bSMART Guide

Managing Director of Media Influence at Ogilvy PR, Jennifer Risi is using public relations to elevate women leaders around the world.  With more than 15 years of experience in nation branding, CEO and corporate positioning, crisis communication, and corporate social responsibility, Jennifer oversees media relations strategy across the firm.  Jennifer led Ogilvy’s multi award-winning global relationships with the governments of Mexico and Colombia, introduced Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program at the 2015 Super Bowl, and worked with the Under Secretary and Executive Director of UN Women.  Using her industry expertise, Jennifer helped launch the #HeforShe global campaign aimed at engaging men to fight for gender equality.  Now, she’s working with Women’s Forum to increase the number of qualified women on corporate boards.  Learn the secret to effective communication, how you can use your voice to elevate women around the world, and the key to becoming a leader in industry.


Make it less about gender parity and more about being an excellent practitioner.


Media + Messaging

What are the leadership messages you want to hear regarding women?

It's not only about messages, but how women are portrayed and the roles they take in media.  It shouldn't be about women in business or women in science.  It should be executives in science or executives in business.  We still think about men versus women, but women need to think of themselves as just being really great at what they do.  Make it less about gender parity and more about being an excellent practitioner.

What trends in media and technology can create more gender equality?

Digital technology means that all of us are makers.  Podcasts are free.  People can create content on their websites at any time.  Anyone can become a publisher.  Having more ideas means more solutions.  Social media and technology allow all of us to have the power to take control over what's happening in the world so that our ideas can become practical solutions. 

How can media + technology impact social responsibility around the world?

Millennials are the most socially conscious generation ever.  They want to make a difference and do things that will make the world better.  Look at what happened when the Paris attacks occurred at the end of last year –  #prayforparis became a movement that everyone wanted to participate in, especially millennials.  What we can do is work with millennials to take all of that passion and drive to create something better and turn it into tangible actions. 

Social media provides an opportunity for all of us to be curators of content, makers, and publishers.


How can young women use social media to effectively share their story?

Social media provides an opportunity for all of us to be curators of content, makers, and publishers.  In social media, you need to be authentic and have a point of view.  You need to realize that everything you say (whether it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook) is published forever.  And you have to make sure that whatever you’re doing on social media represents who you are both as a person and also as a professional.  It's very important that millennials think about what they’re putting out into social media.  That's where I look when I'm hiring people at Ogilvy. 

How can media influencers empower women over the next 10 years?

Media influencers, especially women media influencers, have an opportunity to use their platform (whether it’s on television or in a newspaper, in a magazine or in publishing) to empower other women, talk about issues that women need to be considering, and make it less about gender and more about just doing great work.  Look at what Mika Brzezinski from MSNBC or Maria Bartiromo from FOX, or Moira Forbes at Forbes Women are doing.  They’re talking about issues that women need to be aware of and making them important.  Their work is less about gender and more about doing great work they’re proud of. 


Watch Jennifer's bSMART interview here!

It's about gender equality and helping to make women more equal around the world.


Lasting Influence

What campaign visibility or awareness are you most proud of creating?

I've been at the agency for almost five years and I lead a lot of our work for nation branding.  That means we work with countries all over the world to promote them as tourist destinations or economic hubs.  I worked with the government of Mexico under President Calderón for many years to get people to go back to Mexico.  When you turned on the news back in 2011 and it said 'don't go to Mexico, you’re going to die on the beach from gunshot wounds,' my job was to work with the Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara, to fix that messaging.  

From there, we were hired by the country of Colombia and then Indonesia. We’re also doing work for the tourism arm of the United States under President Obama.  It's very cool to be working with heads of state like you would with a CEO.

I'm also proud of the work I’m doing to empower women and gender equality.  About two years ago, I helped launch HeForShe for UN Women.  It's about gender equality and helping to make women more equal around the world.  Most recently, I started to work with Women's Forum, which is creating gender parity in the boardroom of Fortune 500 companies.  Being a former Barnard girl, women’s issues are very important to me.  I've received great support from the leadership of Ogilvy PR to make that a priority for all of our work. 

