150: Elevating To New Heights Through PR with Heather Burgett
Behind a great person is an even greater one who has the power to bring others to new heights. PR expert Heather Burgett of PR Stars is someone who has worked with and touched so many people that we all seem to know – from Steven Spielberg and Ed McMahon to Madonna and Federico Fellini. She has mastered the art of elevation, and in this episode, Mitch Russo brings her in to speak about her stories and how she takes others to new heights through PR. Diving deeper into the parts of PR, Heather gives a little master class on what a press tour and a press kit are and when you will need them. Join Heather in this discussion and learn not only the ins and outs of PR but the important lessons she got along the way.
Elevating To New Heights Through PR with Heather Burgett
We create businesses that serve others as our highest priority. We are entrepreneurs, small business owners, local business owners coming together to learn from one another. Now it will be no different. If you’re one of the above, take a moment to explore the wealth of information, wisdom and insights in our past blogs. Thank you for your comments and suggestions. Please keep them coming. Our guest is someone who has mastered the art of elevation. She uses her superpowers to elevate others in the eyes of the world, bringing them literal fame and sometimes fortune. To give you an example of the magic she’s performed, think about this. Who gets to walk Steven Spielberg down the red carpet at a blockbuster opening? Who helps Madonna personally with a problem that only she could solve? Who do you think would be trusted to accompany Ed McMahon on a sixteen-city tour of everyone in the world? Who would the Beverly Hills Film Festival trust to handle their PR for ten years running, landing the Oscar-winning Italian director Federico Fellini’s first LA Times film review in many years? There’s only one person who could elevate others beyond the level of mere mortals and her name is Heather Burgett. Heather, welcome.
Thank you so much, Mitch. It’s great to be here.
I’m so happy to have you. It’s so exciting to speak to somebody who has done so much and who’s touched so many people that we all seem to know. Heather, give me a feel for how you really got started in all of this.
Honestly, it’s the typical PR person story. A lot of us that have landed in public relations fall into it and I was no different. I come from a very small town in Western Massachusetts. I had a knack for naturally connecting with people. My intention initially was to work in my language skills, which I lived in Spain, I worked abroad in Spain for a little bit. I did an exchange in college and I really thought that was where I would end up. I ended up at an internship instead in the Boston area, Cambridge Mass, at a high-tech PR firm. We were launching America Online as a consumer brand and they ended up hiring me on full-time and that’s just started it all. I’m still in PR to this day many years later. I did a stint at the Ritz-Carlton Boston. I loved the consumer entertainment side of things and I was a big movie buff, so I decided to hop a plane and come to Hollywood and be an entertainment/film publicist.
I worked in Hollywood for a while. I did leave and start my own business. I ventured into a couple of different areas as well. I did some travel writing. I actually worked in the healing arts. I had my own aromatherapy product line, but always keeping one foot in PR all these years. Flash forward to a couple of years back and I decided it was time to help more people on a wider scale. I decided to start coaching and teaching and consulting with business owners to teach them how to do their own PR. That was the launch of my PR Stars Programs, now to flashing forward to The Shine Strategy Podcast. It’s getting out there on a global scale to help people get visible and change the world.
It’s funny, Heather, because very few people actually go to Hollywood and make it. You probably know this. People from all over the world, the Midwest, the East Coast go to Hollywood thinking that somehow it’s going to be the magic that they’ve always wished for. Too many of them unfortunately end up in low-level jobs or leave brokenhearted, wishing that something different might have happened. Did you ever feel that way during the time after you first moved there?
I will say that most of the people that I knew early on in my career left. A lot of my friends left Hollywood. They left LA and or they went in a different direction. They pivoted in terms of their career goals. That is very true what you’re saying. I actually left Hollywood because I didn’t love the culture there. That’s when I embarked on my healing arts journey. At that time, it was a very toxic culture. It’s very ego-based. A lot of businesses are, but I think Hollywood in particular is pretty heavy on that.
I went and started studying massage and the healing arts and energy work and I have over 500 hours of training in that. It gives me this unique selling proposition in terms of who I am and what I offer because it’s very few people that have been able to navigate both of those worlds and speak both of those languages and merge them. That’s why in my PR programs, we start from a very spiritually aligned foundation. I can help a lot of people that are more on the creative side into the mainstream because typically that’s where their bigger weakness is on actually crossing over into the mainstream. Because I know both worlds, I help a lot of people in that area.
