Five Questions with Dustee Tucker Jenkins

Learn more about Kevin Sullivan.
Kevin Sullivan
Senior Advisor
George W. Bush Presidential Center

In 2017, Jenkins headed to New York as Global Head of Communications for Spotify, the world’s most popular audio streaming service. Jenkins, who was press secretary for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison before serving as Director of Communications at HUD, is yet another BCAer who is forging a fascinating career path.

Q:  What types of communications opportunities and issues do you manage on an ongoing basis as global head of communications and public relations at Spotify?

Some days I wonder what kind of issues we don’t manage! Given the global nature of Spotify’s business and growing portfolio, the things my team and I tackle truly run the gamut. From celebrating up-and-coming artists, to diving into the complicated issue of content moderation or streaming music economics… all the way to launching playlists designed to help your house plants grow (yes, really)! Just like my time in the Administration, it’s hard to predict what any given day will look like. 

Q:  To what do you attribute the explosion in popularity of podcasts and streaming audio – and how was your business affected by the pandemic?

Consumers are discerning about how they spend time online and Spotify has been fortunate to be the go-to platform for listening all around the world. In part, it’s because we’ve become really good at delivering personalized and unique content — anyone who has listened to our Daily Mix or Discover Weekly playlists can probably relate. The idea is we meet people where they are and reflect the current state of culture.

As you might imagine, during the pandemic, everyone’s daily habits changed dramatically. Time at home took people out of their cars, and turned their listening devices to things like gaming consoles and home smart speakers. That led us to think about what content would work best for this new world. One thing we did, for example, was to pivot our super popular Your Daily Drive playlist to now focus on Your Daily Wellness and listening really skyrocketed as a result. We also tried programming against new hobbies and interests — creating new “At Home” genres like Cooking and Dining and Meditation. We even saw playlists created about home haircuts and banana bread baking. 

Many users also turned to podcast listening because it met their needs for both intimacy and relevance, which is why I think it’s become such a popular medium. Of course, the range of podcasts is incredibly broad, from true crime and politics to education and entertainment, you can find a podcast on just about anything. 

Q:  What is the next big thing in streaming audio…and for Spotify?

In the media landscape, video gets a lot of attention while the audio listening experience has really gone untapped for so long. Spotify has almost 400 million people listening on our platform so as you can imagine, the opportunity worldwide is massive. We see brands using podcasts to reach their fans, elected officials using podcasts to share updates and create advocacy in ways that are both authentic and timely. Believe it or not, the ease of creating a podcast really gives us the ability to talk about the issues of today as they are unfolding. We are even preparing to launch a live audio platform called Greenroom.

So for us at Spotify, the next thing in streaming audio is just that continued focus on innovating the listening experience for both creators and listeners. We still believe we’re in the early days of this opportunity.  

Q:  Do you have a favorite memory or story from your time in the Administration?

I’ve talked about this story before, but my most impactful memory during my time in the Administration was at Secretary Jackson’s first press conference. I had the honor of serving as his Head of Communications as he was introduced as the new Secretary of HUD (miss you, Mr. J!) in his former hometown of Dallas. After a full day of speaking not only to the press, but staying behind for hours to speak to every resident and leader in the room, the Secretary looked absolutely exhausted. I told him we probably could have cut things off long ago and he used the moment to teach me an invaluable lesson –  to never forget where you come from or the people we serve. His devotion to others and true passion for the work has always stayed with me.

Q:  You’re on an impressive career journey from H+K Strategies to Target and Spotify. Are there lessons learned or leadership examples from your time in the Administration that continue to serve you well in your current work?

Transitioning from the Administration to corporate America, first at the consumer retailer Target and now to a tech company was challenging … but the wide range of consumer feedback (who could forget working in correspondence?), the constant glare of the spotlight and the long hours is pretty consistent. One thing that has helped me tremendously is seeking out mentors no matter what industry I’m in. I have been fortunate enough to have some incredible people throughout my career who have pushed me, believed in me, and even tossed me into the deep end and expected me to learn to swim when I didn’t think I was ready. The counsel and guidance I received from so many in the Administration, including people like Dan Bartlett, Secretary Gale Norton, and Secretary Jackson, has been instrumental as I’ve navigated my career path. I wouldn’t trade those long days and unforgettable experiences for anything. When I’m asked to give career advice to young people I always encourage them to consider a start in government — what a ride we all had.