LEADERSHIP

Noreen Heron

CEO / Founder

In 2000, Noreen founded and has built the award-winning Heron Agency into one of the nation’s leading lifestyle communications agencies, named one of the “Top 200 PR firms in the Country” by Forbes Magazine, “Top Social Media Agencies” by Expertise, and “Top B2B Agencies” by Clutch.  Heron is a one stop shop offering services from Media Relations, Social Media, Crisis Communications, Advertising, Digital Marketing, Event Planning and more. An innovator of new communication and digital technologies, Noreen ensures that Heron Agency is always on the cutting-edge of the media industry and its trends. Her entrepreneurial mindset has garnered her dozens of prestigious industry awards, and her reputation for consistently delivering fully integrated marketing campaigns that improve a client’s bottom line and profitability is well established. 

Noreen has represented countless lifestyle clients including over 75 hotel brands; lifestyle brands including Orange Theory Fitness, EZ Breathe, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Paper Source; spirits brands including Smirnoff, Bailey’s and BV Wines, and franchises including Jet’s Pizza and Massage Envy. Corporate clients have included campaigns with Luna Carpet, Darvin Furniture and Procter and Gamble. She has managed the communications for six National Tours for Broadway-quality productions handling both the PR and Advertising components.

In Chicago, she has represented over 1000 restaurants, pop ups and theater productions, as well as large-scale events including the Taste of Chicago, the Race to Mackinac, the Jeff Awards, the Grand Chefs Gala, the Randolph Street Market, the Highland Games, the Chicago Boat & RV Show, the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the One of a Kind Show. She has represented celebrities in Chicago and around the country including Prince, Jerry Seinfeld, Dan Aykroyd, the Beach Boys, and Jewel, among others. Not one to “color within the lines”, the agency has also handled campaigns for medical practices, not-for-profit organizations and sports teams.

A self-made professional, Noreen never worked at an agency prior to owning one. She developed infrastructure and systems she knew that her clients would need from her time on property working for large, iconic hospitality clients. For 5 years, she served as the Director of Public Relations at Hyatt Regency Chicago, Hyatt’s largest property and Chicago’s biggest hotel, where she was a member of the Executive Committee. Prior to Hyatt, Noreen served as the Director of Public Relations for Candlelight Playhouse/Forum Theatre, the 1025-seat dinner theater venue where she started as an usher at 14 years old, moved up to House Manager, and eventually becoming the theater’s PR Director.

Noreen has served on numerous boards and planned dozens of charitable fundraisers, receiving many awards (listed below). Considered one of Chicago’s most networked individuals, she possesses strong relationships with media, politicians, and the city’s tastemakers. Noreen is a specialist at using her connections to the benefit of her clients, linking them to each other to build productive relationships. In 2021, she led a successful campaign calling on the Chicago Park District to install life rings and safety equipment along the city’s lakefront. She has taught classes on Communications at Northwestern University, DePaul University, Roosevelt University and Kendall College. Noreen lives in Lincoln Park and is the mother to Connor, a Junior at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and Ava, a Senior at St. Ignatius College Prep.

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Press and Features
PR Couture chats with Noreen Heron as one of their “PR Girls We Love!”

“To say Noreen Heron knows Chicago is quite an understatement,” Lux and Concord selects Noreen to share her perfect day in Chicago!

“With Irish blood in her veins, Noreen runs a strong team of female PR ladies in Chicago, USA.” Orlagh Claire chats with Noreen for #GirlBossMonday!

Noreen Heron, busy working woman and mom shares with Chicago Woman Magazine what she does to drive away the stress of the week.

Noreen Heron shares with CBS Radio her five secrets to stay connected with her children through the use of technology and apps.

Meet Noreen Heron, who Voyage Chicago selected as a Woman We Love!

“No one knows how much the meetings business has changed in Chicago over the past decades more than Noreen Heron” –Connect Magazine

Chicago Business Journal announces its 2016 class of Women of Influence” which includes Heron President Noreen Heron.

Talk Theatre In Chicago with Noreen Heron, about how publicists help theaters sell tickets, and her background in theater beginning with Candlelight Playhouse.

Heron Agency President Noreen Heron on WGN Radio on the Frank Fontana Show. Frank describes Noreen as “Wonder Woman”!  Listen here

“Publicist Noreen Heron’s efforts behind the scenes generate the buzz that gets people into the seats of Chicago-area theaters.” UIC Alumni Magazine

“Painting the Town Red for Heron’s 15th Anniversary.” Inside Publications (click to read)

“Veteran Chicago publicist Noreen Heron, one of the best in the business, is rebranding the communications firm that bears her name.” Robert Feder

“How one PR firm maintains a fresh —and effective — outlook after 15 years in the trenches.” Lewis Lazare, Chicago Business Journal

“Noreen is a ball of energy with a contagious big smile and powerful contacts.” Special Events Chicago

“From mainstream media to social media to e-newsletters and local blogs, Noreen Heron & Associates, Inc. has a tenacious reputation for getting the word out for its clients.”  NWI Times, OFFBEAT: Publicist’s Chicago firm celebrating a decade of stage and client connections

“The promotions and events that I have created over the years helped fill theater seats and hotel beds, and hopefully kept other employees in the hospitality industry working!” Where Chicago, American Airlines Someone Special Award

“I try to act on every piece of paper that I get immediately so as to reduce clutter. This is true in all areas of my life.” Chicago Tribune, Got a minute? She’ll save you hours

“There’s a bunch of goodies on Noreen Heron’s desk.” Chicago Tribune, Oh, Goody, Goody

“You know the ones. They’re successful. Admired. Magnetic. They’ve got ‘it.’” Today’s Chicago Woman, Meet Chicago’s “It Girls”

