Joseph Assad | The Innovator 25
Charting the future of public relations
Joe_AssadThe Innovator 25:

Joseph Assad

Chief Operating Officer/EVP,
PMK*BNC/Vowel
New York

Video content development and overall creative direction

For being the driving force behind PMK*BNC’s entry into video content, producing brand videos that show that PR agencies can compete head-on with other creative shops when it comes to bridging entertainment, brand and content.

Where does the PR industry need to innovate the most?
Creative storytelling & Content creation. If we don't find different ways to entertain and educate people then the entire industry will shrink as the media landscape consolidates and paid distribution become more and more prevalent. As with most industries, maintaining a multi-faceted approach is the best way to ensure success in the future.

How innovative do you think the PR industry currently is?
About the same as other marketing disciplines. While there are certainly pockets of success that get trotted out as keys to the future and the evolution of the business, the truth is that everyone is trying to figure out how to layer in new sources of revenue. Content being the flavor of the moment where everyone is trying to be out producing things that get engagement and attention. But now you have the big PR agencies modeling themselves after ad agencies of the past. The big creative shops are trying to become more nimble and taking on projects that would have been handled by other shops. I may be in the minority but I don't think bigger is always better.

What is most important for the PR industry to do to foster more innovation?
Different hiring practices. It's always about the people. You can call yourself a creative shop but if you don't have people who can come up with ideas then bring them to life then you are creative in name only. The more you can find people who can assess a situation then very clearly come up with a plan of action to address the challenge the better your business will be - in any marketing discipline. And let's really get rid of all the damn jargon that means nothing. Clarity is such a commodity in our business. It's almost extinct.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be 'innovative.'
Our foray into branded content was something that changed how we approach almost everything we do with clients now. Years ago, Audi decided to sponsor the Primetime Emmy Awards and came to us with the request that we find a different approach to announcing this partnership. No press release. I came up with the idea to do a digital short. In less than one week, we concepted, scripted, landed Joel McHale and Melissa McCarthy to star, shot, edited and released a video that we put onto the Television Academy's channels. At the time it was a very innovative way to announce and amplify a partnership. The press coverage of the video alone far surpassed all of our goals. And while we got much more polished with the process over time, it paved the way for all of the video work we've done since, including "The Challenge" with Leonard Nimoy and Zach Quinto and "Barely Legal Pawn" that we did with Julia Louise Dreyfus, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

How do you inspire innovation within yourself or to your team? 
Read, learn, listen, absorb. Inspiration comes from all around us - literally everything we do, see and experience. But make those things meaningful. Have discipline in how you engage with social media bc it can also be a wasteful rabbit hole. So use your free time in ways that really enrich your life and there are no shortages of ways to accomplish that from happening.  

While I have many issues with the industry at large, one of the true joys and benefits of what we do is that we can bring our own personal interests to bear the work we do. That isn't something that exists in many industries and we are really lucky that we can but it's not easy. Having clarity of purpose is key then mining for inspiration gets a lot easier.

What’s the most innovative place in the world?
The room you're in right now. It comes from within. So absorb all that you can. Then let your mind go free. That's why it is so important for kids to have time with their thoughts and not always be glued to a screen. You need to know how to navigate your mind to tap into the creativity that we all possess. The question really is to you have intellectual curiosity to tap into it, finding it and bringing it out into the world.  When I'm really stuck music works and a museum always helps. 

What's your favorite time of day?
When I am working on something that truly inspires me (or if I'm on vacation) then I love the mornings because you have the whole day in front of you. When I'm working on something that is more pedestrian, I love leaving work, shopping for groceries then going home to cook dinner. I think this provides me with another outlet apart from the machinery of work.