Aligning Your PR and Marketing Strategies featuring Jess Windell, Maven Consulting
Many companies face a disconnect between their marketing and PR departments. But what kind of growth could your company experience if you bridged the gap?
Jess Windell created Maven Consulting to link the PR and marketing departments. While most people think of PR as media relations, Jess thinks of it as any relationship you have with a stakeholder that matters to your business. She knows how to answer questions including, “How do I build better relationships with my investors?” and “How do I clarify my message and get it in front of the audience?”
In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, Diana Fryc is joined by the Founder of Maven Consulting, Jess Windell, to discuss connecting your PR and marketing strategies. Jess clarifies some misconceptions about PR, explains why she wanted to create her own agency, and gives tips about how to develop better business relationships.
In this episode we learn:
- Jess Windell talks about why she started Maven Consulting
- What does PR mean to Jess?
- Jess dives into the purpose and impact of Naturally San Diego and the pivotal moments in her career
- Why is there a disconnect between PR and marketing?
- The tipping point: when did Jess decide it was time to create her own agency?
- The importance of systems vs. customizing the process every time you work with a new client
- What are some misconceptions surrounding PR?
- Options for working with Maven Consulting
- Tips for developing business relationships
- Why do people avoid planning for crisis management, and what can you do to prepare?
- How Jess handled the crisis when a free snack coupon accidentally went viral
- What brands and trends is Jess keeping her eye on?
About Jess Windell:
Jess Windell is the Founder of Maven Consulting, a strategic communications and public relations consultancy. Jess launched Maven Consulting in 2020 to help consumer brands get their PR strategy on the right track using the necessary tools for growth.
Jess Windell has spent 12 years working in public relations. Her previous roles include the Vice President of BAM, a PR agency, and the PR Consultant for Perfect Snacks, a fresh snack brand leader. Jess is also the current Vice President of Naturally San Diego, a nonprofit organization and business network that fosters sustainability and develops leadership in the San Diego natural products community.
Guests Social Media Links:
LinkedIn Jess Windell: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicawindell/
- Jess Windell on LinkedIn
- Naturally San Diego
- Naturally San Diego’s events
- Perfect Snacks
- Natural Products Expo West
- Sara Brooks of Covet PR
- Mission MightyMe
- Diana Fryc on LinkedIn
- Retail Voodoo
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo.
Retail Voodoo has been building beloved and dominant brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness CPG industries for over 30 years. They’ve served multinational companies like PepsiCo. and Starbucks, startups like High Key, and everything in between.
Their proven process guides hundreds of mission-driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation, and magnify their social and environmental impact.
So, if you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, Retail Voodoo is here to help.
Visit retail-voodoo.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo. A brand development firm guiding mission driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base crush their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com
Diana Fryc 0:45
Hi, welcome to the Gooder Podcast. I’m Diana Fryc, your host and on the Gooder Podcast. We get to talk with a powerhouse woman in CPG and their journeys to success. Thanks for joining us today. Real quick here This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo a brand development firm. at Retail Voodoo we build beloved and dominant brands in the food wellness beverage and fitness CPG industries. Anyone from multinational companies like PepsiCo and Starbucks to startups like high key and everyone in between. We guide mission driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. We have a proven process of working with several 100 brands over the past 30 years. So if you’re ready to find a partner that will help you with your business create a high impact strategy that gives your brand an unfair advantage. Retail Voodoo is here to help just visit us at Retail-Voodoo.com or email actually you can email me Diana@RetailVoodoo.com to learn more. So before into introducing today’s guest I want to give a big thank you to Miss Kaylee Climber who introduced me to our guest today. Kaylee is a public relations strategist with Climber PR and we met her a few years ago when working on the lesser evil rebrand. So check out what she’s up to now over at Climber pr.com Well, today I’m excited to introduce Miss Jess Windell…Windell Did I say that right Windell? He did. Okay great. And she is founder of Maven Consulting, a strategic communications and public relations consultancy. Working with consumer brands, call it passion, a love of people or maybe just a natural knack for storytelling. Whenever whatever it is, she’s fueled by Jess isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Call it passion love of people, or maybe just a net natural knack for storytelling. Whatever it is she’s fueled by Jess isn’t slowing down any soon. anytime soon. from the get go. She knew her desire to represent brands and leaders with a purposeful story was a strong one. And after 12 years in PR seven at the helm of BAM, the agency and leading communications for fresh snacking leader Perfect Snacks just launched Maven Consulting in 2020 to help consumer brands get their PR strategy on the right track and on their own terms and own time. Well, hello, Miss Jess, how are you?
Jess Windell 3:19
Hello there. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here. And I love your description of your company crush the category. I love that. Thank you. It was a soundbite very, very well said. Thank you unfair advantage. I love that too. Yeah. Very excited to be here. And so happy to have connected with you. Thank you Yes to Kaylee. And yeah, I’m looking forward to the conversation today,
Diana Fryc 3:46
sir. Well, so you’re calling us or you’re on the call from San Diego. Right? Is that where you are today?
Jess Windell 3:51
I am where It’s Always Sunny in 75. And sometimes I crave a little bit of cloudiness so that I don’t want to be outside and I can you know sit inside and because he but it’s an It’s a beautiful day here. Oh, it’s always should come to Seattle, right? Yeah. Well, yeah, it’s,
Diana Fryc 4:09
uh, you know, we get our cloudy days. It’s been gorgeous. all summer and I’m yoga summer. So this is there’s a reason why they call it the Emerald City. It’s green predominantly, because about seven months out of the year. It’s overcast, it doesn’t rain a lot. That’s a misnomer, but it’s overcast. So when it does rain, we keep it we retain it. And then subsequently we have green summers. I’ll take that. I love it. Yeah. Hey, before we start, I always like to give my guests an opportunity to share more of who they are and what they do. But let’s do that through the lens of Maven Consulting. Well, who is Maven Consulting and why did you start it?
