Brittany has been helping companies tell great stories through brand storytelling since 2007. She is full of insights on how to build an effective team, pitch meaningful stories, and navigate an ever-shifting marketing landscape.
Brittany also shares what it’s been like balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship, and her best tips for running a business with your spouse.
Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
After graduating from the University of Georgia, Brittany worked at an Altanta-based PR agency where she was responsible for national accounts like General Mills and Nike.
Being newly married at the time, she and her husband both worked long hours and rarely got to spend time together, so they decided to take a leap of faith and go freelance. They moved to Athens, Georgia, and planned to do consulting work for the next two years.
16 years later, See. Spark. Go has grown from a husband and wife duo to a full-scale agency with 34 employees. Brittany shared the behind-the-scenes of that journey, along with some of the hard lessons she had to learn along the way.
Thanks to strong relationships at her old firm, Brittany and her husband were able to get their agency off the ground quickly. By 2009, they decided to go all on brand storytelling and began hiring employees.
“We needed to put all of our eggs in brand storytelling and we wanted to tell the best stories in the world,” Brittany says.
Their dedication paid off – from 2008 to 2016, See. Spark. Go opened every Nike store around the country, telling stories about Nike Run Club and athlete appearances. When one of their contacts from Nike moved to Columbia Sportswear, she recommended See. Spark. Go and soon they were opening Columbia stores as well.
How did their company land such big brands out of the gate? It all came down to Brittany’s personal and professional connections, including a strong relationship with her former employer.
“Relationships matter above anything else. True wealth is relational and not monetary.”
See. Spark. Go started as a traditional media relations firm. With Brittany’s background in publicity, she spent her days writing press releases, calling media outlets, and building relationships with producers and journalists.
But at the end of the day, what her job came down to was selling a story. The core of great marketing is telling stories and PR is no exception.
Brittany shares her advice for entrepreneurs looking to pitch a story to the media: “It starts with finding a compelling hook or something that’s inherently newsworthy about your brand.”
Then present that to a journalist in a way that will help them do their job better. Ask yourself, “How will this story serve their audience?”
Some people mass pitch different outlets until they see what sticks, which Brittany doesn’t recommend. Instead, take a targeted approach and try to find the right journalist for the right story – then work on building that relationship.
In 2010, See. Spark. Go began offering social media services, which now make up about 50% of their business. Content creation and community management were a natural fit for Brittany’s expertise in brand storytelling,
By 2017, the agency added paid social media and digital services, including Google AdWords, and paid placements both in print and online.
In their current model, they have owned, earned, and paid media strategists, and clients can choose whether to leverage their team for one or all three services. “The client benefits because they have a full team. It’s essentially an outsourced marketing department.”
Public relations looks very different in 2023 than it did in 2007, and Brittany’s team prides themselves on adapting to the times.
“It changes everyday,” she says, referencing not just the 24/7 news cycle but also best practices for content creation, monitoring various media channels, and putting out potential fires.
“It definitely changed our business model.” To stay on top of updates, they’ve added a full-time social media manager to the team who’s responsible for tracking algorithm changes and spotting trends.
“Growing a team is the best part and the hardest part,” Brittany says, and she admits that growing a large team is not for everyone. “You have to decide, ‘Is this what I’m called to do? Or am I called to just do the work?’”
At See. Spark. Go, their team has grown from just Brittany and her husband to 34 full-time employees. “Need drives vision,” she says, meaning that as her team uncovered new needs their clients had, they found the expert to fill those niches.
Brittany’s company hires strategically for the four C’s: character, competence, chemistry, and calling. The fourth C, calling, is what drives someone and what they’re passionate about – and that can change in different seasons of life.
“Some people might have high marks of character, competence, and chemistry, but their calling could still be not right now, or not in this season.”
These days, Brittany mostly serves the role of coach and mentor, although she’s still heavily involved in business development and strategy work. She no longer plays a major role in the day-to-day execution like she used to.
