We caught up with Nancy Jeffrey, Editorial Director for Brand in our New York office, to learn about how she fuses her extensive journalism experience with her work for brands.
How would you describe what you do for a living to your family and friends?
I tell them I was a journalist for 25 years, and I am at my core a human storyteller. Now, I bring my journalistic skills and mindset to help brands find better human stories to tell.
How are you using your reporting skills to help your clients?
Edelman is increasingly doing award-winning creative work, and it is always earned-centric and social by design. I partner with creative teams to help infuse that earned-media DNA into a creative campaign. I also partner with and support our earned-media specialists, who are expert storytellers themselves, to help clients find the most culturally resonant story. Knowing how to find and tell an authentic, human story that connects with people — and knowing what will and won’t interest a journalist — have proven to be invaluable skills.
Before Edelman, what were some of your most interesting media stints?
I was at the Detroit Free Press for four years as a general assignment and then as a health care reporter. After that I worked for the The Wall Street Journal as a reporter for 10 years, covering everything from personal finance to health care, and then, ultimately, I became a feature writer for the WSJ’s Weekend Journal section. I went from the WSJ to PEOPLE, then owned by Time Inc., where I was a Senior Editor, responsible for a wide range of news and human-interest stories — the “real people” (non-celebrity) stories, so to speak. And, of course, the British royals.
At the Detroit Free Press, the WSJ, and PEOPLE, I was incredibly fortunate to work with some extraordinary editors and reporters, and they made me a better journalist. And I made some wonderful friends. My long experience in journalism has left me with enormous respect for the job that journalists do.
How did you find your way to Edelman?
When I was at the Wall Street Journal back in 2000, I interviewed Richard Edelman for a feature story. We stayed in touch over the years — the Edelman ethos is that no one at Edelman ever rises too high to pitch a reporter—and Richard would call me now and then to meet a client with a story to tell. Getting to know Richard really changed my whole perspective on what PR was. He is a visionary and an innovator, and he saw early on how the media landscape was changing and that brands needed to change how they tell stories and reach their audiences in a way that is earned-centric and social by design. It’s what we at Edelman call Communications
Marketing. I wanted to be a part of that. And I was so impressed with Edelman’s people, its culture, its clients. I can’t believe it, but I recently celebrated my third anniversary!
Do you have a favorite project at Edelman?
I have worked on many great projects, but I was so fortunate to be part of the amazing Edelman team that worked on Dove Real Beauty Productions. Dove wanted to refresh its iconic Campaign for Real Beauty for a new generation of women. Edelman created an all-female film production studio, in which emerging female directors and an all-female crew made three short, hero films about real women expanding the definition of beauty. Dove partnered with master storyteller and showrunner Shonda Rhimes, who put out a call for real women to submit their stories about expanding their definition of beauty and inspiring others to do so. My role was to help identify the stories which were strongest, to interview potential subjects, and help decide which subjects and stories both embodied the brand message and authentically connected with a cultural conversation. The campaign made a real impact, garnering 6 billion media impressions, generating 99 percent positive conversation, and it was featured at the 2017 Emmys in a Dove ad we made.
What are three things you would read or access every single day and some publications you really like right now?
I don’t think I can keep it to three! When it comes to media consumption, I am an omnivore and I have no dilemmas. I almost always start my day with Facebook, because I want to know what people are talking about, what news are they sharing? I am on Twitter, though I am not a big Tweeter, and I tend to go to it to see reactions to breaking news events. I read the New York Times — I think they have done such a great job with digital and visual storytelling. I try to look at
the WSJ and Washington Post. I am a political junkie and like Politico. New York Magazine — especially the Daily Intelligencer, Vulture and The Cut verticals. I look at the New York Post and the Daily Mail to see what’s grabbing headlines. And I will dip into Refinery29, Vox, Teen Vogue, and other sites for specific stories.
I subscribe to and can’t live without The New Yorker. So much of the content we consume these days is quick-hit, that to take a deep dive into a beautifully spun story is a pleasure.
What are you watching and reading right now?
I recently saw the film, “Three Identical Strangers,” the true story of triplets who were separated after birth and then placed with different adoptive families as part of a now-infamous child-development study. I am a fan of Shonda Rhimes — I was addicted to “Scandal” for a couple of seasons a while back— but I never saw “Grey’s Anatomy,” believe it or not. I remedied that this summer, when I started watching it, and I am up to Season 11! And I am a huge fan of The Crown, and can’t wait for the new season. I am currently reading How Democracies Die, by Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. And I just got Sally Field’s memoir, In Pieces. I have always admired her, for her talent and candor, and that’s next.
You didn’t ask me, but I love podcasts. My favorites, to name a few, are Serial (Season 1 and I like Season 3 a lot so far); Invisibilia; the RadioLab spinoff, More Perfect, This American Life, and The Moth.
What's your biggest accomplishment, personal or professional?
In May, I ran the Popular Brooklyn Half marathon in the rain. In March, I ran the United Airlines NYC Half, so I have run two half marathons this
year, and they're the first ones I've run since before my now-teen daughters were born! My older daughter just started at college, so running is really helping me cope with the half-empty-nest reaction.
What's the weirdest or most interesting job you have had?
When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to get into the newspaper business, so I got a job at my local weekly newspaper selling classified ads. You had to cold call the businesses over the phone, and then paste in their classified ads on these pieces of paper. I wasn’t especially good at it, but I loved everything about being at a newspaper. And I started to cover local meetings and write articles — and I was hooked.
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