Washington Post and wife of the Post's late-Editor Ben Bradlee.
"The New York Times and Washington Post had been trying for three years to get that interview," she recalls. It was a "high concept" moment, she says of nailing the meeting for Quinn, referring to the Hollywood term that means a minimum of words leading to a successful pitch.
In understatement, she says the event "was quite something."
Triple Dot arranged Global Citizens Circle events for David Trimble, first minister of Northern Ireland; Seamus Mallon, deputy first minister of Northern Ireland; Bernice Johnson Reagon, an African-American social activist; Robert Reich, former secretary of labor; and Henry Hampton, an American filmmaker, with these gatherings held in Boston at the Omni Parker House (a former Dunfey property), JFK Library and Boston University Club.
She became director of marketing for The Music Hall in Portsmouth in 2006, a role she held for eight years. Then, it was on to an executive directorship of the Portsmouth Historical Society, which she left last year after several accomplishments, including initiating, in conjunction with the city, Portsmouth400, which is planning the city's 400th anniversary in 2023.
Guiding her career have been other influences besides sagacity. She wrote about some of this in her book Business Comes to the Expert, authored with Brenda Richards.
"It's about how do you put your knowledge into the marketplace, so people are driven to you," she says. "You need to figure out what your book of knowledge is. What do you have? What do you know? How do you put that out there?"