PRSSA and AdClub Talk Public Affairs Communications with Amanda Maddox
By: Sara Lawrence
This week, PRSSA and AdClub had a joint meeting featuring Amanda Maddox, the managing director for PLUS Communications, an integrated public affairs communications agency.
Amanda studied broadcast news and graduated from Grady College in 2010. After college, she moved to Washington D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill for just under 10 years before moving to PLUS Communications.
At UGA, she was actively involved in Newsource but wishes she had been involved in more organizations as well, such as PRSSA. She noted that her most valuable experience was meeting people with both diverse backgrounds and interests. After college, she worked as an intern for Georgia’s 8th Congressional District Representative Austin Scott, and then took an opening to work for former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson.
Working for Isakson taught her that D.C. is all about the networks and mutually-beneficial relationships you build: “It’s someone asking you for a favor today, but it will be you asking for a favor tomorrow,” she said. Working as Isakson’s communications director, Amanda’s day-to-day tasks consisted of working with reporters, coming up with strategies and writing press releases, memos, talking points and speeches. Her most rewarding experience was learning from the senator himself.
Amanda stressed that the most important skill to have in public affairs communications is intuition. “You need to know when to have discretion, recognizing when something is worth commenting on and when it is not,” she said. Writing is another imperative skill that professionals must utilize in public affairs.
One of her main pieces of advice, as a practitioner who moved up from a secretary position to a communications director within two years, was to get a mentor: “Find someone who has been there and has advice to share on career journey decisions,” she said. Amanda also advocated for making connections, which is how she found the opening for her position as Johnny Isakson’s communications director.
Being a woman in the male-dominated field of politics, Amanda expressed that in her early career she felt like she did not have a seat at the table even though she was a senior director. Luckily, this was not the norm for Amanda for the rest of her career path, but nonetheless, she urged students to leave their employer if they feel disrespected.
To get a job in public affairs, Amanda recommended that students join clubs and network with alumni or anyone you come across on Linkedin that has a job you are interested in. “Getting an internship is the best way to put yourself out there in an office setting, exploring what is the right fit for you and continuing to build a network,” she said.
She also recommended pursuing the PAC certificate and its study abroad opportunities. She taught students on the Grady D.C. Field Study and Internship Program this summer and talked highly of the curriculum. “It is as good as a master’s degree in public affairs communications,” she said. It also prepares you for hands-on work in political advocacy and communications and gives you plenty of networking opportunities.
Currently working as the managing director for PLUS Communications, Amanda handles day-to-day client management, oversees teams and works in collaboration with the digital, research and media production departments. Many of her days involve client meetings, business pitches, strategizing, writing memos and more. Her favorite part of the job is getting asked to think strategically, being challenged and making clients happy. Amanda explained that PLUS Communications has a full in-house advertising and marketing team, and as managing director, her job is to make sure everything fits together into one integrated communications plan.
Amanda’s closing advice for students encouraged asking for help, advocating for yourself and working hard in everything you do.
PRSSA was thrilled to talk to and learn from Amanda Maddox with AdClub this week! Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our upcoming AdPR Connection Prep meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18!