Member Spotlight: Madeleine Smith

Public relations professionals strive to initiate change. This could be a change in policy, a change in sales or a change in social media following. Utah Valley PRSA member Madeleine Smith also believes that the change can and should be within yourself.

“In communications, you have to believe what you’re saying,” Smith says. “The things you say will likely change you, and you need to put yourself in a situation that they can change you for the better.” 

Changing as a student

Smith first saw herself change in her introductory PR class at Brigham Young University. In one class period, famed professor Laurie Wilson said something that Smith will never forget. Wilson said, “In public relations, we don’t manipulate—we persuade.”

That quote resonated with Smith, who had grown up with two younger sisters. She admits that the games they played were almost always her choice, and when it came to imaginative play, she decided which superpower they each had and which dragon they got to ride.

“I’ve been called manipulative before,” Smith says. “But I realized at that moment that I’m just persuasive.”

Smith combined her persuasive nature with her eye for detail and love for strategy, which led to a very successful student career. She completed multiple internships with organizations such as Franklin Covey, the BYU Marriott School of Business, and Congressman Raúl Labrador from Idaho.

“Nothing in the classroom rivaled the experience I gained through my internships in terms of learning what people expect from me,” Smith says.

Changing as a professional

In June 2017, Smith graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and an editing minor. Upon graduating, she took a job at Arrive Utah, a nonprofit organization in Provo, UT, aimed to find solutions to poverty.

In her current position, Smith heads up the organization’s marketing and communications efforts. She develops the social media strategy and creates all the social media content. She also designs print materials such as brochures and flyers, plans events and takes photographs.

Additionally, Smith advises other advocacy groups on improving their marketing efforts. She provides them with materials and helps them develop their strategy. She will even host a webinar training on best practices for nonprofit communications in a few weeks.

“Being in this position has been a good challenge,” Smith says. “It has made me learn and grow more than I would have in any other setting. I’m so glad this is the first job I had out of school.”

In the short months that she has been working in the field, Smith has seen herself grow professionally and increase her skill set. She has a personal professional development plan to expand on what she learned as a student. She attends PRSA events and industry conferences to continue learning. Smith also spends much of her free time watching webinars and listening to podcasts to improve her design, social media and other skills.

Changing as a person

Smith, a North Carolina native, has also seen herself change her passions while at her current position. She finds working in the nonprofit sector both emotionally taxing and rewarding.

“Doing PR to help others and change the narrative about why someone is in poverty has completely changed the person I am,” Smith says. “It has changed my political beliefs and my understanding of where I come from and where I’m headed.”

Though Smith isn’t sure where the future will take her and her husband, Drew, she plans to stay involved with social causes and volunteer work.

“I’m always going to be personally invested in this cause,” Smith says. “This will always be a part of my life even if it’s not my job.”

Written by Maggie Kuta

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