From riding past in her father’s taxicab to working inside the Oval Office, crisis management expert Judy Smith tells the little-known story of her path to becoming the first Black woman to brief the White House press corps. Smith, CEO of Smith & Company and the inspiration for Shonda Rhimes’s hit series “Scandal,” tells Yahoo
For a big part of her career, Judy Smith has been on speed dial for some of the world’s leading companies, high-profile celebrities, and individuals.
Smith is one of the most sought after crisis management experts in the world, with experience including such historic events as the Iran Contra investigation, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Sony Corporation hacking crisis, and the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization response to the SARS epidemic. Her incredible career as a “fixer” in Washington was so legendary that it became the basis for the hit TV show, Scandal, with Kerry Washington stepping into her shoes as the fearless Olivia Pope.
After decades of advising CEOs, brands, politicians and celebrities facing true make-or-break moments, Judy Smith founded Smith & Company, a powerhouse collection of crisis managers, strategists, storytellers and digital specialists working to help clients meet their goals all over the globe. Among other dynamic initiatives, her company has been at the forefront of bringing together business leaders and medical experts to help combat the devastating health and financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, they have also been advising companies on issues related to social justice and corporate culture.
Recently, Smith sat down for an in-depth discussion of her career, the art of crisis management and what it takes to lead a global organization in good times and bad. You can listen to the entire conversation above, and read highlights of that conversation below, which have been edited for length and clarity.