Auburn Spotlight on Margie Maddux Newman
Auburn wasn’t part of Margie Maddux Newman’s plans.The 2002 graduate was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, where she began performing in professional theatre at the age of six. She planned to attend New York University to pursue her dreams in musical theatre. But one step on Auburn’s campus changed all that.
“I remember calling my mother and saying, ‘I’m somewhere in the state of Alabama and I’m not sure where, but I’m going here to college,’” said Newman. “There was so much excitement in the air and there were so many people, yet it still felt like a family and like everyone sort of knew each other. Everyone had their families, kids and significant others with them, it was exciting and sort of romantic in a way. It just felt like home and I immediately knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Although Auburn did not offer a major in musical theatre like New York University did, that didn’t stop Newman. She was able to discover a new passion through some of Auburn’s on-campus organizations such as Auburn University Singers, Auburn University Choir, Student Government Association, Camp War Eagle and Auburn University’s student-operated radio station, WEGL.
“What shaped me most for my career was all of Auburn’s extracurricular activities. Part of what makes Auburn such a great place to go to college is that you start learning more about yourself through being involved on campus,” said Newman. “I realized what I loved about theatre was being in front of an audience with the adrenaline, thinking quickly on my feet and communicating messages to a large group, and I realized I could do that through mass communication.”
In 2002, she earned her bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film. It was the decision to attend Auburn that changed the course of her life. Sixteen years after earning her degree, Newman was named the 2018 Communicator of the Year by San Diego’s International Association of Business Communicators, or IABC, chapter. Newman has worked her way through the ranks and is now a founding partner and managing director of Intesa Communications Group.
Newman credits much of her success to her time at Auburn.
“At Auburn, to be involved in almost any organization, you have to interview,” said Newman. “By going through the interview process you learn how to dress, how to hold yourself, how to advocate for yourself while staying humble, how to engage with people and how to work with others. That’s the reason I was successful when I got out of Auburn. Auburn prepares you for real life in a way that most universities don’t.”
After she graduated, Newman landed her first ‘real’ job outside of Auburn as a press aide for Phil Bredesen, former governor of Tennessee. One day in the press shop, the governor said to Newman, “I wish there was a way to take these recordings, download their sound bites and send them out to all of the radio stations.” These recordings, called actualities, were recordings taken on handheld tape recorders of the governor speaking to communities. At the time, not all of the radio stations in Tennessee had access to the equipment needed to broadcast these recordings. However, Newman called one of her mentors at Auburn, Robert French, who helped her solve the problem.
“I remember calling Robert and saying ‘Hey, can you help me figure out how to do what the governor is asking me to do? I feel like there is a way,’” Newman said. “Robert took hours out of his day to sit down and help me find the technology that allowed me to record the governor’s voice, get an mp3 and send it to all the radio stations. All of a sudden, at 21 years old, I became the technology go-to person as a public relations professional. It’s the reason I had so much success in my early career and Robert French was a huge part of that. Had he not taken the time to work with me, it just wouldn’t have worked.”
French, an instructor in the School of Communication and Journalism in Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts, teaches a course on style and design in public relations messages. In the class, his students learn how to make websites, magazines, tutorials, brochures and much more through coding and multimedia design.
“He always goes the extra mile,” said Newman. “I can’t even imagine how many of us have that same story. You could probably call him right now and he would answer the phone and say ‘How can I help?’ I really believe he was put on this Earth to make a difference in our professional lives.”
After her work as a press aide for Bredesen, Newman went to work for Hall Strategies, a public relations firm in Nashville, where her high-profile work landed her among PR News’ 2008 Top 15 Young PR Pros to Watch, a national award recognizing 15 of the country’s outstanding public relations professionals. After receiving national recognition, Newman was recruited by The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington D.C. where she served as a media relations and social media manager for The Pew Center on the States.
“There were a lot of career bucket list items I checked off early, so the next thing would be to start my own company,” Newman said.
In 2012, Newman launched Intesa Communications Group, a San Diego-based communications and government relations firm serving clients nationwide. At Intesa, Newman performs reputation management, crisis communication and high-profile work for her clients. She wanted to start her own business to ensure she was doing her best work for clients she truly believed in and that were going to leave their communities and employees better than they found them. To achieve this goal, she relied on the foundation Auburn instilled in her through the Auburn Creed.
“It was weird to me that no matter what Auburn organization you joined, they wanted you to memorize the Auburn Creed,” Newman said. “Then, all of a sudden, I realized it’s because the creed is the foundation of pursuing the things that you are excited about. Going to Auburn gave me an appreciation for starting out to achieve a goal with your value set under a firm footing. At Auburn, we relied on the Auburn Creed to start out in the same place with our values and respect for one another and that is the foundation of the kind of business I wanted to start, so I thank Auburn for that foundation,” said Newman.
Newman is a mother of two young children, member of the San Diego First United Methodist Church, YMCA of San Diego County Board of Directors, LEAD San Diego Board of Directors and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Public Policy committee.
“The volunteer and community work I do is a big part of who I am because I want my kids to understand that it’s our responsibility to leave our community better than we found it,” said Newman. “Surprisingly, being a Camp War Eagle counselor inspired me to do more in the nonprofit world. Working with the parents and incoming freshmen, you realize the important things aren’t just the fight song and registering for classes. It’s also the comfort you’re giving them, teaching them where you go to eat breakfast and where Momma Goldberg’s is – the work that you’re not really there to do. I feel like my experience as a Camp War Eagle counselor was teaching me that it’s what you do in the meantime that can really move and influence your community, and that means a lot to me.”
Written by Deidra Thames, Office of Communication and Marketing, Auburn University
Last Updated: August 21, 2018