Global public relations leader Porter Novelli today announced that Sean Smith has joined the agency as a senior vice president on the agency’s global crisis communications team.
Smith joins the agency from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where he recently served as assistant secretary for public affairs. In that role he was responsible for developing and implementing the department’s strategic communications initiatives and major Department activities. Smith managed a 300-person public affairs staff at a diverse array of agencies under DHS including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Smith’s appointment is the latest addition to Porter Novelli’s growing specialty in crisis management. Last year the agency established Real-time Reputation, a new specialty created to help clients manage crises and competitive threats in the era of social media. More recently Porter Novelli announced the addition of noted corporate reputation expert Alex Woolfall in the UK.
“In the era of social media, clients and brands have greater reputational exposure than ever before,” said Gary Stockman, CEO, Porter Novelli, “and they need talent with the experience to prepare for and respond to adverse events in real-time. Sean’s background, especially at DHS, will make him a valuable addition to our team.”
Smith will report to Kiki McLean, the agency’s global head of public affairs, and will divide his time between Porter Novelli’s Washington, D.C. and New York offices, providing service to Porter Novelli’s global network.
While at DHS, Smith helped lead the Obama administration’s public response to the H1N1 outbreak, border violence in Mexico, attempted terrorist attacks, the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and dozens of other breaking news incidents. Additionally, he initiated the administration’s effort to update the formal system of communicating to the American people in times of a national incident, specifically the elimination of outdated color coded threat warnings and the implementation of a new system based on real-time alerts to communicate specific, actionable information.
Prior to joining DHS, Smith served as a spokesman for the Barack Obama presidential campaign and spent the general election as the communications director for the campaign’s efforts in Pennsylvania. Over the past 15 years, he has served as communications director and campaign manager for other statewide campaigns and as a consultant to dozens of clients. His experience includes working with major multinational corporations in the banking, insurance, chemical and telecommunications sectors, national and international non-profits, trade associates, labor unions and issues campaigns.
“I am pleased to join the Porter Novelli team, which offers such an impressive roster of global leaders in crisis and issues management,” said Smith. “I look forward to partnering with them to provide our clients with skills and expertise they will need to survive in today’s media environment – an environment where a crisis response is so often required.”
Smith earned his M.A. in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his B.S. in political science from the University of Oregon. He has lectured at the United States Military Academy at West Point and Johns Hopkins University, and currently teaches at Yale University.