Bulldog 100 Honoree Interview: Heather Adams (ABJ ’98)

Bulldog 100 Honoree Interview: Heather Adams (ABJ ’98)

October 20, 2021

This is one of a series of interviews honoring Grady College College alumni who have been recognized as Bulldog 100 recipients in 2021. The Bulldog 100 is sponsored by the UGA Alumni Association and celebrates the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.

Other Grady College alumni recognized in the 2021 Bulldog 100 class include:

Heather Dixon Adams is the founder and CEO of Choice Media, a media relations agency outside of Nashville.

Leading an all-female team, Adams develops communications and media placement plans for brands and authors including Jen Hatmaker, Ernie Johnson and Emily Ley, just to name a few.

Adams started her professional journey in a series of government PR jobs before landing a job at Thomas Nelson publishing where she worked as Director of Publicity. In 2010, she started her own PR agency, eventually leading to the creation of Choice Media in 2014.

Branching out on her own was one of the best career moves Adams said in a Grady Conversations podcast interview in 2019.

Adams admitted it was not without trepidation, but the key is stepping into the fear.

“If you believe in your gut that you have a product, or a service or a message to share, and that it’s going to bring value to somebody else and you are solving a problem for somebody, then you definitely need to step into that and go for it.”

Adams has her own podcast, “This Intentional Life,” advises college women through AOπ where she was an active member at UGA and serves on the Grady Society Alumni Board.

Grady College:  What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Heather Adams: Two things immediately come to mind. First, Grady is where I learned to write clear, concise and compelling. Strong writing and communication is the foundation for everything I do. Honing this skill has benefitted my every day since graduation.

Adams speaking on a panel about mentorship in Nov. 2019. “I want to be invested in our students who are here now,” Adams said. “I think it’s important to develop those people who are coming behind me.” (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Second, Conrad Fink helped me advocate for myself in my first internship. I sat in his office and he looked over his desk at me and said, “Heather, our students have value. Demand that for yourself. Go back and negotiate for a paid internship or I will not approve this for school credit.” It’s the first time I realized that, even as a college student, my competence and skill had value and I shouldn’t take the first offer I’d been given.

GC: What skills do you attribute to your success?

HA: Initiative—It’s the number one trait I look for when making talent selection decisions. Developing deep, meaningful relationships – it’s the whole reason I have a successful career. Relationships helped me build my valued media contacts. Relationships opened doors when I was laid off and launched a new company. Leading with relationships is how I’ve cultivated a collaborative culture in my business.

GC: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

HA: Relax

GC: What motivates you?

HA: A crisis. This sounds crazy, but I am my strongest, most clear, laser-focused when there is a crisis that needs navigating. A big vision emerges and the steps to execute are immediately evident to me. I run toward the flames. I
think that’s why I was able to double my business in the year of a pandemic. When everyone else was contracting, we were expanding.

Heather Adams and one of her two sons, Thackston, at the college’s 2019 Homecoming Celebration. “I think it’s important, particularly raising  boys, for them to see that mom can be a CEO and still be an invested mom.” (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)
GC: Are there any books or podcasts that you would recommend to young
entrepreneurs?​ ​

HA: Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead book and podcast, Shawn Achor’s Big Potential book, Lead to Win podcast, Business Made Simple podcast, and of course I’d love for you to listen to our podcast, “This Intentional Life.”

GC: What is the most important skill an entrepreneur must master?

HA: The ability to navigate change.

GC: How has your field changed since you were a Grady student?

HA: I graduated from Grady in 1998. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest – none of it existed. When I first entered the world of PR we were looking up media contacts in a Bacons Media Guide, which looked like a
huge phone book and was only updated once a year. This also dates me, but when I needed to pull media clips for my clients, I read the publications, physically cut out the articles and taped them to a white sheet of paper and then made copies for everyone in leadership. The ways we communicate with media, secure coverage for clients and all the formats of media where coverage can occur has DRASTICALLY changed since my graduation.