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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.

Kimberly Burt is the owner of Maison Public Relations and she has been residing in Chicago the past 12years.

How did you get your start in Public Relations?
I got my start at Sotheby’s auction house in Chicago. I moved to Chicago after graduating from SMU(Dallas,TX).  Sotheby’s was where I began to love the PR industry, events and creative ways to promote brands. I loved my time there. From there I went on to manage public relations at the Four Season’s hotel Chicago. After Four Season’s, I joined Dom Pérignon  where my role developed into overseeing PR, marketing and consumer development for Dom Perignon Moët & Chandon.  I was based here in Chicago(central region) and it involved a lot of travel.  After 6 years with Dom Pérignon was when I started Maison Public Relations.

How did you go about naming your company Maison Public Relations?
I worked for Moët Hennesy for about 6 yrs and the name was pulled from the the different amazing Maison’s I was working with: Maison of Dom Perignon, Maison of Moët Chandon and also part of my inspiration was to spend time in my house with my children and Maison means House in French.

PR is about building relationships, how does one begin to build and maintain relationships?
In relationship building, it is key to be yourself, be authentic and consistent. Always put the same foot forward, maintaining who you are and bringing that to other relationships.  Allow the relationship to develop organically

Lets say someone out there is starting map out a Public Relations career, how do they go about building relationships?
I think it’s important to know what area of PR you are interested in and focus on that and look for event(s) that will have professionals in that realm. Whether you are interested in social media, media or marketing and targeting your activites towards that will be helpful. Don’t go to places where you are not interested in that avenue, don’t waste your time.

How do you come up with the concept for an event? Do you usually come up with the idea or the client tells you their needs?
Both. If you have a specific activation that the client wants to have take place. I come to the table with creative solutions and ideas as to how to get the message out there and what platform to take and certainly the client will have their ideas as well and they will come with guidelines. If it is an international campaign or a more localized event with value on local expert opinion. The key to success is making sure you understand your client and their platform, their goals and  needs.

How do you measure the success of an event?
It varies from event to event. I make sure to setup up those expectations in advance. Is the goal  focusing on social media outcome or print media? Is it a small intimate experience with the right influencers and that is a measurement of success on who attends? it depends what they are looking for. I do my best to achieve those goals within the parameters that they(client) set for me.

“You are not too good for any job”

If you could do it over, what 3 things would you consider when setting up your firm?
In terms of advice, to be ready to do it and be out on your own and be prepared to meet the challenges of working for yourself. It is great to work for yourself but you are losing the safety net of being someone’s employee. The challenges faced when you have you start your own firm vs when you are in house or with an agency is that you have that support and when you go on your own there isn’t someone there to manage small things like your rsvp or goody bag.

How does time management factor into what you do?
It is HUGE! I have a very busy day to day life and I manage my time down to the minute.  It’s the only way I can make sure I’m as productive as possible and able to deliver what I promise to my clients,  family and friends. My schedule is managed down to the minute with my calendar.

Of the 7C’s of communication which applies to you and your practice of Public Relations
Credibility is key. Your reputation is THE most important thing you have and building a reputation that you are hardworking and able do what you promised is key to yours and your clients success.
Context. You can put together a genius PR plan but if it is not in the right context you will not achive success.  This goes back to  knowledge of what your client is trying to achieve: What is their message, arena to communicate it and their target audience?Understanding the context is so important otherwise its wasted effort on everyone’s time.
Capability: it goes hand in hand with credibility but being capcable and getting the job done. Efficiency is key because it’s your clients time and money and you need to make sure you are doing the most best job in achieving their goals.

To host an effective well attended event what are some key resources that are needed
Focus is key when planning an event. What you need is a clear understanding of who you want in attendance and what you want the feel of the event to be. It is then a matter of constructing your guest list carefully and keeping the variety of people interesting. What motivates them to attend? Being carefully selective with the events you throw and making sure interesting elements that hasn’t been done before or something new and exciting that will get people out of the house and encourage them to get dressed up and come and take part in what you are hosting.

