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Heather Burgett of The Burgett Group: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That Happen

An Interview With Jerome Knyszewski

I believe that the Dalai Lama’s famous quote, “The world will be saved by the Western Woman,” is coming to fruition.

Women function and are wired in an entirely different manner than men. We are inherently more heart-centered and empathetic, and as we witness our planet spinning out of control (ie. climate, politics, economics, disease), women’s leadership is needed now more than ever.

There are plenty of studies in the world that show that when you educate and support women — give them the tools to succeed — that they enliven, nurture and connect their communities to create greater prosperity and happiness for all.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Burgett.

Heather Burgett (CEO & founder, The Burgett Group) is an award-winning publicist, visibility business coach and host of “The Shine Strategy” podcast. In the past 20+ years, she has represented Grammy® and Oscar® winners, authors, billionaires, celebrities, philanthropists, rockstars and top brands. Through her PR Stars online programs, Heather helps consultants and creatives shine online, grow a global audience and impact the world with their messages. She is a recipient of the prestigious PRism Award from the PR Society of America and a Member of the Forbes Business Council.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I always say that I “fell into” public relations. After college, I landed an internship at an “international” PR firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had majored in Spanish and thought maybe there would be some opportunities to use my language skills there. While I didn’t get to speak Spanish, I did end up getting hired full-time to work on the team that launched America Online as a consumer brand.

From there, I went to the PR department at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, before hopping a plane to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of becoming a film and entertainment publicist. As a movie lover, I had read about iconic publicist Pat Kingsley’s work with Tom Cruise on major films, and I felt a calling to the West Coast. One of the first major movie campaigns that I worked on was “The Blair Witch Project” — which to this day remains one of the most profitable films ever made.

When I was 28, I launched my own PR agency, and then, in 2017, after two decades of working in publicity and marketing, I created my PR Stars online programs to teach small business owners how get their own high visibility.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have so many stories from the trenches, but I would have to say that one of the most memorable moments was working one of my first big red carpets in Hollywood. We were representing “The Last Days,” a documentary executive produced by Steven Spielberg, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

I was standing at the top of the carpet, and my boss turned to me and said, “Heather, will you take Steven down the carpet?” I turned and was face-to-face with the infamous director, who looked at me and smiled and nodded, and then, like a deer in headlights, I proceeded to accompany him down the press line. The moment was captured by entertainment news shows — and it was mind blowing to see myself “working” on national TV. It was such a surreal moment, and just one of many that happened over the years.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first opened my own PR agency, I had a client who hired me to do an announcement for his independent feature film. The opening credits featured Quincy Jones as a producer, so it seemed to make logical sense that we would promote his involvement, and the client also confirmed that Mr. Jones was a producer. Well, after we sent the press release over the wire, I received a very odd voicemail.

“Hello, Heather. This is Quincy Jones. I did not produce this movie, so you need to take my name off the release.”

I called Mr. Jones back immediately, and he was so calm and professional. I quickly conveyed the message to my client who insisted it was just a miscommunication with Mr. Jones.

At the time, it was quite embarrassing. But now, looking back, I can laugh at the absurdity of it all, and I do think it’s one of the funnier voicemails I’ve ever received — just for the fact alone that such an iconic legend was calling little ‘ol me about such a ridiculous mistake. I definitely learned that my client contracts — that released me from any liability for work conducted on the client’s behalf — were invaluable.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had so many incredible mentors over the years, and I think back to all the people who were so generous with their time and guidance, especially when I would call them to do “informational interviews.” This was a tactic I employed from the very beginning. People love to talk about their work and share insights into their career paths and genius zones — they’re also often happy to make aligned introductions.

I’d say that every boss that hired me in the early years and then all the clients that entrusted me with their images and reputations over the two decades of having my own business have all played an integral role in helping me get to where I am today.

One woman whom I loved working with — and who always seemed to sing my praises and send me new incredible clients — is renowned photographer and director Deborah Anderson. I also ended up PR-ing an album for her father, Jon Anderson, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and the legendary voice of YES.

Most recently, in regards to moving into the online business and coaching space, I’d love to give a shout out to some of my mentors, including whip smart women like Sage Lavine, Ingrid Arna and Dallas Travers.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“Anatomy of the Spirit” by Caroline Myss changed my life.

My journey in Hollywood wasn’t all glamorous red carpets and champagne after-parties. When I got promoted to VP of Publicity & New Business Development for a West Hollywood PR firm at the age of 27, I was working 70–80 hour weeks and running myself into an early grave — in an extremely ego-based soul-sucking environment.

My health began suffering as I experienced chronic fatigue and borderline fibromyalgia.

So, the reason I started my own business was not initially intentional. I just knew that I had to get off a speeding train that was on the wrong tracks.

As my toxic world crashed around me, I decided to leave Hollywood and go to massage school — because I was fascinated with the mind/body connection.

Around that time, Caroline Myss’ book so clearly showed me why I was having the health issues I was having. It was clear that my soul was not aligned with working amidst so much toxicity, which I acknowledge that I allowed — while also not treating myself right — and I was deeply yearning for a new direction.

That was the beginning of my own healing journey. I ended up studying the healing arts for years and even worked as a practitioner of body and energy work.

