Mike Smith

SVP of PR, Yes& Agency


What, if anything, are you doing differently?

The pandemic has built perspective for me that we are just human beings passing through and there is great humility in all of the responses to coronavirus.

I have moved during this pandemic to our newly built home in Bethany Beach to ride-out the pandemic in a small Delaware town. The new digs allow me to run 5 miles every day on the ocean shore or at the many Delaware state parks where I see so much of nature. I’m able to see sea hawks catching fish at the salt marsh nearby, a red fox running through the pine forests and other wonderments of nature here.

I am very busy helping our clients pivot and cope with the market forces. For several clients, particularly in online education or remote technology services, this is “go time.” Today, we have a story in the New York Times and on the AP with another soon to follow in the Wall Street Journal on whether or not traditional colleges will even open in the fall. Twenty million college kids need to continue to matriculate and online education will emerge stronger from social distancing.

For one client, we have found new success supporting women in the Congo who are enslaved in the mineral mines and are now becoming enfranchised through education and economic development. A portrait gallery of images of these women and children called Out of the Mines— shot by my friend documentary portrait artist Barry Harley— has won national honors in the Communications Arts photography contest. Now, the Ford Foundation has found us and may offer the client new resources to focus funds on gender equality in difficult mining workplaces.

Are you staying creatively active?

Yes, we engage with the Agile Marketing system at Yes& which is highly collaborative. We have moved our meetings to Google Hangouts and are using Trello cards to develop stories and creative arcs for client engagements. I am able to brainstorm with the next gen PR people and digital rock stars who have new ideas on how to tackle traditional marcomm problems—and Yes& is committed to support clients who are worried about these headwinds and market forces. Our team also has virtual lunch room and other meet-up spots where we share the latest news on “Love is Blind” Netflix episodes.

 I am also enrolled in a virtual racing series with my Seashore Striders running club. We have various targets to meet with races beyond 5K to a 10K, 5 miler to a 10 miler and now a half marathon to run. So there is some great support within this network on social media and the local Gannett papers have been following the charity runs— which have raised almost $8,000 for regional healthcare workers and the Red Cross.

How are you sparking yourself creatively?

Like so many of us who are senior communicators, I know that “This Too Shall Pass.” My wife Cheryl is an editor and content creator with Yes& and she is sort of my muse so we can brainstorm work together! I only hit the wall for one or two days when we faced mandatory lockdowns from Governors in Virginia and Maryland and self-quarantine; I felt my creative freedom to “move” somewhat impinged upon.

I am able to spark new creative thinking by getting a little more sleep (going to bed earlier!), really  pushing the exercise and joining Zoom calls with family and church community. It’s fun to go to Mass in my red terry cloth bathrobe!

View Mike’s original Capitol Communicator profile here.