Jess Windell 4:48
Oh, man, it has been. It’s been a year since I started back in August of 2020. And really, it stemmed from me trying to decide what was going to excite me the most and really get me fired up about work. I’ve always loved what I’ve done. As you mentioned, I worked for seven years at a PR agency right out of college and went to school for PR and then shifted to the in house side of Perfect Snacks for six years still ongoing. They’re still a client. And really, I was like, you know, what’s next, we did get acquired. And I felt that my time there was, you know, at least coming to an end from a full time standpoint, I felt like the team was really equipped with what we had built. And so I thought, do I go on the corporate side? Do I go work for big CPG because I haven’t touched that yet. You know, what, what really lights you up. And simultaneously I did get connected for Naturally San Diego and just being around these other brands and in such different stages of the company’s their company’s lifecycle. And meeting passionate founders and hearing what maybe challenges they may have had in the realm of PR once they found out what I did, and had previously done for Perfect Snacks. And I thought, Gosh, I knew exactly what all these brands need to do. If I could just get a little you know, if I could get their ear, if I could get a little bit of their time I could really help them. And so having been on both sides of the coin of agency, and then how I felt that I had a really unique perspective of what was maybe missing when engagements were taking place between PR agencies and brands, prior to them being able to bring someone in house to manage it full time. And so while I have the utmost respect and see total value in PR agencies working with brands, I thought there was an opportunity to empower and help brands truly understand why they why they need PR, not just a Oh, of course, we’re gonna do PR because right? Everyone does PR Yep. It’s what type? Why when how much. And if they could understand that I feel that they could make more informed decisions when it comes to working with agencies, freelancers, when is it time to bring someone in house to really manage this. And so it kind of stemmed from a place of more I want to empower and inform. And it has since you know, transpired into a lot more. But I just I was uncomfortable with having such little understanding of what it is that I was so passionate about in the world of PR and for CEOs, board members to not really understand the value of it. Yeah, everyone always says you can’t measure awareness, you can’t measure PR. Well, in fact, you can, if you understand how it’s working with everything else.
Diana Fryc 7:53
Mm hmm. And there needs to be a little bit of traction to I think with PR and oftentimes in a lot of marketing, it really depends on how sophisticated the client is to let’s be honest, you have to have a little bit of duration to understand what the return is and to be able to measure anything. I think a lot of people get antsy and have unrealistic expectations and things stop for one month or two months or even three months. I mean it three months, you’re just peeking under the hood of what’s possible. And it’s not a real representation. But a lot of people think, well, it needs to be you know, by six months, I should know, well, maybe you just but it’s kind of like marathon training, you kind of have salutely doing the work. And then eventually you’re like, Oh, I’m doing eight minute miles now. Oh, I’m doing 750 miles now.
Jess Windell 8:42
Right, you start picking up speed. And I will say that one of the biggest validations for me that this was the route I was going to take was Perfect Snacks, we worked with a PR agency and four different PR agencies over the course of the first few years I was there. And I finally went to my VP and I said, Look, if I can just hire an intern, I’m confident with the team that we’ve built out marketing, because I’m not handling as much as they used to. We can do this ourselves. And we might even be able to do it better because we might be able to be more agile. But there’s so much to your point that goes into foundational work that once you hit your stride, you can hire that loaded gun PR agent, or if you’re looking for ways to ramp up your strategy or get a creative campaign in place, but most of the clients that I work with have either never really dabbled in PR which to me most people think of PR as Media Relations. I think of it as so much more I think of any relationship that you have with a stakeholder that matters to your business. They have an impact on work. And so if media is just one channel, but when you Think about a brand who has never worked with a specialist in the realm of PR. It’s first and foremost, what are you even saying? What is your message? What are you? The other you establishing and hanging your hat on? Yeah, I want people to know do that when the communication happens. Yeah. And that’s why I make sure that we say we are a communications agency. Without the message, and without the way to communicate that message, effectively, yeah, then it doesn’t matter who’s talking about you, because what’s going to hit that end consumer or that audience that you’re trying to reach? Yep. It will not actually benefit your company. So let’s get really clear on what that is, in a number of ways. First, yeah, and then we got to start having fun, then we get to see how do we excite and attract these people to talk and amplify what we have to say? Yeah,
Diana Fryc 10:56
yeah, I find that you know, our firm, we do a lot of brand development. And we find some of the best partners that we have post strategy, once we start moving towards activation and marketing planning are those PR partners, because, first of all, they know what to do with a brand strategy and positioning like that’s the dream for the agency.
Jess Windell 11:19
Oh, my gosh, whenever whenever I get start working with a client, and they have just finished brand strategy, work or positioning or rebrand? Yeah, I’m like, this is the Holy Grail. We get to start, we get a head start.
Diana Fryc 11:30
Yeah, totally. And then, you know, sometimes we work with firms, some or sometimes we work with people who have active PR going on, and there’s some good solid foundational work there from a communication standpoint. And so I feel like the to work hand in hand so nicely together. Absolutely. Yeah. I, I want to talk just really quickly about Naturally San Diego, you mentioned them for just about a heartbeat there. And I think that you were one of the foundational members of Naturally San Diego. I Incidentally, had been talking with Sharon, is it red house? Right house? Yeah, right house? Yes,
I’m starting. I’m starting a Naturally Seattle and the conversations gone a little bit quiet, Miss Sharon, but
Jess Windell 12:18
we document yesterday. Actually, she heard it. We actually just talked about it yesterday, did you on a zoom call? So it’s it’s in process.
Diana Fryc 12:27
I figured that it’s either they’re swimming or they’re planning or there’s something? Yeah. But tell us a little bit about why it was really important for San Diego specifically, to have a Naturally chapter, like, let’s talk about that.
