Luke Peterson | The Innovator 25
Charting the future of public relations
Luke_PetersonThe Innovator 25:

Luke Peterson

Senior Director, Innovation Group, Burson-Marsteller
Washington, DC

R&D
Recognized for being among those who transformed the way data is used in politics in his work on several high-profile campaigns, and now, applying that thinking to create a suite of 85+ tools to streamline and automate many of the repetitive tasks of PR. 

Where does the PR industry need to innovate the most?
Planning & Measurement. Voter contact programs evolved very quickly after my political colleagues began using behavioral psychology research to guide our strategy and tactics. Too often, I see PR people – especially brand people – struggling to demonstrate their impact relative to marketers, who measure the whole marcomm stack by line-item CPM.

There’s great opportunity to incorporate research from the behavioral sciences in measurement, to establish new performance measures, prove out communications program efficacy and help justify larger slices for PR out of marcomm budgets.

How innovative do you think the PR industry currently is?
About the same as other marketing disciplines. 

What is most important for the PR industry to do to foster more innovation?
Change the industry culture.  Curiosity and entrepreneurship by a few rebellious individuals will always drive some amount of innovation around the edges in any industry. But only competitive pressure and the threat of large-scale failure will drive business to consider doing things any way other than the way they’ve always been done.

The most innovative PR/communications campaign in the last 12 months?
Marriage Equality in the US. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage this June was a legal win resting on top of a decades-long communications campaign itself full of innovation. Countless activists, allies, organizations (and ultimately, brands) ran omni-channel, micro-targeted, paid, owned, shared, earned, grassroots, experiment-driven (if often quite-disorganized and internally-competitive) programs to collectively inspire a dramatic shift in the American perception of LGBT people and relationships.

Brand or agency with the most innovative approach to communications.
In a world where the most heralded innovation comes from fresh-faced start-ups, I see plenty of revolutionary, envelope-pushing work from industrial grand-daddy Ford and their agency Team Detroit. (#client -- I'm proud to be part of it). 

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be 'innovative.'
Working for then-Senator Obama in mid-2007, I thought it might be a good idea to mine our finance system for information on potential volunteers. As IT staff, I was not really supposed to do anything but maintenance on the finance system but mined it for information anyway.

We were all going to be fired if we lost (which was all but certain at the time), so I figured we should try everything we could to win. The national supporter database we built and de-centralized volunteer structure we established to help us vet and recruit supporters into the database was instrumental in winning the convention delegates our boss needed to earn the nomination, and ultimately win the White House. 

How do you inspire innovation within yourself or to your team? 
I’m a big proponent of innovation through intentional serendipitous collaboration. We’ve assembled a dynamite, hungry-for-hard-problems team with a diverse set of professional and cultural backgrounds, and encourage everyone to confidently bring his or her unique and valuable perspective and experiences to each new challenge.

What’s the most innovative place in the world?
The shower. The swimming pool is a close second. And in general, wherever on earth the sun is about to rise (I do my best work from 4-6am, after a half-night’s sleep).

What's your favorite time of day?
My favorite time of day is bedtime with my kids, and then the time I get to spend with my wife after kid bedtime wraps up.