Lou Rena Hammond has transformed a three-employee, three-client company into an award-winning, independent marketing communications agency with 40 employees and more than 40 prestigious travel, home décor, retail and lifestyle clients with offices in New York, Miami and Charleston.
Over the past 30 years, she has led Lou Hammond & Associates in its service to clients through public relations, public affairs, international promotions, product introductions, social media and crisis communications. Known for its experience and success in the premium market, the agency has a worldwide focus with representation of entities in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
How did you get into the PR industry?
I cut my PR teeth during a15 year tenure at Pan American World Airways, where I served as director of promotion, publicity and public affairs and acted as the carrier’s lobbyist for the state and city of New York.
Tell us about Lou Hammond & Associates. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
My time with Pan Am took me all over the world, and I also lived for years in Beirut. These experiences enhanced my innate fascination for the world and all the variety it offers. There are so many interesting places and cultures, and so much of what we do is to promote such places and to encourage people to explore and discover our planet and expand their understanding of what it means to be human. So our focus has always been international. Many of our associates have lived, studied or extensively traveled abroad to gain first-hand knowledge of the world. Our staff is multilingual. Our vision has always been to apply this first-hand knowledge of the world and its markets and the relationships we’ve developed to build a loyal client base that we are proud to promote and represent.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to your success?
From our founding 30 years ago, we’ve endeavored to do things with style. I don’t mean that in the superficial sense. Rather, it’s having the substance and character to do things the right way, with integrity – treating people with respect and courtesy. Having a firm possession of those things means that when the world around us changes – as it does so rapidly – we still have the substance to adapt without compromising our core values. These values allow us to build trust with our clients and foster enduring relationships. We’ve retained eight of our clients for more than 10 years, two for more than 26 years, and the bulk of our clients for longer than five years.
Core values also relate to our strategic partnerships. Five years ago we founded PR World Network, an international association of 21 like-minded independent agencies with capabilities in 50+ countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Travel is becoming more “authentic” and more experiential. Savvy travelers are less inclined to cloister themselves behind resort walls and are more inspired to get out and explore and engage the local culture. They are no longer content to be spectators; they want to be participants. A good example is how our client St. Regis Deer Valley’s Ski Ambassador Program offers guests the opportunity to design bespoke experiences with a full roster of experts made up of Olympic legends and U.S. Ski Team members. “Voluntourism” is a result of tourists’ desire to not just consume but to give back to the destinations they visit. For example, Wild Dunes Resort outside Charleston gives groups the opportunity to restore and rebuild an oyster reef through its Build a Reef experience. Also, in today’s digitally connected world, being able to “unplug” while on vacation is a genuine luxury. Villa Stéphanie, the newly opened luxury spa at Oetker Collection’s Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, Germany, has created a ‘Digital Detox’ cleansing program with features that include rooms with walls equipped with metal shields and a special coating that block all high-frequency signals and switches to turn off the WiFi.
Live every day as if it could be the last.
LH & A’s Motto?
In everything we do, do it right. And don’t tell me what you cannot do; show me what you can do.
Your greatest success as founder/CEO of LH&A? Most difficult moment – how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Being able to sleep through the night. When that happens, I know the company is succeeding.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Hold fast to your beliefs. And when you manage down, the top can then take care of itself.
How do you motivate your employees?
Hopefully by setting a standard that they can be proud to follow.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
A cool glass of Sonoma Chardonnay with a slice of apple pie.
What literature is on your bed stand?
History always – at the moment Jane Ridley’s The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward the VII, The Playboy Prince.
Role model - business and personal?
Winston Churchill and my mother who died at 100. She always loved life.
Trying new recipes and winning at bridge.
Favorite travel destination?
What's next for LH&A?
Continuing our tradition of service, style and results, and always seeking ways to better serve our clients.
Extensive international travel has provided her with firsthand knowledge of worldwide markets, contacts on six continents and relationships with government agencies. Lou developed her specialty in marketing to sophisticated, upscale consumers during her 15 year tenure at Pan American World Airways where she served as director of promotion, publicity and public affairs and acted as the carrier’s lobbyist for the state and city of New York.
A recognized expert on the marketing of style and living, Lou is a frequent speaker to business groups and is the author of “Success in Public Relations,” a chapter in the book Inside the Minds: The Art of Public Relations and “The Travel Landscape,” a chapter in The Complete 21st Century Travel & Hospitality Marketing Handbook.
The agency has earned numerous accolades, the Creativity in Public Relations Award from Inside PR, a three-time winner of the Big Apple Award, a record-breaking 100+ Adrian Awards and named Supplier of the Year from client Hunter Douglas. Lou was honored by the Women In Communications' Matrix Award; HSMAI's Winthrop W. Grice Award, the organization's highest achievement; the Golden Pineapple from the Charleston Area CVB for generating new press for the destination; and named to PR News’ 2010 Hall of Fame.
Lou is a member of the Women's Forum, Women Executives in Public Relations, the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, the Fashion Group, International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), Les Dames d'Escoffier and Public Relations Society of America. She also is vice president and board member, Spoleto USA; on the board of the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation, Gibbes Museum and a council member of the Historic Charleston Foundation. She is a member of the Charleston Tourism Commission, appointed by the Mayor. She is cited in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the East, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Who’s Who of American Women and Who's Who in Public Relations.
A fifth-generation Texan, Lou resides in New York and Charleston.