Why I Love Parking


Why I Love Parking

September, 2023
Bill Smith


In 1994, I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying that “parking is sexy.” I still haven’t lived that down.


But 30 years later, I still think parking is sexy. When you consider how parking impacts the quality of life and the economic health of communities, how it intersects with transportation planning and basic urban planning to reduce congestion, how it helps make communities more pedestrian friendly, and how new technologies are making parking so much easier, convenient, and manageable, it’s obvious that the parking industry plays a huge role in everyone’s lives.


In the beginning, I didn’t plan to be a parking publicist. To be honest, I didn’t know that the parking industry was an actual organized thing. When I set out on my public relations career way back in 1986, I expected to focus on healthcare. In fact, my first PR job out of college was with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. 


After 5 years of work in the healthcare industry, I ended up working for a PR firm in downtown Boston with a plan to start a healthcare division. Soon after joining the firm, though, I was assigned to a new client, which happened to be one of the world’s leading parking design and planning firms. This was 1993. And I never looked back.


I quickly discovered an affinity for parking. I loved the intricacies of parking design and the special skill that goes into designing a parking structure. I also loved the ways parking planning can impact downtown business development, improve the lives of a community’s residents, and generally improve a community. It wasn’t long before I was a certified parking nerd.


Over the past thirty years I’ve created and implemented public relations programs for many of the leading parking-related companies, including the industry’s largest and most accomplished consulting firms, engineering and planning firms that list parking among their areas of expertise, and many parking technologies companies. Some 27 years ago, I started my own public relations firm, and steadily built a reputation in the parking industry to the point where I became the first person in the world to specialize in parking PR. 


In my job I spend a lot of time writing about parking and how it transforms communities. I write articles for national industry magazines about the intricacies of design and planning and the benefits of various parking technologies. I translate these complex topics into simple language demonstrating the importance of parking and the typical problems and challenges that are overcome with various design and planning approaches or different technologies. It’s a fascinating job that always keeps me interested and engaged.


I also get to work closely with editors and reporters from local and national media. It’s always fun convincing a dubious reporter from The New York Times or USA Today that they should care about parking. That’s how the infamous Chicago Tribune story came about: the reporter wasn’t happy about being assigned a parking story that I had pitched to her editor, and I told her, “No, no! Parking is sexy!” And proceeded to tell her why. The article turned out great!


Now, my firm is focused almost entirely on parking. As the world’s leading public relations firm serving the parking industry (and the only one that specializes exclusively in parking PR), I get to promote my parking clients to their customers and prospective customers, as well as strategic partners. And when I’m promoting my clients, I’m also promoting the parking industry itself. When I arrange an interview opportunity for a client or a feature story about one of my clients in The New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, or any general or business publication, I’m also promoting the industry itself, often to people who take parking for granted. 


Similarly, if I generate publicity for a client in an industry publication serving a vertical industry like airports, higher education, real estate, or government management, I’m also promoting the industry while promoting my client.


I love being a parking evangelist. Parking plays a huge role in our personal lives and our communities. I’m honored to have an opportunity to help spread the word about the innovative and accomplished companies that make the industry so special. And I love being able to help the world outside of parking better understand why our industry is so important.


A final reason I love the industry so much is its people. Over the past 30 years I’ve met hundreds of great people from all over the United States and I’ve connected with many of my best friends. Conference season—from PIE in March through NPA in the fall—is my favorite time of the year because I get to reconnect with people I’ve known for decades. 


I’ve even gotten to see parts of the country that I never thought I’d visit because of parking. I never thought I’d spend so much time in Schaumburg, Illinois! But thanks to PIE, I have. 


Careers seldom turn out exactly how we plan, and when I graduated from college in the mid-80s I certainly never expected to be a parking professional. But I’m very happy that the twists and turns of life led me to the parking industry.


Bill Smith is the founder and president of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com.

Article contributed by:
Bill Smith, Smith Phillips Strategic Communications
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