From spare bedroom to award winning PR firm – HMC turns 15
What started out on a whim in a spare bedroom has grown into an award-winning public relations firm, helping companies across the country get noticed and gain respect.
Hamilton-based HMC Communications celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Its founder and managing director Heather Claycomb says having the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives is what gets her out of bed every morning.
“I love making a difference,” she says. “Life isn’t worth living if the world isn’t a better place because you were here. I love making a difference for our clients, by helping them through crises or helping them tell their stories. I love making a difference in the lives of my staff by giving them opportunities to grow and learn.”
American-born Heather started HMC when she was between jobs and decided to take on a few freelance writing projects.
Dairy company Synlait was HMC’s first client, which involved editing one of the boutique start-up company’s first corporate documents.
“Slowly, but surely the work trickled and then flowed in. I was on my own for the first 8 years, working out of my spare bedroom at home. Finally, in 2012 I hired my first staff member, Jacqui Humm, which set HMC on a course for growth.”
Today HMC is home to a team of seven, including both full-time staff and part-time contractors. The HMC team services more than 40 clients in sectors ranging from agriculture, energy and skin care, to property, medicinal cannabis and education.
Heather says the biggest change she’s seen in the PR industry over the years has been the transformation of mainstream media and the rise of social media.
“Facebook didn’t even exist when I started HMC! And media outlets have changed enormously. Daily print deadlines are virtually dead, online news is where stories break first, and many community papers we worked with in 2004 no longer exist.
“But the one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for every company to communicate well – internally and externally. Now, it’s just a matter of using old and new channels in creative ways in order to reach our audiences.”
Heather and husband Rod moved from Denver, Colorado to Hamilton in 1999 when Rod secured a role with Waikato Milking Systems as director of R&D. He is now director and founder of Hamilton dairy biotech company, Quantec.
“I always say it was the cows that brought us to Hamilton and this has always been our home. It’s a great place to live and a very collegial, welcoming, supportive place to start and grow a business. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Reflecting on the last 15 years, Heather says there are definitely some projects that stick out as significant.
“Working on Meridian Energy’s Te Uku Wind Farm project was a huge highlight, as was creating the concept of Buddy Day for Child Matters.
“My first PRINZ Award was working with the Smith Family in Cambridge who sold souvenir photo packs and then gave away the money raised to build Bridges Church. And of course, winning the PR Institute of NZ’s PR Consultancy of the Year Award last year was a huge highlight.”
As HMC celebrates its 15th birthday, there is one extra special red cherry on top of the cake.
“Through a charity called All Good Ventures, which my husband and I started last year, we are enjoying funding social entrepreneurs who are making a difference in the lives of deprived people in New Zealand and overseas,” says Heather.
All Good Ventures® provides social entrepreneurs with the resources they need to get their business idea off the ground. It helps entrepreneurs whose business idea will funnel business profits into a cause or community that frees people from deprivation.
That ‘deprivation’ might be for example, a lack of clean water, access to health or education, or risk of child slavery.
“We wanted to use our business success to do something good,” says Heather. “For us, All Good Ventures is the next step in our journey. We’re combining our business experience and our faith together for a purpose that is bigger than we are.
“In addition to our family’s personal donations, we’ve announced this month that our charity will now also be funded by HMC, with 100 per cent of our profits being donated to All Good Ventures and used to help others. It certainly gives new meaning to the work HMC does with our clients.”
Looking ahead, Heather says she has no big plans for world domination, but sustainable growth is always a goal for HMC.
“We want to do more for existing clients, and do that by offering new services, such as digital and creative PR services, which we’ve started doing in the past year.
“But we’re always on the hunt for new clients as well and have started expanding outside of the Waikato, with a few clients now in the Bay of Plenty and Canterbury. Here’s to the next 15 years!”