Let’s take a moment to go back in time to 2003. 50 Cent was at the top of the charts, velour sweatsuits and denim miniskirts were (regrettably) some top trends in fashion, and MySpace had just launched and was soon to become everyone’s go-to source for social media. Fast forward 11 years and Myspace is back, this time with a fresh look and a new focus. One of the key players in the relaunch of the website was Kirby Brooks Todd, a Senior Communications Specialist at Myspace.
From working at a boutique marketing agency to freelancing to her current role in communications at Myspace, Kirby has gained a variety of experience throughout her career, and all by the age of 28! Kirby proves that it’s important to decide what you want in life and go after it, no matter what obstacles may be in the way. We were able to chat with Kirby about the ins and outs of PR and Marketing, and how she got to where she is today.
Full Name: Kirby Brooks Todd
Current Title/Company: Senior Communications Specialist at Myspace
Educational Background: BA in English with a minor in Communications from the University of San Diego
While in college, you held several editorial internships in the San Diego area. How did you land these internships? What was the most important lesson you learned from these experiences?
I actually had my first editorial internship in high school, at a local luxury lifestyle magazine. I stayed in touch with my editor and she introduced me to a few San Diego editors and writers while in college. One of the most important lessons I learned is to always remain friendly with past work contacts and build out your network.
The second lesson I learned was to try to accomplish 2-3 tasks first thing in the morning—it really sets the tone for your day. I’m not going to lie, waking up and heading downtown to my internship at San Diego Magazine while most of my friends got to sleep in on Friday mornings was rough sometimes, but it was worth it. It’s a habit I’ve stuck with—now, each morning I check that my blog post is up, prioritize my work emails, and go for a run with my dog, usually all before 8:00am. It feels good to have accomplished a few things early on, and not just downing multiple cups of coffee (which I do, too)!
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
My first job out of college was as a copy editor and writer for a boutique online marketing agency called Nobis Interactive, based in San Diego. I landed the job by being persistent! I applied for the first opening I saw, drove two hours to interview that same day, and started the very next day! I hadn’t figured out moving back to San Diego from Orange County yet but knew I wanted the job so I took it and everything else fell into place. Luckily a few girlfriends were looking for a fourth roommate so I was able to move in with them just a few weeks after finding a job. I had a few hand-me-down pieces of furniture and the other girls had the rest. We lived near the beach in San Diego and I alternated between taking the bus and carpooling to work to save. One of our biggest clients at Nobis Interactive was StubHub, so if you’ve purchased tickets off the site you’ve likely read one of the band biographies I wrote.
While at Nobis Interactive, you began reaching out to editors in the San Diego area to obtain freelance work. What inspired you to do this? How did you eventually decide that it was time to leave your job at Nobis Interactive?
I felt like it was time to leave when I wasn’t feeling challenged and was ready to take the next step in my career. I had a few contacts from college internships and through friends, so I emailed my resume and writing samples to them and was able to put together a freelance schedule covering restaurant openings, local interest stories, etc. I started by freelancing before and after work and on weekends, and after about a year I was busy enough to leave my full-time job. I like to feel that I am pushing myself and growing, which ultimately led me to pursue a career in Marketing and PR at Myspace.
You currently work at Myspace as a Senior Communications Specialist. Please share the story behind how you landed an interview and the job.
I actually started out working for Specific Media, Myspace’s parent company. I interviewed for a Marketing Coordinator position with my current boss, Neda Azarfar, VP of Communications at Myspace. Prior to the interview, I did tons of research on Specific Media, it’s competitors, and recent news stories—like the company’s acquisition of Myspace. Working at Myspace was always on my peripheral, but I knew I needed to get a broader knowledge of the online space first. The interview was tough and I felt humbled, but I landed the job and never looked back.
What are your primary responsibilities in your current position at Myspace? How has your role expanded since you started working for the company?
After about a year as a Marketing Coordinator, I was promoted to a Senior Marketing Coordinator and began working across Specific Media and Myspace. I was interested in PR and asked my boss if I could start to sit in on PR calls and become more and more involved in that side of the business. I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to learn like that, and eventually my boss offered me a position to work for Myspace full-time and join the newly-formed Communications team. I found the idea of being involved with the re-launching a brand so exciting and challenging.
I was part of the team that was behind the major Myspace relaunch in June, which included closing down Classic Myspace, launching our mobile app, and securing press coverage of our launch and event. Since then we’ve been focused on promoting the site, from our Editorial content like our recent interviews from SXSW to events to livestreams. Lately, my focus has been on promoting our embeddable player. We’ve been working with outlets to create themed mixes, like this fashion week mix that appeared on Refinery29. I also research industry events, helping to secure and prepare for thought leadership and panel speaking spots for people within the company, most recently for panels at DEW and SXSW.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
At Myspace, I’m often the youngest one in a room of people who have been in the tech and entertainment industries for much longer than I have, so I used to be afraid to share my opinions or ideas in meetings. Eventually I realized that I might have a different perspective or ask an important question that someone more senior than me might not have though of, and I have become more comfortable speaking up.