Knowing these two different worlds, this is something that I find very often in my interviews, the people that I speak to started somewhere else or migrated to a different profession completely then came back or went on to do a third thing yet. What’s interesting is that no matter who you are now, what you are is part of all the things you’ve been in the past. Who you are now is the great aggregate of all the things you’ve learned and been before. You would bring a completely different perspective to this position or to this skill, to this profession than anybody else. When you start working with someone, I would imagine that the first thing you need to do is get to the point where they feel like they can deserve the type of publicity that other people have. Would you agree with that?
Yes, that is one of the biggest hurdles. One of the biggest issues I see with business owners, experts, consultants, creatives is the confidence of feeling like an actual expert. There is a lot of stuff that comes up for people in terms of self-doubts, limiting beliefs. When they’re getting ready to put themselves out into the spotlight, step in front of the camera, be the face of their business, there is a lot that comes up and we do have to deal with that. We have to look at it and address it and work through any mindset shifts or perspective shifts that need to happen. It’s partially like this confidence thing, but there’s also this other piece to it that is about feeling like it’s too braggadocious or arrogant to do that for themselves, to put themselves out there. What I always say is that it’s actually more in the ego to not shine your gifts into the world because your ego is always going to try to sabotage you, keep you hidden in the shadows and behind the scenes. It’s important that people own and shine their gifts into the world because that’s why we’re all here.Who you are now is the great aggregate of all the things you've learned and been before. Click To Tweet
What I tell my clients is that if you have a skill, if you can create a transformation in others and people or in businesses, then you have a moral obligation to bring that out and share it with as many people as possible. In fact, you’re right, it’s egotistic not to do it. When I work with someone, one of the things that we do is we put in place systems to make sure that whatever it is they deliver is going to work over and over again. 100% success rate is because you have systems in place to accomplish the things you want. Even with PR, I’d love to ask you about this, I’m sure that you have systems that take people through the path to PR and then keep it going. Would you agree with that?
I have my signature PR Star formula, so for sure.
It’s so funny because when you speak to people, sometimes they don’t realize that they too have a process and formula. When you start to shine some light on that, that’s when they start to get more confident and feel like, “Maybe I do have something valuable.” Before we get into that or much more into that, let’s talk a little bit about some of the crazy wonderful people that you’ve worked with. Tell us about the people. I’m a little star struck, so forgive me but what about working with someone like Madonna? What was that like?
I will say she wasn’t necessarily a client. This is going way back to when I first started in Hollywood, but we were repping the film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which was directed by Guy Ritchie. At the time, they were dating. Eventually as we all know, they got married and divorced. We were having a premiere party and I was one of the publicists working the event. We just had the world premiere screening and everyone was showing up at the party after. She came, marched right up to me and wanted to know where Guy was. This is very early off the boat and being in Hollywood in Los Angeles. I think I was probably a bit in shock because growing up, I listened to her music and I wore the laced gloves. Going way back to the ‘80s with our Walkmans and our cassettes, listening to Material Girl and all of that. I was a bit star struck myself. Basically, I had to help her track down Guy and came back to her and had to tap her on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, Madonna.” Never ever did I think that I would be uttering those words, but I was able to help her figure out where Guy was and get them connected and all of that.
Having those rubbing elbows moments and working on projects that involve some of the biggest names out there was definitely a perk and continues to be this day. I still do the Beverly Hills Film Festival and film premiers and I do keep one foot in the entertainment business amidst all my other ventures. I was able to connect with Bob Saget and actually had him as a guest on my podcast. That was fun because he is not only a very funny guy, but a very heartfelt person. He has a lot of really important missions close to his heart, including raising awareness for the Scleroderma Research Foundation, because that was an autoimmune disease that took his sister many years ago. It’s consistently being from a small cow town in western Massachusetts and being here all these years and having all these adventures in the entertainment business. It’s been quite an adventure for sure.
Another person that we talked about was a guy that many people may not know. His name was Ed McMahon. He was the sidekick for Johnny Carson for decades and on TV every night. He didn’t speak as much as Johnny did, but he was very funny when he did. What was it like hanging with him for all that time?
He was great. He was such a kind man and such a gracious person. We did a sixteen-city tour, a road trip, mind you. Dodge was the sponsor, so we had two Dodge Caravans for the team and we were just going city to city. At the time, it was his new show where his big one back in the day was the Star Search show and this one was called Next Big Star. It didn’t ever quite have the success that the earlier shows did. He was going around city to city and auditioning talent and we would roll into a different city like 5:00 in the morning and go straight into the radio stations or the TV stations and do press. I was able to accompany him on all of the media tour aspects of the trip. He was very gracious to all his fans. He never said no to somebody that wanted to say hi or asked for an autograph. He was one of those celebrities that knows that his fans are the reason that he has the success he has. He was very kind to them and he was also very easy to work with. He took very good care of all of us and he’d take us to dinner and it was very sad that he passed. I have fond memories of working with him.
