Jennifer Berson of Jeneration PR: “Be consistent”

Be consistent. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to do something, follow through and do it! Your reputation is everything, and you want to be seen as reliable. People are way more willing to share your information in a referral or help you out with something when they know that you’re reliable. As a […]

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Be consistent. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to do something, follow through and do it! Your reputation is everything, and you want to be seen as reliable. People are way more willing to share your information in a referral or help you out with something when they know that you’re reliable.

As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Berson. Jen is the President and Founder of Jeneration PR, a public relations & social media marketing firm specializing in promoting beauty, baby & lifestyle brands, as well as Profitable PR Pros, an online educational platform for PR agency owners that includes courses, resources, and the Profitable PR Pros Facebook community. Prior to founding Jeneration PR in 2005, Jen was a civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I actually started my career practicing law for 4 years. PR was not even on my radar! I discovered a fragrance company in Europe on my Bar trip and loved it so much that, when I ran out, I actually reached out to the company to purchase more because it was so hard to find in the US. The founder of that company personally thanked me for my order, and we formed an instant connection!

I started to realize that this brand was so beautiful and visually appealing, but had no meaningful retail presence or consumer demand here in the States. So I offered to help them create that presence. I asked her to send me a big box of products — perfume, body lotion, bar soap — and offered to help get the products to celebrities and featured in the media. I couldn’t believe she’d send a stranger on the internet so much free stuff, but she actually went for it!

At the time, I didn’t even realize what this service was (or that someone could charge for it!), but I landed a print placement in US Weekly and it immediately started to drive sales and retail inquiries for this company. I was amazed that it had such an immediate, significant impact on them. It was a tangible result (one that I could physically hold in my hands!) that positively impacted a business I loved and believed in.

Being able to support brands and entrepreneurs in this way was kind of addicting — it felt amazing! In my career as a litigator, everything was about tearing companies down through protracted and costly litigation. I much preferred building up businesses and experiencing impactful results almost instantly.

At the time, I was doing it for free, but I couldn’t help but think “if I was getting paid for this, it would be my dream career!” So in 2005, I took a chance and left my career in law to start my own PR agency — and I’ve never looked back.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

The most interesting thing that has happened to me since starting my company actually began from just a simple conversation. One day, I connected with an old friend from law school over Facebook. This guy was at the top of our class and everyone really looked up to him — I wasn’t shocked to learn that he’d ended up landing an extremely high-profile job in corporate law for Apple. As we were chatting, I was actually kind of embarrassed to tell him that I’d left law, since he had become so successful… but he was totally blown away and impressed by the fact that I’d started my own business. Speaking to someone in such a senior position and seeing him be so supportive of my career was really surprising!

Honestly, I thought that he was just being polite. But the next day, he sent me an email letting me know that he’d had a conversation with the head of Apple Global Brand Positioning about me (about ME?!), my agency, and how I use Apple products to run my business as a busy entrepreneur on the go… and they wanted to feature me on their website! I couldn’t believe it.

The next thing I know, they scheduled a two-day shoot with a photographer and crew from Apple’s marketing team, followed me around LA, and created a beautiful video and brand profile on me and Jeneration PR that lived on the Apple website for over five years. I was featured alongside huge companies like Nike and Nestle, which seriously boosted my credibility and led to a ton of new business inquiries. And it all started from a conversation where I just shared what I do and how much I love my business. My PR agency really took off from there, and that just goes to show the power of sharing what you’re passionate about with others.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh, I have the perfect story for this. It’s funny now, but at the time, I couldn’t have been more embarrassed! I was running my very first major event for my PR agency, a runway show for a fashion brand I was representing. I was still pretty new at PR, and honestly, I was in just a bit over my head.

The event was filled with celebrities and photographers, and in the eyes of the client and all of the attendees, it was an amazing success. Everyone had a great time and it even got picked up by news outlets, which was a huge win for me!

