Sandy Hillman Communications
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Sandy Hillman Communications

Holmes Report

Sandy Hillman has been a leader in the Baltimore public relations business for more than 20 years, having spent two decades with Trahan Burden & Charles, one of the region’s largest and most respected advertising and public relations agencies, and earned national recognition for her role in transforming the city’s Inner Harbor into a world-class tourism destination. But Sandy Hillman Communications is just over a year old, launched into the teeth of harsh economic downturn in a city with problems of its own by a 66-year-old entrepreneur.


Since the launch of the new firm in November of 2007, Hillman has benefited from the personal loyalty she inspired in many of those—employees and clients—with whom she had worked previously, and Sandy Hillman Communications has grown into a firm of about 15 people (enough to rank it among the leading independents in Maryland) with a blue-chip client list that includes several blue-chip national brands, most of them in the travel, hospitality and entertainment sectors: Harrah’s Entertainment, the Singapore Tourism Board, the World Series of Poker, Gaylord Entertainment, U.K. casino company London Clubs, and Bonefish Grill—a chain of 140 seafood restaurants.


“For 23 years, Sandy Hillman and her team have provided the highest quality communications, marketing and government relations services to our company, always on time, on budget and on point,” says Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations for Harrah’s Entertainment. “Their keen understanding of our company, industry, and the economic and political forces that affect both has proven invaluable to use as they help shape our external and internal communications strategies, draft major speeches for our executives and stage complex events. Whatever the project, their attention to customer service has always been exemplary.”


Hillman has also built an impressive team of senior counselors including senior vice president Liz Elman Feldman, a travel and lifestyle PR specialist who has worked with Hillman for more than a decade; vice president Dave Curley, a former journalist best known for his work transforming the World Series of Poker into a high-profile international television event; senior director of media relations Stacey Udell, a specialist in working with upscale travel destinations; and director of public affairs Mike Morrill, who has worked as communications director in the U.S. Senate and two state Houses.


While the firm is not surprisingly hailed for its travel and tourism expertise, it also has impressive capabilities in the healthcare arena, and in 2008 introduced a new service, the Business Bureau, in partnership with New York-based Rooney & Associates, to offer a broad array of clients access to top-tier business media. The firm also introduced a new research capability, providing clients with insight into their target consumers and helping SHC develop the right messages and select the right media for maximum impact.


The result was an impressive first full year of operations, despite the downturn. There was new business from Westwood One, the New York-based radio network, which retained Hillman to help communication partnerships and acquisitions and to assist with internal communications; 3ality Digital, for which SHC handled media relations and screening events for the first-ever live 3D broadcast of an NFL game; the National World War II Museum, which turned to Hillman for strategic counsel and ongoing brand-building; Wisp, which retained the firm to provide public affairs support for a ballot initiative allowing Sunday alcohol sales; World Market Center in Las Vegas, Zico coconut water, Consumer Health Services, and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

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