Jess Windell 12:43
We may have to have a whole nother pod on Naturally because it is truly my pride and joy. I have to give major credit to Ari Roz who really was the catalyst for Naturally San Diego. And as you probably know that maybe the audience doesn’t Naturally network is now in existence to be the umbrella organization across the country, and under which affiliates in each city will live. And Naturally Boulder was really the first church. So Chicago, Austin Bay Area, North Bay, soon to be in New York in LA. And so two years ago, this month, Ari came to a handful of natural brands in San Diego and said, Hey, we need to put San Diego on the map for natural products. Yeah, we, we need the big players in this category to do it. And so at the time, I was at Perfect Snacks. And I asked if I could be kind of the representative cuz I was so nice about it. Okay. And the best way I can explain it is that there are only a handful of times a year, pre COVID that we all got together, right. So effects but less fancy Food Show, right? And I felt like it was the Super Bowl. And it was the only time I had to get you know, you had to be so healthy. Because you’re just going to go go, go, go go, you know, take no breaks, get all the networking and meet all the people go to all the parties. And it’s like, that should not be the case. And that shouldn’t be the only time that we get access to each other site. When this was brought to my attention. I thought this is exactly what we need in this industry to be able to create more opportunities for connection and we all crave it so much. Yeah. If we create a forum for connection and community, I think people will grasp it. So that’s really how it started. I mentioned Yes, I was on the founding board. But then I became the executive director for the past year. So I’ve just onboarded a brand new executive director, I actually got announced yesterday. Oh my goodness. And she’s amazing. But I’ve been in the trenches for the last year and we’ve been we’ve been working to build this community and this network in a virtual environment where the other affiliates have done in person and that’s It’s predicated on in person events. And so we’re now switching into a hybrid model. But we have two upcoming in person events. Gotcha. Jamie Schmidt, from Schmidt’s naturals is our first in person event we’re doing a founder series is a big deal. Yeah. So you know, it has been a labor of love. But we have 35 sponsors that are both natural brands and the companies that service them. Nice, just and we have a board, board members, from the natural brands across the county, you know, leadership roles, and I have so much love and adoration for everyone who has believed in this organization. And I just can’t believe what it’s done in the past year. And and it was the same year that I was building my business. So I, executive director in July, I started my business in August and sir doing doing a lot simultaneously. But it’s just been beautiful to see something formed during a time when community and networking we needed it most right? Yeah, we have never needed community more than we did the past decreed.
Diana Fryc 16:07
I totally agree on that. Network. It’s these professional networks can be a little bit tricky. But you’re right, you know, you go to I t’s every you know, when we just onboard a couple of new employees this weekend. One, thank you. And one is just outside of the naturals category, just like an adjacent categories. And one is very familiar with the expo Expo West, you know, and what that is, and I was describing. Expo West is the like the Super Bowl, you know, like eat your Wheaties wear tennis shoes. If you don’t wear tennis shoes, you can always tell who the new guys are. Because they’re wearing their heels or their dress. You don’t have to tap out because he or she they Yeah, and then and I’m like it’s full body tack, especially when you’re in the center. Like I have no idea how West is going to go this year, like how, how do you I mean, part of that is the experience, right? Like part of that is having the experience of like, Oh my gosh, I’m at this mosh pit party, everybody and their brother is here. And at the same time go. Now I need my three foot buffer, I need my three foot buffer. I’m not because I mean, some people, we I mean, who knows what will be going on with COVID. At that time, we keep seeing things change. But then also our I don’t think that anybody’s even accustomed to that now we have like, we’ve got this new kind of way of seeing our body and our buffer zone now. So it’ll be really interesting to see how that goes. I did go to my first trade show, I went to sweets and snacks last month. It was very sparsely attended. Except for her the people that did attend the booths that were there. At least the most of the people that I spoke to said it was actually really, really great, because while they didn’t have all the conversations that they normally had, they had basically the almost the same number, if not more conversations with real live actual buyers. So they weren’t jockeying around the looky loos and the people who were curious and the family members and the Oh, and we’ll see we’re gonna send 50 was Mark quality. So it’s very curious to me to see what the impact will be. I think that people that did go to the show. Now, granted, I didn’t talk to all of them, obviously. But the people that I went to said they were surprised that how great the show ended up being for them at the end of the day, just simply because like we can even talk, you can even make that correlation with PR, and social media and digital advertising. It’s really not about volume. So it’s about hitting that right target and at the right time. So anyway,
Jess Windell 18:46
I had a lot of clients asking whether they should go to Expo east. And I said, You know, I think understanding what their goals are, I thought it would be an opportunity to have more of those quality conversations, because the brands, not only the buyers and the service writers, but the brands who are going are only going if it really is meaningful to that’s actually, you know, being part of a brand that it was like, of course you go to Expo West, of course you go back. Yep. He’s like no questions asked. I think that it’s just much more intentional. Yes. And so it creates more room for the brands that actually deserve to get the attention or need it most right now. And so I do think that the dynamic is changing for the better. To some degree.
Diana Fryc 19:35
Yeah, I mean, it’ll always change. That’s the thing is with humans, everything’s dynamic, that horse, it’s pretty great. Well, let’s go back a little bit in time now. And, and tell us a little bit about those early days of your career and kind of maybe a couple of those pivotal moments that looking back were the things that were like, Oh, yeah, when that happened, and that happened. That is my direct correlation to me being here now. Can you share a couple of those? Do you? Do you remember them?
Jess Windell 20:03
I do. Like to think it wasn’t that long ago. But I think I’ve always just really gravitated I got I said, I majored in PR, I’ve always been a writer, I’ve always really been a relationship person. But what I found being at an agency and primarily handling Media Relations, is that the correlation between or not even the correlation, but really, the Association of PR with marketing was just nonexistent, and they’ve been so siloed for so long. And it’s not fair to think that they can’t be blurred lines between the two and that there can be overlap. And what I realized by being at a PR agency, and truly being external, is that we were not privy, as the PR partner to a lot of the information that wouldn’t really helped us do better at our jobs, we were given the information that they thought we needed. But again, that goes back to not really understanding what our role is. So for me, I always felt like I was working at an arm’s distance, and only handling a small small segment of what I actually could be handling, I didn’t have a full understanding of what was happening within the company. Gotcha. When I went in house, I felt like it was a whole new world. And it was just like bright and beautiful, because I had access to the information that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Yeah. And it made me realize what was needed as a liaison from an external agency. And much like any outsourced specialists that you bring in, you’re only as good as the information that you give them into the pool that they have to execute for you. And I’ll never forget one of my good friends, Sara Brooks of Covet PR, she said, when I was telling her about starting Maven, I said, I just want to do what I did when we worked with COVID, which was, you know, I helped you guys do your job better, because I knew what you needed, because I’d been there before. And she said just if every brand had a unit like perfect Maxted we could be so much more successful. Yeah. And when that just always stuck with me, because I thought I can be that person, I can truly be the extension of a team where I understand sales ops, finance, Eagle even because I’ve had to, and that will help us be more focused on a better side, even if we’re not the ones doing it. So somebody even is that we also coach teams and train teams to execute PR on their on their own, like I did it Perfect Snacks, or we bring in contractor specialists, right execute different PR tactics on their own. But either way, both of those options require a thorough understanding of the entire ecosystem, and not just the siloed parts. And so I think just the eye opening aspects of being on both sides of it, and seeing where, where the the missed opportunities lied. Mm hmm.
