Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile, we feature Donna Spurrier. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin. Wardrobe, hair and makeup by Michelle Torres.
Donna, tell us a bit about yourself.
So, I was supposed to be 1970’s – 1980’s singing sensation. My entire family sings and dad was a recording artist in the 1950’s. I received a recording contract in 1979 while in college and hit the road to Nashville to record. It turns out, as much as I like to sing and write songs, I did NOT like the music industry at that time! No details, just not a great place for a young single female to be. Yuck. After filling in my non travel times working for my dad as a copy writer, I quickly realized that song writing and copy writing are two very different animals! I was actually much more interested in strategy and media. As life would have it, I ended up gravitating to media and stayed there. Back in 1996 I really wanted to expand the impact of media to the overall process and started Spurrier (Media) Group to do that.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
Over the years I have been involved in many non-profit organizations, usually by way of Board position or to develop fundraising campaigns for marketing. Some include United Way, Goodwill, Heifer International, Women’s Work, The Healing Place, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and, currently, with Feed More in Richmond.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Inward focused, I’m pretty darn excited to have seen media work get such a great nod from the Ad Club as I was fortunate enough to receive Ad Person of the Year back in in 2012. This award is typically a creative one, not media, so that meant an awful lot. On the bigger scale, I couldn’t be prouder of my daughters. I was a working mom and always told the girls that half the workers in the world don’t love what they do and that their generation has the opportunity to invest in work that they can love. Both are hard workers, learned not to live beyond their means – they literally don’t have credit cards! They both have undergraduate degrees and then got additional education that they paid for to be able to do what makes them happy. And that…makes ME happy.
Who are your personal role models?
My dad. Dad was a well-known and successful ad guy in his day, and he was also one of the kindest and most joyful people you’d ever meet. When he passed away, we learned about so many many wonderful things that he had done for so many people we didn’t even know. When Jess asked you how you were doing, he actually wanted to hear the answer. His authenticity showed me what makes us valuable. It’s not the tangible things.
Did your dad offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
The example he set for me was to never stop thinking, inventing and communicating. Dad “invented” many things in addition to the Sell-a-thon and Toyota-thon concepts. He invented gadgets and basically short cuts to getting things done but he never got any of them patented or manufactured. My mind works the same way and I am hearing his voice cheering me on as I take my first product/invention and patent to market in the very near future!
What professional advice do you have for others?
I mentor a lot of students and for the younger adults coming into the workforce, I tell them that they don’t have to have a career at 25. You can have jobs in your twenties. Try a few. See what you think you’d like to still be doing in 30 years, and if you don’t like it enough to say that, move on. Don’t settle. You are not a failure if you haven’t figured out your lifelong career at 29!
Don’t be afraid of plan B. So many of us think we know what we want to do and either we aren’t successful at it or we don’t end up liking it enough to make a lifetime of it. Plan B’s are usually better thought out and a whole lot more realistic and that’s just fine. My oldest child was premed and in NY to go to med school when her plan B ended up being culinary school. She’s is a successful chef and loves her work. My youngest, a dancer in NY having danced her entire life, and with ankles that just couldn’t take the beating of dancing for a living, her plan B was the Aveda Institute and she is an excellent esthetician who also loves her job. I was a singer/song writer in the late 70’s and had been pretty much groomed for that most of my life. My plan B is Spurrier Group, and that worked out OK!
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Mostly music from the 1970’s but I tend to default to podcasts over music these days. Love some true crime, probably TOO much true crime. People are beginning to wonder! But also, industry shows like Behind the Numbers from eMarketer, Media Landscapes from Group M and the Digiday Podcast. Round that out with inquisitive shows like You’re Wrong About, The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe and Stuff You Should Know. See, I listen to a lot of podcasts!
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Oh goodness. There are SO many. Pretty much tied would be Nobu and Del Frisco’s. YUM!
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Well, in the kind of scary cynical world we live in today, I really do think most people are good. My husband thinks I’m a hopeless optimist, but I say, I’d rather be that than always looking for the next shoe to drop. Some people are surprised to learn that I color for stress relief. Like, seriously detailed coloring with alcohol based paint pens. I even travel with a really pared down version. I’m a nerd!