Many times, the people that work behind the scenes making the scene rarely get recognized for their work. SociaLifeChicago will spotlight the amazing people that make you and your event look great.
Amanda Puck is EVP of XA The Experiential Agency
How did you get started?
I went to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and everything we did there immersed and really prepared me in food/hospitality operations. We would put on different events throughout the year at Cornell and we took cooking and business classes and a culinary program.
There was also the annual event HEC (Hotel Ezra Cornell) which was a weeklong student run event. We were in charge of planning and executing. I really immersed myself in hospitality. I was actually inspired by the show “Hotel” with James Brolin and Connie Selleca, I wish they would bring it back on TVLand. I got into Public Relations 8 years ago.
What is your typical day like?
It varies you know. I always have client meetings, brainstorming session with my team. Sometimes the session are really quick. Part of my job is to attend client events at night. I like going out to see what’s going on. I wish I could do “lunch” and my friends tease me that I can’t ever got to lunch because most of the time I’m having lunch at my desk.
When it comes to relationship building, how do you establish and maintain it?
It’s really important to have synergy and be around genuine people, people who are good at what they do without an agenda, I DO NOT like people with agenda’s. It also helps to be around people who you share similar interest with. It drives the relationship because you have things in common.
Maintaining a relationship is just like everything else, you have to check in, stay connected and be up to speed. In this industry things change so quickly its always good to stay ahead of the curve
I do not like people with agendas
what 3 ingredients would you use to create a successful party/event?
1.)Lighting –no one wants to walk into a brightly lit room. When a room has dim lights it sets the mood and intimacy of the event.
2.) People, a good mix of different people. Always think about how people interact and try to strike a balance in order for interesting things to happen.
3.) Music — you never want to walk to a party with no music or really bad music
The combination is dark lighting + cool people + good music
How do you come up with concepts for your clients?
It really depends on what they are trying to accomplish. For example, our client, The James Hotel has really embraced us and they treat us like part of their team rather than just an outside agency and I really like that.
We are always coming up with different intiatives for them. The one I’m most excited about is a new concept that came out of a team brainstorming session called iDJ for JBar. We all love music and its your one time to let everyone hear your playlist. Kevin Aeh of Timeout Chicago will be the guest DJ Feb. 10
If you were not in Public Realtions what other career would you enjoy doing?
A broadway singer! I love that new show “Smash” definitely a broadway singer
If you want something badly enough, just go for it
What advice did someone give you when your started out?
When I started working at the restaurant Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco, I went into it not knowing too much about the industry but came out with a wealth of knowledge. My boss at the time told me “Give everyone a shampoo and blow dry.” Everyone wants to feel special and important and Hawthorne Lane had a revolving door of celebrities come in but we made sure to treat everyone that came in equally important. Treat everyone the same.
The one thing you won’t find me doing is talking bad about anyone.
When I started in Public Relations 8 years ago I didn’t formally have the background like others did but I knew I could do it. So the advice I would give is if you want something badly enough, just go for it!
You are involved in several non-profits in the city, how do you go about choosing which one’s you commit yourself and time to?
If you want to join a non-profit, it should be purely out of your interest. When I joined Common Threads it was an easy fit. I loved the people and what they were doing.
Same for Vital Bridges, I support their mission. My friend Rich Varnes (GM Of RL restaurant) asked me to get involved with Chefs and the City.
The thing is you have to really believe in it and willing to support and spread the word. You have to drink the kool aid so to speak.
Where do you see Chicago’s social scene?
Chicago’s scene is special to me because unlike New York or LA, we don’t need big ticket names we to make an event, we are all champions of the city. I see the scene growing.
Behind the scenes, you know it takes a great team. I don’t do this alone, I work with a great team that makes it all come together.
Recently, we had an interview with a potential client and they asked what sets our firm apart from the others. One of the answers another agency gave them was that they were able do it effortlessly. In this industry you have to understand that you can plan an event up to the last detail but things beyond your control happen.
What sets us apart is how we manage to make it effortless when any challenge arises. That’s really what goes on behind the scenes, when everyone has fun at the party its because we worked as a team to make it happen.
The XAPR team is working with the Gene Siskel Film Center on the upcoming Oscar viewing party which is the only official Chicago Oscar party, everyone’s been working really hard on that.
You are working on a new project called Watch312, tell me more
I’m really excited about this project because I haven’t done TV in a while since “Check Please!” Watch312.com is one of our clients and while working on their re-branding, came up with the idea. It’s basically my life brought online because I always have friends asking me questions all the time like where is “the” brunch spot or where to go for other things. So far we’ve taped an oyster episode, brunch episode, valentines day and a lot more to come.
I don’t see my friends as much as I would like to but that comes with the job. On days that I free I like to spend time with my mom, my boyfriend and my friends. There’s always a way to find balance but always be prepared.