I’m Jim McClellan, Raxis’ marketing director and newest (full-time) member of the team. Working with the company as a consultant for two years was a great intro to the people and the culture. When the opportunity arose to join them, it was an easy decision. Now, after months of conducting these interviews, our COO Bonnie Smyre turned the tables, and it’s my turn on the other side.
Bonnie: I would normally say, “Welcome aboard,” but I probably should say, “Welcome all the way aboard,” as you’ve been a Raxis consultant for two years now. What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed since joining us full-time?
Jim: Focus. Even though I’ve worked as a cybersecurity marketer for more than a decade, there’s still a very steep learning curve with penetration testing specifically – the tactics involved, the technologies you use, and even the vocabulary. Early on, I thought a CVE was made by Honda and that a Metasploit Module required medical intervention.
Bonnie: We have a glossary now that might help.
Jim: Haha! Yes, we do. Thank you for that, by the way!
Bonnie: You’ve worked in cybersecurity for a while, but that’s almost a second career for you, right?
Jim: At the very least, it’s an entirely different application of my skills from the first one.
Bonnie: You were a speechwriter for one of Florida’s previous governors, weren’t you? How did you get into that line of work?
Jim: This will sound like BS, but one night when I was 15, I heard a US Senator speak at a hometown fish fry, met a guy who said he was majoring in political science, and talked to an older man who told me about the importance of military service. Fast forward 12 years and I was a speechwriter for that former Senator who was now Governor Lawton Chiles. I was also an officer in the Florida National Guard with a political science degree from FSU.
Bonnie: Ha! That does sound like BS . . . or a very fortunate evening for you.
Jim: It would have been more fortunate to meet Bill Gates or Steve Jobs back then, but it certainly set the tone for the weirdness of my adult life. For example, I’ve had formal dinners in the Governor’s Mansion, but I’ve also fried fish on a creek bank. I’ve ridden in the Vice President’s motorcade during the same time I drove a Bronco with a rusted-out floorboard. There were so many times I wondered, “Am I really supposed to be here?”
Bonnie: Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. Do you miss working in politics?
Jim: Not in the least. I miss the people and the politics as they were then, but there was much more civility, respect, and appreciation for the complexities of public policy. Now, there’s a lot of unbridled and sometimes uninformed passion. As Arthur Schlesinger said, there’s “too much pluribus and not enough unum.”
Bonnie: You’ve obviously seen a lot of changes in your field. What do you consider most significant?
Jim: Emojis. I never thought hieroglyphics would make a comeback after all these millennia, but here we are.
Bonnie: You’re joking . . . I hope.
Jim: Really, I think it has been the convergent evolution of PR, marketing, and advertising. Those were very siloed disciplines for decades. Now, they’re just different starting points for conversations that happen mostly over social media.
Bonnie: Has that made it easier or harder to reach customers?
Jim: It’s a lot easier to get a message in front of customers but much harder to get them to notice. There are no more captive audiences listening to monologues from companies. The customers are in control, so businesses have to be ready to provide useful, high-quality information when and where buyers need it. And, of course, trust is everything. Word of poor service or a faulty product can, quite literally, travel around the world in minutes.
Marketing is still about authenticity and creativity, but the canvas is larger, and we have more colors and brushes to work with.
Bonnie: And emojis.
Bonnie: I know one of your favorite tactics in these meet-the-team interviews is to get people to tell you about their hobbies or unusual things they’ve done. So, I’m going to do that with you.
Jim: My hobbies include backpacking, fishing, hunting, and any other reason I can dream up to be outdoors. I also like woodworking and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. As for unusual? Let’s see: I wrote a book about growing up on the Apalachicola River and the adventures we had in my small hometown. After it was published, my brother (a judge) pointed out that I had confessed in writing to two felonies and multiple misdemeanors.
Bonnie: You’re not in jail, so it must have worked out okay.
Jim: I’m not in jail, and mine is Amazon’s 537th bestselling book . . . in the hunting and fishing humor category. Win, win.
Bonnie: Yes, just a short hop away from the New York Times Bestseller List. Speaking of the Apalachicola River, isn’t that where that delicious tupelo honey comes from? We all look forward to getting that from you during the holidays. Also, don’t feel the need to stop just because you work for us now.
Jim: Noted. And, yes, I even named my company Tupelo Media. The Apalachicola River is one of two places where there are enough tupelo trees to produce the honey commercially. One of the jobs I had growing up was helping a beekeeper during tupelo season. Giving away jars of it is a great way to start conversations about the river — and it reminds me that I never want to be a beekeeper again.
Bonnie: That’s good because you still have work to do here. What’s your favorite part about working with Raxis?
Jim: I’ve worked with lots of different companies as a consultant and employee, so I’ve learned it’s easy to look at the bottom line and know how a business is performing in the short term. But it’s the team, the leadership, and the culture that will tell you whether the company will be successful for the long haul. My favorite part of working for Raxis is the certainty of being on a winning team made up of people I really like.
And the dancing penguin emoji. I love that guy.