Adam Smith '05 talks about cofounding 'Texts from Hillary'
A Tumblr site built around a photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using her smartphone has catapulted a 2005 Elon graduate into national headlines.
Adam Smith '05 and his friend, Stacy Lamb, created the blog Texts from Hillary based on an image of Secretary Clinton, who appears to be sending a text while riding on a military transport plane.
"We were just catching up and having drinks after work and I said, 'Hey, have you seen the photo making the rounds of Hillary Clinton texting?' and he said, 'I think we should make a meme out of it,'" recalls Smith, who works as a communications director for the nonprofit organization Public Campaign in Washington, D.C. Smith is a graduate of Elon's School of Communications.
Lamb went home that evening and put the first two Texts from Hillary posts online to get the blog going. Less than a week later, the duo found themselves fielding hundreds of phone calls and emails from news outlets and even a request for a meeting from Secretary Clinton's office. Smith answered some questions about his newfound celebrity for the Elon community.
How has your life changed since Texts from Hillary went live?
We started getting phone calls almost immediately. Stacy has a big following on his personal Tumblr site, and I'm a big Tweeter. All of a sudden, I started seeing things about the site, that people were talking about it. It took off from there. When we started the site, my Twitter account had about 1,100 followers. When I checked today, I'd just passed 3,100 followers. It's amazing.
I've been on the phone a lot and sending lots of emails. It's started eating into my day job, which I'm trying to make up for today and through the weekend. But it's good for our organization, because people who see the site see that I work for Public Campaign, too.
Tell us about the meeting with Secretary Clinton. How did that come about?
On Monday afternoon, we got an email from one of her people saying, "Hey, we've been watching the Tumblr. We love it, here's a submission from Hillary. She loves the site and would love for y'all to stop by and say hello." We couldn't believe it, so we looked the guy up to make sure he was real. He was, so we said, "Absolutely, we'll come by!"
Tuesday afternoon, we got to the State Department and her people came down to take us up to her office. She came out and was very friendly, very nice. She told us how much she liked the site and how funny she thought it was. It was really brief, because she's the Secretary of State - she can't spend lots of time talking to two guys from the Internet.
What was it like to meet Secretary Clinton?
We built the site to show that she's this rock star, and her reaching out and engaging with us proves the point we were trying to make. So many politicians are afraid of social media and the Internet and messages they can't control. The picture of us outside her office, where we're texting with her, that was actually her idea. I wanted to ask her, but I was afraid to, so I was glad she suggested it.
What's been the best part of the ride for you so far?
No question getting to meet the Secretary of State - and she requested it! We didn't just run into her at an event or something like that. And doing CNN this morning wasn't too bad either.
You and Stacy have decided to stop adding new Hillary memes to the site. Why?
There were a few things.One, when you meet the subject of your meme, it's hard to top that.She submitted her own post, how can it ever get better than that? And we had reached a peak - a lot of these things get run into the ground and months later people say, "Remember how good it was when it started?" We wanted to say we did this, we reached our goal and we're moving on. It also got very stressful and took a lot of time.
Do you two have any new meme projects we should keep an eye out for?
You can't really force a meme, that's the thing. A lot of it is luck - you have to watch the news and make sure you know what's happening and see if you can break through. I would love to do something just as popular as Texts from Hillary about campaign finance reform for Public Campaign, but that's a little bit harder to make funny.
Coverage of Texts from Hillary in the national media
- Smith and Lamb on CNN's "American Morning," April 12, 2012: "Texts from Hillary" says "TTYL"
- New York Times: State of Cool
- Huffington Post: Hillary Clinton Thanks "Texts from Hillary Guys" for the "LOLZ"
- The Washington Post: "Texts from Hillary" blog depicts Clinton as a phone addict