40 Under 40 2020 | Derrick Plummer, SKDKnickerbocker, 39

In the thick of it is where you'd most often find SKDKnickerbocker SVP Derrick Plummer over the years, as his professional life carried him from Congress to government, to the labor movement, Edelman and beyond.

That’s certainly the case at SKDK where, not too long ago, Plummer led the United Auto Workers’ war room and communications work in its dispute with General Motors. His efforts framed the strike so successfully the UAW won its fight with the automaker.

But even Plummer’s first professional at-bats were in the center of things, initially as a deputy press secretary for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and then as comms director for Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin’s first and only elected African-American federal official. Plummer then leveled up, serving as on-the-record spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee and its director of African-American media affairs.

But then government service trumped politics and Plummer found himself in the middle of the mortgage controversy and handling comms around the $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement agreement as chief spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and comms adviser to then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The next step again involved a major issue: managing comms and strategy for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s Making Change at Walmart campaign.

Plummer’s first role in the private sector came at Edelman on that agency’s crisis and reputation team in Atlanta. His past experience earned him a shot at managing a $1 million portfolio, which he grew 15%.

He was then given a $3 million crisis comms portfolio at his new agency home, the bipartisan shop Purple Strategies. His approach to media training there helped revenue in that portfolio grow 10%.

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