“Spread the word…”
Chemistry’s new Director of Public Relations, Hilary Harmon, is getting great press.
What’s your role at Chemistry?
I’m the Director of Public Relations, so I manage media relationships and work closely with our advertising team and account managers to develop unique publicity strategies catered to each client. I also conceptualize and implement strategic public relations initiatives for clients, including building relationships with key media and stakeholders, coordinating interviews and writing talking points, press releases, pitches, press kits and more. Other daily duties include researching clients, their competitors and media outlets, as well as monitoring the news for trends and analyzing the results of PR campaigns.
How did you make your way into PR?
I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a degree in communications and worked as a wedding planner at Serenbe. I met a lot of people at that event design firm and eventually went on to work for a digital marketing company and then Tastemade, where my mentor, Mara Davis, introduced me to even more people. Eventually, I found myself at a boutique PR firm, learned the ins and outs of the business for three years and then came here to Chemistry to serve as the director of PR – so in short, networking, hustle and even more networking.
How does your previous experience (marketing, photography, event planning) contribute to your role as director of PR?
I think it’s important to make learning and your hobbies a priority. In the long run, the more skill sets I can have, the better. Luckily, my experiences in digital marketing, photography, community relations and event planning are all heavily creative, so being able to lean in with my creativity is what’s made me a better publicist and director. I also enjoy being able to teach incoming interns and my colleagues about my past experiences, so they’re inspired to explore their passions as well.
Can you remember a challenge from your role as a wedding planner that was a learning experience that carried into PR?
All of them! But mainly keeping cool in very stressful situations and highly emotional situations. If anything, it taught me how to diffuse a situation quickly so a solution can be found.
How do PR and social media management overlap and how can they work together?
I think they overlap more now than when I first began my career. PR is telling a brand’s story and for certain audiences, they only want to get to know that brand on social media, so just having a presence isn’t good enough – both fields have to work in tandem. For example, if I’m pitching a reporter about a new brunch menu and how much I love it and how amazing it is, the first place they’re going to look is social and if there’s no mention of brunch or anything highlighting the new brunch menu, it looks like my pitch is half-baked and not in line with what the restaurant wants to focus on.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would offer to a company who is starting off with PR? Any must-haves in the very beginning?
Give it time and discuss your expectations on the front end. On average it can take up to three months to really see an agency’s hard work come to fruition whether it be in print, online or on TV. And if your “big win” is front page of the New York Times, you need to let your PR team know that, so they can explain how long that might take and how big the story needs to be to get you there. Your PR team is an extension of your brand and your company, so they need to be looped in on what your goals are and what you see as a win so they can help get you there.
How do PR and advertising differ and what is the biggest differentiator?
PR and advertising are blending together more and more, but for me it’s the price and the storytelling aspect. There used to be a clear delineation that you “pray for PR” and you “pay for advertising.” The latter might still be true, but working with influencers, radio and TV, you run into having to pay for the PR as well. Media relations and contacts are key in PR and you should turn to PR when you want to tell a really interesting, multi-faceted and newsworthy story, but ultimately, both sides should work together to make the biggest impact.