Chapter Chat: Elyse Hammett, APR

An Emory University graduate with degrees in English and Political Science, Elyse Hammett, APR, knew how to think for herself and solve complex problems when she entered the workforce. But her academic experience did not teach her classical PR elements that her colleagues learned at well-regarded marketing and public relations schools. So in the late 1990s, she joined PRSA’s Georgia Chapter. By 2017, she served as Chapter president.

The ebullient and emotive Hammett is the subject of the inaugural Chapter Chat, a new member-focused profile series offering industry insights with candid commentary. It’s the opportunity for members, who are usually telling the story of their company or organization, to tell us their story.

Let’s get to know Elyse Hammett, APR, a little better – in her own words, shall we?

Question: What is your favorite Chapter memory or moment?
Answer: My favorite moment is when you see a PRSA colleague learn. This may seems basic, but it’s also profound. We know the story of Helen Keller – blind and deaf after an infant fever – whose tenacious teacher, Anne Sullivan, used a Montessori-type method of experiential learning to breakthrough to her. By running water from an outdoor spigot on the Keller farm through the child’s fingers while simultaneously spelling W-A-T-E-R in her hands, Helen got it. She came alive. She ran around the farm touching goats, dogs, cats, hay, rakes, gates – a brave new world before her. She went on to drive positive change around the world for people with special needs.

Over and over again, I’ve seen this same miracle through moments in our Society. The sudden rush when a young practitioner attaches the tactic he created to a result that changed a target audience’s behavior, or a mid-level counselor who comes to terms with the salient difference between an objective and a strategy. 

This is where true life-changing differences are made. This is why PRSA Georgia is now. This is why PRSA Georgia is next. This is why PRSA Georgia is fundamental.

Q: Where do you find creativity and inspiration?
A: It’s everywhere. It is in the look of a child. The flight of a bird outside your window. The hug of a colleague. It’s in the sound of the train’s whistle. The bark of the puppy finding her voice. Remember not to just look, but to see. It’s all out there for us. We just need to heed nature’s call. 

Q: What is one way that you’ve applied your involvement with PRSA Georgia to your professional role?
A: In 2010, I partnered with two other women to open Eos, a marketing PR consultancy named for the Greek goddess of dawn. It was Eos’ role to bring Zeus each new day and a fresh perspective. The metaphor moved potential clients to consider us, and the RFPs flew in. Knowing there were far smarter thought leaders, we turned to PRSA and used the Society’s data, analytics, best practices and most of all, its APR processes, for how we responded to every RFP. The result? In two years we grew from the three founders to 18 colleagues – lovingly referred to as “goddesses and gladiators.” Because we used PRSA as a third-party we had history and fundamental science to balance our innovative and new “art.” We sold the business, living the American dream, to a conglomerate that thrives today. I’m forever indebted to the Society for all it has taught me and for all the inspiration it provides.

Q: Having sold that business, what do you do now at your day job?
A: I lead marketing and communications for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which is the region’s endowment. The donors of the Community Foundation make grants of approximately $120 million annually to inspire positive change to improve communities throughout the region. These philanthropic dollars are invested in art, affordable housing, education, food insecurity, health, wellbeing and more. We also address critical community needs in partnership with anchor institutions like the Atlanta Regional Commission, Metro Chamber and the United Way – currently focused on work to decrease income inequality, increase racial equity and uplift public education programming across the eight major school systems (done through Learn4Life). 

Q: What is your favorite social media channel and how can someone best connect with you?
A: I like social media, and I feel like in today’s society we are more capable to understand what social media CAN and CANNOT do for us. For me, here are two highlights:

    • Instagram is exactly that – an instant gram of inspiration. As such, I follow poets, creative artists, designers – people who can give me that quick hit that I need to catapult a bump in the PR road. I also share there from my heart. It’s personal and reflective. I also follow several naturalist photographers, mostly folks I discovered through the National Parks Service and through National Geographic. It helps me look to nature for inspiration and really see what God’s bounty makes available for us. @elysehammett
    • LinkedIn is for us professionally to lean in and help amplify the magnificent work from our peers. It helps us collaborate and share, and not care who gets the credit. It’s the conduit to new ideas and innovative approaches. @elysehammett

Q: Why did you choose public relations as your profession?
A: I wanted to help people live better lives by driving behavior change. I wanted to influence fads, help drive movements, uplift positive perspectives, increase knowledge of specific topics and more. Public relations gave me the wings to fly in that direction. 

Q: How has the communications industry changed since you joined the profession?
A: When I joined it, we mailed press releases through the U.S. Postal Service, which changed to a new technology called a “fax machine.” Change is the constant. Hop on and enjoy the ride!

Q: In a world of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” how do you keep it real as a PR professional?
A: The PRSA Code of Ethics is paramount to our profession. Take a read of it when you can. It’s insightful. Refreshing. Definitive. It will push your perspective. Embrace it.