Keira Lombardo, Hall of Femme 2019

EVP, corporate affairs, Smithfield Foods

What would you do if you weren't in PR?
If I did not work in PR, I would work in a field that is equally thought-provoking and stimulating, although I’m not sure exactly what form that would take. I am lucky my current role encompasses a number of different departments in addition to PR — government affairs, sustainability, investor relations, and compliance — all of which also present their own unique public relations challenges. My job is like what Forrest Gump’s mom said about life: It’s "like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." I love that.

Talk about the last time you experienced a fist-pumping victory moment.
It’s important to celebrate even the smallest wins. Life is full of fist-pumping victory moments — you just have to recognize them. For example, I fist-pumped this morning when my 2-year-old made it through the night without getting sick after a bout with the stomach flu. Anyone who has cared for a toddler with the stomach flu can appreciate that as a victory moment. Five minutes ago, I fist-pumped because, for the first time today, I had a clean inbox. It only lasted about 30 seconds, but it’s still worth celebrating.

When was the last time you endured a real "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?
August 3, 2018. It was a bad day for farmers and everyone who depends on them, which is essentially everyone. That morning in Raleigh, North Carolina, Smithfield Foods lost the third in a series of nuisance lawsuits. The jury awarded six plaintiffs a total of $474 million. While the actual award was later capped under North Carolina law to a total of $94 million, the verdict was outrageous and entirely unjustified.

I learned it’s important to keep fighting on behalf of Smithfield, the agriculture industry, and every person who depends on it. I learned our company is strong, and our people are even stronger, and, most gratifying of all, we have tremendous support throughout the agriculture industry, statewide, and nationally; in many local communities across the U.S., where Smithfield is vital to the economy; and from many of our elected and appointed government officials. I learned the importance of standing united to fight for fairness and justice. 

How long ago was the last time you took the time to recharge your batteries? What did you do?
Early this morning. At least four times a week, I wake up at least an hour before my husband and kids and spend that time exercising and preparing for the day ahead.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you sometimes?
At Smithfield, we are incredibly proud of the safe, high-quality food we provide to a global population and our industry-leading sustainability practices. However, a small but vocal minority targets our business purely because we are an animal agriculture company. This minority, because they do not like our business, generally will not engage in a dialogue with us.

Every day, I witness the hard work and dedication of so many Smithfield employees who commit themselves to doing business the right way. It is because of their commitment that I am most frustrated by those who rarely participate in meaningful communication.

Sustainability is firmly engaged in our company’s culture — from animal care, to environmental stewardship, to supporting local communities, and more — and I am proud of our role in providing food that is vital to the livelihood of millions of families. I am also proud of the way we communicate that important responsibility and build relationships that are founded in transparency, respect, education, a willingness to understand other perspectives, and two-way communication.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
I see Smithfield and our industry shine every day. Modern agriculture is a technological miracle. Today’s food is abundant, nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable.

Words to live by?
Pinch yourself every now and then, and stop and remember you are in "a Kodak moment." 

Favorite drink?
Old Fashioned.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Live life so that someday you won’t have to wish you could tell your younger self anything.

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will...
Be an example. 

Who are the three people, living or dead, you would like to host at a dinner party and why?
Joan of Arc, Coco Chanel, and Rosalind Franklin — all brilliant, perseverant, and resilient women.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter?
Welcome!

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