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#BEYOUROWN MEETS JENNIFER BERSON

Jennifer founded Jeneration PR in 2005 after several years of practising as a civil litigation attorney. Frustrated with the lack of creativity and slow pace of work in litigation, she began promoting a cosmetics line that she discovered on a trip to Europe and enjoyed it so much that it served as a catalyst to leave the legal field and pursue a full-time career in public relations.

It was a perfect fit; Jennifer’s legal background provides her with a strong business sense that helps to keep clients focused and on track. And, like all of her clients, Jennifer is an entrepreneur and possesses the passion and drive to help propel their businesses forward as her own company continues to grow.

Jennifer is now a regularly featured PR & social media expert on American Express OPEN Forum for small business and has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur magazine, PR Week, Los Angeles Daily News, Fox 11 News, TV Guide Network’s “Hollywood 411” and was profiled on Apple.com. Jennifer was also featured in the “Limelight Series” on PR Web, and selected by Babble.com as one of the 10 “Mompreneurs Who Made it Big!”

You graduated summa cum laude from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in communications and hold a JD from the University of Southern California Law School, can you take us through your journey so we can understand a bit more in depth about how you arrived at where you are now? 

In my previous life, I was a civil litigator. A few years into my career, I realised that it wasn’t going to be my long-term path. I remember looking around one day and realising that there weren’t any women I worked with who had the life I wanted to build for myself. “Balance” is loaded word—but I knew that I wanted more balance in my life than what I saw when I looked around the office. I wanted a life where I could actually see my family, and I wanted to be in charge of my own schedule.

I realised the positivity and excitement that was missing from my law career and started to contemplate a change. While I was in Europe celebrating having passed my bar exam, I discovered an amazing beauty brand.  After my trip, I kept thinking about all these ways that they could better market their products and help them gain access to more retail stores in the U.S. On a whim, I decided to reach out to them to share my vision and ask if I could help. All I asked for was a giant box of samples and permission to pitch their brand. They happily agreed, and I walked around L.A. touting their products. It sounds crazy, but without any experience or contacts, I was able to get the brand into In Touch Weekly.

In litigation, all I did was help tear companies down—I had never experienced the “high” of building a company up. It was like a drug, and I was hooked! I felt so excited that I could have a positive and immediate impact on businesses without spending money and exhausting resources, like litigation. I knew I had only worked with one brand so far, but I kept thinking that if I loved promoting products THIS much when I was doing it for free, I would love it SO much more if I could make it a career. So, I started to do all the work it takes to start your own company—looking at resources available, figuring out billing, etc. I made the leap in 2005, and Jeneration PR was born.

As a PR consultant, what is a day in the life of you like? 

Well, in addition to being a PR consultant, I’m also a mom of two boys. So, the mornings always start with shuffling them off to school. This is a time when I’m totally present with my children. After I get them out the door, I’m in business mode. I have about six hours where my kids are in school, where I am totally committed to my business. I check my emails for any client needs, focus on business development strategies, and check in with my amazing team. I love collaborating with my team throughout the day. We are small and nimble, so we move really fast and react to clients’ needs very quickly, which allows us to constantly move projects forward and bring in new business.

Once I’m done tackling my retainer clients’ needs, I then turn to the coaching side of my business—Jeneration Academy. I’m currently investing a lot of time in my Agency Accelerator Program, where I help other people launch, grow and scale profitable PR agencies. I love this side of my business and find it so fulfilling to share what I’ve created on my own in order to provide other entrepreneurs with a roadmap to profitability so that they too can create the business of their dreams.

After my kids return from school, I switch to tasks that don’t require as much concentration (emails, editing press clips, compiling press books, etc.) because I want to be present with them. I love getting to help them with their homework or just sitting and reading a book with them.

How are you helping to propel your clients’ businesses and drive growth? 

We always start with our clients’ objectives in mind, whether that’s launching a brand, introducing a new product, or generating sales for a brand that’s already on the market. Once we have an understanding of our clients’ needs, we focus on creating awareness and driving consumer demand for our clients’ products by getting them massive exposure through a variety of traditional and new media outlets: features on TV shows, digital outlets that have a huge reach and can drive people to their websites, and exposure through targeted influencers. 

