Gooder Podcast

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Leveraging Celebrity Partnerships to get Real ROI with Melissa Conner

Partner & Managing Director at Jennifer Bett Communications

Melissa Conner is a partner and director at Jennifer Bett Communications. She has won awards for her communication skills and has over 15 years of experience in the industry. She joined Jennifer Bett Communications in 2014 and focuses on helping fast-growing consumer brands in an inclusive and sustainable way. She has worked with famous brands like Tom’s, Sotheby’s, and Jack Spade. In 2017, she received the PRSA’s 15 under 35 award.

Key Takeaways

  • Melissa’ career and how she became a part of the PR industry
  • About Jennifer Bett Communications and how they built relationships with their partners
  • Tricks and Myth about leveraging Celebrity endorsementsImportance of speaking up your ideas and saying no in certain situations
  • JBC’s Focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in branding and communications

Quotes

Being unafraid to speak up about what’s important to you and your customers is key. While not all brands need to be activists, supporting causes that matter to you and your audience can build confidence and loyalty. – Melissa

The myth that working with celebrities always guarantees success is false. However, working with them can be beneficial if there is a genuine connection between the celebrity and the brand, and if the partnership is thoughtfully planned and executed. – Melissa

Chapters

00:00 | Introduction
04:20 | About Jennifer Bett Communications
07:07 | JBC’s focused industries
11:21 | Partnership and building relationship
16:16 | Leveraging celebrity endorsements
26:14 | Melissa’s career on PR Industry
35:35 | Importance of speaking up and saying no
37:26 | Diversity, equity, and inclusion in branding and communications
40:48 | Leading women in various industries
42:22 | Conclusion

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Transcript

Diana: Here’s a quick disclaimer. The views, statements and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers. The statements are not intended to be product claims or medical advice. Hi. Diana Fryc here. I’m the host of The Good, her podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights on the industry. This episode is brought to you by. Retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for companies in the food, wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, RCI, PepsiCo, Nike and many other market leaders. So if your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. You can learn more at retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, today I’d like to introduce you all to Melissa Conner, who is partner and managing director of Jennifer Bett Communications. A little bit about Melissa. She’s an award winning communications strategist with over 15 years of industry experience. In July of 2014, Melissa joined Jennifer Bett Meyer at Jennifer Bett Communications as the agency’s partner and managing director, working to establish the company as a leading agency for fast growing, value driven consumer brands that are defining the modern marketplace. Melissa holds a particular focus on DIY efforts, and most notably as it relates to scaling consumer facing businesses in inclusive, sustainable ways to better service all backgrounds and identities. Over the years, Melissa has worked with iconic brands such as Tom’s Sotheby’s, Diamonds and Jack Spade, among many others. In 2017, Melissa was honored by the Public Relations Society of America, or PRSA, as a member of its inaugural 15 under 35 awards. I can’t. I like I could go on, literally. Her bio is 45 pages now. It’s not that long, but she’s got just accolades and she’s very well known in the industry and I’m just super excited to introduce Melissa. Welcome to the podcast.

Melissa: Thanks so much, Dianna. That was one of the nicest intros I have ever received. So you give me my publicist. Hmm.

Diana: Oh, I’m thinking about that. Okay, Well, so great that we finally get to record this podcast. And you are. Remind me you’re on the East Coast. Are you in New York?

Melissa: I am in Connecticut now, in the burbs, in the woods, which I love. We were a pandemic move, but I oversee our New York office and go into the city as I can, and I love it. It’s actually really nice to have the best of both worlds.

Diana: Mm hmm. Well, I have many friends that have done that. And now they’re starting to think, oh, I have to come into the city. Is that starting to get a little tricky for you?

Melissa: For me? No. I mean, we. We chose where we live to make sure we’re still we’re pretty close to the city because my husband, I have businesses with hubs in New York, and we still love the city. It’s so great. But we have a family now and yeah, fresh air and that life. But the commute is super manageable. We’re also really lucky because so many folks from our industries, from CPG, food and beverage, commerce, Beauty have moved from where we used to live and are here now. So we actually have a really nice Oh, you’re kidding. Industry hub of people out here in Connecticut. So if anyone’s based near and around Westport, pick me up.

