Friday, February 2, 2018

About that job hunt...

Well, in case you haven't heard, yours truly is the newest member of the Public Affairs team for the Mississippi Department of Transportation. It's been a long road, but the end result is a good one.

One thing I love about public relations is learning new information about things that I thought I already knew about. Transportation is a perfect example. Since coming on board I've learned about traffic patterns, bridges, funding sources, weather advisories, safe driving programs, and the connection between transportation and economic development. It's actually pretty interesting stuff.

Last week we launched a new campaign called #DriveSmartMS all about driving safer and cutting down on the number of accidents and fatalities in Mississippi. Great info, some obvious (don't text and drive, wear your seatbelt), some not (what is a "diverging diamond," why are roundabouts safer). I had the opportunity to go on both WXXV and WLOX to let people know about the campaign (and the new website: It was great and felt good to get back in the swing of things with media interviews.

I also got the chance to meet and talk with Jay Hughes, House Rep from District 12. Great conversation. It's always fun when a politician will speak openly and give real opinions. We talked about #DriveSmartMS, need for infrastructure funding, education, autism, and general Mississippi politics. Fun time. He's also a pretty heavy social media user, so of course we talked about that.

Anyway, I think things are off to a great start at MDOT and I will keep you posted as things keep rolling along!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jas N Smith - School PR Pro & Communications Strategist

I am Jas N Smith. I have a great deal of experience in media and public relations, and I am currently looking for a position in the communications, public relations or related fields.
My background includes serving as a communication director, PR coordinator, social media manager, on-line community manager, and working as a television journalist. 

Most recently, I have served as communication director for the Hattiesburg Public School District, where my responsibilities included handling: 
  • media relations
  • internal & external communications 
  • crisis management
  • public relation strategies
  • project management
  • community relations
  • event management
  • social media management 
  • vendor relations
  • policy development
 ...and many other duties that I feel would be applicable to a variety of other situations.

In 2016, I was recognized as the State Communicator of the Year by both the Mississippi School Public Relations Association AND the Mississippi Association of School Administrators.  I've also earned recognition and awards for newsletters (print & electronic), publications, handbooks, and photography.

Additionally, I have worked in television and network newsrooms, retail environments, and done small business communication support. In these positions, I developed the ability to meet strict broadcast deadlines, problem-solve in a fast-paced environment, and resolve a variety of issues.  In my most recent position, I also oversaw the operations of the HPSD Print Shop and Communication Department staff and interns.

In recent years I have been asked to present to students at universities about communication, public relations, social media, and community building. William Carey University has asked me to conduct an annual session for graduate students related to communication for schools. I am also a regular speaker for various community events, faith-based organizations, and parent workshops.

I am proficient in office software, HTML, copy-editing, digital photography, and Photoshop. Please see my resume for greater detail on my experience and education.

Here are a few news stories that I was interviewed for:

I also filmed and edited some videos to highlight different things happening around the district.

I am confident that I can offer the communication and public relations skills you are seeking for your organization. Feel free to email me at for more information. 

Thank you.

Jas N Smith

Monday, April 3, 2017

2016-17 MSPRA Awards of Excellence Winners

Mississippi School Public Relations Association - March 31, 2017

MSPRA announces 2016-17 Awards of Excellence winners

GREENVILLE — Mississippi’s public schools work in numerous ways to communicate with their students, parents, staff, and communities and some of those efforts were recently recognized.

During the Mississippi School Public Relations Association’s annual awards dinner on March 8 at Harlow’s Casino in Greenville, Miss., school districts and school public relations professionals from across the state were honored for their publications, marketing efforts and online communications. The recognitions are part of MPSRA’s annual Awards of Excellence program.

“This year’s program was very informative and, on behalf MSPRA, I would like to congratulate all of the winners and every person who submitted an entry into this year’s contest, said Everett Chinn, MSPRA President and Greenville Public School District’s Public Relations Specialist. “We look forward to continuing growing our program for years to come.”

The highest honor given was the Gold Medallion Award, which recognizes outstanding Public Relations campaigns. The recipient of this year’s Gold Medallion is Debbie Anglin, Pascagoula-Gautier School District. Anglin also won first place for Excellence in Photography.

The awards ceremony was a portion of the MSPRA three-day Nuts & Bolts Social Media conference which included keynote speaker Dawn Dugle of Dugle Media. Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis was a featured guest speaker and helped present awards during the ceremony. Mississippi House Representative Jay Hughes also provided Legislative updates. The conference included various speakers from the education, public and legislative sectors who shared important information for public relations professionals.