Influencers are key to our approach because they help drive genuine engagement with our customers’ products as well as align their brands with the ideal customer. This combination of the traditional media and the “new media” approaches drive interest and demand for our clients’ products and ultimately furthers their objectives.

You recently launched Jeneration Academy, which is a community and resource hub for entrepreneurs to learn the best tips & tactics to grow their brands, create brand awareness, and increase sales on their own. What was the incentive behind launching?

For years there have been businesses that I have wanted to work with that couldn’t afford our retainers or who have simply come to me for advice. When mentoring them, I realised I was repeating the same information over and over again—the secrets to our proven process for securing media features and exposure. This realisation drove me to launch Press Success. Through this platform, I have helped others use our same process to land meaningful press features, which helps them build up the momentum they need to eventually become profitable enough to hire an agency.

After 14 years of helping entrepreneurs running my agency, I decided to launch my Agency Accelerator Program in April 2018. Again, I was being asked over and over again by women for advice on how to create their own PR agency. I was excited to lend a hand, but I realised that I could create a profitable program for myself by sharing the roadmap for the process I used to grow my own firm.

By sharing the same structure behind our PR Agency success process, I have been able to help women around the world create profitable agencies around their schedules and work with their dream clients. Helping other women create a vision for their company and path to profitability on their own terms has been the most gratifying, awesome, and fulfilling work I have ever done.

Who is the team behind Jeneration PR?

I really do work with the best of the best—experienced, established PR experts and a killer social media team. My PR experts are extremely connected and dialled into our areas of expertise as well as our needs. Because they are the best and the brightest in their fields, they get the job done extremely fast and produce amazing results, which our clients love. My social media team is made up of strategists, content creators, copywriters, a photographer who creates original assets, and a graphic designer, all of whom produce fast results. 

The combination of our process, our experts, and our studio (complete with props and a stylist) allows us to quickly put out original, beautiful content.

As you continue to grow, what important factors did you consider when looking at the scalability of your business model?

I realised pretty quickly that I didn’t want to approach PR as a generalist.  When envisioning my company, I decided that I really wanted to be an expert in the fields that interest me: beauty & cosmetics, baby & kids, and health & wellness. This focus allows for our industry know-how and contacts to benefit as many prospective clients as possible. We really wanted to establish a solid reputation for our company in those specific spaces, so that we could attract top-tier clients. My goal is to be able to bring on and retain clients as long as possible. In order to make that happen, we have put a solid structure in place for onboarding, reporting, and keeping clients happy.  Because of our dedication and responsiveness, our clients see us as part of their team and know that we are serving them in a way that makes them want to stick around.

Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?

I would love to see the Jeneration Academy digital coaching side of my business scale to the point at which I am able to serve as many entrepreneurs and aspirating agency owners as possible with my programs and digital content. 

With the Jeneration Agency side of my business, I hope we continue to see the double-digit growth we have experiences each year. We just secured our third billion-dollar client, and we hope to continue on our trajectory of securing top-tier businesses. In the big-picture side of things, I would love to hire an integrator for my business so that I could step away from running the day-to-day of my company and really focus on both guiding the overall vision of the company as well as serving my Jeneration Academy students.

How are you planning to expand the services you offer at Jeneration PR? 

One great part of my job is constantly evolving to meet new demands. We are constantly monitoring the trends in PR and social media so we can offer the most proactive, innovative approaches to our clients. So, as the trends change, we’ll be on top of it, and adjust our approach by expanding our services to meet clients’ needs accordingly.

Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally? 

I know it’s cliché to say it, but I often struggle with Perfection Paralysis. When I get caught in this “not good enough” mentality, I try to move forward by repeating my personal mantras: progress over perfection and done is better than perfect. I try to constantly reassure myself that even though I want to put the best work forward, my good enough is better than some people’s best effort.

Have you ever had any other mentor? If so, how has this benefitted you to grow? 