Diana: I love that. Oh, my goodness. Okay. I like to start every episode with a little bit about the company or the brand that you work for. So tell us a little bit about Jennifer, about communications, what you all do and what you stand for.

Melissa: Thank you. Yes. So I’m going to give my mouth a break and call ourselves JBC. So we really do go by JBC most commonly. So. So we are an almost ten year old media relations agency. I joined Jen, who’s our founder and my business partner, ten years ago for two reasons. One, was there an amazing influx of brands who are launching that we’re changing the status quo, whether it was value driven, it was direct to consumer or the product that they’re bringing something new to the market that was a higher quality at a better price. Whatever it was. There was such an influx of innovation. And what we realized really early on is they didn’t know where to go for PR, and it was either they had to go to a consumer agency who only does consumer media or kind of a business and trade and tech agency. But for us, really, but that’s not servicing the whole brand if you only do one part of it. And we really want to work with brands that were value driven, that were true innovators, but also that we could service holistically. So how do we talk to their consumers or continuously engage them and acquire new consumers with the press that we do while also supporting the business? So what are the right business stories? What are the right conferences, speaking engagements, op eds, and really be a true partner when it comes to driving real growth and scale? And you really can do that as PR with PR as a vehicle. If it’s done well and it’s done consistently and it’s hitting the right messages, the right targets, the right audience, you can see how it affects your business, not just from the press that you’ve immediately got and whether it’s an influx in traffic or conversion, but also all the other external things you do. So how much easier is it to fundraise? And a lot of that has to do with great press. How much easier is it to work with other brands because they see all the press and they see the business and the opportunity for a partnership influencers all of a sudden you’re seeing an influx of inbound interest. So we really see what we do as a scalable investment in your brand if it’s done the right way. So and we’ve been doing that and that same kind of thesis around PR for the past ten years and have had the honor of working with so many amazing, fast growing brands across CPG, Food and B&B, but also a beauty health and wellness, fashion, women’s health, kind of you name it, we’re really aren’t. We are industry agnostic and it allows us to really have our hands in so many different areas of the world basically that affect the consumer on a day to day basis.

Diana: Mm hmm. Now, can you speak a little bit to why JBC has decided to focus in these areas? I mean, you gave it a little bit, but I think that there’s a little personal going on in there. Yeah.

Melissa: Yeah. I think the benefit of having your own agency with a partner whose values align with yours, I think she and I are both. We’re publicists at heart, but I think we’re also. Have a little bit of an activist in us. And when we think about what we do, we know what we do is valuable and we’re really good at it. And we want to work with brands that are bringing good to the world in whatever they’re doing, whether it’s better products, cleaner products, safer products, you know, like working with a brand like Styx, for example, that is existing in a post Roe v Wade world, but trying to change the stigma around emergency contraception and making sure women and men know that you should just have this. If you have condoms in your drawer, you should also have emergency contraceptives in your jaw. So we love the brands that are changing, conversations that are pushing status quos. And yes, when we go to bed at night, we feel really good because telling those stories of these founders and the brands and the products that they’re creating, we know we are in a small way doing something good for the world at large. And I can say that about almost our entire roster, that there’s some major value and major mission, that they are using their brand as Conduits for Growth collaborative. As you mentioned, they’re trying to like eliminate plastic and really fighting this fight and one of the at a larger scale and using their brand to show that you can replace all of these conventional products in your home using cleaner, safer alternatives that also remove plastic from the environment, which is obviously one of the major problems we’re facing. So it’s kind of across the border, if it’s like fashion, we have brands that are sustainable or circular, like we’re really just trying to make sure that we’re identifying those opportunities to do good with what we do.

Diana: I love that. And I’m thinking about Grove Collaborative because they’ve been on my radar for a few years. I was at Target this last weekend and I and they’re in Target now and I had not been following them that closely to see that the retail channel that they’ve moved into, the retail channel, which I think is fabulous, not relying just on their DTC kind of subscription model, but now moving into an environment where they’re getting net new eyes. So great. Thank you. And then your focus is the passion behind it when you’re going into business because you feel like you can make an impact. It changes so day to day, doesn’t it?

Melissa: Absolutely, 100%. I mean, we spend all of our time working, if you think about it, you know, 40 hours a week that we’re not with our families or partners or whomever is important to you in your life, even your dog spending time with your dog, you know, all these other things get yeah, you don’t have time with because you’re working. And for us, we want to make sure that work is meaningful, it’s valuable, it’s worthy of that sacrifice of time. It’s also why we’ve been so particular on the kinds of brands that we sign, because it’s not just Jen and myself, it’s our team of almost 50 people. We want them to feel just as satisfied and passionate and feeling good about the work they’re doing. Because just as much as Jen and I are away from our families working, so are they. So I think if you talk to my team, I think they have the sense of feeling like they’re really contributing and not just working in a bubble or working just to work, it also impacts the quality of work and the results that come out of all of that. And I think that also resonates with our brands as we talk to them, because you want your PR team and your media relations partner to be as excited about what you do. Yes, you are.

Diana: Absolutely. Yeah. Now, those of us who have had an eye on the PR world and maybe even not have seen JBC’s brand partners getting some real traction, brands like I mentioned Grow Collaborative. There’s also Parachute, the Skims Sticks, the Honey pot, and so many others. Tell me or tell us, I should say, what is your firm looking for in a brand partnership? And how would you describe those relationships?

Melissa: Yeah, I think we are pretty founder forward. So like many VCs, the way we’re thinking about it is the founder’s story and what and why this brand even exists and whether they want to be forward facing a media or not. We really are first getting excited and kind of romanticized by that story. So do we connect just with that founder and that story and why the branding even exists? But then it’s the brand. Is the product amazing? Is the brand itself. Can it stand on its own, too? Because again, not every founder wants to be forward facing. So does the brand have enough of its own stuff to exist on its own? And then the last thing is very personal and not like a business plan answer, but it is: Do we just viscerally react to it in a positive way? Do we want to? Own it, eat it, wear it, give it, live in it, whatever it is. Because again, that last piece is the passion and the natural connection to our brands. And again, we can show that confidently our entire roster we all feel connected to in some way. So we know people who are already using it before we even talk to them. So that’s kind of what we’re looking for. And then of course, we’re thinking in the back of our minds what are the possibilities on the storytelling front? Can we mine enough from this brand even if they have no news for a year? Like that’s kind of our litmus test is if they told us they had nothing new to say between now and the end of the year or in a year, do we feel the brand in and of itself, the way they operate, the way they exist, how they’re creating? Is that enough for us to mine and pick apart narratives that we can just use the brand as the news? And that’s really how we think about how we sign. And then it’s just for us, it’s more like icing on the cake. If they have a new product coming out or a partnership or a store opening or whatever, to us, that’s not the must have, which is opposite of a lot of approaches. It really for us is just kind of a bonus.

Diana: Mm hmm. That makes sense. Yeah, I, I love when you talk about just the visceral component of it. I think a lot of PR firms don’t have the luxury of making those changes a luxury. And then some of that is because they need the work and then other times the leadership doesn’t think about business that way. And I think it would be great if more businesses, regardless of size, could have that element about them where they could choose. Because either we call it a we call it a culture fit, you know, whereas we put it on, do we would we go out and have a beverage with that person, hang out with them, is part of it. And then also, I mean, we get fascinated with the fact that we can find love in any product. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever had somebody show me something and I’ve been like, That’s interesting. So it’s usually for meanwhile, a little bit more of a culture fit. So I like that you have that as part of your decision making. That’s a conscious choice that you’re making. It’s not just something that you haphazardly are thinking about that is literally a choice that you use as part of your relationship. Relations on a relationship tool kit.

Melissa: Yeah, I think we do. I mean, Jedediah both have been doing PR for a long time. We worked in a lot of places. We’ve been in house, we’ve been out agencies. We kind of seen it all and Yeah. Doing this together, we realize it’s the freedom of choice. Is our job solely to make good choices, right? Yeah. Not just for us and for each other, but also our agency and the people who work for us. It’s. And that’s a big responsibility. And we don’t take that lightly, you know? And I think we kind of, again, like the values that we really operate in, are doing everything intentionally. Yeah. With the whole as kind of the objective, not just her or myself and rightfully.

Diana: Yeah. Yeah. I want to switch to one of the topics that you and I had when we were preparing for this podcast. And this is around using celebrities as a brand endorsement in some way. And we talked about the myths and tricks of leveraging celebrity brands. This is a huge topic of interest for many of the brands that we work with. And so I’m assuming it is for everybody because it’s fun. But let’s talk about those myths of celebrity endorsements. How can they show what we believe? What do you believe the market thinks about using celebrities to endorse a product that’s really fundamentally untrue?

Melissa: What’s fundamentally untrue is thinking that working with celebrities of home runs no matter what. So that is the myth. And I think working with celebrities can be really powerful for brands. It depends on how you partner with that celebrity, what their role is with your brand and. The authenticity and the authentic connection that celebrity has with the brand. So much so that kind of over again, just to reiterate that overarching myth that if you work with a celebrity, your brand is automatically going to succeed is very false. It has to be done with a lot of intention and a lot of thought. And it can also be in a lot of different ways and still be successful. So for sure, you know, so there’s not one tried and true strategy and working with celebrities doesn’t work across the board. So yeah, you can leverage celebrity simply by doing seating with celebrities, with a celebrity seating agency. And there’s some that do really amazing work. They are also intentional in how they see that product and who it goes to and does that make the right sense. And you can really leverage that just like authentic in that seating opportunity for press coverage and on your Instagram, whatever it is. And that’s super valuable and that works for brands, depends on the category, depends on the kind of product, whatever. But that’s a simple, kind of very straightforward approach that also works. You can also now in the past, I mean, five or so years has been the influx of celebrities diversifying their portfolios and yeah, being very smart and realizing that maybe they can’t rely solely on if they were an athlete or if they’re an actor, one day one of these things aren’t going to exist. So they either have started founding their own brands and or now they’re investing in brands. And there are some celebrities who invest and want to be very forward facing and like very much like, I’m willing to shout from the rooftops that have invested in the brand. And that is when you’re really lucky. Yeah. And to be able to leverage that name because again, that’s why it’s important to make sure there’s a real connection, because now the moment you announce that you’re always going to be associated with that celebrity and they’re going to show up in almost all your press, so be sure it’s the right person if you’re going to leverage it externally. And then obviously, there are some that invest that don’t want to be a part of conversations. That’s also fine, too, because they invested in That’s sometimes more important than being able to use it externally. There are also some brands that even get more integrated with celebrities where they come on as chief something officers.

Diana: Whether chief creative officer or something, the Jonas Brothers or something like that.

Melissa: Exactly. So those, again, can be really, really powerful again, if the execution feels authentic and more importantly, when they’re in that kind of a role that feels much bigger with the brand, you have to make sure you have access. So, yeah, you may be able to use them with the initial announcement and that’s going to give you a nice halo effect. And again, they’ll always be associated with the brand, but how do you have access to them beyond that announcement? Do write that one interview a quarter that you can leverage. Yeah. Or are they going to do something like an event with you once a year? You know what? Make sure when you’re getting into bed with celebrities or any or anyone with a large following an influence that you’ve thought all of this through, not just the initial moment but yeah, what is the longevity here? Right. And we’ve had the pleasure of being able to kind of work with every iteration of this and see what works, what doesn’t. And I think, again, if you know what you’re looking to get out of that relationship and it’s a mutual partnership, it really does have a hugely positive impact on brands. Hmm.

Diana: So I’m going to ask a question this and this was not and this is not prepared because I have had the following. We’ve worked with a number of brands. There are. Some brands that are kind of bootstrapping it and we work with those and then we always work, you know, between them and up to 40 and 50. But on the smaller side, I see them sometimes going, I’ve got all of these athletes from different colleges. They want to participate in this. Product because it’s very cool. And then there might and there might be three or four of them. And one of the things that we’ve typically shared with those young brands is to be really careful that those those celebrities don’t crash into each other with conflicts, what their expectations are about, even just a piece of the pie of the brand and making sure that they have a lawyer involved, that all of that is cleaned up. It always seems really exciting, but that kind of what happens on day two is sometimes far away. And that’s what you’re saying is the intentionality and the planning are pretty critical.

Melissa: Absolutely. Absolutely. And thinking forward and, you know, I think it’s when you’re a nascent brand, it’s I think that is a point where it’s too early unless someone with that influence is coming on in a co-founder role and they’re much more invested than just wanting to put their name to it. It feels very early and a lot of our brands, when they come to us, when their early stage, are like, should we do even design collaboration or brand collaboration for us, just any kind of collaboration with another brand? Yeah, we actually advise them against it because we’re like, You haven’t even established yet who you are externally, and the consumer and the media are just getting to know you. So to bring in another brand or partner at this stage doesn’t make a ton of sense right now. But until you can define who you are because you all again, will always be associated with that partnership.

Diana: With.

Melissa: That. So it’s the same as having what the example you’re giving is: sometimes it is too early to bring in other folks that are going to externally somehow impact your brand.

Diana: Mm hmm. Is it possible to work with a celebrity and have a long term early association with them? Past their participation. And as you know, I’m looking at, of course, companies like Nike, very sophisticated. They get how to use celebrity endorsements. I’m talking about those mid to small brands that are kind of excited about this opportunity and they’re wondering, okay, well, if I’m with these folks for a year or two, is there a halo effect long term or is there not, What’s that expectation or what are the tricks to extend that out? That’s two ways of looking at that. Yeah.

Melissa: I mean, ultimately when there’s a press out with you in a celebrity, they’re always going to be attached to you. So whoever writes about you can choose to include them in a headline or not for infinity, basically right until the end of time. There’s no limitation on you can’t control it. For me, if an outlet writes about that relationship, which is useful for you, especially if it was a successful relationship, you being able to proactively leverage that partnership really only depends on the usage terms and how you’ve negotiated that. Are you allowed to continue posting about them and associated with your right past that one year or whatever? And sometimes you can and sometimes you can, Right? Right. And now you’re really relying on the fact that it’s already out there to continue to be valuable long term. Mm hmm.

Diana: Well, I yeah, I can understand that. We, and we understand that in I, sometimes we forget I think when we’re working in marketing because there’s so many brand marketers that come from multinationals into small and mid-sized brands. And I think sometimes they forget about the power of the brand and the organization that just came into, and then they come into the smaller firm. But when you’re working with anybody who is providing either their services or advice or their image, you have to get their permission. So you have to think about the longevity and the commitment of all of that.

Melissa: Exactly. And I mean, listen, I think, again, once something’s out in the world, you can’t you can’t erase it. Right. So while you, as the brand may not be able to post images of that celebrity, pass a certain amount of time, that doesn’t mean that you can’t pitch it. Your agency can’t mention the fact, you know, we have one brand that uses a strategy of leveraging influence like big influencers as creative directors on a yearly basis, or maybe every 18 months, they cycle them out. And that’s their strategy. And it’s very much of like big part of their narrative. So when we’re pitching these stories around their strategy, we can say in the past they worked with all of these different people who really kind of provide that kind of sense of authority and this approach, there’s nothing you can not do that. That’s all right. But they may, as a brand, likely cannot continue leveraging assets from those earlier partnerships. So that’s kind of the difference.

Diana: Yeah, can I get that? So it’s so interesting because I’m talking about, you know, moving around and trying to remember from, you know, one organization to the other that things still sort of work the same. And I want to actually step back in time a little bit here. Now, we’ve been talking about celebrities for a moment, but I, I want to talk about your journey into JBC and into this world. You were the first guest I had on this podcast that has been on a very specific career path since the beginning, which is crazy because I think I’m near 250 guests at this point. It is pretty great that you have a very linear path is what I’m going to say. Talk about what attracted you to the PR industry and what has you stayed?

Melissa: That is a great question. So how I ended up in PR is really kind of funny because I went to Fordham University in the city and because for as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in fashion and so I wanted to go into the city. I didn’t realize I didn’t like NYU. I didn’t like the way there was no campus. And I came from a small private school in Connecticut that was kind of like Harry Potter and like the vibe of a campus. So I was like, okay, NYU is not for me, but I want to stay in and I want to go and be near the city. So I went. I visited Fordham and kind of fell in love with the campus. But then the curriculum, its vicinity to the city. The fact we had Lincoln Center as a campus as well and like a fabulous van like that would take us back and forth from the main campus. So we get so cool. Like this is the best of both worlds. So I went and in my junior year I was looking for internships in fashion, of course, and for whatever reason ended up with two in front of two offers in front of me. One was to go into editorial and they were bridal magazines, bridal magazines that don’t even exist anymore, like Bridal Guide or something. I don’t remember. And then the other one was at a small boutique PR agency. Oh, and I really loved the team there, and I love the brands they worked with. They were like the Frye Company and they did all these cool events. And so I was really torn. And honestly, I was like a 19 year old or however old I was. I chose PR because they were also paying like a stipend. So I was like, Well, I liked the energy there. I like the people there. I think it’s cool. And also there’s like the bonus of having my pay. So that’s how I ended up in PR. So funny, but it ended up being fake because I took to it really quickly. I aps like, in the first week I was like, This is amazing. I love this. I want to do this for my life. And it was really because I’m a super fast paced person and really like that. You can work with different brands who have different stories to tell and different objectives and are bringing something different to the world. Like I loved that kind of pace and having to quickly move from one thing to another. And switching gears, like to me it felt like the best challenge ever and I loved it. And that agency hired me right out of college. And of the four publicists that I worked for, there are my closest friends now.

Diana: Oh, wow.

Melissa: 2019 years later, something like that. And it was the best. And immediately I went from there to our group, which is really amazing. PR agency in New York City. And that’s where I really got to see the breadth and scope of what we could do as media partners, media relations partners. And that’s where I work with TOMS, and I work with big brands like David Yurman and kind of really like PR bootcamps. I work with small, tiny brands, huge global brands with lots of budget, like all of these things, and had a blast and went to a company called Star Works Group because a client of mine went there was like, You should come here. You would love it. They do amazing work and the head of the division is awesome. And you guys, you would really like to just thrive here. So that was Jenn and that’s where we met at this agency. They no longer exist, unfortunately. But the funny story we always say is we met there. We were like, we’re really like vibing. And then like a month later she goes, Sorry, I’m leaving. I got a really amazing opportunity in-house at a fashion brand, which everything happens for a reason. We certainly believe that. So I ended up saying this artwork for a while, and had a great experience. I went in-house to a few brands and then Jen and I kind of just orbited around each other for the next couple of years. And it’s so funny. We both got to a point where we were getting a little bit bored with what we were doing and didn’t feel like PR was being done the way it should be based on how brands were evolving and how the consumer was evolving. And she started her consultancy Jennifer about communications and was doing her thing. I was leaving my in-house role at a fashion brand to consult, and I started working with small brands because what I realized is I wanted brands that were bringing mission into their brand. They’re providing gorgeous products, whatever it is the founders were engaging. We’re like, They’re making me wake up every morning really excited about their mission and being a part of that journey. And I think that and I always say and credit that to my work with Toms is that was the first that was really the first time. And my first exposure to that kind of tiered feeling of the founder stories was incredibly compelling. The brand in the product is compelling, and I also feel viscerally excited about it. So yeah, we both started doing our kind of work independently, and then she called me one day was like, Let me have a project I need to work on. I just signed and we’ve always wanted to work together, like, let’s do some stuff together.

Diana: Let’s do this.

Melissa: It kind of just evolved from there. It was really again, it was everything that happens for a reason and it was meant to be when it was meant to be, and that was ten years ago. So I think sometimes we still look at ourselves and like, God, we did not ever imagine having a 50 person agency or 45 people. I don’t. I try not to count. Yeah, and we always thought maybe it would just be the two of us forever, but it kind of grew and we’re really proud of what we’ve done and the brands that we get to work with. And most importantly, I was like, “What are you most proud of? I’m like, It’s the team. 1,000%. I mean, having we have, I can confidently say we have the strongest team, the smartest publicists, the best writers, the best storytellers, And the fact that they chose us to work for is truly humbling.

Diana: That’s so fantastic, you know, And I think that’s the reason why I get along with your team. I’ve met. I took two or three so far off of your 50. So there if they’re if they’re a representation of what your team is like you have a really amazing group of people working for you really smart, very compassionate, empathetic, great people.

Melissa: Well, I always say and I don’t know if I can swear on your podcast, but our number oh gosh because we’ve been no asshole policy. That’s yeah, client side and staff side. I think the team, they are so supportive of each other. They are collaborative. There’s no sense of that. Like old school, catty, competitive. I mean they’re competitive. The sense I think they’re like you had a story. Amazing. Like, I want to go get one now, You know? I’m like, Yeah, you know, or New York Times or whatever it is. So it’s really they are truly good, nice people, most important. Yeah.

Diana: Yeah. And I think the reason why I really connect with you and your team is when my business partner and I rebooted our firm in 2011. We were a generalist firm and then in 2011 we decided we want to help the brands that are trying to make a difference in this world, and yet you can make money doing that. It doesn’t have to always be about money. And I think there’s kind of a vibe there. Thankfully, the business economy in general is a big movement now and so many people are doing it that it doesn’t feel like a specialty anymore. I mean, you still have your Enron’s out, but, you know, whoever that might be of the world. But so many more businesses have gotten on board and said, oh, you know why? We don’t have to be jerks about this? We can be contributing at the same time. And I want to say that it has to do with agencies like ours that are just promoting these works and making them turn into powerful brands. So the market is big.

Melissa: It’s the media. And I think most importantly, it’s the consumer. The consumer wants something different than they do, so they want something that feels absolutely more discerning. They’re more educated at every tax bracket, you know. So, yeah, it always comes from the consumer first and then the media. Being hungry for these stories to tell makes everything else trickle down, right? That allows us the freedom to only work with the brands. We feel like we’re doing good. It allows founders who want to do good, to do good, you know what I mean? So it really is.

Diana: Totally.

Melissa: It really kind of is circular in that sense.

Diana: Yeah. Now, I was going to ask you this question about your journey and what sort of advice you’d give somebody on a German journey similar to yours. But really, I think what I want to ask you, if I may, is what kind of advice do you find yourself giving clients? This might not be you. This might be your team, something that you hear your team now answering on a regular basis. Is there any kind of common theme running through the advice of your team right now?

Melissa: Oh, gosh. The common theme is, well, it’s two things. One is not being afraid to be vocal no matter it. It could be you know, we’re not advocating for every single one of our brands to become huge activists or advocates for certain things. But what the things that make that are important to them and thus are likely important to their consumer, giving them the confidence and the console to do it, You know, and I think that helps some of our brands. Obviously, the founders are way more naturally active in that way, and that’s part of their DNA. And then there are some who aren’t quite there yet but want to be. So giving them the confidence and the support system that allows them to do that when it makes sense is one thing. I think that’s probably the number one right now.

Diana: Yeah.

Melissa: On a founder level though, like, you know, because I’m really talking to a lot of founders all the time and I think, yeah, and it’s the same thing. It’s mostly your female founders, it’s the same thing around saying no, protecting themselves from not feeling obligated to do things they don’t want to do. I think that’s more, um, just a human level of not always connected directly to their business, what they’re doing, but constantly having these conversations with each other to remind ourselves that we can we can we have the power to say no to things and protect our time, protect our energy, protect our expertise. And that’s kind of I think that’s been not even just recently that’s kind of been over the past several years.

Diana: So, yeah.

Melissa: That’s probably the most common.

Diana: Yeah. Thank you for that. I love that. I’m glad that we can share that. So tell me a little bit about what’s next for you for JBC. Should we be looking out for something in the next six months?

Melissa: Oh, my goodness. So one thing that’s always been important to us is the idea of inclusion. And we’ve always kind of focused in that area and provided our partners with expertise and advice. But I think we’re really doubling down on that as an external expertise too, because it’s really important that as brands are wanting to scale and grow. Ultimately, that means reaching new audiences, right? What do you mean? Bring that down to another level? It’s new and diverse audiences that, yes, that your brand could speak to, but you’re not speaking to them because yes, maybe social isn’t quite there or we’re not sure. And it’s also part of that comes down to us making sure our stories of our brands end up in the right places, reaching the most interesting, engaging, potentially engaging audiences and thus diverse audiences. So we’ve been doing a lot of work internally to make sure that we are the best equipped at being great media, media relations partners and comms partners always operating through a lens of DEI and inclusion. So our brands ultimately continue to grow, scale, reach new folks, and really take it a step further and more formally advise our clients as a scoped out process and the service to do that. So I think that’s something we’re really proud of and happy and excited to do. And I also think it’s been really kind of a mission of mine to focus attention more on the comms industry and this career path for folks who are of color. You know, I certainly didn’t. Yes. Even throughout my career, you know, I didn’t see a ton of myself in a lot of places, but just took it upon myself to show up there. But, you know, now, ten years later, feeling within JBC, feeling like I’m a little more air and space to be able to make that a focus and show up more and mentor more and hopefully kind of show this as a career path for all walks of life. But yeah, you know, from us there, there’s other stuff like services and products we’re working on right now that we’re really excited about that I actually can’t talk about, unfortunately, but we have some cool brands that we are launching. We have new partners that are doing really interesting things that are currently under embargo, especially in the mental health space, mental health space. So I always say the best place to kind of keep track of us is our Instagram, because we keep that.

Diana: Fresh, keep.

Melissa: Them fresh daily. We have an amazing team who make sure we’re sharing all of our work, but like we have some cool services and cool partnerships that we’re really pumped to kind of get out there and share with everyone.

Diana: Wonderful. Well, you know, I have. Really. Enjoyed getting to know you even outside of this podcast. But prior to that I was excited to know. Excited for a drink at some point, frankly, of our time, I’ll have to just come out to Connecticut. I think our time is always up. Is almost up, I should say. And I have a question that I like to ask absolutely everybody. And it’s this one. Are there any women leaders or rising stars out there, either in PR or CPG fashion that you would like to elevate for the work that they’re doing right now?

Melissa: Oh, boy. Well, I don’t think the people I’m going to mention don’t need my help and elevation because they’re doing an amazing job. But I think it’s important to keep highlighting this work. So. Carly and Danielle, the founders of the scam, the work they’re doing around women in the workplace and paid family leave is just so important. And we just are so proud to be working with them and they’re wonderful. And also women like Reshma Saujani and her mom’s first work again. So obviously a lot of this is very pointed and focuses on women and parity and access. You know, that’s something which is very important to us right now, especially at the time we live in right now. Shannon Watts For Moms, demand is gun violence and and gun control. Those are things that we’re really passionate about, too. So I can’t not mention her. And my last one is Eve Brodsky from Fair Play Life Again, also working around re balancing the work, the household workload and who does what in the home. So all of those women are people that I follow. I’m obsessed with it. I probably overly fangirl them, but and again, they don’t need me to help elevate what they’re doing. They’re already doing amazing things, but I think their work is not done and for a lot of reasons. So that’s why I want to continue to. To mention their names. Mm hmm.

Diana: Thank you for sharing all of those. Fantastic. Wow. Okay. Well, we have been talking with Melissa Conner, partner and managing director of Jennifer Barrett Communications, also known as JBC. Melissa, can you remind us where we can learn more about you and JBC?

Melissa: Yes, of course. You can go to our website WW w Jennifer Betty dot com or Instagram and that is at J BET.com. So J Betsy Omar.

Diana: Great. Okay. Thank you. And thank you so much for your time today, Melissa. I’m so happy. Yeah.

Melissa: Having me. I really am.

Diana: Yes. Yes. I love what you guys are doing, and I’m excited to just keep the coms going. And I also want to thank all of you listeners for your time today. Hey, if you like this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on The Gooder podcast.

Produced by Heartcast Media.

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For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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