How Jennifer Risi’s The Sway Effect Is Seeking to Reinvent the Client/Agency Relationship

WWR Staff

WWR Summary (tl;dr) PR/Communications veteran Jennifer Risi is taking a whole new approach to help brands build value. She has a laserlike focus on figuring out what a brand needs and then simply delivers.  #WomenWhoRock 

New York

The marketing and communications industry is at an inflection point. Brands are under more pressure than ever, clients are expected to do more with less and the days of the AOR are over.

Today, we are in an era of great fragmentation, driven largely by globalization and digital transformation. With the world changing faster than the businesses that fuel it, there has never been a more crucial time to build value in brands.

Jennifer Risi, the former Worldwide Chief Communications Officer and Global Managing Director of Media Influence at Ogilvy and now female founder of her own agency, The Sway Effect, earlier this year set out to reinvent the way agencies work with brands in the marketing and communications industry — and, is doing it with a little help from her friends.

At its core, The Sway Effect, is a network built for collaboration - creating a platform for brands to access the most senior-level talent in the industry.

When Risi started she told us that she thought she would be a relatively small consultancy but quickly, her peers and colleagues reached out and a proper network was formed.

At the official launch in July, she started with six participating agencies (bSMART, Good Scout, GoDo Discovery, Rogue Sunday, ReillyConnect and Markson IdeaCraft), and that has quickly expanded to include other partners, such as Risi’s former client, Brand USA’s Anne Madison and her new venture, 357 Communications as well as Maven & Muse, started by another Ogilvy alum.

So, you might ask: What does The Sway Effect represent?

At the heart of their work, the team is focused on “swaying” opinion on behalf of their clients and putting diversity, inclusion and equity at the center of everything they do.

As Risi says, “We are breaking down barriers and creating an environment that brings subject matter experts together to create and seamlessly execute broad-reaching campaigns on behalf of brands today - across channels, across industries and from anywhere in the world.”

Inter-agency partnership is just where the collaborative process for The Sway Effect network begins. The network also has a laser focus on serving as an extension of their clients’ teams. “Clients know that their needs have changed and they want access to real experts. They need the right people sitting at the table alongside them as they face challenges that they have never faced before,” says Risi.

Also, when it comes to the tangible impact of working with The Sway Effect network, the proof is in the pudding. “The people that we work with expect high quality, big results. To be able to bring somebody in to the caliber of Jen and her team and not also have the other baggage that comes with hiring larger players is very unique,” says Bonin Bough, founder and chief growth officer of Bonin Ventures and another Risi collaborator.

“We need a SEAL team of the best, not an 80 person account team. The old agency model was predicated on being in every single market and there was limited technology connecting it. Now that the entire market has changed, you can service companies with far less human resources and the added benefit of technology.”

The change that Risi and her network are driving couldn’t come soon enough. With the big agency model in a constant state of chaos, companies in these industries are all-too-slow to respond to changing client dynamics. It is crucial that professionals in the space look for different approaches to the way business is conducted on a daily basis.

In less than six months, The Sway Effect already has an impressive roster of clients in media, technology, retail, healthcare and travel. The agency is also quickly expanding to new markets and is continuing to evaluate new partnerships.

“We are onto something,” added Risi. “The response so far from both my peers as well as former and potential clients has been amazing. Our network is in the middle of 2020 planning right now and we are excited about the year ahead.”

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