But behind the scenes, I felt like a hot mess the whole time. Since this was my first major event, I had NO idea how much would need to be done. I needed to take care of everything, from getting everyone checked in to making sure they were on the list, working the red carpet, assigning VIPs their tables, and handing out gift bags. It felt so chaotic, and for me, that was a total nightmare.

Somehow, the event still managed to be a success. But then, I unintentionally insulted an Oscar-winning actress, which turned out to be one of the most embarrassing moments of my whole life. Next door to our event venue, there was a Dancing With the Stars event happening, so there was some crossover between our guests and theirs.

That year, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who happens to be hearing-impaired, was on Dancing With the Stars, so she was trying to get to their event. But she ended up trying to check in at the event I was running. I tried my very best to point her towards the other event since I don’t know sign language, but she misunderstood and thought I was telling her she wasn’t welcome!

This was bad enough… but then, she looked at me and yelled “I’M DEAF! I CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOU!” It was so embarrassing, and I felt horrible! If I could’ve curled up and hidden under a rock for the rest of the night, I would’ve done it. But my event and the 1,000 guests needed me.

Now, years later, it’s almost funny (almost!) but I did learn a great lesson that you should do what you truly love. I learned for sure what I don’t love to do — for me, events are just overwhelming, and that’s okay! Everyone has different strengths, and after running that hot mess of an event (even though from the outside, it was 100% successful!) I realized that event management is not one of my passions. My husband still makes fun of me for insulting Marlee Matlin to this day!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The most exciting things I’m working on are my educational programs for our fellow PR professionals: The Agency Accelerator and The Pitch Lab! Aside from those two programs, I’m always incredibly excited about my Profitable PR Pros community, where we’ve developed resources, tools, and educational materials that help support communications professionals.

When I realized that a collaborative, helpful space was missing from the PR world, I knew we had to build something where we could all come together and support each other. Now, we’re so honored to support PR pros all over the world! We turn them into Pitching PowerhousesTM, help them learn how to provide amazing PR services to their ideal clients, and give them the support they need to launch, grow & scale profitable PR agencies on their terms. It’s truly some of the most gratifying work I have ever done, and I get to connect with and support people with growing a business they love!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

First, I wish someone had told me to do what you love and what you’re passionate about! I realized how important this is when I secured my very first press mention in Us Weekly magazine. That first little feature actually sparked my desire to leave my career as a lawyer and start my own PR firm! At the time, I was still working full-time as a lawyer and promoting the fragrance brand I mentioned earlier on the side, unpaid. I loved that work so much, and it ended up serving as the catalyst for me to take the leap and start Jeneration PR! After so many years of running my business, I still feel the same level of passion and excitement. Knowing the joy and fulfillment that comes with doing what you truly love has changed my life.

Next, I definitely wish someone had warned me about the importance of overcoming imposter syndrome. I really felt like I started to overcome imposter syndrome when I had TWO clients on The Ellen Degeneres Show and one on the TODAY Show, all on the same day! I had this incredible moment of realization when I finally understood that my career isn’t about luck — it’s actually something I’m good at, really passionate about, and worked hard to achieve.

Before I started my PR journey, I also wish that someone had told me that moms can truly have it all. I think that so many women feel torn between being a present parent and achieving all of their career dreams, but it really is possible to do both! Not saying it will be perfect, but it is possible. When I was working in law, it didn’t feel like it would ever be a reality for me, because I saw so many women have to make that tough decision. So I left my career and started a business that would actually allow me to have the kind of life that I really wanted. When I was selected by as one of the “Top 10 Mompreneurs Who Made it Big,” I realized I could actually thrive in both areas of my life. Now, I want to encourage other women to live with the same flexibility and joy!

Owning my own business means I work from home, and on that note, I wish someone had told me how important it is to create a workspace that helps you feel inspired. I get to work in a gorgeous room every single day (which was actually designed for me by HGTV!), and I’ve realized that the way your space makes you feel really does matter. For entrepreneurs working from home (or even if you’re in an office!), I think it’s so important to have a space that makes you feel inspired, energized and helps you be productive.

