Defining Your Destiny: A Crisis Management Professional Maintains That Solid Work-And Integrity-Will Always Point You in the Right Direction

By Alleyne, Sonia | Black Enterprise, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Defining Your Destiny: A Crisis Management Professional Maintains That Solid Work-And Integrity-Will Always Point You in the Right Direction


Alleyne, Sonia, Black Enterprise


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IN 1987, JUDY SMITH HAD ACCEPTED A POSITION WITH A LAW firm in New York and was meeting a girlfriend for a goodbye lunch in Washington, D.C. Her friend's colleague joined them and in conversation asked Smith what she thought of the press handling of the Iran-Contra hearings. When Smith didn't mince words about their poor performance and offered suggestions for a readjustment in strategy, she was offered a job. The two-year assignment as associate counsel and deputy director of Public Information in the Office of the Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh set the stage for Smith's life work in crisis management. By 1991, Smith was appointed special assistant and deputy press secretary to President George H. W. Bush, providing communications advice to the president and his cabinet on foreign and domestic issues.

She would hold several other positions in Washington, at firms, and in corporate business before starting her own crisis management firm, Smith & Co. Smith was in such demand that she didn't even have a website or business cards when she opened but still worked steadily, managing a long list of headlining challenges for embattled corporations, celebrities, and sports figures, as well as world leaders and local politicians. Monica Lewinsky, Sen. Larry Craig, Wesley Snipes, Michael Vick, and corporations such as WalMart, Nextel, and UnitedHealthcare have all benefited from Smith's expertise.

Smith would continue to work under the public's radar until an introduction to television producer Shonda Rhimes, where what was supposed to be a 15-minute meeting turned into two hours. Since that meeting, Smith has added executive producer to her long list of credentials--for the ABC hit Scandal, where main character Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) is inspired by Smith's work in Washington. The attention is new territory for the woman known as America's No. 1 crisis expert, but Smith, also the author of Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets (Free Press; $16), and speaker at BE's Women of Power Summit in Orlando this month, advises women to always be fluid and fearless in their approach to new opportunities.

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How does one build a reputation to become an industry go-to person?

Part of building a solid reputation for what you do is to focus on the work. Hard work trumps luck all the time. …

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