Image courtesy Melissa Duren
Interview

Melissa Duren

03.12.15

Working on the editorial side, we interact with publicists on a daily basis. I knew when I met Melissa Duren she really cared about her clients and believed in the power of strategic brand messaging. Joining Jennifer Bett Communications after years of public relations experience at Starworks, Theory, and Joe Fresh – it was only natural to form her own team alongside Jennifer Meyer, another industry vet. Together they have built Jennifer Bett Communications into a leading boutique public relations firm with clients such as: Brother Vellies, Ringly, Reem Acra, and Jack Erwin.

Interview

How did you find your way to New York?

I am from Connecticut and always had some idea I would end up in NYC. I went to Fordham University for undergrad and fell in love with the energy of the city – I knew as a freshman I wasn’t leaving anytime soon.

Did you always want to pursue PR?

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. It’s funny how you fall into something that turns out to be what you’re passionate about professionally.

What was your first fashion job?

I was a PR Coordinator at The Bromley Group – I interned there my junior and senior year and didn’t want to leave!

How has the industry changed since you started?

It’s really had to adapt to the evolving digital landscape. When I first started no one cared about online coverage as much as print and information wasn’t going viral the way it does today. Now, it takes a matter of minutes for news to travel so we’ve all had to react faster, think ahead and anticipate as much as we can. In addition to that, there are so many young innovative brands/start-ups that are launching and competing in a big way with large companies. With that, I’ve seen PR become more centered on story-telling – we are constantly reevaluating how to identify the most compelling and dynamic ways to share brand stories that will cut through the noise.

When did you join Jennifer Bett Communications?

JBC was launched by my business partner, Jennifer Meyer, in January 2013. At the time she was consulting for amazing fashion brands while I was working independently for young start-ups. I’ve always been most excited about PR when its been about launching a brand and helping them grow into a major competitor so I was really enjoying my work. As they say timing is everything – we started working together on brands we thought were doing something special in their market and a year later (summer 2014) I joined permanently and formally as a Partner and Managing Director. In six months we went from just the two of us to now five full time employees and an incredible roster of clients we are very excited about.

As a publicist, what is the toughest part of your job?

Honestly, it’s a challenge every day, but I love what I do. Nothing is too hard when you have an amazing support system at work and at home. If I had to choose one thing it’s that it is simply a job and while fulfilling it’s not the only thing in my life. I always remind my friends and myself that the work will be there in the morning and to go live life.

What do you feel like people don’t understand about working in PR?

It’s the same answer I think every publicist has, it’s not all glitz and glamour. There are a ton of perks and access to amazing people and events, but what many don’t know is that public relations itself is a very nuanced profession and there is a lot at stake. You are building brand messaging, crafting how the public perceives that brand and hopefully buys in to that brand and can ultimately make or break them based on your efforts.

Can you describe your earliest fashion memory?

Yes! My sister and I wearing the cutest sleeveless white/black polka dot jumpsuits with stripe pockets and matching side braids. I think we were 5 and 6. We are Irish twins so my very efficient mom dressed us alike until we were about 11! It started a long obsession with color coordination and matching my hair bows to my socks. Two things I am happy to say I have let go. I’ve always loved clothes and how you can express yourself with personal style. I experimented a lot growing up which was so fun. That’s what fashion is meant to be and I appreciate what this industry is and being part of it.

Outside of work and fashion – what do you love about New York?

The food! I am slowly making my way through all of the amazing restaurants in my neighborhood- Cobble Hill. It’s been three years and I still have so many more to try. Every day there is something new and while it’s hard to keep up its really fun to try.

If you weren’t working in PR, what would you be doing?

I am really entrepreneurial and have a dream of owning a boutique like Bird in Brooklyn or a bakery. I’d end up doing PR for my shop regardless so I don’t think there is any way out of this profession for me- it’s in the blood!

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