40 Under 40 2016: Risa Burgess

SVP, Boston client engagement practice lead, MSLGroup, 39

Agencies don’t carve out new positions for just anyone, but that’s what happened for Risa Burgess, who started her PR career nearly two decades ago at Schwartz Communications, now part of MSLGroup.

Known for her "sixth sense" into what makes teams work, both in the office and during a new business pitch, the healthcare expert recently found herself promoted to client engagement lead, the first such position in MSLGroup’s Boston office, where she works with clients including Kimberly-Clark, West Pharmaceutical Services, Alkermes, Wright Medical, PerkinElmer, and HTG Molecular Diagnostics.

With expertise in specialized areas like orthopedics, central nervous system disorders and pain management, and PR skills that run from product communications and celebrity-driven promotions to alliance building and executive media training, it’s no wonder she’s a trusted adviser to so many.

Burgess’ know-how and ability to deliverable measurable impact has made her a key ally of West Pharmaceutical, MSLGroup longest-standing client in Boston, working through corporate reputation and crisis management, as well as product comms and corporate rebranding.

Kimberly-Clark Health Care also turned to Burgess, who has led and grown the account for several years, when it spun out the healthcare property as a new brand and company, Halyard Health.

Up-and-coming agency PR pros seek also seek Burgess out as a mentor, with many colleagues noting her ability to inspire the best in others and drive performance.

She completely relaunched MSL’s internal mentorship program, boosting morale and retention, a critical component of agency success. Her thought leadership extends outside the firm, too. She’s a past president of the Publicity Club of New England; orchestrated a regional event on social media for healthcare pros; and joins industry discussions, including as a recent panelist for a Northeastern University healthcare media event.

- The thought leader authored an eBook on launching medical devices that achieved the highest opt-in rate for Boston office’s content marketing.

- As the lead representative for Publicis Groupe’s Viva Women program, she works to empower women across the global network.

- Burgess volunteers at her kids’ school as a board member for its parent association and foundation and even coaches kids’ soccer.

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