The final lesson I wish I’d known before starting my business is that — in your business, YOU call the shots! This sounds like common sense, but I’m telling you, embracing the power you have in your business takes time (and is so worth it). Time and time again, I’ve seen PR pros (myself included!) bend their policies, lower their rates, do things that don’t light them up, and say “yes” to everything just because they feel like they need to. But the truth is, it’s YOUR business, and you are in charge of every single piece. When you embrace that, everything changes, and you’re able to build a business that serves you on every level!

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

Networking is so powerful and is an important part of how our agency generates new business leads! The best way to network is to be consistent, be positive, and be gracious. I’ll dive a little deeper into each of these points, because each one really does impact how you network effectively.

Be consistent. Whenever you tell someone that you’re going to do something, follow through and do it! Your reputation is everything, and you want to be seen as reliable. People are way more willing to share your information in a referral or help you out with something when they know that you’re reliable.

Similarly, keep things really positive (even if a client relationship comes to an end). Aside from creating a positive experience when working with a client, try to part ways on good terms — never burn any bridges! Clients are your biggest source of referrals, so you always want to maintain a good relationship with them. It’s so much better to have a positive interaction than to focus on being right or getting the last word.

You’ll also want to be gracious when it comes to networking. It’s not just about you, your needs, or growing your business. Networking should truly be mutual and serve both people. Try to focus on serving at least one person every single day. You could express gratitude for how they have helped you or how appreciative you are of their work. You could reach out and mention an article or piece of press you were inspired by and that made you think of them. When you do this, you’re able to make a connection on a deeper level before you ask for something. Networking is so much better when you give first! Later on, when you actually do need someone’s support and help, they’ll remember you as someone who was constantly giving, connecting, and serving.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Honestly, our number one source of leads is referrals. To get referrals from clients or peers, you have to stay fresh in their minds! Whether you do a quick check-in, send out interesting articles once a week, or specifically ask for referrals, you have to stay connected. If you do ask directly for referrals, make sure you outline what types of clients you serve and exactly what services you provide. This helps direct people to refer good, relevant leads that really could benefit from your services.

On that note, make sure you actually KNOW what kinds of clients you want to support in your agency. Narrowing down your niche is very important. It’s tempting to try to be a generalist thinking you have the ability to help more people and ultimately get more clients. But, if you try to be all things to all people, no one is going to think of you when giving referrals, because they won’t see you as a go-to authority within a specific niche! Make sure you have a super clear vision for your business and clients, and then your leads will be much more targeted and high-quality.

If you want to generate those really qualified leads, you’ll also need to make sure your website is up-to-date with current case studies and other examples of your work. You can show off your skills and help alleviate client concerns by demonstrating your successes. If you publish blog content on your website, share thought leadership articles you’ve crafted as it relates to your areas of expertise, as that’s another great way to connect with potential clients.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

A while ago, I read Traction by Gino Wickman, and it was extremely helpful in shaping how I structured my agency. In the book, he talks about elevating yourself to the role of visionary, taking yourself out of the day-to-day execution, and working on your business instead of in your business. These things have allowed me to experience pretty rapid growth and profitability in my business. I realized that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do it all, and that working from a visionary perspective allows me to experience so much momentum and focus on doing what I love. I highly recommend this book to any business owner!

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Creating a movement where women feel empowered to take on both sides of their dreams — the personal and the professional — would be incredible. In my own life, being able to have the best of both worlds has been amazing.

But so many women feel like they have to choose between motherhood and a career. That’s why my dream movement is all about showing people that you can find success in both your personal and professional life.

You can run a business that serves the kind of life that you want to have. You can create the work-life integration that you’re seeking. You can be a profitable CEO and an involved PTA member. And you can make great money while still being in control of your time as a present and checked-in parent.

When we give moms access to a strategy that helps them build a career where they can find fulfillment and still embrace motherhood, we alleviate this weird dynamic that forces women to choose. I’ve seen firsthand that it’s totally possible to have both, and I’d love to show other women how to do the same thing for themselves. THIS is the movement that I am working so hard to inspire!

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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