Interview: Jennifer Risi, EVP, Weber Shandwick

On Tuesday, October 5, Weber Shandwick will be hosting its third annual VOICEBOXX event in New York City. This year’s topic of discussion is “Breaking Through the Sound Barrier: How to Get Heard in a Death-by-Information-Overloaded World; Leveraging Communications as Innovation and Business Performance Driver.” Panelists will include Bruce Jasurda, CMO of the U.S. Army; David Steel, EVP of strategy and corporate communications for Samsung North America; and Peter Land, SVP of communications at PepsiCo.  The discussion will be moderated by Jeff Chu, senior editor at Fast Company.

Jennifer Risi, Weber Shandwick EVP, gave PRNewser advanced info about the event. The Q&A after the jump.Can you tell us a little about VOICEBOXX?

VOICEBOXX is the speaker platform in which we place all of our top clients at the top events around the world. Part of that, we’ve also started to create platforms and events that bring a lot of our clients together to talk about the issues of the day and the issues that are obviously most on their minds, to talk with colleagues about how they can find solutions to their issues, and foster collaboration and growth for everyone as we face a challenging time.

Why did you decide to focus on this topic?

The media landscape is continuing to change. It’s about a 24-7 news environment that is not only traditional but digital. You have more people talking more than ever. How do we help our clients breakthrough all of that dialogue within their industry and on the broader national and global stage to help them have a voice?

We’re realizing that communications is very important in that it’s helping companies be a business driver for growth as they move forward.  Communications very much has a seat at the table when senior executives are looking to devise a strategy. Today it’s much more challenging to break through and the smartest companies are the ones coming up with consumer-centric ideas.

One of the topics of discussion will be “the rising need to shift communications to a must-have in times of crisis.” How have the rules in times of crisis changed? Are there more crises now than in the past?

Most companies are dealing with an issue, whether it’s when they want to launch a product, or dealing with some kind of financial crisis, or they’re dealing with a bigger crisis that can impact the overall strategy of their company. Being open and being out there is what helps to gain the trust of the public, helps to keep the public engaged, and can spur positivity with how the business is ultimately being run.

We feel that it shouldn’t just be in a time of crisis that people are communicating. They need to be communicating every day to develop those relationships with the right influencers, the right businesses, and the right consumers that are going to be the people that buy the products.

Why were the panelists chosen and what should attendees expect?

The mix of companies is very consumer-facing this year. When we’ve done the event in the past, we’ve done it very focused on B-to-B companies. This time we really wanted to focus on how big companies like Pepsi or an organization like the Army is connecting with consumers in different ways than they ever have before.

There are different levels of engagement that didn’t exist before. We think the consumer-facing companies are a model that a lot of the more mainstream B-to-B companies can use as examples of what they should be doing.