Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Mike Smith. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Mike, please provide us a short bio.
This is an update from April 2019 and it’s amazing to see what has transpired from a year ago when I sold my GreenSmith PR boutique practice after 20 years in business to Yes& Holdings, LLC and Jeb Brown and Bob Sprague in Alexandria.
We brought national clients focused on technology, biotech, clean energy, environmental issues and public affairs. The largest client over the past ten years has been the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and they came over to Yes&. We have always worked at the intersection of public policy outcomes and media—producing client-centered strategic results.
Prior to starting GreenSmith PR, I worked at three of the top ten PR firms in the world: Burson-Marsteller as an AE on P&G Brands; Edelman PR as VP of Technology accounts including Microsoft; HAVAS PR as GM of the Washington office and EVP of public affairs. Earlier, I was the director of public affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers and also served as the first founding executive director of its NAM Manufacturing Institute foundation. I started my career over 35 years ago at Dow Chemical Company in Michigan where I was a Marketing Communications Specialist.
I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media & IMC; and I also attended Columbia’s Graduate Journalism School.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I am a “Silver Owl” with 25 years of history with the National Press Club and am active on the headliners committee where we book top newsmakers every week and the communicators committee. I am a member of PRSA and the Capitol Chapter. I do a great deal of service work in the community especially in the opioid addiction crisis which has affected so many families. I was a member of the American Red Cross public affairs rapid response team for many years—literally chasing hurricanes to assist in crisis communications.
What are the things you are most proud of?
I am proud to have been named as an appointee by President Obama at the U.S. Department of Commerce for five years working on behalf of the Northern Virginia Tech community as an international trade advisor on trade missions with the ITAC 8. I am pleased to have attended the COP15 UN Summit on Climate Change as a U.S. trade delegate and as a reporter for Huffington Post.
I am proud to have won three national editorial awards from the Quill & Scroll, Dallas Morning News and a Silver Anvil from PRSA for best editorial series: “Giving Energy a Voice.” Our agency more recently won an ACE Award from IABC for work with Software AG. GreenSmith just won the Ragan PR Daily Best CSR Award Program for corporate and community non-profit partnerships with NFWF and International Paper. We are amazing editorial writers, placing them in tier one dailies, and our clients see the value in great corporate social responsibility work.
Who are your personal role models?
My biggest role models are Arianna Huffington in media and Ted Leonsis in media, sports and entertainment. I was lucky to work closely with both of them along with Craig Newmark and his early philanthropic work in media.
Mike Deaver, Leslie Dach and Rob Rehg at Edelman were big influences on how to manage tech clients. Before that, Dave Coronna at Burson was an early career guide on consumer packaged goods and brands.
I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and believe strongly in the value of connectors having more impact than any original introductions. I am now following Brian Solis very closely and reading his new book Lifescale. I loved the Solis and Geoff Livingston collaboration “Now is Gone!” I read a ton of Seth Godin – of course he makes it simple.
Did these role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
One person told me: “They are not really a client until you’ve signed them, serviced them, invoiced them and the check has cleared the bank!” And, the same guy said: ”Smitty you have already peed all over that fire hydrant; now go down the block and take a leak on another one!” In other words, don’t over-service.
What professional advice do you have for others?
Everyone knows my motto is: “Plan your work and work your plan!” According to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies book, I am an “Upholder” of lists, deliverables and keeping our commitments.
More zen-like advice is to really give back to our profession and be an advocate for PR professionals. We have mentored people who are now at the New York Times, the White House, running communications for Hilton and many other amazing organizations.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Stones, Springsteen, Petty, Young, Eagles, Beatles. I listen to Spectrum on XM radio. I am starting to give Country a chance because these artists are really storytellers.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Café Kindred, Falls Church, for breakfast, National Press Club Reliable Source for lunch, and Ford’s Fish Shack in the burbs for dinner.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I have returned to competitive running as a sport. I have run 50 5K races in the past two years, earning a top-three place in 30 of those charity races and a medal from the sponsors – I have lots of bling!. I lost about 40 pounds in this process so my picture here may be striking to some old friends in our PR business!
This year, I’ve already medaled in three races this spring in DC, Virginia and Florida. I run for the Potomac Valley Track Club at the master’s level and competed in the USATF indoor track championships last year. I also run for Potomac River Running club and for the Delaware Seashore Striders club in Rehoboth and Bethany Beach. I will compete in the Atlanta Track Club’s 50th annual Peachtree 10K road race this summer!
Right now, I am running a virtual six-pack competition with Seashore Striders that is really stretching my personal limits. It includes a one-mile race (which I did in 6:45!), 5K, 5 miler, 10K, 10 miler and now I have to finish a half marathon.