Diana Fryc 23:20
Now, we, you may have already answered this a little bit, but like, was there a turning point aside from the one that you I mean, you did talk about that, like, Well, you know, I was here for seven years, it looked like kind of my time was starting to, it was time for me to move on. Was there any other point where you were like, someday I’m going to be doing something like this? Or was it literally that that event did that experience that brought you to Maven,
Jess Windell 23:47
I never thought I would on my own agency business. That was never my intent. I’ve always loved helping others grow something they’re really passionate about. And I think the shift was that I realized I can still help other people grow what they’re really passionate about. And it just happens to also be by way of my own business. And that was so exciting to me, because I I mean, I cry every time I talk about perfect science, because I just love them so much that my family and I was so grateful, I still am so grateful that I was able to go to them and say look, I’m really excited about the opportunity. Do what I did here but for other brands, you know, is there an opportunity where we could still work together and I can still infuse value where I think value is needed most and and taper off of it in other areas. And I mean they said yes and that gave me the courage to say okay, I still have Perfect Snacks, I can still kind of dabble and see what I like working with other brands, but the opportunity to go in and Just work with directly with founders, you know, with these marketing teams that I just want to help them I want to make their lives lives easier and the Brasilia land better. And the only way that we can do that is if we work really closely together as if I am on the team. And you know, now I have a team. So it’s really exciting to be able to have a similar dynamic that I did at Perfect Snacks and I was drinking the Kool Aid Perfect Snacks and thinking and and I still believe this, but you know, Perfect Snacks is a unicorn, there’s nothing else like it. We’re like the you know, there’s no other company that will be perfect snack, sit and come down. Oh, my God, every company is just so special in their own right, every story, every founder every product. I mean, it’s just so incredible. Once you you do peel back the layers a little bit and give a bit of attention. And that’s what I hope to do is to be able to show these lesser known aspects of companies and brands that you don’t get to see all the time. They don’t what do we what should we highlight about you that’s really going to evoke emotion and not just function of your problems? So I think, Yeah, Perfect Snacks just taught me so much. And it taught me what, what a killer story can do for your brand. And you know, the perfect snack story is unlike anything else, I will say that. But it just there’s so many nuggets that Yeah, sometimes don’t see the light of day because they don’t have the means or the channels to do so. And so it’s exciting for me to be able to bring this out.
Diana Fryc 26:33
Well, what is special family, you come you come from, because it is actually probably more unique than maybe you might know or recognize but to have to have a leadership that is willing to help us the row as a person professionally. Have it be about what you can do for them really at the end of the day is pretty great. This really grace
Jess Windell 26:59
so special, and they will forever just have such a special place in my heart. Because I don’t know that I could have done this like cold turkey.
Diana Fryc 27:07
Scary. Yeah, well, so now you have all this experience, understanding the operations of a business from before you were having your own business. Now, granted, you’ve only you’ve only been doing this for a year as on your own. I’m wondering, have you crashed into anything yet? That you were like, Oh, this makes sense. As to why this and this was happening over here, organizationally, from a business perspective, not necessarily from a PR perspective? And do you have any of those moments like where things clicked into place? And you’re like, Oh, got it. Now I get now I understand it at the next level?
Jess Windell 27:47
Absolutely. I think no one really prepares you for starting a business. That’s the truth. And I sit say that if someone somebody really did if I could have just like gotten a P, I probably would have been a bit terrified and ran the other way. To answer your question specifically, I do think that you go in kind of with this theory and this desire, I was like, I am not going to be cookie cutter, what we offer is going to be customized it’s going to be whatever the brand needs. And that’s really why I do call Maven a consultancy, because I want to be able to go in and assess the needs and then dive in where needed as opposed to showing up with a very cookie cutter game plan. And this is what we offer. This is what we do whether you need it or not. Mm hmm. That’s where I think things relationships go awry. Because it’s like, well, that’s great that you did that. And you did it well, but we didn’t actually need that. Right. So I went in with that mindset of like, I’m going to customize everything. And I would say probably three months in I realized why things are a bit more scattered why structure and
Diana Fryc 28:58
so operationally that doesn’t work.
Jess Windell 29:01
And I will say I’m much more of a creative and you know, left brain person as it relates to like structure and process. But I have some very incredible coaches and guides that really helped me to not not become too much of what I didn’t want to become right but had that healthy balance so that I can I have three full time people now that I feel so confident in their abilities because we have structure and systems and processes. Yes. And so I was you know wanting to come in when it is just you you can kind of do that you can be willing to learn can not have too much consistency or repetition. But the second that you start to scale that becomes really difficult to function like that. And so it was a big learning for me of you don’t have to sacrifice what’s really important to you. I don’t ever wants to show up and say, here’s what we do. And this is only what we do. And we’re not going to make this a fit for you. But I also, I turn away brands who don’t want to follow the model that we’ve set
Diana Fryc 30:13
out, we’re the same way, if they don’t want to go through
Jess Windell 30:16
the process that we have laid out, it doesn’t mean you don’t, you’re not going to get your needs met or your needs spoken to. It just means that you got to do this first so that we’re set up for success. So structure is now very much part of the business. Is that so funny? I’m the same way too. I
Diana Fryc 30:34
when I joined my business partner in 2006, he was very much a process. I mean, the he’d been running the business for a long time. So he knew what he was doing. But me stepping in as kind of the new guy like, whoa, whoa, you know, why? Why are we do this? Now, what I learned actually is really valuable. And I don’t know if you’d articulate it this way or not. But the process remains rigid. The outputs are customized. Yeah, you get to so chef, that’s exactly it. Yeah, it’s kind of like, I’ll reference marathon training. I do this all the time, mostly because I’m on the forever path of marathon training. I don’t know if I’ve ever run one. But I do desire to run one. But there is like a methodology, you run like this for a while, then you do this, and then you do this. And then you do this. And then this week, you do the same process, but you do it faster, or you do it longer, you do it more, and then you do it. And at the end of the day, you finish a marathon. And everybody finishes the marathon, if they follow the process, same concept. outputs are slightly different. Absolutely. That is exactly it. Yeah. Well, any I’m curious. You know, I kind of like to have two questions. I think I might steer more towards this one, which is, as you’ve been building your own business, are you finding that the same, you’re seeing the same misconceptions about PR as you in your current role as you did when you were in house or working for other people? Is it? Is there like a general misnomer? And what is it that you wish you could get people to understand about the power of what you can and can’t do?