What are some events you like to go to?
There’s so many, I like to go to a variety of events. Sometimes its something that doesn’t come along everyday.  Am I having dinner with someone who is visiting or usually unaccssible. My main motivation is supporting friends that are either hosting, working or being honoured at the event. I like to support colleagues in the industry working hard.

Events that I love the most are intimate dining experiences that are either at someone’s home or in a fantastic restaurant.  Smaller intimate situations that yield the most exciting evening that allows poeple to get to know each other and their personalities to come out

What organizations(boards) are you currently a part of?
I am on the auxiliary board of the Art institute, Guild board of Boys and Girls club Chicago, Guild board of the Chicago Botanic Garden and Costume Council of the Chicago history museum.

How has your involvement on these boards played a role in your networking?
If you are someone that enjoys being involved, and a lot of PR people are naturally social and being a part of something and around people, it helps in  developing skills that are helpful professionally and personally and you are able to get to know people in the city and find a place for yourself.

You co-chaired the 2011 Chicago Botanic Garden’s Harvest Ball how was that?
I’ve been on the board for 4 yrs. In 2008 I co-chaired the auction for the harvest ball which is a really large element of the overall party, it’s a big silent auction. That was the first involvement with the event and the next year I helped with the dinner portion and then I was asked to co-chair with 2 other women.
Co-chairing an event entails planning the event, working with the amazing Botanic Garden staff to come up with the décor, personality and details, working on selling tables making sure it is well attended getting support from businesses and personal support.

It’s a lot of work, sticking to the budget and making sure it is a financial success for the organization. Fundraising is the goal but do it in a fun event for all the beloved supporters of the cause.

How  do you go about the  budget of an event/campaign?
Even though I work with luxury brands, there is always a budget. Clients have a general idea on what they are able to spend on various initiatives. It’s your job as their publicist to advise them of how realistic their budget is and help them take the money allotted towards a specific initiative and make it as well spent as possible.  Avoid expenditures that are not necessary and put more weight towards expenditures that will matter the most in the end.

How is it different when you plan events here in Chicago compared to other cities?
The key element of event planning is know the market that your are working especially with global clients. Things are different in LA, Miami, Chicago, New York. The way to approach an event is extremely different and responses are different. Know your market

You’ve built a reputation working with luxury brands, did you start out that way?
My initial interest was in the Arts, I was an art history major and that’s what brought me to Sothebys and that’s why I love being on the Art Institute Board. I really love the Arts.

In your past experience of working with events with numerous sponsors, how have you handled that?
When you work an event with multiple elements, I make sure I maintain the focus on my client/brand or whoever I am representing and make the experience of that brand the best it can be.  Anyway I can make it come to life and encourage interaction between consumer and brand and make the best experiential introduction to the brand, whether the audience is familiar with the brand or it’s their first interaction and making sure it plays into the elements of the event. My focus is make sure the client is represented in the best light and receiving the most out of the interaction with the consumer.

What does 2012 look like for Maison PR
Busy, exciting, I’m looking forward to it. A lot of great activities are planned.

How did you pick up your mentors?
Mentors in my professional world came through the outstanding companies I worked for, I’ve had the opportunity to work with quite remarkable people. Some advice that I got when I first started working at Sothebys, the Midwest chairman said to me how “one should listen more than you speak.” Whether you are in the prescence of a great artist or executive of a company just listen. We are so quick to prove what we know but if we just sit back and listen, you realize you don’t know that much but you can absorb so much more and better ttourself that way.

 Its important to keep your ego in check

You are not too good for any job. If goody bags or nametags need to be made, you do it. That’s how people with great success come about because they appreciate all levels of the career path. There are times when you will have to wear all hats and its important to keep your ego in check do what you need to do to ensure a successful campaign/event

Favorite places to dine?
I have so many, I love RL, Le Colonial,  Babbo in New York and Rise is my favorite sushi spot in Chicago.

I would love the opportunity to do a wonderful champagne event in Épernay at the Maison

Parting words of advice?
In this industry be yourself and be honest, you never know who you’ll work with again so be a good person. Remember relationship building and relationship management is key so make sure you are always being your authentic self.
The best thing you can do is be who you are and success will follow you doing what you like to do. Be good to people you interact with.


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