Outstanding achievements deserve the highest reward. All of our BCA applicants were truly special this year, but one outshone the others and has left us feeling inspired, motivated and excited about where the industry’s future is headed. The Maven Award for Career Achievement winner, Noreen Heron, has dedicated close to two decades creating award-winning, recognizable and distinguished campaigns for hospitality and lifestyle clients throughout the city of Chicago and the country. Before opening her own agency, Noreen acted as Director of PR at the largest Hyatt property in the world and Chicago’s biggest hotel, the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The demonstration of her business acumen and the use of innovative ideas to promote her clients’ brand are so well-documented that she has retained Hyatt as her client since 2000, among others such as Orangetheory Fitness, iFLY, and the Harlem Globetrotters.
How does it feel to win the Maven Award? How are you going to celebrate?
Maven always seemed to be synonymous with old in my mind, but I have never felt more energetic and positive regarding my career than I do right now! Our agency, Heron Agency is busier than ever; I have fantastic co-workers; and we are representing some of the hottest destinations, hotels, events, restaurants and lifestyle clients out there right now. I feel very confident in what services we provide and that they are impactful for our clients. There is a lot to celebrate right now. I tend to frequent my client’s businesses for my personal enjoyment so perhaps a lunch or dinner at one of our restaurants will be in store but I haven’t thought about it too much as in addition to work, my 16-year-old, Connor, and my daughter, Ava, 13, keep me running. All awards are representative of our team’s efforts, so I am sure we will all get together and enjoy some champagne.
I never worried about those agencies that were considered my competition because I don’t believe that you win races by looking over your shoulder.
In your eyes, what sets you apart from other communicators in the field? What qualities do you attribute to your career achievements?
I like to think that I am creative and I am not afraid to take risks. Therefore, through the years, we have developed some really memorable and over the top promotions, publicity stunts and strategies that stood out and resonated with targeted demographics. I never worked at an agency prior to owning one, so I sort of blazed my own trail with policies and procedures, performing for our clients more the way that an in-house publicist would, delivering more comprehensive and robust results. We were always more focused on whether we improved the bottom line for our clients over how many placements we produced. Over the agency’s 18 year history, we delivered solidly at reasonable prices. I never worried about those agencies that were considered my competition because I don’t believe that you win races by looking over your shoulder. I have always had a pretty insane work ethic which I think anyone that has worked with me would attest to, and that has been a big part of exceeding clients’ expectations.
How do you plan to tackle the rest of 2018? What are a few things you’d like to focus on?
I am moving more and more into new business development and we will continue to expand our team. I have always loved travel and this year’s destinations include Paris, Dublin and Bangkok.
I sort of blazed my own trail with policies and procedures, performing for our clients more the way that an in-house publicist would, delivering more comprehensive and robust results.
What advice do you have for communicators looking to stand out?
Create opportunities and strategies that work on all platforms: PR, Social Media, Brand Activations, Experiential Marketing that are timely. Read the news and know what is trending and create a good portion of your strategy from there.
In a few sentences, tell us what your goals are/ what we can expect to see from your agency in the future.
We wanted to be a lifestyle communications agency and started moving in that direction about five years ago. I want to keep expanding that way. We were known for doing so many hotels, theaters and restaurants, but now we have added product launches, health clubs and retail. We have a history of hiring our top performing interns when the business load is there, so I would like to continue to do that and elevate our current team. We are doing a lot more digital ad buying and media buying in general as well.
If we looked inside your purse/work bag right now, what PR survival must-haves would we find?
Business cards of course. My days start early and tend to go late between work and my kids’ activities, so I carry around all my makeup: Huda Liquid Matte liquid lipstick is fantastic because it is so long-lasting. I love L’Occitane almond oil and I moisturize in between meetings. A travel size Moroccan oil hairspray; the smell is so lovely. My phone! I panic when it is not in my purse (or my hand). My work bag has my gym clothes; I work out with a trainer three days a week. My little red Kate Spade journal that says on the front: “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Amen to that.