Spanning more than fifteen years, Jenelle Hamilton’s career has taken her to London, Milan, Paris and now New York City. She has worked working closely with VIPs and celebrities including Madonna, Tyra, Gwyneth Paltrow, and HRH The Princess Anne and worked on global accounts including Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning costume designer Bob Mackie, Simply Gum, Andre Walker Hair, The Shorty Awards and luxury brand Tom Ford Beauty. Jenelle Hamilton currently runs Jenelle Hamilton PR, a New York City-based PR firm she started six years ago with nothing but a cellphone, laptop and strong work ethic.
How did you get started in PR?
I attended the University Of Greenwich in London. I studied Media & Communications, so I learned the basic how-to’s of PR such as writing and the impact of media coverage on a brand. It was a great foundation to get started and helped figure out if PR was an industry I wanted to enter.
What was your first job/internship?
My first internship was actually working with a Princess! After graduation, I got a job as a PR Assistant with a not-for-profit in the UK, for which HRH Princess Anne (the Queen of England’s daughter) was the patron. I learned so much about PR there and skills such as; minute taking, effective telephone techniques, event planning and red carpet, pitching and media monitoring. Employees were there for 10+ years, so I learned from the best veterans in the business!
What is the origin of Jenelle Hamilton PR?
I formed Jenelle Hamilton PR 6 years ago after hitting a glass ceiling as Beauty Director for a PR agency. Also, I realized I did not enjoy the working environment, as it felt like a factory and I wanted to be more creative. My motto is, “if you dread Monday mornings, you are doing the wrong thing.”I was doing the wrong thing – so I formed my own PR agency.
My first internship was actually working with a Princess!
Tell us a bit about how your agency is structured:
I create PR Strategies for client campaigns and work with my team members to execute them. It’s always so fun and exciting kicking off a new PR project. It’s like a fresh clean slate to watch things happen and watch brand grow – and sometimes explode! It’s very rewarding. I understand that sometimes getting results is difficult, so I don’t pressure my team. Instead, I work with them to figure out other creative ways to get placements. It’s a collaborative effort.
I mainly work out of my office in Tribeca, NYC, so I have staff who work from there. I also have many virtual staff members who work from home, or other cities/countries. I think having to be in an office is tired and outdated. I can tell whether or not a publicist is putting work in from the results they produce. If they need to work from home and can get the work done, I am totally ok with that.
Credit: Kisha Batista Photography
What is the mood like in the office? What are you working on?
Our office is super relaxed and non-corporate. I did not want to create a corporate environment, it is not for me. I don’t even own a full matching suit. Right now I am back and forth to LA a lot. My client Bob Mackie is working with Marilyn Monroe’s auctioneer on the sale of the infamous JFK “Happy Birthday Dress,” so we are doing a lot of press around that. We are also getting ready to launch the Andre Walker Hair collection in London. Andre Walker was Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist for 3 decades; it’s an honor to work with them.
What is a success story that makes you especially proud?
When I landed the delivery.com (on-demand delivery company) and Shorty Awards (Oscars of Social Media!) accounts, I knew my company had “made it.” I beat out a lot of huge competitors to land those accounts, so I was very proud.
I understand that sometimes getting results is difficult, so I don’t pressure my team. Instead, I work with them to figure out other creative ways to get placements.
Most memorable moment in your career thus far?
Working the 2016 SAG Awards. I had always dreamed of being on the red carpet with a client and it was one thing on my PR bucket list I wanted to achieve. So walking with my client Bob Mackie, doing press, and being surrounded by every A-lister, from Leonardo DiCaprio and Idris Elba to Sophia Vergara, was awesome. The carpet is so huge and busy, it was very exciting!
Most glamorous moment in your career?
Bob Mackie has dressed almost EVERY A-List celebrity out there. Beyonce, Elton John, Cher, Diana Ross, the Jackson 5, Barbra Streisand and so many more, have worn his designs. One day he invited me into his showroom in LA and gifted me 25 pieces from his archive couture collection. I remember standing there while he was on his knees pinning the items on me thinking, THE Bob Mackie is fitting clothes on me right now. It was so surreal!
Least glamorous moment in your career?
Throwing out the trash and running errands for my former PR bosses as an intern. I rarely ask my team or assistant to do this; I am an adult who can walk, I can get my own stuff!
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
I make sure I spend an hour working out each day. The Tracy Anderson Method clears my mind for a full hour. I am in the moment not thinking about anything work-related, which is good for me. I also meditate for 10 mins every morning before breakfast. Regarding rejection, after 15 years, I don’t take it personally anymore. It really doesn’t bother or phase me.
What are you really good at?
Forming a connection with people. I am really genuine and always myself. I am still a girl from Brixton, South London, whether I’m on the red carpet, or talking to the dustman. I always keep it real.
What are three must-haves essential to your job?
I need my icalendar, I would be lost without it. I love the app Skyscanner, as I travel so much for work, I need to find good flights and hotels fast and at the best price. And of course, my cellphone. I’d die without it. I recently had to get the screen fixed at the Apple store and they took it away for 2 hours. I felt lost without it!
Regarding rejection, after 15 years, I don’t take it personally anymore. It really doesn’t bother or phase me.
What do you wish more people understood about your job?
PR is not just fluff and glamor every day. You actually have to work hard. The hours are long, you sometimes miss personal events if you have to work an event or deal with a PR emergency. NYFW is always right around Valentine’s Day. Also if you are a wallflower, or cannot write well, PR is definitely not the job for you.
Credit: Jenelle Hamilton PR
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion/lifestyle communicators right now?
The biggest challenge is drowning out the noise and grabbing the attention of editors. Print publications are dwindling and space is limited, so it’s tough to land a placement for a client. Competition is fierce, especially if your client doesn’t have ad dollars. My solution? I only work with high-quality clients and turn down many brands that approach me, even if they pay well. By ensuring my client list is top tier, when I pitch editors, they know I am bringing them something good. Because of this, they always return my calls, pitches or invites.
How do you stay on top of industry trends?
I am often asked to speak on panels and it’s great to hear my peers and editors speak from their perspective. I also love working with the new, younger publicists. They often come up with creative ideas and that’s cool. I always want to learn more; you have to evolve, as the industry is changing all the time.
What type of person thrives at your agency?
I look for a go-getter, someone who is hungry. If you have personality and a great sense of style and are yourself, you cannot fail.
What would you tell someone who wants to be like you when they grow up?
Don’t try to be me, Be yourself. There’s no one else like you out there, so own and kill it!