Jess Windell 32:08
I have so many thoughts and feelings about this, because I’m just so passionate about talking with people and ensuring that they do have a bit more clarity. I think PR has been around. I always say even if you think you’re not doing PR you are Yeah, because if you have publics and stakeholders, that not public’s, like with an X close with the CS. If you have public and stakeholders that matter to your business, if you even haven’t launched yet you are doing public relations, you just don’t have control over. And so I would say that the common misconception is people are saying, oh, we’re not ready for PR, we don’t need PR or we don’t need. We don’t have the budget for it. And my response to that is you’re doing it already. I think understanding what that looks like is important, because the most common misconception is it’s just Media Relations. Yeah, it’s media coverage, getting publicity. And it is it’s truly not that we’ve we’ve covered it already. But it’s the messaging, the communications, the who you’re talking to, and how you are encouraging and exciting them to share your message far and wide. And so if we think about that I have 18 different buckets that I call them buckets of part of our assessment phase, which is a process is we go into each of those buckets, and I say, Okay, great. What’s what are you currently doing for tradeshows? What are you currently doing with your buyers? How are you building relationships and fostering? Exactly, yeah. And there is not a single person I’ve ever spoken to that would bring up buyers in the in the same breath of PR, right? And I, when I bring that up, they’re like, how is that PR? And I said, Well, if your buyer doesn’t really think highly of you, do you think you’re gonna get that Prime shelf space? Do you think that you’re going to get that meeting with the, you know, other category that you’re now innovating in? That is a relationship that you have to foster? Now you need to foster it before you need it? And so how do we do that? Right, we ensure Same thing with your investors. It’s all about perception, reputation, which ultimately drives behaviors and actions, right. And so it’s quite, it can look a lot of different ways. And that’s why part of our assessment phases, what are the needs and goals of the company right now because your needs and goals are very different depending on where you are available to consumers. If it’s only online and it’s only in store. It’s very different if you’re trying to fundraise versus trying to just get some sales from consumers. Yeah, it’s a very different approach. And so I think there are so many common misconceptions. But the the first and biggest one is that what is encompassed within PR? Yeah. I think has been for so long just just tied Media Relations. And in fact,
Diana Fryc 35:21
there’s so much more. Yeah. Interesting. I think, you know, of course, when we’re talking about the most sophisticated brands, they get it the multinationals the big giant ones, this small to mid cap guys that sometimes struggle Ma, it’s so tough because we use a label, like public relations or in our space, brand strategy. And so many people have glommed on to it in so many different ways and translated it that there’s kind of this aggregate. What’s the word I’m looking for?
Jess Windell 35:55
Well, it’s hard to define. Yeah. It’s, it’s all within this, this umbrella. Yeah. Then how do you know clearly defined I every week, I feel like I’m rewriting our taglines and mission, because I’m trying to adequately convey what we do. And the other thing I’ll say, is just when you look at it with the lens that I do, yeah, opportunity is everywhere. And I’ve said to you know, my parents are always they’re both therapists, and they’re always worried about, you know, how’s your stress level, how’s your emotional well being? And I said, you know, constantly over this past year, I am more overwhelmed with opportunity than anything else. Like, it’s just that opportunity is everywhere. And when you do have your own business, you can see that if you really want to Yeah, and so because there’s 18 buckets that can fall within the realm of what we do. overwhelming. So you have to find ways to prioritize the needs and the goals. Yeah, budget and bandwidth, all these things that we consider before we really make a suggestion.
Diana Fryc 36:59
Yeah, big. Yeah. Well, when you, you know, kind of further down this topic. There were two things that we for sure wanted to discuss during our time together. And one what was kind of taking this concept of misconceptions, but aiming it towards those kind of emerging brands, and these poor humans with loads of passion for what they’re, you know, what it is that they’re trying to do at the end of the day, are overwhelmed with what is the right, right amount, the right way, the right mix the right blank, blank, blank. And you and I talked a little bit about kind of what those we talked about the misconceptions, but maybe we could talk about like, what are those fundamental basics that you go Okay, before I Okay, you guys can’t afford us right now. Got it. Here’s what I recommend you do. Here’s your top two things, that even if it’s just organizing your information, put them in a bucket and and just do this, if you do nothing else, just do this dude, did you have that recommendation? Are there like those basics?