The complete list of the 2016-17 Awards of Excellence winners includes:

  • Margaret Tynes, Petal Schools
    • First Place, Calendars
    • First Place, Identity/Image Packages
    • First Place, Audio/Visual Programs and Presentations
  • Elizabeth McDonald, Meridian Public School District
    • First Place, Handbooks
    • Second Place, Marketing Materials
  • Monique Gilmore, McComb School District
    • First Place, Electronic Newsletters
    • Third Place, Calendars
    • Third Place, Special Purpose Publications
    • Third Place, Marketing Materials
    • Third Place, Internet/Intranet
  • Melanie Shannon, New Albany School District
    • First Place, Multimedia Projects
    • First Place, Internet, Intranet
    • Second Place, Calendars
  • Lauren Hitchcock, Oxford Public Schools
    • First Place, Special Purpose Publications
    • Second Place, Special Purpose Publications
    • Certificate of Merit, Coordinated School Health
  • Jennifer Pyron, Biloxi School District
    • First Place, Marketing Materials
  • Debbie Anglin, Pascagoula-Gautier School District
    • Gold Medallion
    • First Place, Excellence in Photography
  • Sherwin Johnson, Jackson Public Schools
    • Second Place, Handbooks
    • Second Place, Audio/Visual Programs and Presentations
    • Second Place, Internet/Intranet
    • Third Place, Handbooks
    • Certificate of Merit, Annual Reports
  • Beverly Luckett, Canton Public Schools
    • Second Place, Electronic Newsletters
    • Second Place, Multimedia Projects
    • Second Place, Excellence in Photography
    • Third Place, Multimedia Projects
    • Third Place, Audiovisual Programs and Presentations
  • Gail Daigneault, Grenada Public Schools
    • Second Place, Identity/Image Packages
    • Third Place, Identity/Image Packages
  • Steven Richardson, Natchez-Adams School District
    • Second Place, Gold Medallion
    • Third Place, Gold Medallion
    • Certificate of Merit, Excellence in Writing
  • Leigh Anne Biggs, Long Beach School District
    • Third Place, Excellence in Photography
  • Robbie Buchanan, Grenada Public Schools
    • Certificate of Merit, Print Newsletters

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Talks With Bill Minor

Bill Minor died this morning. He chronicled of some of the uglier parts of Mississippi's history for the last half of the Twentieth Century.

I had the privilege of meeting him one afternoon when I lived in Jackson. It's no secret that I'm a news-junkie and I'd read dozens of his columns. He was in the grocery store and I recognized him, but debated whether or not to bother him. Turns out it was no bother. He was happy to talk and talk we did.

We spoke for almost half an hour in the aisle of the Winn-Dixie. As shoppers passed around us, he told me stories of governors and politicians, Civil Rights protests and newsroom politics. It was a joy.
A couple years later I saw a story about his birthday and sent him a letter wishing him a belated happy birthday and hoping he was well. About a week later he called me to thank me for the letter. This time we had an even longer conversation about his career and his mother, what he thought of our current state leadership, and education. It was amazing. I even jotted notes about it in my copy of Eyes on Mississippi.

Bill was not shy about sharing his opinion which could be politely described as "progressive." He was a much needed voice for liberal ideas and political dissent in a state where both are rare and often derided.

I am so grateful that I got to speak with such a legend. His career was a gift to all of us. His talent and tenacity were inspiring and spoke to the core of what it means to be a "newsman." There will never be another, but hopefully there will be many who try because of the example he set.
Rest In Peace, Bill. You will be missed.

#journalist #journalism #mississippi #clarionledger #timespicayune #mississippinews #tribute

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dangerous Apps Parents Should Know About...

In my work in education I've been asked multiple times to give parents information related to keeping kids safe online. The discussion ALWAYS includes questions about social media and apps. I find that parents are afraid of how much more their kids know than they do about social media. 

I put together a short list of apps that parents need to know about to help keep their kids safe. No list will ever be complete or exhaustive, but these are some of the current big ones. Any app that allows strangers to connect with children and teens is a big concern. Also, any of the "hidden file" apps that allow users to hide photos, videos and other apps from parents or others are problematic when we are talking about young people. 

Here's a short list of current apps (but it is not definitive):

Remember, a lot of times, as soon as parents know about an app, kids have already moved on to something new. 

Ultimately, most of the apps your child or teen has on their phone are going to be fine. You need to have conversation(s) with them about using social media, how it can affect them later in life, not sharing intimate photos/videos, and to not share personal information. Keep up with what your child is using and keep the communication open between you. There will always be another app or site that could be harmful, but by talking with them openly about the dangers on the internet we can help them make better choices about their on-line activity.

The best things we can do are inform them of the dangers and help to build their understanding, confidence and trust. When you have these conversations, you need to let your child know that if they make a mistake or find themselves in a troubling situation your first concern is for their well-being. Let them know that they can confide in you about things that happen without risk of repercussion or discipline. Now, you can still address their mistake in a calm manner at a later time, but first we have to handle the immediate issue of making sure they are protected and safe.

