Michelle Klein | The Innovator 25
Charting the future of public relations
Michelle_KleinThe Innovator 25:

Michelle Klein

Head of Marketing, Facebook
New York

Paid Media & Marketing

Recognized for launching the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, lauded as one of the most innovative marketing initiatives (especially within the beverage sector) and now bringing that mindset to Silicon Valley.


Where does the PR industry need to innovate the most?
Creative storytelling & Content creation. Consumers have become all too suspicious of "branded content & storytelling" as advertisers leverage this format to push sales messages in untargetted, disrupting way. The role that PR can play to lead the way is educate brand marketers and agencies on how to integrate "branded" content and storytelling seamlessly within the content consumers want to see, making it synonymous, and therefore more impactful, with editorial across a range of channels.

How innovative do you think the PR industry currently is?
About the same as other marketing disciplines. The role that traditional PR plays for brands is critical and in a world where everyone is a journalist, the power of a strong headline and simplified story in the hands of the right channels can drive significant distribution and in turn, positive campaign results.

I have worked with PR agencies who have spent too much time chasing other aspects of marketing plan vs focusing on their core DNA, which ultimately is what leads to mass awareness, sometimes as broad as TV. One important place for PR to reinvent is around measurement and finding common methodologies that match those of other media channels (beyond column inches).

What is most important for the PR industry to do to foster more innovation?
Change the industry culture. The PR industry still has some baggage to shake from the past, both culturally and functionally. Culturally, the industry needs to show up more like an industry that deeply understands the needs and motivations of the next generation of consumers. Functionally by measuring campaign impact in the same way that other industries do (from column inches to reach & frequency).

The most innovative PR/communications campaign in the last 12 months?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is the best example of PR, social media and community engagement coming together harmoniously and getting the world to focus on an incredibly important cause. In August last year, 17 million videos were created, 159 countries participated, 70 billion video views were counted and $220 million was raised. 440 million people watched the videos on Facebook, and not a single dollar was spent in media across any channel;. The campaign continues this August, and will continue every summer until a cure is found #everyaugustuntilacure.

Brand or agency with the most innovative approach to communications.
Over the years, Red Bull has been a brand that I have admired when it comes to its PR and content marketing approach. Red Bull figured out the secret in creating a symbiotic relationship between the things that they activate for smaller groups of consumers in the real world with the content they create for massive distribution to connect with consumers in the virtual world. Their agency at the time was Pretty Green in the UK.  I think Vice, through their in-house agency Virtue, have done some very interesting work in the past, including the development of Intel's Creators Project and the work they did for Smirnoff around the Nightlife Exchange.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be 'innovative.'
Two moments:  The creation of The Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project in 2010 & 2011 where 50 countries and millions of people physically swapped nightlife on one incredible night, taking the brand back to a place of being relevant and popular with the new generation of consumers.

The development of Facebook IQ Live in 2015. A new programmatic approach to sharing data and insights about the millions of moments that happen every day on Facebook and Instagram with advertisers and agencies to help unlock new opportunities for them to more deeply to connect with consumers. 

How do you inspire innovation within yourself or to your team? 
I talk alot about walking in your audiences' shoes as a way of finding inspiration and thereby unlocking innovation. At Smirnoff, we used to do our briefings with creative agencies in nightclubs so that they could immerse themselves in consumer connection moment. We used to bring in lots of creative partners to expand our minds around the future of consumer product development (neon-colored vodka anyone?). We used to spend time on the factory floor, with our agencies, hearing from the real people that made our product, which was always humbling and always locked new creative ideas.  

At Facebook, we do the same. We spend time with small business owners, understanding what matters to them. We sit with advertisers to help them tackle business problems leveraging our insights and we partner closely with agencies, providing tools to educate and train them on our platforms.

What’s the most innovative place in the world?
I've never been, but I think Tomorrowland might be it. When I was at Smirnoff, my team went and the content they brought back was extraordinary. It influenced our marketing approach. I think the festival scene overall is possibly where the best innovation and creativity happens. It's a moment in time (although the experience continues through social media); people suspend their disbelief; the experience touches all senses and each festival has to be more innovative and extraordinary than the competition to keep the crowds coming and coming back.

What's your favorite time of day?
6.30am - when my 2 year old wakes up and shouts out "mommy, where are you?!" from his bedroom.