Jess Windell 38:06
Absolutely. And that’s I think what excites me the most about what we do is because I see firsthand just the passion and the desire behind these brands with these passionate boundaries you’re talking about. And it’s analysis paralysis, it’s, there are so many things that we need to do, can do you have in front of us, what do we pull the lever on? And when? Yeah, and how are we most efficient with our time and money? And so, yes, in this scenario, that Well, one of the the key fundamentals of my businesses that I want to be able to work with anyone and so if you come to me, and you are like, we cannot afford to have a full blown PR campaign right now, we can’t do your major strategy sessions. You know, but we still want to talk with you. So at our core, we’re consultancy and you can come on for three months at five hours a month. And that is it. And that can be a lead into more you can help us get to know each other, it can help us recommend what I will share with you in a minute of Okay, you guys start doing this on your own and then we’ll come in and get maybe get some traction. Or if a brands aren’t launching for another six months to a year. It’s like okay, let’s let’s at least be part of the conversation so that the decisions that you’re making on even packaging even I’ve had editors tell me before that they love the product, but they’re not willing to publish it in their print magazine, because it’s not in line with the aesthetic. They’re going Yeah, hi. Oh, yeah, every part of the I’m sure you know that from the branding side, that every part of the business, especially in those early stages where decisions are being made, you know, it’s it’s not, it will not not do any harm to have a PR lens on it. So I love that opportunity to just work with brands at a very high level in that way. But if they said we got we can’t work with you at all, I would say the first thing to do is to, on a piece of paper write down, who are the people that our consumers trust most? Who where are they going to get their information? Where are they going to? Who do they trust? Who really loyal to? Yeah, you can definitely go down the realm of, you know, different media platforms. So it’s what magazines, what podcasts what influencers on social media, but even beyond that, who is who has a stake in our business, and that’s where like, the buyers and trade shows, industry publications that are hosting events and speaking opportunities, think about who are the most high caliber or high value stakeholders? And think about your relationship with them? Do you have one, do you not? There are certain ones that are easier to break through than others, right? You’re already talking to your buyers, you already have a warm lead there. If you’re already going to this trade show. How do you I always say like, what is the most we can get out of this trade show? You know, like, how do we rouse the right people? So that we show up in the places that you just have to ask, Can you show up there? Yep. Um, and so I think getting a clear understanding of who are those stakeholders is first and foremost, which are the warm leads, which are the cold leads, you’ve never reached out to them media contact before, probably something that you will need a bit more support with. But what are those warm leads? Like? How do you build better relationships with your investors? Yeah. What is what do they care about outside of the scheduled meetings that you have? Yeah, they it’s some it could be something as simple as remembering their kid’s birthday. remembering their anniversary. That is a PR tactic. Yeah. Yeah. It’s very, it has to be genuine, though. Absolutely. But you can it can be a concerted effort. Yeah. Well, also coming off as genuine. Right. So you also have to speak to who your brand is, if you are, I mean, I’m going to use liquid death as an example. Yeah. It would not be on brand for them to write like the sweet fuzzy, no birthday cards to people to their stakeholders, right? So it’s how do you and that goes with step one, which is messaging? What Who are you? How do you come off? What what’s your personality that you need to maintain throughout your communication? So it’s getting creative ways. I mean, I’m hesitant to share certain things, because I don’t know if they’re proprietary. But I will say that Perfect Snacks we got into a buyer meeting that absolutely changed the game for us. Sending a life size heart box of chocolates with our new Oh,
with our new chocolate chip bar, and we had a Postmates person hand delivered to the office, our meeting was taking place. They tasted it, we got distribution in one of the biggest retailers in the country. And without that, we joke that like it said on the friend said to me your perfect is around Valentine’s Day. And we joke that like we may not have gotten that had we not just not out of the box. Yeah, wait, we knew it was happening. They didn’t know we’re testing our products. So it’s stuff like that, that really speaks to who you are as a brand. And you’re right, it has to be genuine. But it can be simple.
Diana Fryc 43:38
Yeah, Agreed. Agreed? Well, let’s move on to the next topic that I think is really valuable only because I’ve seen a few of our client friends crash into this over the years. Now granted, I’ve been with David since 2006. And only seen this happen a couple of times. But this I want to talk about crisis management crisis communication, quite frankly, is really what it is. And it’s a topic that nobody likes to be prepared for. It’s this, it’s a subject that nobody likes to be prepared for. And yet it is probably I almost want to say even more important, maybe you might say this wrong, but knowing what to do in a crisis, which could be anything from a supply chain difficulty to a major HR issue. Or, you know, or could catastrophe even Can you share what, you know, maybe you can give to those of us like me, what is the psychology behind people not preparing for it? Is it that just people just don’t want to deal with it? And then what are kind of the so those foundational elements, and how do they plug in with your, the foundational elements of just building a strategy? You know, how do we prepare for crisis management before there’s crisis
Jess Windell 45:00
salutely also another topic I think we could probably have an entire on. Um, well, I mentioned that both my parents are psychologists. So I feel like that does play into so much of what I do. And I think the psychology behind it is similar to a prenup, when you are getting married, and you are, you know, so excited about all the things that come with marriage and a wedding. The last thing you want to talk about is a pre Write, write, okay? If you are not anticipating that this might not end the way that you think it is, with butterflies and rainbows, you’re probably talking about at least talking about a prenup, right? Yeah, planning for it. Similarly, nobody want I say, it’s like the R word. I never say recall. Because no one wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to put that out there in the universe. Um, so people don’t plan for it, they don’t anticipate and a crisis can look, as you mentioned, it can take many forms. And oftentimes, you will never know exactly how it’s going to play out, right. And so I think the most important thing, and the reason why this, you know, a crisis happens and why it gets pulled into PR, and it’s called crisis PR, is because it’s all about how you communicate, and essentially do damage control. But the reason that it’s in the PR realm is because it ultimately will affect and impact the perception and the reputation of your company. We’ve seen it time and time again, crisis happens. Brand company is forever plagued by what happened to them, because of the way that they handled it. It’s not because the crisis happened, because guess what crisis are going to happen. And it’s truly the way you handle it is the PR side of it. And so what I like to do, because you don’t know what the crisis is going to liberate? I think it’s, it’s getting like 75% of the way there. And one of those important things is to have the cross functional alignment within your company. So when we did a crisis exercise at Perfect Snacks, we brought in Ops, sales, finance, what does everyone’s role entail? If a crisis regardless of what it looks like, takes place, and we can understand roles, responsibilities, communication dynamics, and who’s responsible for what, at least we have the framework in place to where when we ring the alarm? It’s, we follow an action plan. It’s like an evacuation plan. Yeah, it’s I’m looking at an evacuation plan right now. putting that together, because we don’t know if it’s gonna be a heavy rainstorm in the place, it’s gonna flood or if it’s gonna be an earthquake, we don’t know what that evacuation plan is going to be prompted by. But we at least have an idea of how we will probably go about executing the management of that disaster. Yeah.
Diana Fryc 48:24
I think what you’re saying is, what I’m hearing is a really valuable and I hadn’t really considered it, but understanding who the key players are cross functionally. So yes, that because that is, I think, where a lot of people start spinning, and then individuals just start talking. And that, I think, is where the big error can happen. And when you’re talking in the kitchen, yeah, yeah, when you’re talking about something like a recall, or an injury that gets publicized, or, you know, somebody’s saying something on social media that goes viral. Yeah. Or even something that is beyond any of our controls, like, you know, when Starbucks had to, or how I can’t even think of how many companies had to deal with a tsunami that happened in Japan. You know, all of a sudden, you have all of these companies that are dealing with employees, investors, and bla bla bla bla bla, and every part of the company I only know this my sister in law was headed up, basically, crisis management, there’s like a whole team, that that’s all they did was Matt planned and managed for crisis management. But Starbucks is a big company, so that when the tsunami hit, it was like, she was on call for 24, seven for like, three weeks, and your whole team, but they knew this person, this person, this person from all of these cross functional teams, but it didn’t, but I only knew it from IMO was only understanding from an operational standpoint. Now I’m hearing it from a PR standpoint, the communication that needs to be in place, as is as important as you know who the team is. And if you’re a smaller company, your team might be two people. Like, that’s okay.
