Matt Williams is profiled in Capitol Communicator.  Photos by Cade Martin.

Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile, we feature Matt Williams. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin.  Wardrobe, hair and makeup by Michelle Torres.

Matt, tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, and I’m a 30-year advertising nerd.  I started a month after graduation from William & Mary in 1989 with Ketchum Advertising in Philadelphia.  In 1991, I moved to Richmond to work for a cool creative shop called The Martin Agency.  I thought I’d spend a couple of years there while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  I ended up working there for 26 years, first as an Account Executive, then in Strategic Planning, and finally as CEO from 2014-2018.

I joined the founders of Brand Federation, Kelly O’Keefe and Dennis Duffy, as a Managing Partner in 2019.  It’s been an amazing adventure as we build a new approach to marketing strategy and assemble one of the nation’s largest networks of independent strategists.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

Yes, I’m Visiting Clinical Professor/Curriculum Innovation Fellow, William & Mary, Mason School of Business; and Executive Chairman, Everest – a super-talented digital design agency in Chicago.

What are the things you are most proud of?

My family. My wife is the kindest soul on earth. And our sons are generous, talented, funny, bright, decent, accomplished adults of 20 and 23.  They’re a lot like her.

Who are your personal role models?

My Dad. He always has a practical and wise perspective to offer. Growing up, he was the guy my friends always went to for advice. Now that I’m grown, I do it too.

My Mom. As my musical heroes, The Smiths, once said, “It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”

And, recently, my late friend Dean Jarrett. I’ve never known anyone who loved life the way Dean did and he invited everyone to love it with him.  I think about him almost every day.

Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

My Dad has given me too many words of advice to remember. But they always centered around doing the right thing and surrounding yourself with people whose values you respect and who respect yours.  Dean used to say, “Brother, things are happening to us now!” That’s when I knew we were on the right track.

What professional advice do you have for others?

John Adams, a mentor and long-time CEO of The Martin Agency, used to say business has become the most powerful force in the world.  We all have the responsibility to wield that power wisely.  Not just to make money, although money’s nice. But to channel our professional energy toward increasing rather than diminishing the well-being of ourselves and the world. Our energy is too precious and powerful to use any other way.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

My son’s band: House & Home and their album “Find Sense, Feel Love, Make Light” dropped on April 13, The National, Pinegrove, Jason Isbell, The War On Drugs, Okkervil River, Car Seat Headrest, The Avett Brothers, Frightened Rabbit, Lloyd Cole, Johnny Marr, Tigers Jaw, Wilco, The Replacements, REM, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, and always, The Smiths.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

In Richmond, I enjoy Triple Crossing for beer and pizza. I cried when Pasture closed. And it’s hard to beat takeout from 8 1/2.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’ve never tried hard boiled eggs or cottage cheese, and dammit, I never will. I used to be good at golf. I’m not anymore but I still love playing. At W&M I was a singer/guitarist in a band called the Flannel Animals.  We had five members, two of us were named Matt Williams.

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