Between reading blogs, checking Instagram, opening email, and browsing Google News, these days we’re consuming more media than ever before. For lifestyle businesses looking to get the word out about their brand, this can be a double-edged sword. One one hand, there’s more opportunity than ever to get their products featured in the media…but on the other, they’re also competing with more “noise” than ever before.
Enter Jennifer Meyer and Melissa Duren of Jennifer Bett Communications. The PR industry veterans teamed up three years ago to launch their New York-based lifestyle and fashion public relations firm with a mission to help their clients navigate–and conquer–the ever-changing world of media. Both felt that the existing PR landscape was lacking the level of creativity and personalization it took to drive real, effective results for clients…and decided they’d be the ones to change that.
Find out how they’ve differentiated their business in the competitive work that is New York PR, how they landed clients like Shoshanna, Parachute Home, and TheSkimm, what they’ve learned as entrepreneurs, and more.
YOU BOTH HAD HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL CAREERS IN LIFESTYLE PR BEFORE STARTING YOUR COMPANY. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BRANCH OUT ON YOUR OWN?
Jenny: I found that most agencies were offering extremely one-dimensional, generic plans, with little creativity. So many agencies were only working on how to get the most placements, not how to get the most impactful media impressions. I also found that every time I hired an agency, I rarely received senior-level attention and service. So I found that there was a huge void in the industry overall. I felt like I could offer a service that was intimate, creative, and embraced the big picture.
Melissa: After seven years doing PR, I realized I was most excited about brands who were innovating and really evolving with the changing consumer landscape. At the same time, I realized PR in NY was not adapting to these new young brands and their unique set of needs so it was the opportune time to branch out and offer something new.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO INTO BUSINESS TOGETHER? WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOU WORK WELL AS A TEAM?
Jenny: I hired Melissa six years ago when I ran the Starworks Group PR Department. I knew she was a star and just had to wait a few years until I could find a way to work with her again. Her passion for PR is something that inspires me (and our team) every day.
Melissa: Jen and I have a very similar philosophy when it comes to PR and understand the importance of being nimble. We also loved the idea of working with start-ups and entrepreneurs who were our contemporaries. We both understand our strengths and weaknesses and use them to our advantage. And overall it’s just important to genuinely enjoy your partner’s company to work well as a team above all.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OWNING YOUR OWN FIRM AND WORKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE?
Jenny: The level it affects you personally. It’s been hard for me to detach from the professional side of the business since we are so close with our clients. Their successes are ours which is extremely rewarding but when something doesn’t sell, or a piece doesn’t run, it is hard not take that disappointment home with you.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART?
Jenny: Being able to choose who you work with is by far the best part of owning your own business. For the first time in my life, I 100% believe in every one of my clients. We have kind, intelligent, inspiring clients that truly make it all worth-while. And having the opportunity to work with so many female entrepreneurs has been extremely rewarding. There’s something about helping a new business launch and aiding in their success – watching them succeed is the best part of my job.
WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF RUNNING A CLIENT-FACING BUSINESS?
Jenny: No time-off. No matter what anyone says, it’s impossible to detach completely from this type of business. If a client has an emergency or if an editor needs a last minute quote, you have to be available.
WHAT WERE THE EARLY DAYS IN BUSINESS LIKE?
Jenny: They were yesterday! Three years still feels very early but I do remember that first year well. Melissa and I didn’t have an office space and worked out of each other’s apartments. As we started to grow, we had to find out own space but it was nice when it was just the two of us- we really got to know each other and figure out how to best work together, and ultimately, grow the company.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT LANDING YOUR CLIENTS? DO YOU FIND THEM? DO THEY FIND YOU?
Jenny: Every one of our clients has been word of mouth or referral. Since we both have been doing this for over 10 years each, we are lucky to have made some fantastic and loyal relationships in the industry. Editors have been extremely kind sending over suggestions and introductions while many of our current clients introduce us to other potential brands and so on.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST LEARNING EXPERIENCE AS ENTREPRENEURS?
Melissa: The value of the people and talent – it has been incredibly rewarding to see how JBC has evolved in three short years but it absolutely could not be possible without the unbelievable talent we have been able to bring to the team.
YOU’VE BOTH BEEN IN THE PR INDUSTRY FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. HOW IS PR CHANGING IN THE WAKE OF DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA?
Melissa: With the rise of influence that digital and social media have brought, publicists first have to educate clients and understand their key objectives and where this media fits in. When it comes to digital, it’s incredibly powerful for a brand to get coverage as it brings readers directly to a brand’s website and potentially converts to sales. Social media is a bit tricky as it’s harder to track ROI. With the rise of the insta-famous and style bloggers, there has also been a rise in imposter influencers. Brands can spend too much time and energy and see no return here.
LIFESTYLE PR IS A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY. WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL?
Jenny: I think our approach is very different than what our contemporaries offer. First off- we don’t offer a cookie-cutter approach to PR. Each client is unique, and so our approach to each is different.
WHAT ABOUT AS AN INDIVIDUAL – WHAT QUALITIES DOES IT TAKE TO DO WELL IN A PR ROLE?
Melissa: You have to be hungry and unwilling to take no for an answer. I’ve also never forgotten something Hamilton South said when I was at HL Group- never stop learning or seeking new knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this 1 year, 5 years or 20…there is always room to grow and never stop seeking it.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYEES? WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE PEOPLE YOU HIRE?
Jenny: We are always looking for publicists that approach things in a different way. It isn’t as important if you know so and so- but how will you structure your pitch- where will you pitch it – and why? Creative thinkers are key here. We are looking for people willing to color outside the lines and push our clients. Often publicists who also have marketing backgrounds offer valuable insight.