"The world of communications, particularly earned media, is an art and a science," Babbit Bodner CEO Jennifer Bodner tells Doug Simon. "It's never perfect."

However, by laying the groundwork, and "having a plan B, C, D and E," Bodner says savvy communicators "can put the tools in place and the contingency plans in place to be ready for the imperfect."

At Babbit Bodner, she says, "earned media is at the core of everything that we do." And the core of earned media, Bodner tells Simon, is "having a great story to tell. It's about understanding who the target audience is. So, think the basics of what earned media is about, connecting brands to the people that are interested, pulling in what's happening in the world around us."

Doing that requires a focus on what she calls the "scrappy strategic." Being strategic "means having this laser focus on research and insights and measuring that against KPIs," while being scrappy "means knowing what's happening in the cultural zeitgeist and jumping right in."

To turn research into action, Bodner says communicators need to employ both the kind of research that comes from "months of qualitative and quantitative data" and the kind of real-time research (i.e., daily monitoring) that lets PR pros "flip pretty quickly."

She also stresses keeping things simple. "Sometimes I think we as as PR professionals complicate things too much in terms of research. I think, again, it's really about having a pulse on what are common patterns we're seeing."

Bodner also says communicators should be aware of the "point in between research and action, and that's on Insights. You could do research for years and never get any true insights. So don't move forward until you have an insight."

The growing presence of AI in the communications landscapes is also discussed in the conversation. "I think there are pros and cons. It is helping us to be more efficient in certain ways. I don't think it will ever replace strategists and creatives and practitioners, but I do think there are tools out there that are helping people get insights and keep a pulse on what's happening."

"If you look at what's been hot this year," Bodner says, "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. To me that that's where we're headed in 2024—how are we embracing our individuals and coming together?"

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.