Jennifer Bodner, CEO of Babbit Bodner, discusses how to manage the unpredictability of PR by planning ahead and knowing when to pivot. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of gathering insights during the research process. She talks about the value of being a scrappy and strategic communicator. Jennifer also shares what Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and the Barbie movie have in common.
DOUG: So, Jen is the perfect guest. And that’s even though she sometimes says that comms is not perfect. So, what do you mean by that?
JEN: You know, I think the world of communications, particularly earned media. It’s messy, right? It’s an art and a science. We don’t know how our end user at the end of the day, our end listener, end audience is going to take a message that we prepare. We don’t know if an interviewer is going to speak to a reporter in an in-depth interview, and that the message that we crafted for them is going to come across the right way. So, I think, you know, it’s never perfect. It has to be understood that it’s about being in real time that we may have to pivot. You know, I talked to the team a lot about in our world, it’s about having a plan B, C and E, because the world of news changes, the world of consumer audience changes. Again, we’re living in a 24/7 news cycle. So, I think that’s what I mean by communications is never going to be perfect. And I think we can put the tools in place and the contingency plans in place to be ready for the imperfect.
DOUG: From that response, I would take it that earned media is pretty important at Babbit Bodner.
JEN: Earned media is at the core of everything that we do. I have grown up in the world of earned media and we have expanded our capabilities and the services that we offer to our clients. We do organic social media, we do a lot of influencer relations, but we approached all of these marketing levers the same way we do earned media, right? It’s about having a great story to tell. It’s about understanding who the target audience is, and then it’s about crafting that in a way that your viewer, that your consumer, that your customer wants to get it. So, think the basics of what earned media is about, you know, connecting brands to the people that are interested, pulling in what’s happening in the world around us. That’s really a skill that you can use in so many different communications vehicles.
DOUG: And that’s so interesting that you say that because sometimes, you know, internal communications teams or agency teams want to define themselves as scrappy and others maybe are more strategic and I button my shirt and put a tie on if I’m in the latter group. But you don’t feel that those are in opposition, how can being scrappy and strategic work together.
JEN: At Babbit Bodner that’s what we pride ourselves on is this focus on scrappy strategic. So, bringing those two together, you know, look, being strategic means having this laser focus on research and insights and measuring that against KPIs and think being scrappy means being real time and knowing what’s happening in the cultural zeitgeist and jumping right in. Well, what if you have people that are experts in both spaces? What if you approach it together and you blend the two, you know, and you create teams that know how to blend the two and you create research that leads into the ability to do things quickly and in real time mean to me if you can combine scrappy and strategic that is what drives breakthrough.
DOUG: Is there a way to speed up the timeline of turning research into action? Maybe you don’t have to go out to, you know, 100 decimal points like Pi or something else, but how do you go about doing that and how do you instill that in your team?
JEN: Well, I think it goes back to communications isn’t perfect, right? So, if you think about research, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to do research. I mean, obviously there’s times where we need months of qualitative and quantitative data, but research can also mean a daily monitoring, you know, of ten top influencers in the space. And what are they talking about and what are people engaging with the most? I mean, that is a form of research and that is going straight to a target audience, understanding what content, what angles, what they’re looking for, and then you can flip pretty quickly. So think it’s thinking about research in a really different way, right? And again, there are there are certain times and certain cases for both kinds of research. But to be scrappy, strategic, you got to you got to sort of be ready to do real time research and be more in depth.
DOUG: Yeah, we talked about how to use that research and turn it into results for your clients or your organization. But how do you make sure you’re doing research effectively in the first place, because sometimes that can be complicated to figure out.
JEN: Sometimes I think we as as PR professionals complicate things too much in terms of research. You know, I think, again, it’s really about having a pulse on what are common patterns we’re seeing? Right. What are trends we’re seeing? And that again, if I get a bulk of research that is substantial, same premise, what are the patterns? What are the trends? You don’t need to scale through every single answer and every decimal point. It’s really about pulling what you’re seeing through. And then I think, you know, it’s sort of a there’s a point in between research and action, and that’s on Insights. That’s the point that I think a lot of people miss. You know, you could do research for years and never get any true insights. So don’t move forward until you have an insight. I mean, again, if you look at the greatest brands and the work that they’ve done, that’s been more scrappy, more real time, it’s because they have this deep-seated insight about their customer or their consumer so that they can flip that and action it in real time anytime.
DOUG: You’re also talking about trends, there. So, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to look into your crystal ball if that’s still a relevant term to use. What are some of the trends you see happening now that might be coming up, that might be affecting how communications is handled? Obviously, AI seems to be one that’s discussed quite a bit.
JEN: AI, I mean, look, it’s there’s no doubt about it. It’s changing the industry. I think there are pros and cons. It is it is helping us to be more efficient in certain ways. And it’s something that we’re all going to have to keep an eye on. But I do think, you know, they are tools. I think in that same space, look, I think there’s a lot of automation that’s happening in our industry that, you know, we should all keep our eyes on. Again, I don’t think it will ever replace strategists and creatives and practitioners, but I do think there’s tools out there that are helping people, to your question, you know, get insights and quicker, you know, keeping a pulse on what’s happening, connecting with journalists quicker. So, I think some of that automation in this space is really important. We were talking a little about this before, but I think there’s something really happening with, um, if you look at what’s been hot this year, right, it’s been Taylor Swift, it’s been Beyonce, it’s been Barbie. And what are the things that all those have in common? One is they’ve brought groups of women together to have fun and to dress up and to sort of have this common experience. But they’re also having a little bit of a nod to feminism. And, you know, to me that that’s where we’re headed in 2024, right, is like, how are we sort of embracing our individuals and coming together? And people want joy and they’re seeking fun and but with a nod or to something that they care about and something that’s sort of bigger than themselves.
DOUG: Awesome. Way to finish. And thanks so much for sharing your insights. Definitely helpful for the people who watch this content.