Jess Windell 50:02
And you have to think about when I’m putting together a crisis communications plan that the first question I ask is, who is affected by this? Right? Who needs to know? Who doesn’t need to know? Right? Because let’s, I mean, COVID is honestly, a great example of none of us had control over this. It impacted everyone in so many different ways, whether it’s your team, whether it’s your supply chain, whether it’s your distribution, and understanding who needs to hear from you and prioritizing that. But also, who doesn’t? So there are certain things that you do not need to make a statement about, there are certain things that let’s let’s let’s, you know, let’s say that there is a recall for a product that, you know, from the lot numbers was only distributed to this region of Kroger and nowhere else. Yeah, what I I’m going to maybe kick myself for saying this. But if it is traceable to that extent, and you say, our head of ops knows, without a doubt that there was just one shipment from that went to Kroger, in this region. Do I suggest that you alert the entire country? No. And also, it depends. Obviously, there are extenuating circumstances. But I think, depending on what if it’s like, maybe it’s a packaging issue, and you’re like, the peanut has an almond logo on it, and it shouldn’t like, FYI, you need to reach those people. So effectively. Yeah, but you know who that sampling is? Yeah, who that audience is, you are going to cause so much more harm than good. By talking to people in New York broadcasting in population. Yeah, yeah. And similarly, I mean, we saw a lot with Black Lives Matter and stop Asian hate, it’s, it’s who needs to hear from you and why? And what do you have the right to speak on? What should you be speaking on, on behalf of your company? Um, so the crisis can look very different. It’s what do we speak up? And who do we speak up to? And what is our stance? And so the more you can get ahead of understanding the types of crisis that might affect your company. Better? Yeah. But even more, so I think it’s what is our step by step plan of assessing how we’re going to respond? Yeah, that you actually can have laid out as well. Yeah,
Diana Fryc 52:41
that’s good. I always who’s the cook in the kitchen? Right? Who’s the who’s the head chef to say,
Diana Fryc 52:48
who’s the head chef? Who’s the sous chef? I think that I think that sometimes, sometimes there’s more power and value in saying less than saying more, and I think up. So I think when you don’t know what to say you typically end up saying more,
Jess Windell 53:07
or you there’s a it’s a spectrum, right? So you either say nothing. Oh, right. Like, you know, yep, burned if you do darned if you don’t. We saw that a lot over the last year, there might be many things for brands. And I honestly think that that has contributed to the success of Maven, because the need was just there was so much influx, there was so much happening every single day that it was like, What do we do now? It’s a new day. It’s a new problem. And so I think that that is exactly it is understand your role and your position and your right to say things at certain times. And the more that you can get clear on that, the better off you’ll be because what you don’t want is that your crisis becomes another
Diana Fryc 53:54
crisis because I didn’t respond to it while I’m rolling, rolling crisis. Yeah, happens a lot. Wow. Lots of good stuff here. You know, before we you know, we’re getting to the end of our time. And before we wrap things up, there’s always like, this is the big segue in the podcast where I asked, I asked a very certain set of questions that I asked, everybody gets these exact same questions. So the first one is, I’d love it when my guest tell such an interesting factor a story about their personal life related to this industry. Something that you can that people can share over like a happy hour or something you have anything to share.
Jess Windell 54:34
Oh, personal. I mean, I was thinking about just, you know, when you when you work in this industry, it’s like, it’s so fun to think about what can go viral, and how do we create something that’s going to be a PR stunt, and everyone’s going to be talking about it right? Like you have the goal here. And time and time again, I’m just proven that you can’t force something to go viral. And in fact, it actually happens the other way around. Word, don’t think will go viral does. Yep. And I have a funny experience. It’s funny now that we were launching perfect kids back in the day and for Perfect Snacks. And we had an intern and I was like, why don’t we essentially troll parents on Instagram with the hashtag? Mom failed Advil. And let’s comment on their post and say, we know parenting is hard snack time shouldn’t be go to the link in our bio to get a free box of perfect kids brand new at Target. And so I was like, just to like, you know, 20 a week and see what we get like what’s going to be a slow burn, but like this could be fun. Because what I wanted to do was pitch that to AD week and I wanted the headline to say Perfect Snacks, like trolled failing parents. And like, did some you know, I wanted it to be like a Foucault headline. Yeah, that’s what I was going for, by way of this campaign. Well, after a couple of weeks of it pretty much like doing what I thought it was going to do. In about a two hour time span, I think we had 40,000 entries of this form. And we’re what we thought on the hook for 40,000 units of product because it went viral, and it got on all the coupon sites. And I was thinking, you know, because it’s not like a coupon. It’s a form, people have to fill it out. So these camp, this has to be a robot, this cannot be all accurate. Turns out, these were people hungry for free boxes of bars that were you know, priced at $5 a pop. Oh, so my director of econ was like, You got to be kidding me, like, what did you just do? And we ended up being able to manage the crisis. And we thank God for attorneys that look over terms and conditions, because we said, while supplies last, it ended up becoming a win, because we were able to complete you know, 300 free boxes, but then for everyone else’s other 40,000 people, which anyone would be so excited to have that many emails and zip codes, right. Um, we were able to offer them a discount and store coupon. And we ended up being able to come out pretty well at the oh my gosh, outside of it. Um, and I did not pitch it to Adweek, because I was like, This actually didn’t happen the way that we wanted it to. I don’t necessarily want to publicize it nor talk about it. Let’s just brush it under the rug and call it pseudo win and move on. But you cannot plan for virality. So you already be ready. If you’re putting something out there. expect that it might go viral. Yeah. Good call.
Diana Fryc 57:46
So what brands or trends are you following? Right now? What do you got your eye on? And why?
