- A selfless, people-based and balanced advocate, is how former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Carmen Tipling, describes the late media professional, Ralston Smith.
- Mr. Smith, who passed away on January 14, was the former Executive Chairman of the then Government news agency, JAMPRESS.
- Mr. Smith was a renowned public relations pioneer.
A selfless, people-based and balanced advocate, is how former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Carmen Tipling, describes the late media professional, Ralston Smith.
Mr. Smith, who passed away on January 14, was the former Executive Chairman of the then Government news agency, JAMPRESS.
He served as the Executive Chairman of JAMPRESS in the 1990s before its operations were eventually incorporated into the JIS. Prior to this, he was Executive Director of the then Agency for Public Information (before it was renamed JIS) in the 1970s.
Mr. Smith was a renowned public relations pioneer, who Mrs. Tipling said was very influential in her professional life as well as the lives “of a generation of journalists.”
“During my initial years as Chief Executive Officer of the JIS, Mr. Smith was instrumental in guiding me through the process of what it meant to promote government’s policies and programmes. In fact, his mentorship convinced me that it was necessary to mentor others to maintain the probity and veracity of an Executive Agency, such as the JIS,” she said.
Mrs. Tipling said she highly respected Mr. Smith, who was a friend, associate and mentor, for his professionalism and impartiality in carrying out his duties within the public service.
“He did not believe in ‘fire fighting,’ and felt that there were many avenues to communicate and educate audiences, whether through seminars, workshops, or informed news stories and feature articles,” she said.
Mrs. Tipling said she also admired Mr. Smith’s “uncanny way of finding “right solutions for sticky problems”, noting that his approach to the business of public relations and information was to “keep your clients, stakeholders and the public informed, so that when there is a problem, it becomes easier to address.”
On a more personal note, Mrs. Tipling revealed that Mr. Smith was the reason for her returning to Jamaica in 1972 to serve her country.
“In December 1972, while I was working at Warner Bros. Studios, in Burbank, California, in the US, I came home for the Christmas holidays, and Ralston convinced me to come home and join Jamaica,” adding that he spearheaded a pro-Jamaica promotion campaign, in 1973, which focused on persons who had returned to Jamaica.
Mrs. Tipling further shared that despite Mr. Smith’s high professional standards, he was not “all work and no play.”
“He was a very sociable person and welcomed a fete…to lyme and have a good time. However, he clearly knew the difference between work and play. He was simply the best,” she said.
For current CEO, Donna Marie Rowe, Mr. Smith blazed the trail for public relations practitioners in Jamaica, having served with distinction and passion over the years.
“I admired the impact he had on the great PR stalwarts of our time, especially those who have served the government,” she said.
Former Executive Director of JAMPRESS, Ken Chaplin, said Mr. Smith was a dedicated professional public servant, who was held in high regard by journalists throughout Jamaica.
“I found him a very professional man, who was well respected by staff…and he was very fair,” he said.
Mr. Chaplin noted that as Executive Director of API, Mr. Smith “fought a hard battle and succeeded in keeping politics out of the agency, insisting on making it a civil service machinery.”
A Public Relations pioneer, Mr. Smith was co-founder of Jamaica’s first public relations agency, Public Relations Associates (PRA) in 1957, and was a founding member of the Public Relations Society of Jamaica (PRSJ).
He was also Public Relations Officer for Kaiser Bauxite, and Account Executive with the Jamaican office of the international public relations company, Ketchum McLeod and Grove.
Mr. Smith was also a communications consultant to then deputy Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson in the Ministry of Development, Planning and Production in the early 1990s. He went on to work with Mr. Patterson, as Press Secretary, during his term as Prime Minister.
In 1999, Mr. Smith was conferred with the Order of Distinction – Commander Class – for services to communication and public relations. He was inducted as a Lifetime Member of the PRSJ in 2003.