It is with admiration and appreciation that faculty, students and alumni are remembering Erica Holland Smith (ABJ ’10).
Smith died Nov. 19 and is being remembered for her impact in diversity initiatives, with a current student campaigns class and as a recent PRSA 40 under 40 winner.
Betty Jones, professor emerita, worked with Smith when she served on the executive board of PRSSA, a group that Jones advised. In addition to PRSSA, Smith was involved with The Arch Society, the Honors Program and was a UGA Amazing Student.
“She was a natural born leader, with a great work ethic,” Jones remembered about Smith who graduated with a degrees in advertising and Spanish.
In addition to her current job as account manager of innovation and diversity champion at Porter Novelli, Smith also founded The BW Factor, an organization dedicated to helping mid-level Black, Latinx and Asian women ascend to higher levels of management.
Jones added: “It was her dream to provide resources, mentors and allies to help break down unconscious biases and barriers to create more room for women of color at the top.”
Lauren Patrick (ABJ ’07) met Smith following graduation and socialized with her in Atlanta. “Our world is a bit darker without Erica’s light,” Patrick posted on her Facebook account.
Smith was always willing to reach back and help students behind her, as she was doing this semester by advising a group of public relations students in their capstone campaigns class.
Hallie Bauerband, a fourth-year public relations student, met Smith while working on the campaigns project focused on diversity in the PR industry. The following are excerpts that Bauerband wrote about the impact that Smith made as an alumna and role-model:
One zoom class period, I met Erica Smith… a successful industry pro who had experienced her fair share of feeling left out and hurt by the industry at times. Erica spoke about what it means to be an ally and shared that allyship often looks like sticking up for your colleagues when they’re wronged, even when they are not in the room or on the call.
She also shared about the business she started during COVID, The BW Factor. Erica mentored and helped others ascend, while simultaneously working a day job.
I enjoyed hearing Erica talk so much that I thanked her and connected with her on LinkedIn. She kindly sent me her email and responded with “thanks for your kind note and involvement today, please stay in touch and let me know if you need anything.” A relationship was formed.
A few weeks later when brainstorming for the allyship campaign, my team and I came across the Institute for PR’s “In A Car With IPR” video series with Tina McCorkindale. I did my research and thought Erica would make the perfect guest, so I pitched it to Tina. Tina liked the idea and we all met on Zoom to discuss the episode.
I don’t know Erica extremely well, but I know that in pitching to, working on her episode and conversing with her over LinkedIn, email and Zoom, she made the industry better because she was in it. Even in a brief college semester, working with Erica was a joy, an honor and something I really enjoyed. The BW Factor, her work at Porter Novelli, her heart for PR, her mentorship to Black and Brown women and dedication to teaching allyship to all, has 100 percent made the PR world a better place. Erica did that and touched me even through three short months of knowing and working with her.
This also made me thankful to be a part of an industry with amazing leaders like Erica who teach the younger ones and leave a legacy and an impact, simply through the way they communicate (even through only a few interactions, calls and messages).
Because good messages stick, but great messengers are remembered.
I wanted to share and honor Erica, along with her work in the PR industry and the heart she shared with students, as I am pretty sure this was all in her free time, or lack thereof. It meant the world to me and should 1000 percent be recognized. When you communicate with kindness and let your heart show in your messaging and the work you do, it absolutely matters and most definitely leaves a legacy worth remembering.