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Industry marks the passing of much-loved personality

30th April 2021
Mick Elliott

There’s no doubt that the last 12 months have been a very difficult and challenging period for the electronics industry. However, just when we seemed to have turned the corner of the coronavirus pandemic, we have now been hit by another piece of devastating news.

It is with an extremely heavy heart that we report that industry stalwart and friend of Electronic Specifier, Peter Smith, tragically passed away following an accident at his home on Friday 23rd April. Peter, aged 70, was an industry veteran and much-loved personality on the circuit, and the shock and sadness at his sudden passing has reverberated across his many, many friends.

Being successful, well respected and well liked are difficult attributes to pull off. Peter Smith achieved it with ease. He was one of the most, if not the most, popular person in the electronics media.

Here’s an anecdote which tells a lot about his standing in the industry.

On the opening day of a Nepcon Electronics exhibition in Birmingham, Peter burst into the press office looking like a dog with two tails. “We’ve sold it,” he exclaimed, “We’ve sold the company to WPP.”

The company was S&J Communications, the J being Steve Jones, his partner in the business. It was a deal which netted the partners multiple millions, and there wasn’t a person in the room who begrudged Peter this moment of triumph.

Not bad for a chap whose career started in his Southend birthplace as an engineering apprentice at the television and radio manufacturer Ekco Electronics.

By the mid-1970s, he had moved into journalism on Electronic Equipment News at Mercury House Publications. It was the first step on the career path that led to that moment in Birmingham.

His experiences as a journalist informed his approach to PR and marketing and his easy amiability – he made friends wherever he went - and ability to forge great contacts caught the eye of the burgeoning technical PR industry, and he swapped journalistic codes to join Kent-based JDK Marketing Communications in Westerham. It was an excellent destination to learn the PR ropes before he took the plunge and founded Peter Smith Associates.

His contacts paid off. “My first big client was Toshiba. I met the marketing manager to complete the agreement, and at the end of the meeting he gave me a cheque for £48,000,” he told me recently still with a note of disbelief in his voice.

Peter’s work at Electronic Equipment News instilled him with an instinct for what constituted a good story. There was no need for him to be pushy. Journalists trusted Peter and knew that whether invited to a press conference or a one-on-one briefing it would be worth their while.

The partnership with Steve Jones and the formation of S&J Communications took Peter into the wider domain of PR and marketing. Their expertise attracted blue chip companies including Toshiba,

Motorola Semiconductors, Analog Devices and 3Com. On leaving WPP retirement thoughts were discarded and he signed up a smaller group of clients, all of whom continued to benefit from his long experience and expertise.

It also enabled him to keep in touch with his friends in the industry. His family, wife Val and son Max were his pride and joy.

Sports and music were among his many interests. Being a lifelong supporter of Southend United FC he never lost touch with his roots. He was a member at Surrey County Cricket Club and a keen golfer.

All our thoughts are with his wife Val and son Max at this difficult time.

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