An informational interview with a friend’s colleague launched Kenya Smith’s (MBA ’07) 12-year career and a passion for television and media. Today, she is the director of TBS, TNT and TCM commerce enterprise for Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a Time Warner Co. In this role, she develops creative ways to promote the networks and its sponsors.
After earning an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Smith wanted a better understanding of the business world. To get a closer look, she drove from her home in Asheville, N.C., to Atlanta, Ga., for that first interview at Turner Broadcasting. Afterward, she was hooked—on the company and the industry. “I wasn’t sure what would come of it, but I applied for an executive assistant position as a way to get my foot in the door,” she says.
During Smith’s first day on the job, she was offered advice that has carried through her career. “My manager said, ‘Kenya, it’s up to you to own your career — know where you want to go and who you want to be,’” she recalls. “That advice has helped me more than anyone could ever imagine.”
Smith used her time as an assistant to learn about the television industry, Turner Broadcasting and company leaders. “I wanted to know everything — I even memorized the television schedules of our networks.I did everything I could to fully immerse myself in the business,” says Smith, who has since moved up through seven positions within the organization.
BUILDING THE BUSINESS
Today, Smith and her team work with TBS, TNT and TCM’s sponsors to develop and execute custom branded digital sponsorships and promotions that can be displayed on various digital platforms and connected devices such as websites, video-on-demand and mobile applications. “When I first started working with digital sponsorships nearly five years ago, it was a relatively new concept,” Smith notes, “but today, everyone is doing it.”
With consumers now watching their favorite shows on smartphones, laptop computers and tablets, Smith’s team collaborates with sponsors to develop creative ways to reach viewers on those platforms in addition to traditional television and radio commercials. Smith also leads search engine marketing initiatives for TNT, TBS and TCM network programs. She works with major search engines like Google and Bing and conducts extensive research to determine which terms and phrases are most likely to appear at the top of searches.
Smith learned early on that in order to own her career, she would have to be willing to take on new challenges and unfamiliar assignments. Recently, she was asked to
collaborate with other departments and outside agencies to decide how to promote one of TNT’s newest television programs, Dallas.
The team was tasked with marketing a show that had been popular throughout the 1970s and 80s to a new generation of viewers. After weeks of planning sessions, meetings, phone calls and emails, the team settled on a marketing strategy that highlighted the show’s original iconic cast members, like Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman (to attract original viewers), as well as the intriguing, modern story lines that appeal to younger audiences. The collaboration efforts paid off.
“Although the show has turned out to be a great success, there was a lot of hard work that went on behind the scenes,” Smith says. “For me,the most exciting part about the project is hearing how much people enjoy the show.”
THE BIG PICTURE
From the time Smith was a young girl growing up in California, education played a major role in her life. Smith’s mother, who holds a doctorate in nursing, and her father, who holds a master’s degree in human resources, had always stressed the importance of post-secondary education to their three children. Soon after joining Turner Broadcasting, Smith decided that if she wanted to own her career and continue to move up, then she would need to return to the classroom. Since earning a master’s degree in business administration, Smith has been promoted several times and has gained more insight into the business world.
She also credits her education at Strayer University for helping her to “look at the organization from ‘30,000 feet,’ — a perspective that makes it easier for me to work alongside the senior executive team and other departments at Turner Broadcasting,” she says.
“My education taught me to think about how my work fits in with the overall goals of the organization,” she says. “Understanding the big picture helps keep me from thinking only within my own bubble.” Graduate school taught Smith more than lessons in business. She also learned how to better manage her time, a useful skill as she balances her career with planning her wedding to fiancé Anthony and serving as a volunteer on the marketing committee for Imagine It! The Children’s Museum ofAtlanta.
Through it all, Smith keeps that early advice close to heart. “It’s been an amazing ride so far in the first 12 years of my career,” she says,“ and I look forward to what the future holds.”