by John Trybus, Managing Director

When you walk into social strategist Susan Davis’ office you’re immediately struck by the serenity that accompanies its Asian influence.

But don’t let that fool you. Susan means business

“I was a samurai warrior in another life,” she jokes.

Susan is the president of Susan Davis International (SDI), a full-service public relations agency with a host of cause-based and for-profit clients. If you live (or have ever visited) the Nation’s Capital you definitely have been seen some of SDI’s behind-the-scenes work.

The agency is responsible for the public relations work on behalf of seven major memorial dedications, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which faced the unique challenge of being postponed thanks to a hurricane and earthquake. We speak in more detail about that project in the interview.

Susan opened her business at a time when few women owned their own businesses, let alone one in the competitive and crowded field of public relations. “I started out in life wanting to be a politician and along the way realized there was more power behind the throne so to speak,” she explains.

Susan has been singled out as a leader within the industry time and again, and her three decades of experience are proof positive that Susan is doing something right.


Here’s a preview of Susan’s thoughts on leadership:

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks. Says Susan: “There’s good that comes from failure and you must go for the gold. You must do what you think is the right thing to do, as Eleanor Roosevelt said. It’s ok to try and not to be successful at something; you learn from those experiences and it allows you to be stronger and better at what you do.”
  • Actively think about being a leader. Good leaders contemplate what it means to be a leader. “I think how I evolved is by watching other organizations and deciding I had my own style,” says Susan. Through her work as board chairman of Vital Voices Global Partnership, Susan is particularly interested in the empowerment of emerging women leaders in the developing world.
  • Leadership takes skill development. Leaders most definitely can be made, in Susan’s opinion. “Self-awareness [is incredibly important in leadership] and then it’s studying what other people are doing. Watching how other people lead is crucial” to understanding how you want to lead and how you don’t want to lead, she explains.

To Susan one of the most important roles of being a leader is a focus on her colleagues and staff. “You have a chance to make a difference today and indeed they do,” she constantly reminds her staff. “We’re in a business where you actually see the difference that often is being made with your clients which not everyone can say.”

Listen to my interview with social strategist Susan Davis to hear our conversation about being a leader in the cause-based sector and beyond.