I really believe that if you are going to excel as a person, you have to continually grow and invest in your personal development by remaining open and coachable throughout your life. I have kept this mindset by reaching out to mentors and investing in programs that are different according to the needs I have when running my business. I have a mindset coach that helps me focus on overcoming my limiting beliefs. I utilise what I learn from my coach both in my own business as well as with my Agency Accelerator students. I have also hired various coaches for marketing and copywriting.

What outlets do you use to market Jeneration PR? 

We try to focus on finding the platforms where we want to promote our business and reach out to our ideal customer. Most importantly, our website generates a huge amount of business for us. In terms of social media, I have a strong presence on Instagram, I publish articles on LinkedIn, and I have been profiled about my transition from law to PR and sharing my expert PR strategies on several well-known digital platforms, including ForbesBusiness InsiderThe New York TimesThe Huffington PostEntrepreneur MagazineYahoo FinanceEntrepreneur OnFire, and (pinch me because I still can’t believe it!) Apple. I also love connecting with people and sharing my personality through podcasts.

Which methods are you using to build your own network? 

With regards to my client base for Jeneration PR, the retainer side of my business, we mostly rely on positive word-of-mouth referrals.  We really give our clients a positive experience, and they are excited to tell others about working with us. Our website is also a great place for lead generation because we’re able to showcase our work. We often get clients reaching out to us via LinkedIn.

In order to attract students to our Jeneration Academy program, I have developed some solid resources that share our processes for securing press success. Prospective students trade their email address for these free resources, and then I’m able to reach out to them over email to tell them more about my program.

What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur? 

Let’s be honest—when you work from home, people think you run some sort of rinky-dink business. So many people assume that you’re in your pyjamas all day, just doing laundry and organising your cabinets. Don’t get me wrong—working from home requires a lot of self-discipline. But over the last 14 years, I’ve developed a lot of it. When I’m at work, I’m at work—at home or elsewhere. People also think that if you run a business from home, your company must be small, less professional, and unable to attract premium opportunities. But I’m really proud of the fact that I work with publicly-traded companies and billion-dollar brands, and all of the businesses I work with know that I’m essentially running my company from home. At the end of the day, no matter where you work, it’s the results that matter, not where you have your computer set up.

What would you like to see changed for millennials in business? 

I honestly think that millennials get a bad rap. So many people in business perceive millennials as selfish, lazy, and entitled, but that has not been my experience at all. All of the millennials I have worked with have been competent, creative, and proactive. They are a generation who grew up with devices glued to their hands—we need to start seeing this as an asset and not a detriment. This generation of millennial entrepreneurs is a group of skilled problem solvers, creative thinkers, competent workers, and straddle a line where they can reach out to both younger and older generations. I think the misconceptions about millennials really need to be corrected by the reality of their talents.

What is the best piece of advice you have received to date? 

This is a twofold answer. First, nobody is coming to save you; you are in charge of making your own path. Second, you already have everything you need to be successful, now go do it.

What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far? 

Your reputation is everything, and it’s really easy to mess it up. I have learned to protect and guard my reputation diligently. The reality is, people talk and social media is accessible to everyone. So, if someone has a bad experience working with you, there’s no hiding it. I want the sentiment of working with my company to be positive, so I always try to take the high road and constantly remind myself that my reputation is everything.

How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life? 

I mentioned this before, but I really think that balance is somewhat of a loaded term. I think establishing some guidelines and boundaries with clients is the first step in balancing your work and personal lives. If you start your relationship with a client by emailing them at all hours of the night, trying (in a well-intentioned way) to look responsive, they’re going to immediately feel that you are accessible to them 24/7. But you don’t need to be THAT responsive to meet your clients’ needs. If you bust your butt to get your work done during normal working hours, then you don’t have to carry that work over to your nights and weekends.

I think one other really important aspect of creating balance is being present. When you’re at work, be totally 100% focused on work. But when you’re at home, focus on being present with your family. When I’ve wrapped for the day and am with my kids in the evenings, I am playing with them or reading to them—I’m not checking my email or social media. Things (of course) won’t always be perfectly balanced, but if you maintain a presence by giving your full attention to whatever is in front of you, then you’re going to be as balanced as possible.

The highlight of your career so far? 

