Meet Amber LaFrance, Public Relations Expert at CultureHype
Photograph by JESSICA TURNER
Amber LaFrance had bed bugs in her apartment for $ 450 a month in Austin.
Otherwise, she might never have returned to Dallas, where she is now one of the city’s foremost public relations experts. It counts among its clients the La Réunion brand of Deep Vellum Books, publisher of the long-awaited repress of Accommodation, and artists such as Jeremiah Onifadé and Mariell Guzman. His firm has represented clients of fashion designers Venny Etienne to local retail stores and large hotels and commercial real estate developments.
The 33-year-old celebrates her 10th anniversary working in the public relations industry, as well as the eighth year in business for her company, CultureHype.
Her father helped her out of this apartment in the middle of the night, leaving a note for the careless landlord, and she moved into her father’s house in her hometown, Plano.
By that time, she had graduated from college working in retail and had a degree in marketing and a minor in commerce from Texas State University. She also went from a volunteer intern to a paid advertiser for Heather Wagner Reed of Juice Consulting in Austin.
Back in Dallas, she was still working for Reed as needed, but found she didn’t know anyone in public relations here. She did another unpaid internship with the market that she would be exempt from intern work, like stuffing bags, and could instead work with clients.
This is how she met Jarrod Fresquez, the account manager whose biggest customer at the time was the Hilton Anatole. Eventually, Fresquez and LaFrance started their own business, with him as the face of the operation and LaFrance doing the PR work behind the scenes.
They added Red Bull as a customer, and their second event was Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware’s birthday party at the W.
She had student debt and no savings, and she earned about $ 14,000 in the first year.
“But we networked aggressively,” says LaFrance.
They did over 30 events this first year. She carried her laptop everywhere and always had a change of clothes in her car for nighttime networking. She forced herself into extraversion in order to get 10 business cards at events and learned networking skills by watching her business partner in action.
After about a year, Fresquez went to work for his family’s finance company, and LaFrance took over the business and renamed it.
Today it has four employees, two of whom are trained by interns. She lives in the Bishop Arts District and has offices in the Common Office on West Davis.
His first clients
We kept the Hilton Anatole, and we had Red Bull and Hard Night Good Morning, D’Andra Simmons’ skincare line. She was a friend of Jarrod’s mother, so she became our client, and I was doing press all over the country for her. It was a little out of my comfort zone at the time, but I ended up putting her in the the Wall Street newspaper and a lot of national press. She was really my first big customer.
Music industry public relations
Musicians weren’t hiring PR at the time, and it was a boys club, so I had to educate them on what PR is, why you need to invest, what I charge and why I charge that much. So I did this publicity stunt, one of my favorite things I’ve done. We had planned to release a circus-themed album for a band, Goodnight Ned, at Trees. They wanted a “janky circus” so we did all these circus games in my dad’s backyard. They wanted to be taken seriously by festivals and bookings and make more money. We used that as an example and blew up this party. There were about 450 people. Then they started getting booked for all the festivals and getting good press and stuff.
Keep the fun
Our clients represent who we are personally. I have four employees, and they all do business development. They’ll pick the clients they want to work with, sign them up, and get that account. It’s really fun.
Not just public relations
I expanded my services a few years ago because I was doing a lot of marketing for my PR clients. We do event planning, music booking, influencer marketing and programming for the W, WFAA and the Virgin Hotel.