Her 16 years of experience are better suited to coaching her team, clients, and potential clients to think outside the box. Her husband, a former pastor, also plays a role in helping every team member with their personal and professional development.
One of the ways Brittany and her husband have handled their growing organization is to break the agency down into smaller teams. “A team should be small enough that you can serve them with two pizzas and everybody will be full and happy.”
Any larger than that, and responsibilities and roles start to blur. With a two-pizza team, everyone knows who they’re accountable to both internally and externally.
At See. Spark. Go, they’ve split their company into smaller businesses, each with its own owned, earned, and paid media strategists to represent each service offering.
One mistake Brittany admits to making is not following the traditional advice to hire slow and fire fast. There were times when they did the opposite, and that was a hard lesson to learn.
“What I’ve come to realize is if somebody isn’t the right fit for your team, that’s okay. It’s doing them a disservice to keep them in a role that they might not be thriving in.”
It’s better to be mindful about making the right decision upfront. Take your time and be proactive in the hiring process, rather than being rushed into a decision that you may regret down the line.
After 16 years in business, See. Spark. Go’s growth has been almost entirely organic, with no paid ads or cold outreach.
“We wanted to take an approach where we’re spending a hundred percent of our time serving our clients. And if we do a great job and other people hear about it, then we’ll take on more and we’ll find the right team to support it.”
It’s a powerful reminder for all business owners: if you show up well for your clients, the word will spread.
Marketing is important for brand and audience growth, but it can be exhausting to be constantly campaigning. Sometimes it’s better to focus on serving your existing clients as well as possible, instead of spending all your energy looking for new business.
One of the core components of The Blueprint Model is defining your enough. Your “enough” number is the place where abundance and contentment meet – it’s where you can feel excited about the possibility of more, but still operate from a place of rest.
As parents of two young boys, Brittany and her husband don’t shy away from sharing business principles with their kids.
“I’m not a very compartmentalized person, so you’re gonna get all of me in every arena of life. We talk about all of the decisions that we make at work. Our kids know all of it.”
That said, as their kids grow older, Brittany and her husband are becoming more intentional about carving out time for business conversations, so they can spend family time focused on their boys.
Once a quarter, Brittany and her husband plan an overnight trip together. “I think it makes us healthier as a married couple and as parents.”
Even if you rent a hotel room in your home city, it’s important to take that time away with your spouse. “There’s no work, no talking about the kids. We’re just being present with one another. Those 24 hours are sacred.”
Although Brittany loves her work, that doesn’t mean she feels the same level of enthusiasm everyday.
“Soul care is important. You need to find rest and find those enjoyable things that recharge you.” For some women, that might mean going for a hike in nature or going to the gym.
For Brittany, that used to mean walking up and down the aisles at Target. “That was my therapy when my kids were toddlers.”
Learn what works for you, whether it’s shopping or getting outdoors. Once you understand how you’re wired and what type of activities fill your tank, you’ll be better able to serve other people.
It’s also important to have a safe place to talk and vent when you need to – especially if you work with your spouse, you need to talk it out with someone who’s not directly involved. Brittany is a big fan of counseling, but for you, it could be a friend or family member.
When asked the best piece of advice she’s ever received, Brittany’s answer was immediate: “There’s no such thing as competition.”
Sometimes we all need a reminder that there’s enough work out there for everyone, and one person winning in the marketplace doesn’t take away from anyone else. “I loved this idea that if I’m running my race well then I’m not competing with you.”
To hear more brand storytelling tips and what Brittany is up to now, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Rebecca Lyon’s book : Rhythms of Renewal
Brittany Thoms is the co-founder, president and publicity maven behind Public Relations Firm, See. Spark. Go. She began her career in fast-paced agencies promoting national accounts through entertainment and sports-related events. With a desire to return to the city that captured their hearts— Athens, Georgia—Brittany and her husband Andy founded See.Spark.Go in 2007. Her strategic thinking and creative enthusiasm influence all of See.Spark.Go’s clients. She serves as a board member for Eagle Ranch, Break Into Business and advises several other nonprofits on a regular basis.
April 27, 2023