Saxum’s Jeff Risley on using this crisis to your advantage

Whether that’s revisiting your organization’s goals or innovating to find new strategies, the businesses that come out stronger after the pandemic will be the ones that sought to challenge the status quo.


Success in the COVID-19 era means having the ability to adapt.

For Jeff Risley, chief strategy officer at Saxum, an integrated digital agency based in Oklahoma City, that meant making 75% of his meetings virtual, tapping into new communities on Slack and Hubspot, and rethinking the brand of his agency.

Just a few things on the to-do list.

We caught up with him as part of our “Day in the Life” series. Here’s what he had to say about adapting during the pandemic—and what is working for his team in a time of constant change:

1. How much coffee do you drink during a day?

Risley: Sixteen ounces. No more, no less.

2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?

Risley: For the last few months, we’ve been deep into a big internal marketing and branding refresh, including a redesigned website, a shift in thinking for the company, and a focus on communities rather than real estate.

Given that, I’m going to say it’s probably not one person, but the entire marketing team who I’ve been communicating with every day. We’ve been having 7:30 a.m. “touch base” calls every day, and constantly in communication via Slack. It’s nonstop.

It’s been a major effort, and I’m happy to say that it’s now launched, as of Sept. 16. Without that group of people, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are now.

3. How much of your day is spent on Zoom calls?

Risley: I’d say 75% of my meetings are virtual.

In addition, along with the new website and brand refresh, we also announced a shift in thinking toward communities rather than physical location and real estate. Now, team members have the opportunity to live and work in one of three Saxum communities: the Remote Community (anywhere in the world), Market Community (such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas), and our Headquarters Community (our only official address, located in Oklahoma City).

Obviously, the pandemic has shifted the way we all work, so we asked our team and embraced our already existing technology, realizing that work happens where employees are and where they’re needed; it’s not confined to a physical office space.

Our communities model means our employees can live and work from anywhere, and we can still provide outstanding service to our clients. So, yes, definitely connecting more via virtual methods.

4. What’s a tool you couldn’t live without right now?

Risley: Definitely technology in general. I mean, where would any of us be currently without the use of technology to communicate with co-workers and clients?

Specifically, virtual calls and online communities like Slack and Hubspot. We were lucky in that we were well prepared for something like this. We were able to protect our employees early and shift to a work from home scenario pretty quickly. I have to give credit to our chairman and CEO for having the insight in investing in technology, as well as our senior technical director for implementing and keeping us up to date.

5. What’s been the biggest change you’ve faced since the pandemic started?

Risley: There’s obviously working from home most of the time. But beyond that, there are several other things that have been happening during the same time from a racial and social perspective. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is a primary focus for us. It means we respect and celebrate the unique attributes, characteristics and perspectives that make all of us who we are.

We’ve adapted to meet the needs of our clients, partners and employees and I’m excited to see that reflected in our new website and brand.

6. Are you still working from home? If so, what’s been your favorite part of WFH?

Risley: We have a lot of flexibility, so I’m back and forth to the office and home quite often. While I am home though, I love not having a commute!

7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for the rest of 2020?

Risley: I know it’s been a very difficult year, to say the least, but challenge yourself, your clients and your company to use the pandemic to your advantage.

Use this time to rethink your goals and adapt your strategies to ensure they align with the current state of the world. At Saxum, we knew, at our core, we are here for good. We are here to make meaningful and measurable change. So, fittingly, our new brand affirms the commitment through our new mantra, “Obsessed for Good.”

8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR? Any big predictions for 2021?

Risley: I think this is a great time for our profession. More than ever, our world needs people who understand how to communicate sensitively and authentically. We’ve been trained how to do that for companies, brands and individuals. I don’t foresee that going away.



One Response to “Saxum’s Jeff Risley on using this crisis to your advantage”

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    One of the biggest beneficiaries from crisis will be PR Daily. Many newsletters are mainly rewritten handouts on who landed jobs and accounts, but PR Daily’s newsletter and courses give superb reports on Crisis PR Management. That’s what top managements gladly pay for lavishly.

    Like dentists, Crisis PR managers are called on eagerly with management’s frantic question: what should we DO? One can enjoy more compensation, windows and deep gratitude from the mighty by reading this stuff, taking the courses and becoming skilled in crisis management—what to do, when and how, plus how to avoid common blunders that too often cause management to endure media knees on the neck.

    I guarantee that Ted Kitterman doesn’t wear that shirt because he can’t afford suits.

PR Daily News Feed

Sign up to receive the latest articles from PR Daily directly in your inbox.