Innovator 25 NA 2015 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations
This year marks the third time in North America that we've taken a glimpse at our industry’s future, shining the light on those individuals who are shaping what influence and engagement will look like tomorrow. The 2015 Innovator 25 - North America includes professionals from various corners of the industry — creative strategy, digital execution, influencer mapping, storytelling — but together they represent a compelling picture of what marketing and communications represents in the modern era.

The innovators on this list largely represent a wide-range of companies from PR firms, advertising agencies and content marketing shops. Most years the In25 is distributed across the US, but this year most are clustered on either the East or West Coast.
Among those, 46% head their organizations as CEO, founder, chairman, president or partner. About 40% hold management roles and about 16% have C-suite titles like chief creative officer and executive creative director. 

Interestingly, when asked to describe their current role nearly half eschewed the traditional categories which were: Influence/PR/Communications; Creative Services; Paid Media & Marketing; Planning/Research/Analytics; and Management. For instance, Alexander Jutkowitz describes his role as 'Innovation Marketing' and Bob Feldman said 'Management Consulting.'  

This year's Innovator 25 is a fairly seasoned group - about 17% have been in the business for more than 25 years. Meanwhile, 43.5% have between five and 15 years experience and 21.7% have been working in their industry for more than 15 years but less than 25 years. Even so, most of the Innovator 25 are new to their current positions: 82.6% have been in their current role for five years or less.

When asked where the PR industry most needs to innovate, the vast majority of the innovators shared strong opinions on how the industry needs to move forward. Stephanie Losee points out, "I think the agency model stands in the way to such a stunning degree that I'm not sure why it's still functioning." Meanwhile,Michelle Klein says, "The PR industry still has some baggage to shake from the past, both culturally and functionally.  

61% of the innovators say PR's rate of innovation is about the same as other marketing disciplines. Gail Heimann points out, "When the media world shifted and digital-living became the norm, PR was faced with two choices: innovation or extinction. Most of us chose the former." Meanwhile, Gur Tsabar advises the industry that "The day we become a little less ‘bright shiny object’ and a little more ‘rooted heartfelt connection’ is the day we’re likely to break away from the pack."

17% maintain the PR industry is lagging others, while 22% say it's on par. When it come to the industry changing, Bob Feldman urges the industry to "aggressively raise the bar on talent in order to drive innovation and to be relevant to leadership." Joe Assad calls the industry towards more clarity and to "really get rid of all the damn jargon that means nothing. Clarity is such a commodity in our business. It's almost extinct."

Chris Graves maintains that PR shouldn't get distracted by producing the emotive videos that tend to win awards. "Huge, one-off, head-slapping ideas bowl us over, but they are not sustainable. PR, at its best, creates 'earned influence' through listening, building relationships, engendering trust, and earning the permission to influence others."
When it comes to inspiring campaigns, Alexander Jutkowitz points to "Under Amour." "The signature moment in that campaign, a video that showed Gisele Bündchen beating the daylights out of a heavy bag as sexist, denigrating real-life comments about the company choosing her as its new spokesperson flashed on the wall behind her, resonated with women everywhere and showed that the company’s tough- guy image applies to tough girls, too."

Ana L. Flores looks to P&G's award-winning Like a Girl campaign that "connects at an emotional and empowering level." David Richeson said The Real Cost of Cheap Clothes "was an effective way to get their message across and to get people to act for their cause." Jimmie Stone gave a shout-out to the Tweeting Pothole. "It got the attention of the minister of public works, who appeared on the TV station to address the issue, which he blamed on a mix of poor construction and the failure of talks to approve money to fix the roads." 

Seth Duncan called out the Salvation Army’s Black and Blue campaign and Kingsford’s #PayEd campaign "are my favorite examples on opposite ends of the important/impactful ridiculous/entertaining spectrum."Mike Manuel says "I think NASA's use of social media, particularly Instagram has reignited the world's interest in space exploration." 
"Break the right rules, not all the rules," advises Tom Bick. "Those who understand this create new space and ideas that work and aren't just a flash in the pan."