Siddharth Sankhe | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2017
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Innovator 25 AP - Siddharth SankheThe Innovator 25:

Siddharth Sankhe

Asia Pacific Lead, Insight & Analytics

WE Communications 
Singapore

“Have we looked for solutions in places one generally wouldn’t look? Ideas are all around us, we just need to spot them.”

Siddarth Sanke’s work at WE Communications positions him at the forefront of the industry’s rapid strides in the data and analytics space. As WE’s regional lead, Sanke has developed a proprietary methodology that uses neuroscience techniques underpin PR and content creation, measuring brain activity to tap into subconscious feedback. Sanke has also adopted media planning technique to better define target audiences for PR outreach and has stepped up usage of automation and intelligent tools in an industry that still labours to shift its model. 

How do you define innovation?
Embedding something new in the existing system in a way that adds value at each stage of the process is what innovation is to me. If you look around, the success of some of the most significant innovations hinge on how seamlessly they integrate with existing systems/concepts.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
I was judging the Asia Pacific Marketing Effectiveness & Strategy Awards (AMEs) last year and saw a couple of innovative campaigns across the region that really inspired me to look at things differently. The one that really stood out was the Uniqlo campaign in Australia wherein Uniqlo designed an in-store activation campaign using neuroscience technology that helped shoppers decide what to buy based on their neurological responses.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
A lot of brands out there keep having their moments of innovations from an engagement and influence point of view but a very few have been really consistent. I have always admired how Coca-Cola innovates at multiple levels from a messaging point of view to its guerilla marketing campaigns across the globe. In the last decade, the marketing and communications world has undergone a lot of changes, but Coca-Cola has been fairly consistent in their forward thinking across the years, across mediums and across markets.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
A few years ago I took a leap of faith to try something different for my career by working with a nonprofit. I spent about a year in West Africa and South America conducting field research in the remotest parts of Nigeria and Guyana. It was the most adventurous innovation journey for me. I went from conducting research and measurement in arguably the most sophisticated environments to settings without electricity or roads. From preparing reports on limited electricity to conducting workshops under a tree, the entire journey was filled with little moments of innovation. The experience definitely stands to be the most memorable and indeed an innovative phase of my career.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Digital & ecommerce platforms.

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?
Planning & analytics.

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

Who is your mentor and why?
I have been fortunate to have known and been impacted by many great people in my career. The two that really encouraged me and helped me push my boundaries are Matthew Lackie, head of the region for WE and Henry Wood, my former manager at WE. Both Matt and Henry inspired me to punch above my weight and at the same time, gave me enough freedom and direction to weigh game-changing ideas against hard-boiled realism. I continue to partner with Matt at WE on new and innovative offerings and although Henry no longer manages me, he continues to be my sounding board to this day. 

How do you find inspiration?
I gather the most experiences when I travel and meet people from different walks of life. It is not through passive observation but through working together with people ‘where they are’ that I draw the most insight and inspiration. For most of my career, I have been far from home, executing projects or conducting research across markets. In these moments, I’m challenged to push beyond my own norms and expectations of what is “process,” “efficiency,” or even “success.” The fact that these ideas mean different things to the different groups I have encountered has been very challenging, and hugely inspiring, to me. 

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas and ways of doing things to their organizations?
I take a great deal of comfort in this quote—‘trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.’ The same principle applies for innovation and not just for perfection. Minute innovations along the way are what result into a compounded change which is much larger than the mere sum of its parts. So my key advice to those looking to bring new ideas forward is to start evaluating existing ideas and ways of doing things in your organization and ask the following questions: How can we make it better with the existing resources that we have at our disposal? Who else is doing this better, and what are they doing differently? Have we looked for solutions in places one generally wouldn’t look? As they rightfully say – ideas are all around us, we just need to spot them. 

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
That’s a tough one. I truly believe innovation happens in every part of the world in some form or another at every passing minute. However, I recently traveled to Taipei for a project, and this city surprised me with the progress that it has made in the last decade. I closely follow the development of smart/connected cities around Asia. The strides in infrastructure and programmes that Taipei city has made in this space is commendable. Many cities across the globe are so-called ‘smart cities,’ but Taipei makes it tangible to even a passerby in its streets that it is focused on being connected, safe, efficient, and sustainable. I could literally feel it.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Mornings – especially when I am commuting to work. Coincidentally, this is also when I am the least contacted on phone/emails, so it works out to be ‘me time’. I plan my day and run through tasks that I need to cover; it’s a good time to recalibrate and think positive. I love what I do at work, and every morning’s commute brings the quote – ‘the journey is better than the destination’ to life for me.