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Corporate Corner: Alyssa Burns Communications

Kershner Sledziewski Law proudly works with individuals, businesses, entrepreneurs, lenders, investors and more throughout the Chicagoland area. We love hearing what our clients and friends are up to, and making connections to help your businesses grow. Below includes a transcript of our chat with Alyssa Burns of Alyssa Burns Communications: a communications expert with a passion for travel.

Alyssa is a marketing and communications strategist with experience delivering impressive results at Fortune 100 and top-10 PR agency settings, including Kraft Foods and Edelman Worldwide. An exceptional listener and communicator, one of her top skills is the ability to clearly define and effectively communicate a client's vision and objectives. This allows her to create a solution tailored to their needs.

Alyssa can show people the power of good communications. Clients turn to her when seeking expert guidance, whether they're facing an acute crisis and need to create and implement an effective response strategy quickly and efficiently, or to build a long-term strategy to market their products or services. Alyssa's professional skills include writing a broad range of materials including key messages, case studies, expert articles, website content, and social media content.

Our discussion with Alyssa provided us with imperative steps to take when building a brand and what professionals should avoid when utilizing social media:

What prompted you to start Alyssa Burns Communications?

After working at a top global public relations firm (Edelman Worldwide) on familiar brands such as Microsoft and Kraft, I switched to the client-side and began working in Corporate Communications at Kraft Foods, a Fortune 100 company. The distinctive combination of both agency and client-side experience gives me an advantage that I quickly discovered is my differentiator in the field of communications. I worked at two mid-size public relations agencies after leaving Kraft, then decided to go out on my own to continuously find ways to stimulate my mind and challenge myself every day. My goal as a business owner is to offer a “high level of expertise without the high overhead”.

What advice would you give someone trying to start their own business?

When starting a business, it’s important to have a support system of others who can be your accountability partners. They can be your own “personal board of directors”. Women business owners often go through the same things when starting out. Why not collaborate and bounce ideas off each other? There are several things I learned being a business owner, a few of which I’ve noted here: 1. Every client needs to sign a contract. 2. Charge a deposit up front before working with a client. Once they pay it, you know they’re serious about working with you. 3. Don’t be timid about asking for what you’re worth when it comes to your hourly rates.

What resources were most invaluable to you when starting Alyssa Burns Communications?

I started Alyssa Burns Communications at the same time when I was elected to become the President of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago (PWCC). It was perfect timing. I determined the value I offer from a communications perspective by honing my intro at the luncheons, while at the same time, expanding my network of professional women. My first clients were PWCC members!

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship, or mentoring others?

I am a big believer in the power of mentoring. As previous Co-Chairperson of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago’s (PWCC) Mentorship Program, the group grew from five (5) mentor/mentee matches to 25 within five years. I learned just as much from my mentee (who I’ve been mentoring for more than three years) as she learned from me. I’m also an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University Chicago in the Department of Communications. This is my “give back.” I provide real world knowledge to students who love learning about the ins and outs of the business world. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of worth it,” as I like to say. It’s incredibly satisfying to me! As the former President of PWCC, I honed my leadership skills and continue to refine them in my role as a Group Leader for the Downtown Trusted Advisors Council (TAC), an organization that develops valuable business relationships built on collaboration.

How does marketing and communications fit into the real estate industry? What kind of strategies do you think brokers and agents should begin to implement when trying to appeal to buyers and sellers?

I think it’s important to be active, engaging and networking online to set yourself apart from the pack. Some strategies I recommend are:Use emotional storytelling with compelling copy and powerful visual elements on your website. We respond to stories – tell a good one and clients will flock to you.Hosting a webinar can be a great way to garner attention for your business. Think of a relevant topic for a webinar, providing a Q&A at the end for questions. Webinars can also be repurposed as YouTube videos, and can serve as valuable video content that can live permanently on your website.Ask for testimonials from former clients. Showing that real people endorse your services means the world to potential clients. When a homebuyer has a great experience with you, reach out to them and ask for a testimonial. Make the most of these testimonials by placing them strategically on your website and sharing them occasionally on social networks.Make your site mobile-friendly. Tech-savvy consumers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices, with 80 percent of Internet users on their mobile devices for online activity. It’s paramount that your website is mobile friendly. Consider creating a mobile app that potential buyers can use to review listings.

What are some communications practices people should avoid implementing in efforts to comply with ethics and the law?

I recommend keeping business and personal social media accounts separate. Don’t say incendiary things on Facebook, Twitter, etc. If someone posts something that is against your value system or unethical, separate yourself from that and do not respond or reply. I taught an Ethics & Communications class at Loyola University Chicago and reminded my students to always strive to “do the right thing.” Successful business leaders often say that treating people morally is a very important aspect in obtaining success. A person’s reputation is of key importance for a business leader, and if that person’s reputation is damaged by poor ethical conduct, the business will also suffer. A professional reputation takes years to build but minutes to destroy by doing something unethical.

What are the most important steps to brand building?

It’s important to build the right type of experiences around your brand so that customers have specific, positive thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, and perceptions about it. When you have strong brand equity, your customers will buy more from you, they'll recommend you to other people, they're more loyal, and you're less likely to lose them to competitors. Keep in mind these four steps when building your brand: 1. Brand Identity (who are you?) 2. Brand Meaning (what are you?) 3. Brand Response (what do I think/feel about you?) 4. Brand Resonance (how much of a connection do I have with you?)

What is your favorite restaurant?

I’m a regular at a restaurant in the Printer’s Row neighborhood, Sofi. It offers Northern Italian fare and is owned by Maurizio, a gentleman from a restaurant family in Milan. The food is consistently good, and I can practice speaking Italian with the waiters. Plus, they have wonderful al fresco dining in the summertime.

Do you have a favorite quote? What is it?

I love to travel and call myself a “travel adventurer.” There is a whole world out there, and I want to see as much of it as possible. Traveling feeds my soul and my desire to learn about different cultures and people. My favorite quote is by Saint Augustine: “The world is a book. Those who do not travel read only a page.”


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