Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now? – Brittney McCrae Todd (MA ’14), The Walt Disney Studios

GEMA launched its annual Externship Program in 2003, a unique experience where Georgetown seniors and graduate students spend one week in Los Angeles or New York during spring break meeting with a number of alumni from a variety of fields in entertainment and media. Over 200 students and more than 500 alumni have participated in the program over its first 18 years and many of the externs have gone on to roles across the media landscape. In our series The GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now?, we reconnect with past Externs to find out how their careers have progressed since graduation.

Brittney McCrae Todd is a VP of Global Marketing Strategy at The Walt Disney Studios.

In Todd’s role as Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy, she leads cross-functional go to market strategy for the studios slate of live action theatrical and Disney+ distributed film.

What was your first “big break” into your industry? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

In a lot of ways, I credit the 2014 GEMA externship as my first big break into the entertainment industry. I am someone who had zero connection to anyone in Hollywood or the west coast in general prior to that immersion in my final spring break of graduate school, so in a lot of ways that was my first exposure to realizing what could be possible after graduation. Seeing what was out there and mapping my path to getting there all accelerated with GEMA. A few months later after I graduated, I applied to so many jobs in California, but once I had the opportunity to interview at Edelman DC for an LA based position that’s what really got my foot in the door. I made the cross-country move to begin working in PR and the rest is history.

What was your first job?

That job at Edelman ended up being my first post-grad job in Los Angeles. I was hired as a digital media specialist so rather than working with one client, I was able to float across every account in the office that needed something on the internet promoted with more than earned media. I touched campaigns from Qualcomm to Sunkist, Samsung to Charles Schwab, and even Kardashian Beauty, but majority of my billable hours went to Starz which had hired Edelman as their social agency of record at the time. I handled all of the search engine marketing and paid social promotion across their slate of original shows.

What do you do in your job now? What is your favorite part of your current position?

In my current position I oversee 360 marketing strategy for The Walt Disney Studios, focused primarily on Disney Live Action titles. Essentially that means I sit at the center of creative advertising, digital marketing, publicity, media, and research to develop early marketing strategy, positioning, campaign timing, and ensure all day-to-day campaign elements align with overarching campaign goals. As someone who previously worked at both Universal Pictures and Netflix, my favorite part about this role is that I get to marry both of those experiences and market tentpole streaming and theatrical titles, regardless of their distribution medium. That level of flexibility is rare for a role in the current landscape, and I believe the skillsets I’m sharpening now are going to prove useful in the future. I also love that I work cross-functionally with so many teams on a daily basis – an amalgam of my experience through the years.

What was the externship experience like for you? Did it have an influence on your career/help kickstart your career?

The externship heavily influenced my career trajectory. I could tell it was the start to something greater and I couldn’t stop thinking about LA after returning to DC. The conversations I had during the externship fueled a curiosity in me that I carried through the end of my final semester. Motivated more than ever, I traveled to LA 2-3 more times for interviews that summer until I finally landed a role I was able to interview for from DC – the irony!

What part(s) of the Externship did you find most valuable?

I was the first person from Georgetown’s PRCC program to participate in the GEMA program and that proved to be a very unique experience. I could tell the program leads went out of their way to find PR and marketing executives for me to meet with since I didn’t really have the same goals as my fellow peers who had come from the business school and law program. In the end, the exposure to the city and access to alumni willing to share their stories was the most valuable part of the experience, although meeting on a few studio lots wasn’t that bad either.

What was your experience like attending Georgetown? Were there any particularly formative experiences that were special to you?

Since this was my second time around at college, I squeezed every opportunity I could out of attending Georgetown and I went in with very specific goals in mind – finding a pathway to break into the industry, study abroad, and gain a powerful alumni network. I knew there was a limited window to get it all done but I was very thoughtful from start to finish on what I wanted to accomplish by graduation day. In addition to GEMA, traveling to Den Haag with my Advanced Digital Strategy class to work at Weber Shandwick was a highlight of my time in the PRCC program. Studying abroad was the one thing I didn’t get to do during my undergraduate years, so being able to travel to Europe to not only study but also pitch to leading PR executives was an experience I will never forget.

What’s your advice for an undergraduate trying to break into your industry? Is there anything you would tell your younger self now?

My advice to undergraduate students is often, be able to tell your story. The journey isn’t always linear, but be able to connect your experiences and tell your own story on paper and orally. Once it makes sense to you, it will make sense to those around you.

As a graduate student, I also had a full time job at USA Today and was often heading to campus after a very long drive battling Tyson’s traffic after a long day of work. I would tell my younger self that it is all going to be worth it one day!

Who is someone in your career who has been a valuable mentor or role model to you, and why?

There are several people in my life that I see as mentors and role models I can look up to, but there are certain peers who I work beside everyday in this industry, and it’s those women who I find myself leaning on in times of self reflection and decision making. I have an amazing network of friends in the industry and particularly other women of color I lean onto for advice. We celebrate each other’s wins, acknowledge when we need to be seen, support each other, and push one another when needed. If you don’t have anyone like that in your circle, you’ve got an open invite from me here.