The PR Wiz
It’s Heidi Hageman’s job to eat well. Or, at least, that’s part of it. The veritable public relations guru has built a business that ensures that everyone—coast to coast—finds out about the innovative and tasty food and drink her restaurant clients are producing. Hageman and her team have ensured that the talented chefs and hospitality brands they represent get the recognition they deserve in major national and local magazines, newspapers, and food blogs. The founder of H2 Public Relations, which just relaunched their website, Hageman employs her expertise in other areas as well. Need some consulting for your Chicago (or San Diego)-based art & design, lifestyle & real estate, or spa & wellness project? Call Hageman. A good story goes a long way.
You began your career in broadcast journalism. What made you decide to transition to PR, then open your own business? Anything you miss about broadcast journalism?
In my mid 20s I was working in TV in San Diego as a morning show producer, and my goal was to break into a big-time market like Los Angeles or New York. One of the guests I regularly booked on my local A.M. show was a New York Times best selling author, and he was about to launch a new book. He asked me to come work for him as his publicist, and although I wasn’t totally sold on PR, I thought this opportunity would open some new doors for me in TV. That was when I crossed over to (what media people lovingly refer to as) “the dark side”. I was able to make some great national TV connections through that gig, but I was hooked on the energy of PR and I never looked back.
Soon after, I began working at a lifestyle PR agency, and within a year I took a leap and started H2 Public Relations, my own boutique firm in Southern California. I was just 27 years old and it was terrifying to step into the unknown, but I wouldn’t change a thing. There are times that I do miss the excitement of live television, but that fast-paced environment prepared me for the deadline-driven nature of PR. I think the best thing a publicist can do is work in a newsroom prior to taking a job in public relations in order to learn what really works and what doesn’t. There’s a whole lot of bad PR out there.
Your clients include many bars and restaurants in Chicago and San Diego. How would you describe the differences in the dining scenes in these two cities, and how does that affect your work?
The two markets are vastly different, but that’s just what makes my job that much more interesting. While Chicago is internationally known for its world-class chefs and restaurants, San Diego has year-round access to fresh produce, farms, and of course, the ocean, so the chefs there are at a distinct advantage when it comes to quality ingredients. Chicago’s venues are often opened in storied buildings and locations that have been around for for several decades, so you can really feel the soul of the city when projects launch, particularly in neighborhoods like Logan Square, Pilsen, Ukrainian Village and Bucktown. San Diego’s bourgeoning hospitality scene is vibrant, and it’s drawing more and more big names with each year that passes. Not to mention the city’s craft beer scene is often referred to as the craft beer capital of America! With breweries such as Stone, Green Flash, Ballast Point and Modern Times, a great way to enjoy what San Diego has to offer is to grab a dozen fresh oysters and a local pint.
Your work must involve a lot of meals / drinks / events with clients, editors, and journalists. Where do you take them for meetings, and what makes those locations special?
Although I’m often back in San Diego, I live in Chicago full-time now. Some of my of-the-moment spots to entertain are:
- Income Tax, a brand-new neighborhood restaurant in Edgewater. The chef, Ryan Henderson, hails from NYC venues such as Momofuku, Wylie Dufresne’s Alder and Alex Stupak’s Empellón Cocina. I love this cozy spot because the team presents a great wine-sharing program that allows you to pop almost anything on their 70+ bottle list to try just a few glasses.
- I can never get enough of Fat Rice, because there are so many different experiences under one roof; the Macanese/Portuguese inspired restaurant, the sleek Ladies’ Room cocktail lounge with exotic drinks, and the day-time bakery with delicious pastries and milk teas…it’s got it all.
- Momotaro is my go-to in the West Loop. If you really want to impress someone, the food/design/feel of this spot can’t be beat—it’s truly one of the sexiest restaurants in the city.
- If I’ve got a lunch date downtown, Revival Food Hall is the place. There’s something for everyone here from the best chefs and neighborhood spots in Chicago: poke, ramen and tacos, finished with cookies by Mindy Segal? Yes, please.
- Although, the newest and hottest restaurants and bars are always great—sometimes when I’m out with press, we need a break from the hype. Some of my favorite places to do this are: Best Intentions on Armitage in Logan Square for boozy milkshakes and a killer patio, dim sum at MingHin in Chinatown—especially for late night, post-industry party grub, and The Matchbox, where we squeeze in for stiff drinks that seem to always lead to a really good time.