Another challenge I’ve been able to overcome—most of the time—is being too hard on myself. I work hard and can be a perfectionist, so when something doesn’t turn out exactly as I’d have liked I can beat myself up. I’ve learned to brush myself off, learn from it, and move on.
You spent the first few years after college as a writer and editor and are now in a communications role managing PR and Marketing at Myspace. Did you always have PR and Marketing in mind as an end goal? If not, how did you determine this was the career path you ultimately wanted to pursue?
My brother owns a furniture store in Dallas, Wooden House, and I helped him with marketing and PR for years before it became my actual career. I realized how much I liked working to publicize a brand—and that’s exactly what I do day in and day out at Myspace! I enjoy the challenge of promoting the site and our content and I love that my job allows me to be creative and constantly feel challenged in an industry that’s perpetually changing.
In your spare time you write the popular southern California-based lifestyle blog Short & Sweet Blog with Alexa Evans. What inspired you to start your blog? What has been the most rewarding part of the experience?
Alexa and I were friends and coworkers and really bonded over discovering and reading blogs. Family and friends encouraged us to start our own blog and in 2010 we did, with the launch of Short & Sweet Blog. Instead of having a singular focus, we combined our interests into four categories: food and drinks (Delish), home design (Decor), fashion (Wear), and travel (Wander). It’s great having a partner to bounce ideas off of and share the work in terms of social media, monitoring reader comments, etc.
The relationships we’ve formed with our readers and fellow bloggers is the most rewarding part. We’ve also had the opportunity to work with some really great brands—like Pinhole Press and Madewell—that fit with our aesthetic and voice.
What advice can you give Everygirls seeking employment in the PR and Marketing industries?
Ask a lot of questions, and read everything you can about your industry. I read trades like Adweek and The Hollywood Reporter as well as music and entertainment blogs. It’s important for me to always know the artist the industry’s buzzing about, so I rely on Myspace’s Editorial series like ONETWOWATCH to find out who I should be listening to and paying attention to in the world of music and entertainment.
When you work in PR and Marketing, you won’t be working a typical hours and you will have to work some weekends. That comes with the territory. It’s a high-pressure job and much of it is behind-the-scenes so there isn’t a lot of glory, but there’s nothing like the feeling when an event goes well or a story comes together and you see it in online or in print.
I typically keep weeknights free in case I have to work late or attend an event. If I do have drinks planned with girlfriends or dinner out with my husband, I’ll get back online later or get an early start the following day. Working in such a fast-paced industry and writing a blog means I am always working but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I make a conscious effort to be “present” wherever I am, so if I’ve told my team I have dinner plans I resist the urge to check work emails during that time.
What is a typical work day like for you?
I check and file all of my emails—for work, my blog, and my personal account—first thing. That way everything’s prioritized and organized; I might be slightly Type A! Then I catch up on news (I just started subscribing to The Skimm) and check out the latest Myspace editorial pieces while I have my coffee. My husband and I have a Boxer puppy so I take him for runs most mornings before getting on the road, or else I’ll do a Pilates or Barre class to mix it up.
I split my time between Myspace’s LA and Orange County offices so every day is different depending where I am, but the day is filled with pitching story ideas to reporters, working through upcoming marketing ideas, preparing for a speaking spot, etc.
Best moment of your career so far?
Reading all of the news about the Myspace launch in June 2013. I’d stayed at a hotel in West Hollywood after our launch party at the El Rey—Pharrell and Robin Thicke performed and Miley Cryus jumped onstage during “Blurred Lines”!—and was prepping for a phone interview on just a few hours of sleep, but seeing all of the great press made it all worth it. I was ready to get back to work!
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Worry less! Oh, and wear more sunscreen.
Kirby Brooks Todd is The Everygirl…
Morning or night?
This is so not cool, but I have become a morning person. That said, I’ve been known to pull an all-nighter when I have to!
Favorite way to unwind?
A glass of wine and some Netflix. I also love planning and researching trips and always have something on the horizon. Last year, I went to Sydney and Italy (for my honeymoon) and this year Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and London are in the works.
Coffee and a new issue of Vogue at home followed by brunch with girlfriends. A few hours at the beach before dinner cooked by my husband (he’s the cook in the family) and concert. Bonus points if the show is outside!
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
My mom when she was my age. A really good burger and pommes frites. Oh, and a glass of champagne.
Aidan or Big?
Gotta go with Mr. Big.