Noreen Heron is the President and Founder of Heron Agency, Chicago. With Irish blood in her veins, Noreen runs a strong team of female PR ladies in Chicago, USA.
With many years of experience in the industry, Noreen specialises in the theatre, restaurant and hotel sectors, serving as publicist for many large businesses in the Chicago area. With the agency ever growing, Heron Agency has branched out to represent sports teams, franchises and not-for-profit organisations.
Celebrities that Heron Agency have worked with include; Andre Rieu (I performed with him once – my claim to fame), the late and great Prince, Robin Thicke, and my favourite band of all time (pre One Direction of course), Fleetwood Mac. (OMG moment)
The reason I conduct these interviews is to inspire you, my readers, and fellow PR students to be successful in your careers and business leaders of the future. I have asked the important questions to gain an insight of how these #GirlBosses made it to where they are today, and how we can emulate their successes.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
OC: Hi Noreen! An easy question to start us off (I hope) – What is your full job title?
NH: President of Heron Agency.
Can you give me a background of your career and education? How did this lead you to be in your PR position today?
I received my degree in Communications and Theatre from UIC (University of Illinois, Chicago). While I was in high school and college, I worked for a large legendary theatre in Chicago called Candlelight Playhouse/Forum Theatre that unfortunately no longer operates.
I did two internships in college, one for a newspaper as I was hoping to be a journalist. The other was a PR/Event planning internship. I learned over this period that I had a passion for Public Relations, but also due to my employment at the theatre, specifically an interest in doing PR for live theatre. I became the PR Director at the theatre that I had grown up working at, serving in that capacity for five years.
I left there to become the PR Director for Hyatt Regency Chicago, the city’s largest hotel and Hyatt’s largest property. The hotel has 2019 rooms, five restaurants and 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and a lot of large scale events and parties, so there was always plenty to do. I served in this capacity for five years.
How and why did you start your business?
I absolutely loved Hyatt Hotels, but my boss was leaving for NY and taking a lot of the senior management with him but there wasn’t a position at the NY property for me.
I left to head a small start-up company and quickly could see that the culture and environment of the company was not for me. I thought I would freelance until I could find another full-time position.
I had found some drink stirrers at Crate and Barrel and sent out a mailing with them in cardboard tubes, saying, “Want to stir something up? Call Noreen Heron.” Well, the business just started rolling in, most notably the very first piece of business being handling the PR for the Eastern and Central divisions of Hyatt Hotels, half of the company’s portfolio at the time.
My company was launched, unintentionally!
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role in PR?
I love being a rainmaker for clients, and the idea of keeping other people working due to creating buzz always has and always will excite me.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
That it is not just about tasking RSVPs and passing out press kits. The behind the scenes work that is done on any campaign if done right is heavy lifting.
PR appears to be a glamorous career but the reality is that there are a lot of late nights trying to make it all come together for a client and it requires a strong worth ethic.
If you were to hire someone for a PR role, what skills and qualities would your ideal candidate have?
The person needs to be a great multitasker, energetic, positive, a team player, and a strong writer and communicator. He or she also needs to have a lot of patience because I think that is necessary in our field.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the PR industry is today?
The downsizing of major media outlets. There are less TV reporters for big features, less print reporters for articles.
What advice would you give to a student like myself that wants to emulate your success and make it in the PR industry?
I would say obtain as many internships as you can, try to find a mentor, volunteer, read as much as you can so you begin to know reporter’s beats, and try to identify what you want to be an advocate for every day.
I am a publicist and technically could do pharmaceutical PR, but I wouldn’t want to. I love representing hotels, theatres, restaurants and events primarily. That is our bailiwick.
Thank you, Noreen ♥
You can visit Heron Agency’s website at www.heronagency.com
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