There are a few pinch-me moments that I’ve had throughout my PR career. One of them was winning my dream client: Skip Hop. As a mom, I have always loved the brand, and it has been such an honour to work with them. And it has even lead to other work! Although landing several billion-dollar brands, which has given us a lot of credibilities and helped our reputation, has been mind-blowingly awesome, my second highlight has got to be getting profiled by Apple. It was incredible. A team followed me around L.A. for two days and wrote up an amazing profile for me on the Apple website. It was also an incredible honour to be to be invited onto Amy Porterfield’s “Online Marketing Made Easy” Podcast. I’ve listened to it for years and learned so much, and I was so excited to get to be a part of it.

What gives you ultimate career satisfaction? 

Being able to know our value and our worth, asking for those rates, and having clients pay them because they also see our worth—there’s nothing better than that. Knowing the value of what we create for our clients and having them know it too and be willing to pay the rates we see as commensurate with our value is honestly the best feeling. It’s so amazing to work with clients that value you and are willing to pay you for it.

What barriers have you faced when building Jeneration PR? 

I’m pretty picky about the people on my team, so finding great people to support me has been one of the most challenging parts of building my company. I always want to make sure that I’m only taking on A+ players, but I also want to grow my team so that we can service our clients. 

Time has also been a challenge. Servicing our clients is our #1 priority, so sometimes it’s hard to find the time to devote to business development and growth. I’m so lucky that so many opportunities to serve new clients have come our way, but it’s challenging to be proactive about business development when you need to devote so much time to your current clients.

Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?

I love women that are supporting other women and teaching them how to grow their businesses, including the amazing Amy Porterfield. I also really admire smart, sophisticated women that had to create their own paths in a male-dominated world. I look up to amazing women that created new concepts when people thought it was impossible and blazed their own trails instead of following the norm, like Katrina Lake (the founder of the $2.8 billion dollar company, Stitch Fix, and the youngest female ever to take a company public) and Jennifer Hyman (CEO and Co-Founder of Rent The Runway—a company that I’m a tremendous fan of). I love people who know their concept is going to work and keep trying until they find other people to believe and invest in them. I’m also a big fan of my mentor, James Wedmore, because of how he approaches business from a spiritual perspective as well as from a place of always wanting to provide value.

What is a good article or book you have read recently? 

I am loving the “How I Built This” Podcast with Guy Raz. I could sit all day and listen to the different stories shared by successful business owners. As an entrepreneur, it’s total ear candy. Getting insights into how they created their companies, the hoops and hurdles they overcame, and how they refined their ideas to create successful businesses is so motiving, fun, and inspiring.

What does your Podcast playlist look like? 

Currently on the playlist is ‘Online Marketing Made Easy’ with Amy Porterfield, ‘Mind Your Business”‘with James Wedmore, ‘How I Built This’ with Guy Raz, and (when I’m listening with my kids) ‘Wow in the World’ with Guy Raz.

How do you measure your own terms of success? 

When starting and growing a business, I really think it needs to be built around the goals for your life. So there are really four questions I ask myself to measure how successful I’m feeling on a daily basis: Am I feeling happy? Am I sleeping at night? Am I present with my family? Am I feeling stressed? If you’re making lots of money, but you’re spinning on a hamster wheel, you’re not sleeping, and you don’t have time for your family, then you’re not really successful in my eyes.

What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you? 

To me, it really means redefining our definition of success to be doing things on your own terms. I keep going back to my mantra—no one is coming to save you. You are in charge of how you want your life to look. You have to forge your own path to success. but, you should enjoy the process of it, or there’s no point. There is true freedom, true fulfilment, and true success in being able to enact your vision for your company, impact people with your message, help as many people as possible, make money by doing the thing that lights you up the most, and (most importantly) do your job on your own terms.

Lastly, what is next for you and Jeneration PR?

I really want to grow my platform with the Jeneration Academy in order to impact more business owners and help more people lead more fulfilling lives by working on their own terms doing what they love most.  My ultimate goal is to focus on creating a robust cache of resources about our processes to help entrepreneurs at any stage learn how to launch, grow, scale, and promote a profitable business.

 

 

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