We’re going to switch gears. You talked about his press tour. For many of us, a press tour might be a little bit overdoing it, but I’ve been on press tours for my own companies. There are a lot of moving parts and it requires a lot of coordination. Maybe we could start with a little bit of a master class on what a press tour is and why someone might want to do something like that. What type of product or company would you need to have a press tour?
It just has to be something that is coming out to the public. If we’re thinking of mainstream media, which if you’re doing a press tour, typically that is the mainstream media. That’s TV stations, news stations radio shows and programs, daily newspapers, the market you’re going to. It has to be something that their readers or viewers can access and benefit from. This is anything with the media. They want to cover things that benefit the people that they are serving. If you have a book coming out or any project, a product, if you have an event, there are so many different things that you can time it to. The mainstream press is focused on street dates, release dates. That’s why it made a lot of sense, for example, with the tour we did with Ed McMahon because we were doing a PR push in each city about the auditions. We were garnering press that Ed McMahon’s in town, he’s auditioning for this new show. That’s how we created a lot of buzz to get the word out about the show.
When I did a press tour, it was basically to introduce a new product with my company many years ago. My company, which was based in Massachusetts, was a software company. For us, it was essential. It was critical that we would get in front of the press or else we couldn’t promote the product. I built my entire company on PR. The reason I did so is that I screwed up the marketing so badly that I ran out of money. If it wasn’t for press, we’d never be in business. It sounds probably very simple to you, but the way we thought about it was press is free. You don’t have to pay for it. Why don’t we just use the press to get as much promotion as we could? My first employee was a PR intern and that’s how I started my company. I don’t know if I could claim to be that smart because the PR intern that we hired turned out to have a fear of picking up the phone.It's important that people own and shine their gifts into the world because that's why we're all here. Click To Tweet
That could be a problem. Interns do come with a risk.
I don’t think she stayed in PR for the rest of her career.
To be in PR, you definitely cannot be scared to talk to people.
All you can say is that you live and learn. Now I know how to interview PR people a little bit better than I did before. Anyway, so now we have the press tour and these days the press tour can be simply appearing on podcasts and radio shows. I know that for one of the things that we did is when I published my second book, I must have been on 50 different podcasts all inside of about five months. It was fantastic. It got the word out. Is that the way people do it now?
There is a lot more available from a virtual standpoint. That works on a couple of levels whereas a publicist sometimes I don’t even have to be in the place where I’m booking for my client. If they’re there, they just go in and sometimes we’ll have someone there to accompany them. It depends on the client and how comfortable they are with the press. There’s that virtual aspect of it that there are so many opportunities and it’s so easy to book so much now. It was always in the past that the PR person would be there every step of the way, but that doesn’t always happen now. The other side is that you can do everything from your office if you’re doing podcasts. Most of them are remote. You can do contributing articles. You can do emails, Q&A email interviews. You can do phone interviews, so you can just hit the press hard and call that a press tour and do every possible thing you can get your hands on. Because now we have these last several years moved so much into the digital space, we rely so much more heavily on all of these other opportunities like podcasts and high-profile blogs. There’s so much opportunity out there now.
What about somebody reading this very moment and saying to themselves, “I’m not very high profile and I don’t really know anybody. In fact, I don’t even know what podcasts to even talk to. I don’t think I’ve ever even listened to a “podcast” so I don’t believe they even work.” What would you say to that person reading right now about PR and how they could start and then move forward in that process even if they’re doing it on their own?
First and foremost, if you’re doing anything out there in the world that you are a step ahead of somebody else, then you are on some level considered an expert because you know how to do something someone else doesn’t. The press is looking to speak with experts. First you have to own and claim and know that you are an expert in something and then you can start pitching yourself out. A lot of people don’t know where to start. This is where I do have my PR Star formula and that’s what I guide people through in terms of how to take the steps. After many years of doing this stuff, I realized there is a formula. Every client that I’ve ever worked with, we do certain things to get the results. One thing that I also talk a lot about is the resource HelpAReporter.com. Some people know it as HARO. It used to be called Help A Reporter Out. That is a free tool that pretty much all publicists and PR pros use. A lot of business owners in the know use it. It’s a great way to sign up and start getting email queries from the legitimate press who are looking for experts to comment on their stories and start pitching yourself for those opportunities.
