Seven Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Profiles of several can be found after this feature. Grady College alumni honored in 2021 include:
- Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10)
- Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)
- Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04)
- Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10)
- Bowen Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06)
- Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04)
- Raquel D. Willis (ABJ ’13)
We are proud of their successes and are pleased to highlight them in their own words.
Brittany Thoms is the co-founder and president of See.Spark.Go, an Athens-based public relations agency. She and her husband, Andy Thoms (BSFCS ’02), founded See.Spark.Go in 2007 with the goal of telling the best stories in the world. They specialize in publicity, social media and digital marketing. Their team has worked with some of the nation’s largest brands on many successful campaigns and events.
Grady College: What advice would you give to your 20-year old self?
Brittany Thoms: “Every step has a domino effect. Do the very best with what’s right in front of you, and you’ll be surprised what doors will open. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, ask for opportunity and look for it at every turn. The greatest way to “do your own PR” is to show up, be enthusiastic and work hard. Results come from doing the work, so find your motivation and get after it!”
GC: What motivates you?
Thoms: “One of our early employees would wear cheetah print and put on pink lipstick every Thursday. She called it ‘sassy Thursday’ and it motivated her to make the most of every minute pitching PR stories for clients. I kinda love that… What motivates me is seeing everyone around me succeed. We love celebrating “wins and wows” at SSG, and I literally get giddy when we get client feedback that says, “Perfect!” “That was awesome!” or “Thank you!” When you make a difference in someone else’s life, it’s motivating. Seeing your client in the news? Or grow in new ways because of a strategy you recommended? That’s highly motivating to do it again. I call it a natural high, and it’s so real!”
GC What skill(s) should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?
Thoms: “I’ve realized over the past couple of decades that everything is public relations, and even more-so, everything is communications. Learn to communicate, how others like to receive information, how to write a client email, build a pitch deck, sell an idea, present at a board meeting, etc. My friend and HR mentor, Courtney Rhodes, calls it, “Executive Presence.” As a young alum, build skills that impress decision-makers–confidence, poise, grace, handshakes, look people in the eye and do a darn good job. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Be impressive because you care. Using good grammar means you care about your reader. Those things get noticed.”
GC: How has your field evolved since your graduation to now?
Thoms: “Drastically! When I graduated in 2004, the New Media Certificate program was just getting off the ground. I didn’t even have a Twitter account. My phone was a Motorola Razor (flip phone) and my first desk donned a Gateway desktop computer. I will never forget running out to get a Starbucks and somewhat sweating over whether or not that important email had come through or not. The 15 minute hiatus from email was too much to bear! Nowadays, I wish I could simply “turn it all off.” One thing to note, however, is that the 24-hour news cycle, the endless scrolling of social media, the ability to engage an audience through relevant influencers and the evolving “citizen journalism,” has only made our industry more impactful, more ever-present, and a given line item on any marketing budget. Navigating the media landscape may be a little crazier, but the opportunities are endless, and I love that. Be creative!”
GC: How has the network of Grady College alumni helped you professionally?
Thoms: “I love staying in touch with former professors and even speaking at a few classes now and then, but I treasure the network of Grady in many more ways. Some of our biggest decisions in business have come at the counsel of fellow alumni. From understanding the “product” of public relations to successfully communicating ROI, to best practices in hiring and creating an engaged culture, Grady really does produce the best of the best of the best.”