“I’ll slow down when I’m dead. I”m always at warp speed.” Crain’s Chicago Business, The Business of Life

“Impeccable taste. It’s not a matter of money, but an issue of style.” Today’s Chicago Woman, Chicago’s Most Fashionable Women

“There are many reasons why more and more young people are making time to volunteer. While there’s a social aspect to volunteering, the primary driving force is the opportunity to give back.” Today’s Chicago Woman, The New Philanthropists

“I am able to combine my career with my social conscience,” Heron said. “That’s an opportunity that not many people are given in their professional life, and I’m fortunate to have been given that opportunity.” University of Illinois (UIC) Alumni Magazine, “Be my guest”

“Noreen Heron talks about her passion for marketing and finding joy in shining the light on her clients.” The Power of PR, The Climb Podcast

Awards

VIP Award for Advocacy – 2022 – Friends of the Parks, 2022

Ragan Communications and PR Daily’s Top Women in Communication “Dynamic Doer” Award, 2020

National Customer Service Association, “Service Excellence to the Community”, 2019

Daily Herald Influential Women in Business Honoree, 2018

PR Couture Bespoke Award Winner, The Maven Award (Judges’ choice) Career Achievement: Noreen Heron, 2018

PR Couture Bespoke Award Winner, PR Campaign of the Year, 2018

Professional Irish Women of Chicago 2017 Professional Marketing & Events Award, 2017

Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence – Noreen Heron, 2016

PR News Agency Elite Award Nonprofit Category, 2016

Massage Envy “Streetfighter of the Year” (Person recognized who did more for Massage Envy’s brand than any other over the calendar year), 2014

“Entrepreneur Award, Outstanding, Business Achievement” Special Events Chicago Magazine, 2001

Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine, Noreen Heron named one of “Chicago’s Top 100 Women Making a Difference”, 1999

Where Chicago Magazine/American Airlines “Someone Special” Award” (Voted on by peers in the industry), 1999

NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Corporate Woman of Achievement Award, 1998

Named one of Chicago’s “Top 100 Young Leaders“, Public Allies, 1993

Kathy Bryja

Senior Managing Director

Before joining the team at Heron, Kathy worked at a boutique PR agency, where she focused on lifestyle and restaurant clientele. During this time, she built relationships with local media, and secured press coverage with national outlets including The Travel Channel, Food Network, Town & Country, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, USA Today and Inside Edition. Kathy has now been at Heron Agency for 6 years, where she started as a Senior Publicist, then was promoted to Managing Director and now holds the position of Senior Managing Director. Kathy has been able to garner national media and some of the hottest marketing brands for her rolodex of clients that range from the hottest hotels and restaurants to theatres and experiences in the city. One of her favorite accomplishments includes securing a Kendra Scott partnership for a local client that has now been incorporated as a national partner for their worldwide brand.

A daughter of two immigrant parents, Kathy grew up with the mentality that hard work and perseverance will help you achieve anything you set your mind to. Fluent in Polish, Kathy has and continues to maintain a close connection to her roots. She was a Polish folk dancer for over 12 years and performed around the city and country in various competitions and festivals. Kathy received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from DePaul University, and credits her favorite professor for making her first fall in love with the industry. Kathy has lived in various neighborhoods of Chicago over the past 10 years including Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, River North, and now currently resides in Streeterville. In her free time, she loves to rollerblade to the lakefront, try out the hottest new cocktail bars and spend time binging murder mystery documentaries. In another life, Kathy would have loved to try a career in forensics solving crimes.

Gianna Fontana

Managing Director

Prior to joining the Heron Agency team, Gianna spent time on both the editorial team at Michigan Avenue Magazine and served as the Director of Marketing and Media for an upscale beauty boutique, overseeing it’s branding and operations as it launched in the fast-paced Chicago market. Gianna began as an Account Coordinator for the agency and over the years since has served on the team as a Publicist, Senior Publicist and now guides clients through their own openings, announcements and annual goals in her current role as a Managing Director. Gianna has been proud to represent a wide range of clients from National brands including Paper Source and Orangetheory Fitness to incredible restaurants including Ocean Prime Chicago, Fulton Market Kitchen and Carnivale, major citywide events including the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show and One of a Kind Show Chicago, hotels and retail destinations including Canopy by Hilton Chicago Central Loop, Hotel EMC2 and the Roosevelt Collections Shops, among many others. Through her passion for developing and leveraging a well-crafted message to propel a business to new heights, Gianna has secured features for clients with The TODAY Show, Forbes, Bloomberg Business, Women’s Wear Daily, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Health, Good Housekeeping and more.

Growing up as a competitive figure skater in a family filled with hockey players, it’s no surprise you can find Gianna cheering on the Chicago Blackhawks when she’s not in the office, or on the ice herself! Gianna received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a Concentration in Magazine Writing and Editing from Columbia College Chicago and still loves to keep up with the happenings of the incredible staff and alumni there. She currently resides in the West Loop with her adorable Frenchie named Poppy and loves to spend good times over great pasta with her big (somewhat-crazy) Italian family.

Julie Culler

Director of Social Media

Prior to Julie’s work at Heron Agency, she worked as a Media Manager for a bespoke international wine and travel company where she developed their virtual tasting program. Her experience in the Food and Beverage industry ranges from Branding to Social Media management. Her favorite part of her role at Heron is “helping clients thoughtfully and strategically share their brand story through their social channels.”

Julie grew up in Clarendon Hills, a western suburb of Chicago. She attended the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, graduating with a degree in Communications and minoring in Public Relations and Psychology. Staying close to home, Julie moved back to Chicago where she currently resides in Lakeview. In her free time, you’ll find Julie playing intramural soccer, picnicking along the lakeside, binging a murder podcast or finding any and every concert in Chicago to attend.