King for a day.
PR expert Claudia Heiss organises
large-scale events. And – despite her
expertise and routine – she never loses
sight of those vital details.
Claudia Heiss is invisible. At least when and where it counts. Take the second day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin: While the city enjoys sub-tropical temperatures, the press lounge is fully air-conditioned. Nevertheless, star photographer Mario Testino feels the heat and soon slings his navy sports coat over his shoulders. After all, he is the one in the limelight – of a TV camera, that is – and here to give a steady stream of interviews as part of a press brunch on the shooting of this year’s Mercedes-Benz key visual and fashion film “Form follows perfection” Spring/Summer 2013. And while it is Claudia Heiss’ job to take care of the journalists, the petite PR specialists has her eagle eye on every detail. Ostensibly from nowhere she produces a small bottle of water – sparkling, i. e. just how the photographer likes it. Testino looks relieved.
Taking a generous sip from the bottle, he returns his full attention to the journalist. Claudia Heiss is pleased: As long as the photographer is happy, so is she. “It is our goal to make everyone comfortable. To us, everyone is equally important – press and VIPs.“
Claudia Heiss works as a PR consultant for the Schoeller & von Rehlingen agency. At Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin her job encompasses almost everything that needs to be done for Mercedes-Benz: all press relations, the event’s guest management as well as advance reporting and subsequent
coverage of the event. In order to make this work, Claudia Heiss needs to have her eyes everywhere. And, ideally, be everywhere. At the same time.
A sensitive grasp of the rules of the game.
Back in the press lounge, she keeps a close eye on Mario Testino as well as the campaign’s striking star, Puerto Rican top model Joan Smalls. A little later, she personally takes German national team member Benedikt Höwedes to his front row seat at the Rena Lange catwalk show. Sometimes, Claudia Heiss even makes the impossible possible. For example, she might conjure up one of the coveted front row spots, mere moments before the show kicks off. “Sometimes, those with busy schedules can only confirm their attendance a few minutes before the show. To cope with such eventualities, we always keep a seat open, just in case.” Claudia Heiss possesses the necessary tact and judgement for this sensitive and all-important issue of seat allocation. After all, this seating plan is a carefully balanced template that reflects the attendees’ hierarchy: editors-in-chief, A-listers and key buyers
are placed at the front. In order to make everyone happy, Claudia Heiss and her colleagues often reshuffle seats until the last possible moment in order to find the optimal allocation – and they receive very few complaints.
“I no longer get flustered or fazed“.
This should come as no surprise. After all, Claudia Heiss has been doing her job for twenty years. By now, she knows all the key players and has dealt with plenty of famous celebrities. Nevertheless, her work is anything but routine: “Although I no longer get flustered or fazed, I scrupulously prep for every new day. In my mind, I run through anything that might go wrong in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. This also entails standing up for unpopular decisions.”
Besides experience and empathy Claudia Heiss’ job requires another vital trait: plenty of stamina. While the average Fashion Week attendee teeters from show to show on sky-high heels, this elegant look often entails gritted teeth and strategically placed blister pads.
For her personal marathon between press counter, backstage area, runway and press lounge, Claudia Heiss swaps heels and suit for flat navy suede loafers, comfortable jeans and a lightweight blouse. For her, it is all about mobility.
The other side: her private life.
For a healthy work-life balance, Claudia Heiss likes to contrast her hectic schedule with a generous dose of tranquillity. “My private life is completely different. I have a dog and live in the country. And as much as I enjoy talking all day – after all, that’s part of the PR spiel – I really love an evening’s calm and quiet.”
Yet one trait shines through in both work and play. “I really like to be a host. I don’t see my friends very often, but when I do I usually invite them over to mine and ask them to stay for the entire weekend. Usually, there are ten or fifteen of us, all of them staying at my place. And once they have arrived, I really enjoy making sure that everyone is happy and content.”