Think about how you network yourself – that’s how you become part of a consideration group for boards.


What are some of the challenges you’ve faced collaborating on a campaign?

For any campaign, you have to make sure that there's agreement on the objectives and what you want the outcome to be.  You’re always going to have different points of view, but you need to make sure you’re talking the same language.  You need to educate both your clients and peers to make sure that they’re in agreement with what we’re all working towards, otherwise it creates miscommunication and confusion, which ultimately makes the process much more complicated. 

The most successful programs I’ve run had very clear objectives, very clear plans, and very clear outcomes we were working towards.  The team is focused on one goal: bringing different people together from different disciplines.  With the power of a company like Ogilvy, you can bring advertising, PR, social media, and content all together.  It serves the clients better, it makes us do great work, and it helps us create great campaigns that we're going to be proud of. 

What are the biggest issues impacting women and girls around the world?

Some of the biggest issues facing women can best be defined by the work of HeForShe from UN Women.  Their mission is about gender equality in jobs, education, health, wellness, and personal security.  Anyone can participate, observe, and hopefully be inspired.  Programs like UN Women, and others like the Geena Davis Foundation, are about being inclusive.  All you have to do is seek out and know what the biggest issues are and find ways to participate because all of these organizations want you to.  It's not just about having a celebrity endorsement – they want real people to participate and make a difference. 

Only 20% of corporate boards for S&P 500 companies are women.


How can more qualified women sit on business and arts boards?

Think about how you network yourself – that’s how you become part of a consideration group for boards.  According to our client, Women’s Forum, only 20% of corporate boards for S&P 500 companies are women, so there’s still huge room to grow.  At this rate, gender parity won't be achieved until 2090, which is pretty scary.  Women should be thinking that no matter what stage of their career, they need to be networking and they need to put themselves out there to be asked to be on boards. 

It might not be the biggest or best board to start, but it's a starting point in which you can work towards something to make a difference.  One board can lead to another, and women need to think about how they’re capable of serving right now, they’re in the consideration set, and it's not beyond their reach.  It’s never too early to start. 

How can we be smart building our careers as inspiring communicators?

The best advice I would give somebody regarding their career is to remember it’s a marathon – not a sprint.  I've seen millennials quit a job after six to nine months because they want more opportunity and think there are opportunities of grandeur or more pay at the next job.  But you really have to be in a job for a year or two to get the skills you need for that next job.  It's a process.

And, you need a sponsor.  Not just a mentor, but someone who is going to advocate on your behalf when you’re not in the room.  Having a sponsor is an essential part to any career.  That’s been one of the key reasons I've been successful – I’ve always had people advocating for me.  It's not just about the good work you do, it's about the people around you who appreciate it, understand it, value it, and value you as part of any organization.


The process of building your career is a marathon and not a race.


Spotlight on Jennifer Risi

Neighborhood: Sutton Place, New York

Occupation: Global Media Relations Expert

Twitter: @JenRisi

Instagram: @Jenrisi76

Ultimate Accessory: My Chanel Handbag

Favorite Store: Helmut Lang

Go-to Outfit: Leather jacket, black sweater, black pants and color heels

Must-have Shoes: Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers

Favorite Nail Polish: Essie Really Red

Can't Live Without Product: La Mer

Salon Recommendation: Salon SCK

Signature Scent: Bond No. 9

Beauty Essential: Cetaphyl

Cocktail of Choice: Kettle One on the Rocks with Lemon Twist

Best Date: Walk along River Thames, dinner and amazing conversation

Travel Destination: Aruba

Current Craving: The People vs. OJ Simpson

Best Advice: Go for What You Want.  The Best Rewards have the Biggest Risks.

Favorite Quote: 'It is What It Is'

De-Stress Technique: Soul Cycle

Latest Gadget: Soda Stream

On My Playlist: Jay Z, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Usher

Favorite App: Bitmoji

College: Barnard College

Sorority: Kappa Alpha Theta 




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