Published on May 14, 2018, at 10:12 a.m.
by Darsey Norton.
Brittany Downey, account executive at Summit Group, knows the value of hard work and is not afraid of a challenge. However, her journey to becoming a leader in the industry started even before she stepped into a public relations classroom.
“I had an internship for three years in high school with a sports magazine that covered high school sports. I originally went to Alabama to pursue a journalism degree but got there and realized that while I loved writing, I missed some of the things I got to do in the magazine like social media,” explained Downey. “I had friends who were getting PR degrees and were getting to learn all those cool things so I decided to switch. It gave me the traditional PR side with the writing and AP style that I love, but it took it a step further with the new media and nontraditional side using social and digital.”
As an undergraduate student, Downey was heavily involved on and off campus. She joined professional organizations, such as Capstone Agency, PRSSA and Bateman Team. She also secured several off-campus internships in order to gain hands-on experience. However, Downey said that no experience can mimic that of a full-time position.
“I don’t know if any experience fully prepares you for a job. When I got my first ‘big girl job,’ it was a transition,” stated Downey. “There is a level of responsibility and awareness that you have to a client as a full-time employee at an agency. I think it is a different type of awareness and responsibility than when you are a student.”
While Downey does not believe undergraduate positions can provide students with the complete experience of a job post grad, she does advise students to gain as much relevant experience as possible.
“Things like PRSSA and internships were great experiences,” said Downey. “They gave me a good foundation to know the lingo and be able to walk the walk and talk the talk; but there was a serious culture shock going from having someone to hold my hand and help me figure things out to having to stand on my own two feet,” Downey further explained.
During her senior year Downey was on the media relations team for Capstone Agency, leader of the Bateman Team and an executive member of PRSSA, all while maintaining a part-time job. Her involvement kept her busy during her last semesters and contributed to Downey’s decision to take a two-month break after graduation to recharge before applying to full-time positions.
“It gave me the opportunity to really evaluate what kind of job I wanted, where I wanted to be and what industry I wanted to be in. I took so many little steps throughout my four years and those opportunities taught me so much but the biggest step that I find most valuable in my journey was taking a break to figure out exactly what i wanted to do,” said Downey.
Downey started in an entry-level position at Summit Group in Atlanta three years ago and has been a team member ever since. In current her role, she specializes in client digital activity ranging from social media to digital advertising to website building, and more. While managing all other aspects of her position, Downey was also responsible for launching three websites in the past year. No matter the task, Downey approaches each situation with the same positive attitude.
“My goal is to always be the most helpful, smartest, most successful and most reliable person in the room. If I can accomplish those things, then that is rewarding to me,” said Downey.
David Kirkland is the former group president of Summit Group and worked with Downey for two years. His perspective offers insight into Downey’s success in the industry.
“Brittany is very personable, very smart, quick thinking, and she brought a lot to the table very early,” stated Kirkland. “She is one of the best hires I ever made.”
Kirkland explained that, overall, Downey’s attitude is what set her apart in the interview process.
“I can hire a skill set that is pretty similar for those coming out of college, but what you can’t hire that will be equal across the board is team fit and attitude,” said Kirkland.
While Downey has already achieved success, her journey does not end here. To young practitioners, she offers her perspective and advice:
“You have one reputation, and that reputation will not only follow you but also everyone around you. Make sure you have a history of being the best you can be. Don’t let something come up that would tarnish that, and I think you’ll be as successful as you can.”