The Evolution of Influence — with Melissa Duren Conner of JBC

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Melissa Duren Conner is well versed in the language of PR, but one word she mentions more than almost any other is “learning.”

“When we work with a brand it’s a partnership,” she said. “There’s a trust level in our expertise and what we know, but then the things we don’t know and are learning from our clients everyday.”

Duren Conner talked about navigating the world of startups and e-commerce and identifying brands with stories to tell on the 37th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast.

At Jennifer Bett Communications, where she is a partner and managing director, Duren Conner works with a diverse roster of clients including Parachute, a home essentials brand.  

“I think what we’ve shown people we’re great at is building continuous stories, building momentum and helping, as brands evolve, to make sure the storytelling around those brands is supporting it properly,” she said.

In the case of Parachute, Duren Conner talked about helping their clients grow from a bedding company to the lifestyle brand that the company’s founder envisioned. Today, Parachute has ventured into spaces such hotel and baby products.

“People say ‘I want to live the Parachute lifestyle,’ it’s not just ‘I want the sheets,’” Duren Conner said. “That’s exciting for us and we love when there is a bigger vision for the brand.”

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That potential for growth and disruption is a common theme across JBC’s clients. Duren Conner mentioned Raden, a smart luggage brand, as another brand with the potential for growth and evolution. (Raden founder Josh Udashkin appeared on the 22nd episode of the Podcast)

“It’s something that crosses over into tech, lifestyle and, of course, travel. Telling all of his stories and disrupting a market is really interesting. His approach to his brand is very different than other startups,” she said.

With the rise of e-commerce, the PR industry has faced continuous demand to operate on a 24/7 sales model, instead of launches and more organized retail campaigns.

Duren Conner said that JBC has focused on working with “modern luxury brands” that recognize the different ways people consume. She said these brands are changing the definition of luxury and replacing legacy brands that have long been the industry standard.

“When there’s something that is creating tension in a market and trying to change consumer behavior or the way you perceive a certain thing, that’s when we get excited,” she said.

Working with these brands, Duren Conner identified social media as a driver of changing consumer behavior.  To help brands tell their stories, JBC tries to identify their space within the industry and explore the different layers of each brand’s story.

Duren Conner recognized those layers as part of an increasingly shared conversation between different retail spaces.  

“It’s about lifestyle now,” she said. “Ten years ago, it was very much food is one thing, fashion is another, home and interior are another. There was no crossover, but now there truly is. That speaks to how people live their everyday lives.”