Inside Digital: Kimberly Smith – How She Navigated from Advertising Intern to Senior Media Strategist

Photo: Sabrina Vaz Holder

Kimberly Smith
Senior Media Strategist,Centro

Tell us about your role at Centro: what’s a typical day like and what’s the most challenging aspect of your role?
I’m responsible for putting together digital media recommendations for a variety of clients ranging from advocacy to retail and more. The beautiful thing about working in digital, especially at Centro, is that each day is different. However, typical tasks for my role would include staying abreast of what’s going on within the advertising space by reading trade publications/blogs, meeting with media or technology vendors, conducting research via comScore, communicating with clients, reviewing proposals for the creation of media plans, optimizing campaigns and a host of other activities.

The most challenging part of my role is also the reason why I love it. Digital media literally changes every day and once you think you have mastered one thing, a new technology that you must learn in order to stay effective takes off. It’s important to never stop learning.

How did you get your start working in advertising and how did you hone your expertise?
I actually got my start in advertising during undergrad at Howard University, where I majored in advertising. In my junior year, I took a Media Planning & Buying class and decided that was the role for me. I interned through a program called MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Intern Program) the summer before my senior year and was placed in New York. After graduation I returned to New York and worked in Media, but then returned to Washington, DC to continue my career.

My expertise within the digital media space comes from experience. I have been working in this space for 10 years and I have made it my duty to stay on top of trends and continue to learn. The projects that I have been blessed to work on across a variety of different industries have allowed me to test out new tactics and strategies, which keeps things exciting. Lastly, mentorship has been so essential for my career. I have worked with some awesome individuals that took me under their wing and pushed me to take on new challenges.

Photo: Sabrina Vaz Holder
Photo: Sabrina Vaz Holder

The lack of diversity in advertising is a huge issue, yet you have made a mark and established a successful career. How did you penetrate the industry?
The key for me was to not give up and to always put my best foot forward. Michael Jordan said it best, ” I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” Of course there would be times, when I was literally the only person of color in a room, but I made a point to let my expertise and knowledge lead. At the end of the day, I know what I bring to the table regardless of what I look like.

What’s been a low moment in your career and how did you deal with it?
Advertising is a client services business at the end of the day, so you want to make sure your clients are always happy. I had an issue where a client was extremely disappointed with the outcome of a campaign. While this was discouraging, the key was to find a solution. We were able to brainstorm and work with our vendors to give the client make-good options.

Photo: Sabrina Vaz Holder
Photo: Sabrina Vaz Holder

What are the biggest career lessons you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?
1. As cliché as it sounds, your network is your net worth because relationships are key. In the advertising/marketing industry who you know can help you get your foot in the door. It is important to do internships, attend networking events, find a mentor, join industry groups and even focus on branding yourself online to stand out from the competition.

2. Your attitude determines your latitude. It is so important to have a positive attitude at work and just be a kind person. This will actually take you a long way especially within the communications industry. People will value you and remember if you were kind to them, as well as if you were a joy to work with. The digital media industry is small, so it is important to have a good reputation and not be viewed as a negative person that is difficult to work with.

3. To live is to learn. Never stop learning and do not be afraid to pick up a book and read, travel, take on a new hobby or whatever floats your boat. Inspiration is all around us and in order for us to be creative there needs to be a source for that innovation. Learning also involves remaining humble and not thinking that you know it all. There is always something to be learned because we are all students of life.

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