Jessica Smith: 40 Under 40 2014

MD, public affairs and crisis practice, Burson-Marsteller
Age: 37

Jessica Smith is no stranger to fast-paced media relations and crisis communications. Before joining Burson-Marsteller in 2013, she worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as director of its office of external affairs and communications, managing more than 130 employees.

In that role, Smith served as the lead communicator for the federal government during more than 140 natural disasters, including Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and Superstorm Sandy. As a spokesperson for the Justice Department, she was on the frontline of the federal government’s response to the 2011 Jared Loughner attack in Arizona, in which he killed six people and injured 13 others, including US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Working closely with the nation’s 94 US attorneys, Smith advised on communications for other high-profile cases such as the US vs. Barry Bonds and the prosecution of Brian David Mitchell for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

She also orchestrated media campaigns for the department’s key areas of responsibility, including home foreclosure negotiations, the BP oil spills claims process, and the 9/11 Victims Fund.

As communications director for the office of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Smith masterminded the 18-month campaign to build all around support for his post-9/11 GI Bill to provide education and training for returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other career highlights include working with to promote the 2004 Vote for Change concerts, featuring prominent recording artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.

In her current role, she has used her wide-ranging skills and experience to good effect, including managing Ford’s launch of its 2015 F-150 pickup truck, garnering more than 90 million media impressions.

"Jessica has skillfully applied the political-style campaign model to private sector communications," says Dave DenHerder, senior counselor with Burson-Marsteller and WPP. "Her extensive background in strategic communications, campaign strategy, policy development, and stakeholder research is an invaluable asset to our firm."


• Smith edited Sen. Jim Webb’s New York Times best-seller A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America

• She has worked with diverse organizations and causes including Win Without War, the mainstream voice of the anti-war movement, and the What Would Jesus Drive? fuel-efficiency campaign

• Smith volunteers with Everybody Wins!, a nonprofit devoted to promoting children’s literacy and a love of reading

• She also supports Horton’s Kids, which works to educate and improve the lives of children in Ward 8 in Washington, DC

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