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When Dustee Jenkins joined Spotify in 2017, one of the draws was the founder/CEO Daniel Ek’s “deep appreciation” for communications. “He believes in communication. He understands that for people to buy into something, to believe in something, they have to get it, they have to understand it,” Jenkins said in an interview with PRovoke Media. That’s not to say Ek is always media-savvy — his comments last year asking musicians to churn out more music was swiftly met with backlash.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
A communicator’s superpower is finding really simple and compelling ways to explain complex topics. We had an opportunity to put this into practice with Spotify’s filing against Apple in the EU – an issue surrounding competition that has been ongoing for the last few years. We were able to take a nuanced and highly technical legal issue and turn it into a conversation that most consumers could easily follow. We launched a standalone microsite to explain our position outside of the legal arena. We also leveraged multiple media channels to reach beyond traditional business outlets including live speaking moments, podcasts and social engagement. What resulted was notable for our business and critical in our efforts to create a level playing field across all platforms. I am very proud of this work.
What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
For global companies like Spotify, a significant challenge will be the staggered rate of Covid-related recovery from market to market. Our business and the needs of consumers in each market will continue to be very different, so we need to continue to be thoughtful about how we show up and support those communities in different ways. I’d also say relatedly, the need for smart internal communicators is growing more quickly than I’ve seen before. Keeping employees engaged and bought in is more important than ever. Employees have high expectations of their employers and continue to seek to have a voice in business strategy and positioning. Having a strong communications team will be critical to successfully manage expectations on all fronts.
What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
There really has never been a more important time to be in communications than right now. Around the world, we’re seeing that words matter, and that consumers are holding companies accountable for what they do and what they say. It’s been exciting to watch many businesses that I’ve long admired reach that conclusion this past year, elevating the focus and significance of transparent and strategic comms. We’ve fought for a seat at the table for a long time, and for most, that seat has been cemented in 2020-2021.
What has most disappointed you about this industry over the past year?
Inside our own industry and across many others, I’ve noticed there has been a lack of constructive conversation to help us reach shared goals. Instead, there’s often been a tendency to act quickly based on, sometimes, even a single point of view. I actually read a book recently called Think Again by Adam Grant that is about considering things from different perspectives to help with decision making. It really had an impact on me as a leader, but also as a mom, a spouse, friend, and even a former politico. It encouraged me to be more flexible and curious across all facets of my life, and I also found it enormously helpful as a communicator who tries to practice the art of persuasion on a regular basis. I’d recommend it to anyone, but definitely anyone who works in comms.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
I don’t know about anyone else but for me, 2020 felt like the year that I never stopped working. When we were all working from home, the lines between work and play were always blurred and stepping away just never really happened. This year I've definitely prioritized taking more consecutive time off than I ever have previously. As a Swedish company, taking time to recharge is something ingrained in the Spotify way, and while I am not there yet, I am certainly a work in progress.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
Definitely news podcasts. I’m an avid listener of both The Daily from the New York Times and The Journal from the Wall Street Journal. Both series do such a great job at bringing in interesting topics and going deep, teaching me something new, but relevant, every day.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
I’d be in hotel management! I’ve done a lot of traveling in my career and have some strong perspectives on what makes the perfect stay...
Sum up 2021 in one word.
Bumpy! We all better hold on tight, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.
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