2013 Keynote Speaker
Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith & Co, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Over the last 25 years, Ms. Smith has brought her unique combination of communication skills, media savvy, legal and political acumen to clients facing a wide array of issues and challenges throughout the United States and abroad.
Ms. Smith honed her skills through her experiences with some of the most historic and sensational events of our time, including the Iran Contra investigation, the prosecution of former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the 1991 Gulf War, the Los Angeles riots, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, the President Clinton scandal involving Monica Lewinsky, the congressional inquiry of Enron, and the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization response to the SARS epidemic.
Perhaps best known in media circles for her expertise as a crisis management advisor, Ms. Smith has served as a consultant for a host of high profile, celebrity and entertainment clients over the course of her career including, but not limited to, Monica Lewinsky, Senator Craig from Idaho, actor Wesley Snipes, NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and the family of Chandra Levy.
In addition to her work as a communications advisor during high profile engagements, Ms. Smith also serves as a counselor to Fortune 500 corporations and has provided strategic advice on a variety of corporate communications issues such as mergers and acquisitions, product recalls, intellectual property litigation, corporate positioning, diversity and other challenges. She has assisted leading companies such as BellSouth, Union Pacific, Nextel, United Healthcare, Americhoice, Wal-Mart, Radio-One Inc., Waste Management Corporation, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG) on a range of corporate, investor, and public relations matters.
On the domestic front, Ms. Smith continues to be involved in many of the public policy issues facing the nation. She has worked with several federal agencies and organizations on issues including the housing crisis, childhood obesity, education, and economic development. She has also provided communications advice to government entities and municipalities including the United States Election Assistance Commission, the City of Cincinnati, the City of Detroit and Prince George’s County, Maryland.
In the international arena, Ms. Smith has provided counsel to several heads of state and executives of major corporations on matters in the Philippines, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Zimbabwe (Save Zimbabwe Campaign). In addition, she assisted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s leadership with its communication efforts as part of the War on Terrorism.
Ms. Smith’s portfolio of work also contains an impressive number of high profile engagements involving prominent figures from the world of professional sports. Over the last decade, Ms. Smith has been involved in legal matters concerning NBA players; Kobe Bryant, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard; NFL player Donte Stallworth; MLB’s Gary Sheffield. Smith was a key strategist in the successful defense of former New Jersey Nets Jayson Williams.
Prior to founding Smith and Company, Ms. Smith was a partner at several Washington D.C. – based public relations firms. Before that, Ms. Smith served as Senior Vice-President of Corporate Communications at NBC where she reported directly to the President and CEO and was responsible for the network’s strategic global communications strategy. Additionally, she served as NBC’s chief spokesperson for domestic and international programming and business ventures, and also helped with the groundbreaking launch of one of the nation’s first cable news stations, MSNBC.
In 1991, Ms. Smith joined the White House with her appointment as Special Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary to President George H. W. Bush. During her tenure she provided the President and his Cabinet with communications advice on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues.
Prior to joining the White House, Ms. Smith served as an Assistant United States Attorney and was Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, where she oversaw legal and communications work on a number of high profile criminal and civil cases.
Ms. Smith served as Associate Counsel and Deputy Director of Public Information in the Office of the Independent Counsel, Lawrence E. Walsh from 1987 to 1989. There she managed legal, as well as national and international public information for the Iran Contra prosecution of Oliver North, John Poindexter and several other defendants.
Ms. Smith has been featured in numerous national publications including: the Washington Post, National Journal, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and writes regularly on current events for the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast. Smith is an experienced and sought after commentator as a crisis management expert. She frequently appears on major television networks such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, NBC, ABC, and CBS to offer commentary on topical issues of the day. Ms. Smith also lectures on crisis management before corporate boards, academic institutions, and other professional groups.
Prior to her legal career, Ms. Smith worked as a writer and public affairs specialist for several publications and private organizations headquartered in Washington, D.C. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from Boston University and graduated from the American University Washington College of Law where she was the first African-American woman to serve as Executive Editor of the Law Review.
As a result of her wide ranging and ground breaking career, Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC’s hit television dramas Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, developed a television drama about the world of crisis management inspired by Ms. Smith. The series entitled, Scandal, revolves around the life and work of a professional fixer. Ms. Smith serves as Co- Executive Producer of the project and provides insight and technical expertise on crisis management issues.
Ms. Smith is the author of a forthcoming book, Good Self, Bad Self, on crisis management to be published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., and to be released in April 2012. She has received numerous communications and leadership awards and is active in community service.