Hermione Underwood, The H Collective
Director of The H Collective, consulting to clients globally, Hermione is a leader in the social and digital space. Sitting on every side of the table, she is also the Co-Founder of fine jewelry label, Atelier Romy. Along the way, you can keep up with her travels, fashion and business at Hermione Olivia.
TS: Let’s start from the beginning, with The H Collective. How did you start the business? What were you doing at the time? Honestly, it was unintentional! I had been traveling and was taking a moment to consider what I wanted to do with my life, as you do in your early 20s. I was consulting to a few brands and one of my clients suggested I start an agency. I started with a Gmail account and the rest is history. The business has developed and evolved over the years and shaped with me. What I’m most proud of is the relationships I’ve held… some of my very first clients from 10 years ago I still do projects for in a new, international format.
TS: So your grounding is PR? I studied Business Comm’s at University and started out at LVMH in the Marketing Division. From there I went in-house briefly with a brand before working with a few of Australia’s leading PR Agencies. This is when my work became more PR focused. Today, I’d say I am more specialized in the digital and social space.
TS: What type of counsel do your clients come to you for? Have you found that it has changed since starting the business? I work with a lot of emerging brands. I love helping bring an idea to fruition. I also do a lot of hosting, events and press trips on behalf of brands where I act as both the ‘influencer’ and the publicist, which clients love.
TS: How have you differentiated your consultancy from others in your field? I am very lucky to have a unique perspective in that I sit on every side of the table. I have a brand so I understand the day to day details of running and building a brand. I have a blog and Instagram which I utilize to work with brands as an ‘influencer’ (for lack of a better word) so I know how brands are working with influencers to effectively produce content and execute campaigns. Finally, I draw from these experiences, insights and networks to better my clients market exposure and success.
TS: You have a highly curated client list. How do you decide whom to work with? Are there any common characteristics that your clients share? I only work with people I like and brands that I believe in. If I wouldn’t use, wear, recommend your product or service, I won’t promote you. It’s that simple.
TS: You have additionally grown a dedicated following through content creation and brand ambassadorships. Was influencing a conscious decision or was it a natural progression? Again, it was unintentional. I moved to London in my mid 20s and was traveling as much as possible. People started to follow and ask where I was staying, eating, what I was wearing… starting a blog seemed like the easiest way to share my travels and it organically became a business. To this day I try to keep it very real and true to my real life. I post in real time and mostly with iPhone pictures… It’s just an extension of what I’m doing.
TS: And so next came your jewelry line, Atelier Romy. How did it feel to have been on the consultancy side your entire career, to then use everything you’ve learned on your own brand? Honestly, I thought having a brand would be easier!! It’s given me so much respect and admiration for my clients, and friends, who have built incredibly successful international brands. It takes a huge amount of dedication and persistence to build a luxury lifestyle brand. I’m really proud of what Sabine and I have built with Atelier Romy. We have a loyal and engaged community of AR women who appreciate our classic styles and high quality jewelry.
TS: How did you plot your PR strategy? I am very realistic with my approach. I try to under promise and over deliver which I think can be rare in our industry. I consider exactly the page, the section, the headline and prepare every possible asset before I pitch to journalists to make their job as easy as possible and to get the feature, wherever possible.
TS: Can you identify a lightbulb moment where all the work has felt entirely worth it? Daily I feel grateful to work for myself, to run my own show and to be able to travel and live my life as I like. I don’t have Sunday’s and Monday’s, I just work and live all the time. I appreciate being able to fly back to Sydney to be with my family for the important moments. Owning your time is worth all of the hours, the uncertainties and the effort.
TS: Can you highlight a few key pitfalls you would advise against in creating any of your business’s? Any tips for success? I was naive to think that building my own businesses in a foreign country would be as easy as it was in my home town. Relationships are everything and it takes a lot longer to build them in a new city. With that said, persistence pays off and a few years later, my network is just as strong in London as it is in Sydney so just stick at it, with everything, and just give it a go and then don’t give up, no matter what happens.
TS: What should we watch out for next; are there any further pursuits you have in the pipeline? I’m really enjoying solidifying my businesses. I absolutely love what I do and I’m lucky there is variety in every day. With that said, watch this space because I always seem to be doing something new!