That exercises your competence, your muscle in seeing how PR works, starting actually to get some results and doing some reactive publicity. The real big step is when you start doing proactive PR. That’s where you are identifying, “I listened to this podcast, I love it. I want to be on the show. How am I going to pitch them?” That’s where you start getting proactive about going after the places you want to be appearing. There are two levels to the PR. There’s the reactive where you’re responding to opportunities, and you can do that through something like HelpAReporter.com. There’s the proactive where you might need a little more guidance, but it really, as you probably discovered when you did it for your press tour, that it takes a little bit of investigation and research to find the right people. Knowing how to ask, present yourself and package yourself in the right way so that you are appealing to them as a guest.
As a way of verifying what you say, I have had several interviews by monitoring the HARO emails and wrote them and told them whatever it was that we’re looking for, offered to be of assistance and get the information. ‘ve got a five-series interview with a particular publication that was exactly in my space simply by responding to that request. It’s very valuable and it works really well. Heather, one of the very important things that people don’t realize they even need is to have enough information so that you can get somebody excited about what you do and how you do it. What do you call that? Is that a backgrounder? What would be the formal name of something like that?
Traditionally, we’re talking about having a press kit and your press materials or your press collateral. As you’re getting ready to package and present yourself to the press, you need to have your assets together and in one place. If they say, “Yes, I want to move forward on this,” you can send them all that they need, which typically, from a very basic standpoint, would be your company background or your bio. Probably your headshot. If it’s a product, you have to have product images. It just depends on what you’re pitching or promoting or publicizing and getting all of that together in one place. Sometimes we do hidden press links where you can have everything living in one spot, then you can just share that link. We also often use Dropbox or Google Drive and put everything in one place. When that press person is ready to move forward, you’re not scrambling trying to figure out what do I need to get them? Where is this? Do I even have that? It’s very organized about it.To be in PR, you definitely cannot be scared to talk to people. Click To Tweet
I have a series of documents myself that I store in Gmail as a saved document. In Gmail, you have the ability to pull up a doc or a block of text and drop it right into the message. I use that all the time and it works fantastic. You’re right. We definitely use that and then we’ll continue. Heather, what would you say would be one of the things you learned only after years of being in the business that most people don’t know?
I learned so much early on. I’ve just continued to evolve and grow as a person and as a business owner all these years. Probably even these last couple of years moving into the online business space, it’s almost like I felt like I’ve had to go through this crash course or getting my masters in online business. It’s embarrassing to say, but I’ve had to learn what I’ve been teaching for so long or what I’ve been doing for my clients for so long. I was behind the scenes for so many years and it’s only been in these last couple of years where I’ve had to really step into the forefront. I have to take my own medicine now in terms of how I’ve guided so many people into the spotlight. That’s how I can relate and know how it feels and the things that do come up. A lot of times we think, “It’s not about me. I don’t need to put myself in front of my business.” The lesson is that no one is going to serve your clients better than you. No one’s going to sell your brand, your product, your service better than you and talk about it better than you. For me, I had to learn to do that probably. That was after many years of being in the business.
It is great to hear because a lot of people are intimidated by the fact that they need to go and do something that other people are paid to do. You mentioned that you had to learn some things. Can you give us an example of one of those things that you simply needed to learn that you didn’t know before?
Are you talking about early on in my career or now in the online business world?
You said that you were basically starting, in effect, from scratch again. I was wondering what it was that you thought was significant that would maybe help somebody else move forward even faster?
I look at my PR agency. I call that my analog business because that’s mostly like through relationships, word of mouth. I never really had to promote myself or sell myself. Online business is completely different. As most of the people know reading this, it’s like, know, trust factor that is involved with the online space is because a lot of people don’t know you when they find you online. They have to get to know you and they have to feel like you’re an accessible person, that they can feel comfortable connecting to you and that they resonate with your messaging and what you’re saying. My goal with my PR Stars Programs is exactly what I’m doing for my own business. I have such great PR and marketing that I don’t have to sell.
People are finding me and if it’s about your digital PR footprint, like what comes up when people Google you. You just get all of that strong so that when people search for you, they have an idea about you already and they come to you ready already. They’re ready for your services or products, whatever it may be, because they’re pre-sold in a way. That’s something that was new to me, having to learn that concept. Getting out there every way possible in the online universe through contributing writing, the podcast is a big one, through doing all of your own social media platforms, your digital marketing. What value are you putting out there into the space for people to benefit from that is at no cost to them? They have to get to know you somehow. Giving more and more value is what I’m finding to be one of the most important pieces of building an online business.
