by Lauren Barnes.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
– Brene Brown
While there are a multitude of profiles on established public relations professionals, there are few that highlight individuals at the threshold of their careers.
At 24 years old, Julia Davis has over 681,700 followers on TikTok, owns her own business, the Little Business Library, and works full time running social media for the nutrition department at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Davis completed her undergrad at the University of Montevallo, where she was president of the Zeta Nu chapter of Delta Gamma. She then returned to her hometown of Tuscaloosa to attend The University of Alabama’s graduate school to earn a master’s degree in advertising and public relations. While in graduate school, Davis served as the director of the Community Cultivation Program under the UA student chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, coordinated weddings independently, and ran an additional small business: a planner she designed and distributed called “The Practical Planner.”
“I’ve always pursued a lot of projects,” said Davis. “I always hoped to help people or make money for myself. Projects are where I derive my energy.”
Hanna Fridriksson, a fellow UA grad school alum who worked closely with Davis in the Community Cultivation Program, said Davis is “kind and has a way with people that makes her a great leader and wonderful person to work with. She always had great ideas and was able to solve any problem that came our way. She’s a great team player and so fun.”
In 2020, Davis started posting on TikTok about her experience as a sorority president, and her videos quickly went viral. Davis posted regularly about leadership skills she learned in the position, such as advocating for others and scheduling mental health hours. In addition, she posted educational content addressing Greek life terms and the sorority recruitment process.
“My involvement in a Greek organization contributed most to my success, but only because I took on leadership opportunities,” said Davis. “My paycheck didn’t rely on it, so it was a great opportunity to learn about hard conversations with peers, colleagues or co-workers, or how to balance friendship in the workplace.”
Davis’ claims agree with a larger trend that recognizes the benefits of Greek life for professional development. Greek life has been found to teach soft skills that are weak in new graduates. As an article from Medium noted, “The ingrained skills of tolerance, teamwork and selflessness drive success through the workplace and beyond.” Lauren Lock, a colleague who met Davis through Delta Gamma, said Davis shared these qualities of leadership and selflessness. “Julia is spectacular! When speaking with her you can tell she very passionate about her career,” Lock said.
Davis’ TikTok content follows her public relations journey. She posts tips for how to break into the wedding-planning world and items she brings to any event she coordinates. In addition, Davis posts about her business, such as website updates and job postings for her team.
“I was looking for was someone with similar DEI values, which I knew was a risk,” Davis said. A major step she took for her business and TikTok account was when she publicly stated that she was a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and an LGBT+ ally.
“I had almost a 98% positive response to my outspoken DEI policies. I started my business in March 2021, and there were lots of conversations about DEI at the time,” said Davis. “Shops have been thankful because others are afraid of backlash … but it was a risk I was willing to take — as a privileged white woman, it’s my responsibility to say, ‘You won’t do that in my space.’”
On a broader scale, Davis noted her background in public relations helped considerably with running her business. According to Forbes magazine, public relations is a “key management tool for businesses to achieve its goals,” despite the fact that companies often do not utilize “its full benefits.”
“If I didn’t have the knowledge, I don’t know if [my business] would still be standing. I write copy for the website and edit [it] myself, as well as deal with my customer service interactions,” said Davis. “Having a background in crisis communication helps.”
Davis grew a loyal fan base in 2022, after moving to Birmingham to start her job at UAB. In the house she moved into, she discovered a chicken coop with a cat abandoned by its previous owner. Davis posted a TikTok, nicknaming the cat ‘Coop Kitty,’ and her account seemingly went viral overnight. Soon afterward, she discovered more cats on the property and posted vet and health updates. Davis’ followers, at their request, supported the cats through donations and an Amazon wishlist Davis posted of beds, treats and toys.
“The cats were not well and people followed along,” said Davis. “People say, ‘I can’t have a cat but I love watching yours’ or ‘I got a cat because of you.’ I shy away from negative stuff but I keep it light hearted; we have a ton of kids who watch.”
Davis’ videos consist of regular updates on the cats and recounts of events that happen off camera. A standout example was one TikTok video in which Davis narrates an evening she saved a kitten from aggressive dogs. With her vivid imagery, it’s clear the appeal that Davis has with audiences; listeners feel like they are with Davis as she scales a fence and clutches the kitten from barking dogs below. If her story-telling skills weren’t enough, Davis holds the shivering kitten in her arms as she speaks.
“I’ve learned a lot about, not to say, ‘how to go viral,’ because it’s 80% luck and 20% knowing how to tell a story — there’s so much storytelling in PR,” said Davis. “I used to take days to plan out and film and edit, and I loved the production side, but the video that took off was me talking to the camera — no editing, no nothing.”
According to Forbes magazine, “More than 50 million people around the world now consider themselves to be influencers.” Forbes noted that, as a result, more and more companies are incorporating influencers into their strategic marketing. Fridriksson also emphasized that while navigating client image in a digital world is important, what is more important is staying true to the brand values. For influencers themselves, there are certain caveats to going viral. For influencers themselves, there are certain caveats to going viral. Davis spoke about unique situations she found herself in due to her TikTok account.
“There’s a chance people know me before I know them. [When applying to UAB,] someone on the hiring committee followed me on TikTok. I’m so grateful I make G-rated content because that person already had a perception of who I was,” said Davis. “Content creators have an edge that is and isn’t true. Employers see me going viral, and I can’t replicate that on their accounts because of different content and niches, but I had the chance to try because they saw the sparkle and shine.”
In the future, Davis plans to shift into working in social media full time.
“I want to use my skills to help other people,” said Davis. “So I do fundraisers for animal shelters, and we’ll be sponsoring a family for Christmas. I’m focusing on using my platform for good.”
“Honesty, transparency and accuracy,” said Davis about her key values. “There is always someone who knows more than you; have the mindset that you can always learn something from them. People have a lot of amazing things to say, so keep an open mind.”