Our response should never be “Well, you shouldn’t have been doing this and you wouldn’t have ended up here.” That does not help. Not even in a sarcastic or joking tone. They have to know from the very start our main priority is protecting them.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bert Case - Man of a Million Stories

Bert Case​ died. I loved that guy. I was lucky enough to work with him when I worked at WLBT in Jackson for a few years (2002-2004). He was just awesome. Anytime I got to be his photographer (which was rare) he would tell the greatest stories. No matter where we went he had been there and knew a story about it: Floods, trains, Fordice, Elvis, and a million other awesome things. I could literally point to any town we passed and ask "Ever done a story there?" And the answer was always "Oh yes indeed. Back in 19..." Every time.

One afternoon I asked him why he always said his name as "Berrrt Case." He told me that when he was just starting out as a reporter a lady saw him in the grocery store. She asked him "Is your name 'Bird Cage'?" He said after that he tried to over annunciate it in a way so that people would know what he was saying.

He told me about when he met Elvis, about covering the 1979 flood (and a bunch of other floods), traveling across the country by train, the infamous Kirk Fordice "I'll whip your ass" incident (one of my favorites that I heard multiple times), and a ton of other stories.

One afternoon he and I were charged with doing a story about a new building opening downtown. The owners were having a press conference to reveal the name of the building and their "big new client" who would be taking up residence. Bert wanted to scoop everyone and announce it the day before.

We knew where the client was coming from but not who it was. We went to the building they were leaving and asked about it. Building manager said he couldn't say anything and Bert went with him to his office to try and convince him to. While they were gone a custodian walked by in the lobby. I asked her "Ma'am, there's a law firm that is moving out of this building. Do you happen to know which one?"

She instantly replied "Oh yes! That's (name of firm). They're up on the 3rd floor. You can see all the boxes and everything. They've been packing up all week."

I took the elevator up and got some footage of all the boxes through their glass front door with their name on it. When Bert came back he was all mad because he'd had no luck, and when I told him what I got he just cackled and shook my hand. "You're a real journalist now!"

We went back to the building to film his stand-up and dig around for more info on the name. He started talking to some landscapers who were putting the finishing touches around the sign (which didn't have the name on it yet). They gave him nothing again, but while they were talking I spotted a delivery guy sitting in his truck. I wandered over and slyly said "Hey man. You know what this building's called don't you?"

"I do, but I'd get in trouble if I told you."

"Nothing? Come on, man. Help me out."

"Well, if you go inside and down the main hall the second door on the right is where they are keeping the sign."

So I slipped inside and sure enough, right where he said was a big sign on the floor that read "City Center." I told Bert and he stood in front of the empty sign and landscapers to film a quick stand-up. He told me to watch the expressions on the guys' faces to confirm it.

"...and tomorrow they will unveil the name of the building behind me to be City Center." Both guys' heads instantly jerked up and they looked at each other with shocked expressions. Name confirmed. "Berrrrt Case, WLBT News, Jackson."

When we got back Bert slapped me on the back as he told the story to Dennis Smith our News Director and gave me all the credit. "This guy is good! You need to get me more guys like him to work with!" I just beamed. Probably my best day at WLBT.

Rest in Peace, Bert. I consider myself lucky to have been able to work with you.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Featured in HHS Play

I was treated to a sneak preview of the HHS Forensics production of The Boys Next Door yesterday. To say I was blown away is an understatement. The play focuses on the lives of four men living with mental disabilities in an assisted living facility and their caretaker.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month with activities centered around helping remove the stigma that is often attached to mental illness and disability. By portraying these characters with such care and respect the students' performances give the audience a glimpse of what millions of Americans live with every day.
Often the play is emotional and tugs at your heart strings, while it is also lighthearted and funny. One of the things I appreciated most was that the humor was never at the expense of the characters' disabilities. It was simply characters in humorous situations or the simple comedy of misunderstanding.
Maybe one of the most magical scenes was at a dance. Two characters, both with a pronounced disability, are dancing together. At first they dance in an awkward, somewhat stilted gate, as the dance would seem to anyone else looking at them. But then it shifts and we see the dance as these two characters are feeling it. They transform into graceful, synchronized figures performing an elegant routine. It was simply beautiful.
I've seen dozens of high school plays and productions, many with bigger sets or more extravagant costumes but none with the powerful level of care and emotion I witnessed in the Black Box Theater Wednesday afternoon. "Moving" doesn't even come close to expressing the impact.
I commend the students and their teachers and the director for reaching for something truly special and important with this play. It is entertaining for sure, but it also broaches a topic that really matters.
They will be bringing in some other students from Hattiesburg High School's Community Based class as extras in one scene, and Mrs. Nan Davis was there to help give the students feedback on their portrayal. To see that sweet, devoted educator brought to tears by the loving portrayal of people so like the students she has served over her entire career was a beautiful thing. Her praise for the actors and the story seemed like the best endorsement you could ever hope for with a story like this. The people who know, like Mrs. Davis, they got it! They felt it. And you should, too.
The showtimes for The Boys Next Door are May 15 & 16 at 7pm and May 17 at 2pm. The show is only $5 and seating is limited, so book your tickets in advance! Tickets can be reserved by emailing: