Todd Smith is returning home – at least in a business sense.
Smith, a former star football player (and sometimes mascot) at Jackson Academy and now president and chief communication officer of Deane, Smith and Partners, says the Jackson area is home for the new office of his Nashville-based public relations, marketing, advertising and branding agency.
“I’m very excited about bringing Deane, Smith and Partners to Jackson,” said Smith. “I’m a Jacksonian, and this is a coming home of sorts for me.
“I’m excited about tapping into the unlimited potential in Jackson.”
Smith, the agency’s president and chief communications officer, and his partner Silas Deane founded DS&P in 1999. Deane, Smith and Partners creates strategic branding campaigns, and already has three Jackson clients – Butler Snow law firm, Faces Clinic and Waggoner Engineering.
“About year and a half ago, Butler Snow tapped Nashville as one of its top-growth areas. We won them as a client, and we do all their public relations and marketing,” said Smith. “That relationship with Butler Snow opened a door into Jackson.
“Three strong clients have now given us a foothold in Jackson, so now we’re officially opening our Jackson office. We feel there’s an abundance of opportunity here. Jackson is a thriving business center and a huge health care magnet.”
Smith said the new office is in the Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland. The agency also has an office in Washington, D.C.
Smith was born in Dallas, but moved to Jackson when he was four years old and graduated from Jackson Academy in 1984.
At JA, he was an all-conference center and defensive end, and sometimes played the role of mascot, donning the “Raider’s” tight white pants, black boots, and the big plume. “It’s not something I’m proud about,” he said jokingly, “but it’s something people may remember me from.”
He also swam and played tennis, but his first love was writing.
“I’d call myself an average student, but two of the biggest influences in early life on the writing side were the librarian Judy Kirkpatrick, who recently passed away, and my creative writing and English teacher Bobbie Downey,” said Smith. “Those two were critical in forming my passion for writing and stringing words together on a written page.”
Smith went on to earn a journalism degree at Baylor University in his native Texas, then spent five years as a business and police writer and country music critic at the Washington Times.
“My passion has always been writing,” he said. “I think most successful public relation firms are advanced by people who know how to write. A foundational base to our business is good solid writing.”
He used that writing skill during the several years he spent in public relations. He was public relations manager of Gaylord Entertainment’s Opryland operation and did PR work with Hospital Corporation of America — experience that would come in handy when he and Deane launched DS&P in 1999.
“Our niche has always been in health care and health care technology,” Smith said. “About five years ago, we decided to maintain our core, but go into other areas like the financial services industry, technology and tourism.
“A big part of what we do is advise our clients on government relations. My partner, the Deane in DS&P, and I both have backgrounds in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. He was Al Gore’s press secretary, and I was a speechwriter for George W. Bush.”
But Smith said he has a vision for growing the company.
“It’s interesting, with the recession, a lot of agencies had to find a way to survive, ways to grow or shutter,” he said. “So there were a lot of agencies that closed down.
“What I saw, as someone running an agency, was that we needed to figure out a way to bridge the digital divide. When my partner launched the company 14 years ago, he was smart enough to know the future of the industry was web-based, digital, app development and social media. A big component then was website development, so we have a technology team that does website development.
“Social media is the tip of the spear for our industry.”
Deane, Smith and Partners has seen success in year-over-year growth. “We had $1.6 million in revenue last year, and are looking at $1.8 million this year. We expect to be around $2 million next year,” said Smith.
Other major clients include The National Foundation for Cancer Research, Electrolux, the Hutton Hotel, Healthcare Information Management Systems Society, Baden Supply, The Buffkin Group, Cybera Inc., Microsoft Health and the Sumner County (Tenn.) Board of Education.
He hopes to expand hiring in the Jackson area as more clients come on board.
“As business ramps up, we’ll be hiring more account executives,” he said. “I’ll be looking for strong entry level folks and senior level folks.
Smith and his wife of 18 years, Grace, make Nashville home, and they have two children, Zachary, 13, and Mary Grace, 11. Smith’s parents, J. George Smith and Mary Elizabeth Smith, and his brother Brad all live in Jackson.