It’s basically establishing trust with another human being. Whether or not you think you are, you’re doing it one-on-one. You are literally working individually with every person who listens to your show, read your articles or even sees you do the work that you do. It becomes a one-on-one relationship in a mass market, which is amazing when you think about it. How far we’ve all come from having to create a big impression with a very powerful medium like television versus what we could do now individually eliminating the fear factor by getting to know people one-on-one. If I want to get to know Tony Robbins one-on-one, I actually know Tony very well, but if I wanted to get to know him and I didn’t, I would have so much to read about him. I could watch so many of his videos.
Readers, this is the stuff that you can do yourself. I got off the phone with a man who’s 78 years old and is still full of energy and promoting his products. What he does is so interesting because he gets on Facebook and does Facebook Live demos of his antiquated software. The fact is that people don’t care that it’s antiquated because it does something amazing. He has no fear about turning on the camera, sharing a screen and just talking for 30 minutes and the following started. I think he told me the first time he had anyone show up, which was after the third show, it was only one person. Now he gets thousands of people and it’s because he’s developed and built that trust relationship. I totally hear you. I think you’re absolutely right.
It’s so much about that.No one is going to serve your clients, sell your brand, product, and service, and talk about them better than you. Click To Tweet
We’re at the point where we need to get to know you a little bit better. We do that by asking questions. Here’s a question that I think will maybe show a little bit more about you than we’ve seen so far. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
I would have to say Leonardo da Vinci. I think he was a brilliant human being or a true Renaissance man. If I could even get a few minutes of that brilliance and have some of that mojo rub off onto me, I think that would be pretty amazing.
Others have mentioned it. I’ve made this promise before. I’ll make it again. If I could work that out for you, would you mind taking me along with you?
Sure. We can have you along for the ride.
Other guests have said the same thing. Leonardo da Vinci has been an all-time hero of mine. I’ve admired every single thing he has done. It was only when I started to get older that I started to see a layer of his brilliance that I had never seen before. When you read the stories of how he was so persecuted by the church and how he needed to conceal his messages in his art and writing in brilliant ways that no one, until many years later, really figured out what he was saying or doing. That to me showed a level of intelligence and brilliance even beyond what we all saw. That’s how amazing of a person he was. It’s a great choice. Here’s my second question, and this is the grand finale, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world literally?
I would say that it’s so interesting that you asked that because my podcast is called The Shine Strategy: Get Visible and Change the World. It’s a platform that I’ve created and we’re talking to heart-centered visionaries and world changers, creatives, business owners who are out there doing things to change the world and make it a better place. We’re sharing the inspiration of their stories, the insight they have from their journeys and how they’re doing it. I initially thought I would do a show about business strategies, but then with all the craziness that’s happening in the world, I thought I feel more lit up when I’m helping others into the spotlight. Obviously, that’s what I do as a publicist and with my PR Stars Programs. This is one other avenue where I’m creating this platform to give that voice and help them be seen and heard for the things they’re doing. That’s my mission and my talent and special skill in the world is helping others shine in the world.
That is an amazing mission and a very valuable one. Heather, I asked you if you’d be willing to share with the readers something that I know is very special to you and very important. I asked you to share a key piece of your technology, a tool that would maybe help people get in front of others faster. You agreed. I was blown away by the fact that you did. Can you tell us a little bit about this free download called the Pitch Template? Can you explain what it is and how people might use it?
It reflects back to what we were talking about earlier with the HARO or HelpAReporter.com. It’s something I regularly use in my business for my agency clients, all of my members and private clients from my PR Stars Programs use it. It truly is a gateway drug. This Pitch Template that I’m sharing with everyone is the exact one that I used to get one of my agency clients in the Los Angeles Times. I break it down. I share what the seven key components are for the Pitch Template and all of that is outlined in the download. It gives you a little more insight into how to successfully land some of these opportunities that you might be pitching yourself for.
Heather, it’s been such a fun show chatting with you about all the cool stuff you’re doing. I look forward to the time when we get a chance to speak again soon.
Thank you so much for having me and good luck to all of your readers. Have a great one.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Heather Burgett
- PR Stars Programs
- The Shine Strategy Podcast
- Pitch Template
- https://PRStars.net/HARO-template – Giveaway
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