Turning Mayhem into Shared Expertise to Benefit Many
As executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Ewell Smith has found himself in the eyes of hurricanes and the public eye for 13 years. (note: the following article was originally published on the Louisiana Seafood News site)
Large-scale crisis communications. High-profile issues management. Post-disaster rebranding. Smith and the board of directors have handled them all.
Now, they never set out to acquire such hard-won expertise. But in recent years, they sure have earned it. Crisis after crisis – delivered by the hand of God and man alike.
Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Isaac and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill compelled them to expand Louisiana Seafood’s mission and scope of work.
(How did the the Seafood Board coordinate over 3,000 media interviews immediately following the BP Oil Spill? Click here.)
Like the 12,000+ commercial fishermen they represent, Smith and board members know how to dig out and move on after surviving seemingly impossible odds. That kind of moxie gets you a global, go-to reputation.
His expertise is sought out by government officials, industry leaders, business people – and on occasion, even royalty. Sometimes, they travel thousands of miles to Louisiana Seafood’s offices on Lake Pontchartrain to learn firsthand.
Over 95% of America was afraid to eat our seafood following the BP oil spill. We had to revive the Louisiana Seafood brand twice, once following Hurricane Katrina and again with the spill. We leveraged every PR and marketing tool available.
Akio Ono, president of Ono Foods Co., Ltd., knows all too well about the kind of large-scale destruction inflicted on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in recent years.
In 2011, his seafood plant in Kamaishi City sustained heavy damage from a tsunami caused by one of the most powerful earthquakes to ever hit Japan.
With other Japanese leaders, Ono visited America to provide post-tsunami updates to U.S. agencies, and learn how similar disasters were handled here.
As part of an effort to revitalize the seafood industry and spur economic development of Kamaishi City, they came to Louisiana to get insight from the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
Before Katrina, market development and product promotion were the board’s two main missions. Afterward, communicating about the viability of Louisiana’s commercial seafood community became paramount, a problem now facing the Japanese seafood industry.
No one was prepared for Hurricane Katrina, said Ewell Smith, the board’s executive director.
Louisiana sustained more than a billion dollars in damage to its seafood community from the 2005 storm.
Smith walked the Japanese businessmen through the steps being taken today to rebuild the fishing community and the Louisiana seafood brand after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Hurricane Isaac last year.
Afterward, Ono said: “Listening to your story has given us inspiration that we can do something more.”
ADVOCACY – DC Annual Walking the Hill – Led the Way Securing $150 Million from Congress Following Hurricane Katrina
High heels and wingtips, clicking and clacking on marble steps. The constant buzz of voices, bouncing off the walls of flag-lined corridors. Hands continuously in motion, shaking and passing paper after paper from one to another.
These were the sights and sounds of “Walk the Hill” week, with the Louisiana Seafood Board and members of the Gulf Oyster Industry Council (GOIC).
Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, and assistant executive director Kristin McLaren and staff member Krystal Cox joined other seafood advocates from five Gulf states in Washington, D.C.
Year after year, they meet with federal agencies, congressmen, senators and their staff to educate them on the needs and concerns of the state’s diverse seafood industries: crab, oyster, shrimp, finfish, alligator and crawfish.
“This annual event is the one opportunity each year where we can communicate face-to-face the needs of our Louisiana seafood community, especially in times of crisis,” said Smith.
“It is important to every fisherman, processor, distributor, chef and restaurant in Louisiana to have those that represent us in Washington knowledgeable on the effects of the programs and legislation they initiate.”
By the end of the weeklong event, the group of 30+ seafood veterans visited more than 30 congressional and administration offices, including all but one of the senatorial offices representing the Gulf states.
Ewell Smith provided over 600 media interviews following the oil spill. Two samples: