Jennifer Bett Meyer + Melissa Duren Conner
Here at Mavenly + Co., we are all about women working together. We love seeing two rockstar women team up to get business done, and that's why we're bringing you a 2-for-1 interview with Jennifer Bett Meyer and Melissa Duren Conner of Jennifer Bett Communications. These ladies have more than 26 years of experience in the industry combined, and they are dishing on the best advice they've received as well as other high points on their career paths. Enjoy!
Names: Jennifer Bett Meyer + Melissa Duren Conner
Twitter Handle: @jbettcomm
Location: New York, NY
Ages: JBM, 37 | MDC,30
Secretly Obsessed With: JBM: House Hunters International | MDC: anything in miniature
On My Nightstand: JBM: My Kindle, Tata Harper Eye Cream, and ear plugs. | MDC: True Botanicals Renew Nutrient Mist from Follain, my Parachute Cashmere Eye Mask, ring dish from Anthropologie
Last Thing You Read: JBM: Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy | MDC: The Girls by Emma Cline
How did you get started on your career path?
JBM: I started out in the magazine industry working at Marie Claire and, later, Harper’s Bazaar, both positions under Glenda Bailey. These editorial opportunities gave me incredible insight that truly helped shape my approach to PR. I then went on to spend over 10 years working at various agencies and in-house, but the most valuable experience was when I launched the PR division at Starworks Group. Having worked in editorial, agency and in-house settings really helped give me a full understanding of PR - how to create the strongest, most effective strategies and press plans. In addition, this experience also showed me what I did not want to do with this business. No cookie-cutter press plans, no being passed off to junior staff, no formulaic responses. Our goal is to shake up the traditional PR agency model.
MDC: I had no idea what PR was when I got my first (and only!) internship with a boutique agency called The Bromley Group. It was between them and a bridal magazine and there was something about the energy and people at TBG that made me go that route. Turns out it was the best decision I've ever made. My experience there was incredibly positive, I learned so much from the publicists I worked for- it was even my first job out of college. Its funny how you fall into something that turns out to be what you're passionate about professionally.
What key elements played into your success?
JBM: I never took no for an answer. This probably drove my parents crazy when I was younger, but it's proven to be a great way to break boundaries and build a business. Also, surround yourself with supportive mentors who encourage you and guide you.
MDC: Always learning, never taking no for an answer, thick skin, being passionate about the work itself, and having good people in your corner
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
JBM: When I first started JBC, a lot of people told me I was crazy, that PR was a super saturated industry and that the last thing we needed was another agency. But I was convinced that my approach was different and the right brands would respond. I owe so much of JBC's success to our brand partners who embraced our strategy and approach early on. Brands like Parachute, Raden, Alala, M.Gemi, and Naadam have been unbelievably supportive and helped prove that PR is all about evolution and adaptation.
MDC: I think the only struggle was really figuring out exactly what kind of brands make me the most excited about representing. I really connect with brands whose values align with my own and luckily I have a business partner who values that as much as I do.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
JBM: Mentors have been an integral part of my career. While at Starworks, I met five unbelievable leaders who have helped shape JBC and my personal endeavors. Each of these amazing entrepreneurs have gone on to create their own businesses that have served as strategic partners for JBC. Sharon Ainsberg and Allison Oleskey formed celebrity integration agency, Sho + Co, Jessica and Raman Kia developed RJK Consulting and Tony King created King + Partners. Even though they specialize in different areas, they have been enormously influential to me in regards to building a business, interacting with clients and how to continually push boundaries.
MDC: The first publicists I encountered at my internship (Eric, Nicole and Genevieve) who are still some of my closest friends to this day and of course Jen Meyer. We share the same PR philosophy and I've learned so much about running a business from her that is truly invaluable. Not only do I have a platform at JBC to do what I love and do best but its also a place I can continuously evolve.
When do you feel most successful?
JBM: The other day an editor emailed me to tell me how wonderful it was to work with the JBC team. Building this team, finding the right media relations experts, and watching them grow has been an incredibly rewarding part of this business. Not only is this team the absolute best at what they do but they are good people. Hearing this from editors reminds me that we are doing something right.
MDC: When our team shows real growth in their own professional pursuits. We have always said JBC is only as good as the talent and team we have working here. When I see what they are able to accomplish for our clients through their own commitment and aptitude, I consider that a true level of success.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
JBM: Never be complacent. Complacency is deadly in this business which is constantly evolving and shifting. Boredom is deadly. Work with brands that inspire you. Meet with editors that ask challenging questions. Also don’t rely on emails - pick up the phone, meet face to face. Ultimately PR is about building lasting relationships and this is much easier to accomplish in person. The more an editor can make a personal connection with you, the more they will trust your opinions. This kind of rapport is near impossible to create when you are simply sending email pitches without personally engaging.
MDC: Everything happens for a reason. Truly.
What advice would you give to women looking to enter your industry/space?
JBM: Read everything. Listen to podcasts. Open your ears and eyes to what is going on in the media landscape. If you feel you have something to contribute to the conversation, you're going into the right industry. And intern. I cannot stress the importance of internships. You wouldn't buy a car before going for a test-drive so consider your internship a test-drive for PR.
MDC: Intern intern intern. I think that is the answer for any Publicist who is asked this question. It is so vital to have initial knowledge of the industry and how PR works before seeking a full-time role.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
JBM: Building JBC and working with my business partner, Melissa Duren Conner, has been incredibly awarding. I haven't slept in a few years but it has been well worth the ride. Seeing how receptive editors and brands are to our approach has been very fulfilling.
MDC: JBC. Hands down. We started 4 years ago just Jen and I, and to look around today at our amazing team and a roster of clients we are incredibly proud of is no small feat.