Classic City Tour: The Inside Scoop

Members of John E. Drewry Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) on Oc. 5, 2016, attended the Classic City Tour, a public relations agency tour of the local firms in Athens. Housing many opportunities for students and graduates, the city is a hidden gem for PR. The tour consisted of visits with Jackson Spalding, See.Spark.Go and UGA Sports Communication.  Here’s the breakdown on the culture of each agency as well as the many tips and pieces of advice they each generously offered:

Jackson Spalding
Jackson Spalding is nestled right in the heart of downtown Athens. Upon entering the building, we were greeted by staff hanging around drinking coffee in the kitchen that is centered in the office. It was immediately evident how close-knit and supportive the staff is of each other. We soon found out that their closeness is the backbone of their work. Team members Kristin Couch and Cody Nichelson (ABJ ’14) repeatedly stressed the culture of Jackson Spalding and what a fun-loving place it is to work.  JS tries to stay away from hierarchy, and it is fair game for everyone and anyone to be asked to help with a project, proofread a press release, etc. Basically, the staff is very versatile, and the day-to-day schedule is never the same.

In a panel-style/couch-style discussion, the team also provided good advice regarding the public relations industry in regards to entry-level careers. Cody explained, “You might have to do that grunt work at the beginning, but if you do it the best of anyone, the opportunities you want will come to you.”  Cody also shared the valuable hint that if you want a job you don’t have, unofficially do it, and you may officially get it. Speaking from experience, he shared the fact that he was interested in videography, so he bought a video camera, taught himself how to use it, began to film short-films and weddings, and then that was just one more skill he had to share in his interview process and to give himself an edge.

Overall, Jackson Spalding portrayed a big, well-respected agency whose vibrant and team-oriented atmosphere makes it seem smaller.

Next, the tour went on to See.Spark.Go, an agency located in a small, welcoming home on Milledge Avenue. The office is meant to feel “homey”, as the staff is scattered working all throughout the house, with offices upstairs and downstairs. Started by Andy Thoms and his wife, Brittany Thoms, this agency is undeniably built upon passion.  Andy’s stories and advice continuously went back to the importance of both the client and passionate work.

Upon walking into the office, you will find all of their clients’ logos framed on the wall.  This is because, as Andy says, “Your clients are your friends, and we want them to feel like they’re a part of a family when they come here to see us.”  See.Spark.Go does their work according to four core values: to be relational, motivated, inspired and enthusiastic.  Andy also talked about living and working by the concept of being interested, not interesting.  This is evident in the way they stressed that they don’t want to show themselves off, but they strive to show their clients off in every way that they can.  Striving to be interested, not interesting, can be carried over into many aspects of life.  Andy’s main goal and focus is simply this: “Learn to love your clients, and let your passion flow from your heart to your hands.”

UGA Sports Communications
Last on the tour was UGA Sports Communications, where Associate Sports Communications Director Steven Colquitt discussed the labor of love that is representing UGA athletes and coaches.  As Steve stood before the very podium from which Kirby Smart gives press conferences, he dove right into behind-the-scenes information on what it really is like to work in communications for an organization like University of Georgia Athletics.  As fun as game days are for the fans, they can be some of the longest days in the world for the press team.  With news as fast-paced as it is—especially sports news on a game day—reporting can last up to eight hours after the kickoff of the football game.

Steve stressed the sheer importance of trust that is vital between the people you represent and yourself.  When representing individual people, it’s absolutely essential to have a strong foundation of trust to get news out in the best possible way, and in the person’s best interest.  Although one may not know all the ins and outs of every sport (you won’t only be covering football and basketball), if placed in an atmosphere like a Division I sports association, according to Steve, you should always do the best you can do in your PR role, and you will learn those ins and outs.

Date: October 10, 2016
Author:  Ellie Harding