In those days, I still ended up dipping back into Hollywood and the entertainment business. I was brought on-set to do massage therapy and healing/energy work for Lindsay Lohan. In fact, when someone called me her “massage therapist,” she emphatically said, “She’s not a massage therapist. She’s my healer.” That was one of those moments when I realized that I had so much more to offer to the world.

From this new grounded place, I started my own PR agency where I chose to only work in a balanced style that felt aligned with my spiritually-focused and heart-centered way of living.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“Don’t quit before the miracle” and “persistence pays” are probably two of my strongest life mottos. Every step of the way, I have learned how persistence is the key to any form of success. And the only time we don’t succeed is when we quit before the goodness has landed. It’s happening. It’s in process. It’s coming. Just keep believing what you know in your heart versus what you’re seeing with your eyes, and you’ll get there.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

My life is dedicated to being of service to purpose-driven world changers. Anyone out there with a powerful message, movement or social cause who endeavors to make the world a better place is who I am here to help.

Supporting non-profits is a big part of my make-up. I’ve represented many charitable organizations over the years, including a number of pro bono projects.

One of my favorite life experiences was accompanying US President Barack Obama’s grandmother, Mama Sarah Obama, to the United Nations to announce her foundation’s Legacy Plan.

My superpower is knowing how to get the word out and make a splash in the global media, so it’s always my honor to help any important initiative capture the mainstream spotlight.

I also tithe a portion of my salary to causes that support the environment (NRDC), our oceans (Heal the Bay), wildlife (WWF) and people who are hungry (World Kitchen), to name just a few, because I wholeheartedly believe in the laws of contribution and circulation.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

The Western woman is changing the world, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of this global movement to swing the pendulum back to balance, and away from the extreme patriarchy we’ve all been under for so long.

It’s our time, ladies! And I believe that many of the obstacles that were holding us back before are disintegrating before our eyes. Instead of focusing on what’s held us back, I think it’s important to look forward and keep our vision focused on how we’re gaining momentum and continuing to break barriers at every turn.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

My life purpose is to support and empower women founders and CEOs in their visions to make a bigger impact in the world. I do this through my online programs, including “Shine Online,” which helps them get more visible, monetize their signature gifts and grow global audiences. I believe that by helping these women confidently succeed in their visions, it continues to spread change like wildfire, as these women turn around and then help their networks and communities do better.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

I believe that the Dalai Lama’s famous quote, “The world will be saved by the Western Woman,” is coming to fruition.

Women function and are wired in an entirely different manner than men. We are inherently more heart-centered and empathetic, and as we witness our planet spinning out of control (ie. climate, politics, economics, disease), women’s leadership is needed now more than ever.

There are plenty of studies in the world that show that when you educate and support women — give them the tools to succeed — that they enliven, nurture and connect their communities to create greater prosperity and happiness for all.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

1 — PURPOSE

When women tap into their life purpose, everything changes. By helping women get clarity on what they are here to do in the way that only they can do it, what they love to do, what the world needs most from them, and what people will pay them for — this is the starting point.

2 — VOICE

When women learn to tell their stories in a way that feels good and they can speak confidently — through their writing, speaking and the media — to the people they are meant to serve, they truly light up and begin to shine.

3 — SHINE

Women must be given the tools to be able to package and present themselves to the world in a way that matches their purpose and passion. When this is done correctly, it leads to limitless opportunities for success.

4 — VISIBILITY

When women are seen, they are empowered. Getting seen for their special gifts in front of a global audience is what makes them magnetic and organically leads into the next step.

5 — SERVICE

Once women are standing out and being seen, they are able to be of greater service in the world. They can offer their talents and value to the people who are out there looking for what they have. Women must be given the tools to make aligned offerings that bring them the prosperity that allows them to grow and change more lives.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement I am currently creating around SHINE ONLINE is the empowerment of women by teaching them how to get highly visible. I integrate universal spiritual principles in all the visibility strategies that I teach, so the founders who work with me are experiencing their businesses as a spiritual path for growth. The essence of it all is that we create an aligned VISION and then implement the actual PLAN to get there. As we learn to love ourselves, heal and grow, we infuse that frequency into the world. And as we get more into this flow, our lives, including our businesses, start to evolve and unfold with more ease and grace.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I have long admired Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, who Forbes crowned as the youngest self-made female billionaire back in 2012. I totally resonate with her entrepreneurial business philosophy, and I met her equally impressive husband Jesse Itzler at an event a couple years ago — I think they’re such an inspiring power couple.

Another woman leader who I deeply resonate with is motivational speaker Gabrielle Bernstein. She’s constantly speaking about the law of attraction and our inherent superpowers to create the life we want — she really is speaking my language! The world truly is our oyster if we want it to be.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn more about me and my work at prstars.net.

Let’s connect on Instagram & Clubhouse: @heather.burgett

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Photo Captions & Credits:

Heather Burgett’s Headshot by Felicia Lasala

US Doctors for Africa Gala Fundraiser
Publicist Heather Burgett working the red carpet at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. (Photo Courtesy of US Doctors for Africa)

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Jerome Knyszewski

Jerome Knyszewski

CEO of HeavyShift

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