Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Kerry-Ann Hamilton. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Kerry-Ann, please provide us a short bio.
In 2019, I launched a purpose-driven communications practice – KAH Consulting Group. My team partners with bold changemakers and social innovators to effectively frame their issue, mobilize action and amplify impact. Over the last 20 years as a consultant, communications executive and journalist, I know firsthand that good work does not tell its own story. It requires thoughtful mining, a clear message and equipped storytellers. Supporting individuals and organizations in their missions to drive positive change fits squarely into the zone of genius – my passion and purpose. Previously, I was a senior vice president at GMMB, a pioneering cause communications firm, and spent a decade as a university marketing and communications leader. I am an avid cyclist, a travel enthusiast and a nature photographer.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I am the chair of the Board of Directors for Girls Inc. of the Washington Metropolitan Area. Girls Inc. is a national organization dedicated to inspiring and equipping girls to be strong, smart and bold. We know that less than 10 percent of girls study engineering, and less than 3 percent of corporate board members are female. Through our research-based curriculum, we focus on giving the girls we serve both technical competencies in the STEM areas and the tools and confidence needed to put that knowledge to good use. I am also a mentor with Generation Hope, which is devoted to providing direct sponsorships and one-on-one mentoring opportunities to teen parents who are attending college in the Washington metro area.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I am really proud of how my personal values align with my professional and civic work and how the assorted tough challenges and opportunities that have colored my career path have strengthened me and made me eager to deploy what I have learned in the service of creating real and lasting change in the world.
Who are your personal role models?
I have been fortunate to know many people who have inspired me and whom I have sought to emulate. In some cases, the mistakes of others have been a source of guidance. As a young communicator, I was inspired by two highly respected journalists.
WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi was my first boss when he was the host of Evening Exchange, a flagship current-affairs news program on WHUT-TV, a PBS affiliate owned by Howard University. On my first day on his staff, I was writing scripts and researching stories for the reporters’ roundtable. I was just shy of 20 years old and was still a green journalist. I learned about the perpetual value of preparation, the endless quest for excellence and the inevitable necessity for true hard work.
My dream opportunity as an undergraduate was to work with the late host of NBC’s Meet the Press, Tim Russert. Once I earned that chance, I found the experience was transformative. I saw dedication and a tireless commitment to the truth up close. I learned that attaining a mastery at asking tough questions, as Tim did, need not diminish a professional commitment to civility and dignity.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
After my assignment with the Associated Press in Trinidad and Tobago, I left journalism for a career as a communications and marketing professional at Howard University. It was there that I met many powerful women who impressed upon me the importance of rigorous preparation and the importance of leaning in – finding one’s voice – long before it was in vogue.
What professional advice do you have for others?
The best advice I can offer is to find your true passion. It is not cliché. Highly competent people can do just about anything they put their minds to. The question to ask is where an individual can make the best and highest impact. In addition to passion, persistence is even more important – even though it is less flashy.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
A global fusion – Beres Hammond, Dave Matthews, Enya, Machel Montano, Melissa Etheridge, Hugh Masekela and Lizz Wright.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
It is tough to name a single favorite, but my top four include Busboys and Poets, Doi Moi, Founding Farmers and Blue Duck.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
As an island girl, I am totally at my best wherever there is water, and every now and then, a thrill – whether it’s kayaking on Cape Cod, snorkeling in Belize’s Blue Hole, salmon fishing in Alaska or hang gliding over Victoria Falls.
My passports and cameras are my most prized possessions. I started my fourth passport at age 32. I love photography, particularly travel photography. I have a wide assortment of Nikon bodies and lenses depending on my needs and the subject; I use the 85mm for portraits, my 18-200mm for a breathtaking view of landscapes and my 400mm to capture one of my favorite fauna – the elusive hummingbird.
And, finally, my ideal day begins with a rigorous workout and ends with watching NBC Nightly News. Thankfully, it is now on-demand, as I am rarely home at 7 p.m. for the live broadcast. If I get some time to journal and read before bed, I have truly had a wonderful day.