Running a family business can be fraught with challenges, but for the business partners of Theory Communications, sisters Andrea and Erica Hamilton, it’s been a labor of love.
The entrepreneurial duo launched their Atlanta-based firm in 2014, which specializes in public relations, digital marketing, event planning, and lifestyle branding. They have attained a high-profile roster of clientele that includes NBA star Lou Williams, Snoblife CEO Ming Lee, music artist T.I., and more.
“We treat all of our clients like family, but we still keep it professional. That has been one of the driving factors of why people love working with us,” says Andrea.
How did you both determine your career paths?
Andrea: The story of how I got into public relations is really crazy. It was never even remotely on my radar as a potential career path. I came to Atlanta when I was 18 years old to go to SCAD [Savannah College of Art and Design]. I was majoring in fashion design, which was when I discovered my passion. When I got to SCAD, I knew that I couldn’t just be a “starving artist” so I tried to find jobs and a slew of odd internships as a secondary source of income. I had stumbled across a fashion PR internship. During the interview, I was asked to write a press release, and I had no idea what I was doing so I googled it as I was sitting there. I literally just wrote one, and it worked. I had a solid network because I used to go out a lot so I would meet a ton of people and because of who I knew, I developed and grew within my internship [quickly]. A couple of years later, I ended up launching my own business alongside with my sister.
Erica: We both have unconventional paths to this career. I’ve always been a people person, a strong communicator and passionate about the arts. When you’re young, you don’t know how to put all of that together. I went to college and didn’t finish because I didn’t have a clear focus. When Andrea left Ohio for school, I wanted to see the world too, so I went to Georgia. My first time going to Atlanta was driving her to school. Once I saw what the city had to offer I knew that I had to be a part of it. I wanted to apply myself down here where I felt my talents would be recognized. I did a few odd jobs from waitressing to retail. I met so many people just from being in the service industry that I ended up interning at the same PR firm as Andrea. At the time, it was called AW Media Group but now its called 10 Squared PR. The founder, Angela Watts, is our mentor. She took a chance on us when we didn’t have any traditional experience. Even though we’re now owners, we are still students and always learning.
How have you balanced your relationship as sisters with your professional lives?
Erica: The beauty of it is that we are sisters. No one knows us better than each other, and that’s how we can shine in our own way. I know her strengths and weaknesses as she knows mine. I am more of the talkative one who’s always working the room, that’s my strength, whereas Andrea’s strengths are behind the scenes. She is a beast at coming up with proposals and marketing campaigns. She handles the finances and the invoices — that’s her lane. Writing is my passion, so I manage the press releases and bios.
Andrea: As sisters, we are going to bicker, but we pride ourselves on being a family-owned business. Erica and I know that there is no splitting up. There are times when we could have just finished arguing and five minutes later walk into a business meeting, and the clients would never know. We are not perfect. There is no one closer to me besides my daughter than my sister. I am really blessed to have her with me working, and I know she feels the same way.
What digital tool has had the most significant impact on the progression of your PR firm?
Andrea: We are in a digital era, and everything is transitioning out. On the PR side, we have to go extra hard just to make our jobs worth it anymore because social media is taking over. Social media is so important because it’s given every person a platform to place themselves, their brand or product in front of millions of people for free. You’ve never seen or heard of any marketing tool of this magnitude at no cost. It’s imperative for any brand, entity, celebrity or anyone who is trying to raise their profile or audience for them to master social media.
What technology resources do you individually use to keep yourselves organized?
Erica: Google docs is a great way to keep all of your spreadsheets, documents, invoices, and anything of that nature. You can also share the documents with team members or clients. There is an app that we also use called Intervals; it’s a way for you to designate different tasks and then you can time them. We also use various email blasting services like MailChimp and Constant Contact. It’s a great way to send out information to your targeted market, and it allows you to track your analytics.
Andrea: Interval is also useful for your clients to where you can share reports with them. We can show that we’ve worked X amount of hours for whatever amount of days. In our business, a lot of it is billable by the hour so when you are charging based on upon the hour it a perfect tool to keep your clients privy of what exactly you’re doing and what you’re working on. I’m also big on graphic design because I do have a background in art. I have logo and flyer design apps on my phone. I don’t care how much it cost because that makes your business and in-house one-stop shop. In the beginning stages, it’s challenging to pay people to create visuals, so it’s good to have on hand.
How do you set goals and keep yourselves on task to meet deadlines?
Andrea: I am a stickler and slightly OCD when it comes to organization. I have to write everything down. I am one of those people when sent over notes I need to have bullet points and sub-bullet points. I have to have everything broken down. I have so many thoughts, so I have to put them on paper. Every night, before I go to sleep, I write all my tasks down for the next day and it’s in priority order from top to bottom. I don’t sleep until everything is crossed off the list.
Erica: We have five golden rules you can follow no matter what line of business you’re in to set your goals and reach them.
1. Set motivational goals and distinguish what’s important to you.
2. Set smart ( specific – measurable – attainable – relevant – time-bound) goals.
3. Write your goals down because you don’t want to lose your ideas.
4. Set an action plan to turn your idea into reality.
5. Create a to-do list to reach that goal and stick with it.