John Kerr | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2017
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Innovator 25 AP - John KerrThe Innovator 25:

John Kerr

Chief Digital Officer

Zeno Group 
Singapore

“Innovation can feel scary, so understand the change management and soft power required”

An agency veteran that had already launched and grown Edelman’s regional digital operation from scratch to 120 people in six years, John Kerr was tapped by sister firm Zeno to oversee its Asia-Pacific rollout in 2012. Smartly, he chose to position the agency against type, establishing its presence as a social/digital player, underpinning a tripling of revenues in five years across six markets. 70% of Zeno’s fee income comes from social/digital, content and integrated marketing — and Kerr himself has driven considerable innovation, including running global data/analytics for a major sponsor during the 2016 Olympics in Rio and developing the mobile messaging roadmap for a Fortune 50 brand. Kerr has also overseen the development of a generation of digital talent, focusing in particular Asian executives and women.

How do you define innovation?
I like Robert Brands' best: ‘As long as it includes 'new' and it addresses (stakeholder) needs and wants, any variation goes.’

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Donald J. Trump for President — Make America Great Again

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Dollar Shave Club, Marriott, Jetstar, AirAsia, Xiaomi, Heineken, Kmart (Australia).

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Live N Rockin: The world's first social/mobile/geo-located concert for 15,000 people — hosted by BlackBerry — Jakarta in March 2011. The Facebook community voted for the bands (Suede headlined), the phone IMEI was the ticket and it generated not only the largest number of FourSquare check-ins at any event globally (31,151), but directly increased sales by 37% during the promotion period. First time I saw an entire concert audience with phone cameras pointed at a stage and went... yup, there's a future in this social thing...

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Planning & analytics.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Digital & ecommerce platforms.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CMO

Who is your mentor and why?
My wife, Kate. She's a meditation and mindfulness teacher and the most empathetic and loving person I know. Empathy is the skill we all most need today and when she shared Viktor Frankel's quote ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that ... in our response lies our growth and our freedom’ — I realised just how much I have to learn.

How do you find inspiration?
I try to eat the internet (failing) — and then I meditate to bring clarity on what I need to focus on becoming better at and what I should care about and be inspired by. 

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas and ways of doing things to their organizations?
Know how to create and document a busines case and then how to build consensus before presenting it broadly. Innovation can feel scary, so understand the change management and soft power required.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
Tokyo — I'd like to call out one district, but the entire city is a vibe.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
When I wake. I get to take a few minutes to meditate, understand who I am, how I want to be and how to start positively. Unfortunately though, too many mornings I start with something rushed, or a call — gotta work on that.