“If you are able to communicate, a company can teach you just about anything they want you to do.”
Andy Britton (B.A. in Public Relations and B.S. in Economics ’87) is the Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED. Inc. in Birmingham, AL. Over his 20 years with the Coca-Cola system, Britton has grown passionate about the Coca-Cola experience—the feeling consumers get when they pop open a Coca-Cola beverage. To ensure a positive Coca-Cola experience, he drives approximately 1,000 miles per week to manage relationships with businesses and universities across the Southeast. Britton continues logging the miles in his spare time, traveling the region as a football referee for the Southeastern Conference (pictured). As he looks into the future of the bottling industry, he sees a shift toward more sustainable practices through increased recycling initiatives. He looks forward to being part of this movement.
Read below to see Britton’s insight into his current career, where he sees his industry headed within the next five years and how C&IS helped create his story.
Why did you choose C&IS for your studies?
I’m originally from Athens, Ala., and was the first person in my family to go to college. For the first two years of my college experience, I went out-of-state to Florida College in Tampa, Fl., on a baseball scholarship. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to make my living or a career out of baseball and transferred home to The University of Alabama since I’ve always wanted to attend the school. I chose to major in Public Relations and study within C&IS because I knew that it would give me the communication skills I needed to secure a good job and fruitful career in the future.
What lessons from C&IS have helped you in starting your career?
I took a public speaking class with Dr. Bruce Roach and he always said that “60% of the people who watch professional wrestling believe that it’s real but 90% of those people vote in every election” meaning that the world is always viewed through different eyes. The most important thing I learned within C&IS is that you have to communicate. Whether it be verbally, in person or through broadcast, it is important to know how to be an effective communicator. If you are able to communicate, a business can teach you just about anything they want you to do. As long as you’re able to communicate you’ll always be successful.
Tell me about a typical workday for you.
There is no “typical” workday for me. I’ve been with the Coca-Cola system for about 20 years in various roles. In my role today as Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola bottling Co. UNITED, Inc., I drive about 1,000 miles every week. Our footprint spans from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, part of Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. I manage relationships with businesses and universities in the region, and each organization has a different group of stakeholders. Sometimes I may be meeting or speaking with the university presidents and sometimes it may be the Director of Student Life – but each of those individuals is looking at the brand partnership with my company through a different lens.
How do you see your industry evolving over the next five years?
I think that the next step in our industry is going to be recycling and sustainability. We do not produce any single-use vessels, all of our bottles and cans are specifically designed to be recycled. In fact, the aluminum cans that you drink out of every day have 70-90% of already recycled materials in their makeup. Our biggest challenge is actually getting the bottles back from consumers. Only about 10% of the plastic bottles are made out of recycled materials and we are trying to change that in the coming months and years. Our bottles are not necessarily going into a landfill but we are competing with carpet and clothing manufacturers along with other businesses who utilize recycled plastic materials.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your position?
The most challenging aspect of my position is when I have to deliver bad news. No one particularly likes to deliver bad news, but it’s challenging to deliver bad news to good people. One of my professors at C&IS once told me, “Public relations is the truth with sensitivity,” and I’ve always remembered that. You always need to tell the truth, but also be mindful of how you’re conveying the truth.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to share the experiences of our consumers. As a brand, we are all about the experience and the feelings you have when you drink one of our beverages. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to be a part of that experience and sharing in the joy.
What motivates you?
I enjoy what I do. Life’s too short to dread going to work. I am lucky to be in a career that I love and working for a company that I love.
Thank you, Andy!