Jess Windell 57:52
Well, as you know, I’m very much in the the natural products industry. And I feel like there are new things happening all the time, we did a pitch slam for Naturally San Diego to 3030 brands. Submit and apply and oh my god fascinating to see ingredients that I have never heard of before now becoming the base of products and surely the entire brand. And so I think it’s this, if I’m going to go on trends alone, I think it’s this emergence of, you know, what’s the next cauliflower? What’s the next functional ingredient that becomes its its own entity versus being an addition to current products. And you know, just like new species of cherries that now have this incredible benefit, it’s like, and just so intrigued by all the things really coming up that they’ve been around forever, nobody’s ever put them to use in a way that is either functional or tasty or in food format this way. So I think that that’s really cool. But I think overall, especially coming out of a pandemic and I think as consumers we have a different lens than we used to we were just maybe taking things less for face value and uncovering behind the scenes a bit our to understand the why behind brands and I for coming from a PR standpoint, I’ve always looked at things from a qualitative standpoint, what’s the emotion that you’re invoking? What relationship do we have with Apple, but more so than ever? I think just the storytelling and the why behind your brand is going to be the difference between your consumer buying from you and wanting to go to your website. Yep. Then going to an Amazon. Of course a rising tide lifts all boats, you’re still getting that sale, but how much more valuable to have that consumer with? Yeah, or sales funnel that’s getting your communication and building the trust and the loyalty. Yeah, that is Going to keep them around much longer than a new shiny object hitting them in the face on another platform. Yeah, I just encourage the qualitative aspects of measurement and not just quantitative, because quantitative is going to tell you a lot, but also look at the quality of what you’re doing that the quality of the way that you’re showing up in your consumer experience. How are you dealing with customers that had a bad experience with your product? Yeah, that could create lifelong fans create a lot of crisis that you don’t want to experience online. Yeah. And I just think there’s there hasn’t, especially with digital being so data heavy. It’s hard to sometimes remember that the Quality Matters just as much, if not more than the quantity.
Diana Fryc 1:00:54
Yeah. Agreed. Agreed. Yeah.
Diana Fryc 1:00:58
Let’s see, oh, are there any women leaders or women rising stars, it doesn’t have to be women. But you know, the show is women centric, that you kind of would like to elevate. Right now who’s doing some really rad stuff. And they don’t have to be CPG specific, they could be a service packaging ingredient. Anything?
Jess Windell 1:01:23
Yeah. I have been completely astounded at the people I have met the women I have met over the past year, I feel like I was living in a bubble because I probably was. But just I mean, like you, Diana, I feel so lucky to have made the connection because what I am learning from and just the relationships are so valuable to me. But more than anything, just so inspired by and I, there are more women than I can think of to even mention, because I’m just I think everyone is so unique in what they’re doing, but also how they’re doing it. And yeah, and how they’re choosing to show up. Yep. And it’s just so exciting to see. And it’s it’s I attribute a lot to Naturally San Diego and the other women that are on the board with me, are just so incredible. And I feel like have really paved the way for me to be like, no, I bought this, like, it doesn’t look exactly like yours does. But like I can do this. And yeah, this is something if I believe in it. And if I feel that I’m relatively good at it, you know, it is the inspiration is just boundless. And I think that’s what I’m so grateful for. I do think if I can just go the CPG route, I have a client brand that I think is just, they just want fast company’s most innovative, or they they’re a finalist for fast company’s most innovative companies. But Katherine Jackson and JJ Jackson, her husband are doing a peanut test and their allergy prevention paths for infants and so there to prevent peanut allergies. And what I didn’t know and truly understand before working with them, is just how prevalent and fastly progressing. Food allergies are in kids. And one of their co founders is Dr. Gideon lac, who founded and conducted the research around childhood food allergies. Yes. And so they found that food allergies, peanut allergies are actually preventable if you introduce early on, but it’s how you introduce to what extent you introduce really, and they’re Katherine and JJ, his daughter has a peanut allergy and when they’re when their next child was born, they were like we how do we avoid this happening to us again, right? And so they partnered with this pediatrician who has done this research and are producing snacks for kids that tastes great. And they’re their snacks that kids would otherwise normally eat, you know, a puff of some kind. Yeah, but with traces of peanut protein, so that it combats food allergies and I think my brother and his wife are both type one diabetic I grew up with so many restrictions and I think I just have such a soft spot in my heart for families who have to endure something that kids shouldn’t have to endure Yeah, and it it affects everyone and it’s really scary and so you know to be putting for something that is a as cute a brand admission maybe me with all this like superhero, you know, branding and really tasty snacks, but they’re doing so much more. It’s it’s stuff like that, that I’m like, we need to tell the world about this. Yes. Exciting and it can do so much good. And that’s really inspiring to me as well that I can have a hand in helping them share this with the world.
Diana Fryc 1:04:54
What is that’s so exciting. I actually my son has a friend who had a really bad peanut allergy. And for the last three or four years, they took a methodology based off of their doctor of doing small, incremental, to start to combat and overcome. So I think that that product that you’re talking about would be useful for more than just children. It’s for Absolutely.
Jess Windell 1:05:21
There’s so much opportunity. Yeah, right. Where you where you start kind of like micro dosing is here. Yep. Yeah, there’s, there’s got to be something there, too. They’re they’re doing they’re selling some new and wow, in startup mode, but they’re just, yeah, I think there’s really big opportunity in that category.
Diana Fryc 1:05:40
That’s, that’s exciting. That’s exciting. Well, just listen, everybody we have been talking with Miss Jess Windell of Maven Consulting. Jess, where can people learn more about you? Are you a LinkedIn person? Are you a website person?
Jess Windell 1:05:58
Yes, I need to get back on LinkedIn full force, because I was having so much fun with it before and got quite quite busy and distracted. I’m definitely on LinkedIn, just one doll or Maven Consulting and then website where links to all of that. Yeah. Is is MavenConsultingCo.com. Hmm. Well,
Diana Fryc 1:06:19
thank you so much for your time today and for all the work that you’re doing for our communities. It’s been really great talking with you. And thank you so much. It’s been so fun to see and meet each other in person one day, that’d be fun. Yeah, maybe Naturally network event. Yes. Oh, yeah. You can help with the Seattle network launch. That would be totally great. I’ll need to I’ll need a sidekick I’m sure.
Jess Windell 1:06:48
Yes, definitely. Support is necessary. But thank you, Diana. It’s amazing to talk with you. Thanks.
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