Communications Specialist, Iowa JPEC

Jessica Cole’s motto of “good is never good enough” might seem cliché, but it is a growth mindset that has produced big things at Becker’s Healthcare in Chicago.

A health care media company, Becker’s Healthcare specializes in multimedia, live events, and virtual events. The president and CEO is Cole, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who graduated from the University of Iowa in 2008 with a BBA in management.

“If we bring this mantra that good is not good enough and continue to build, even if it’s two degrees of improvement every year, you build on two degrees and that adds up,” Cole said. “It has made our employees excited about improving. If they see opportunities for small areas of improvement, they feel empowered to do that.”

Becker’s Healthcare produces 70 newsletters per week, focusing on specific areas and crafted by an editorial team that connects with hospital health systems, surgeons, and executives within health care. About 50% of its revenue comes from live events — which were limited last year because of COVID-19. As a result, Becker’s Healthcare pivoted to more virtual events.

“Our goal has always been helping leaders learn from other leaders in health care,” Cole said.

The company works with nearly 800 health care clients who invest their marketing, public relations, thought leadership, or sales enablement dollars with Becker’s Healthcare. The clients can purchase webinars, banner advertising, custom content, or sponsor tables at live events.

Cole joined Becker’s Healthcare in 2007 as one of three fulltime employees. In 2009 the company implemented an events and digital-first strategy and 14 years later, it has a staff of 74 with 60 working in the Chicagoland area.

“We are hyper focused in niches and have an editorial team that does a wonderful job not only on the news, but also community connections,” Cole said. “Connecting with health system executives, spine surgeons — whatever the niche is under that specific brand.”

As a student at Iowa, Cole enjoyed her time in the Tippie College of Business, and outside the classroom she made an impact with Dance Marathon and as chair for River Run. Cole gained experience with everything from project management, sponsorship sales, and event planning to working with vendors and managing peers. All those attributes were transferrable to her role at Becker’s Healthcare.

“That led to me being more confident out of the gate,” Cole said. “I saw how things could grow. I also had experience as an undergrad walking into a business downtown and asking for money or in-kind donations. All of that was helpful in terms of not being nervous to pick up the phone to sell to someone.”

At Becker’s Healthcare, Cole finds ways to not only cover topics from an editorial standpoint but cover them better than anyone else. Nearly 360,000 people visit the company websites each day, and the newsletters are sent each day with a goal of making sure the information is a must read.

"That is done twofold,” Cole said. “One, by understanding and connecting with our readers and what helps them do their job better. Two, by understanding what our clients are trying to achieve from a marketing standpoint. Both of those things require us to continue to evolve, improve, and make sure we’re a good partner.” 

The next phase for Becker’s Healthcare includes a live event relaunch, new digital newsletters, an explosive growth of digital products and a podcast line that Apple has ranked in the top 10 for best business podcasts. Cole said her company deals with health care, but it talks about business issues within the health care areas.

Cole credits her days as an undergrad at Iowa for helping her provide guidance to employees and craft strategy for her company.

“When I think back to the days at Iowa, the ability to do hands-on projects, case studies, and working with various people in classes sticks out,” she said. “You leave with a degree and with a ton of personal growth that carries into your professional life.”

Cole has received the Young Alumni Entrepreneurial Leadership Award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors. The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center will recognize her Oct. 8 in Hancher Auditorium.