Bryan Specht | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Charting the future of public relations
Innovator 25 NA Brian Specht

Bryan Specht 

President     

Olson Engage / ICF 
Chicago    

“Innovation is a willingness to challenge convention in a way that delivers impact. Impact is the difference between innovation and imagination.”
Under Specht’s leadership, Olson Engage has become one of the most prolific producers of breakthrough creative work in the industry. And it’s become increasingly clear that, in most cases, the creativity drives compelling business performance for its clients. For instance, its stunning “One Chip Challenge” work for Paqui resulted in the CEO calling out the campaign on an earnings call because of remarkable sales lift. (The work also took home five Innovation SABRE trophies earlier this year, including Best in Show.) Specht has led the firm through 13 years of revenue growth and a testament to its success, now three years since its sale to ICF,  he has been handed leadership of Olson’s advertising agency business.

In what area(s) does the PR need to innovate the most? 
Diversity, analytics and measurement, integration, paid opportunities, data and personalization, long form content/entertainment 

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

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation? 
Creative ideas 

Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is? 
CMO 

How do you define innovation? 
Innovation is a willingness to challenge convention in a way that delivers impact. Impact is the difference between innovation and imagination.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Pepsi's Uncle Drew feature film.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing? 
Domino's Pizza has reinvented nearly every aspect of its business, including marcomms. They've redefined full-scale innovation. I continue to be impressed by Arby's and Wendy's both and, selfishly, we're fortunate to have clients like Oscar Mayer, Skittles, Starburst, MillerCoors, Terminix, Bissell, Belize and many others who truly trust us to innovate for their brands.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.' 
Honestly, it’s been too many to count since I left the holding company world for what was then Dig Communications 11 years ago. I made that move to be part of agile, ongoing innovation. We've had so many moments of it since that I couldn't pick just one. But I can say this: None of them are individual acts of innovation. It is a total team sport when it is done well and for impact.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Our team. They are second to none when it comes to pushing through imagination into innovation with impact.

How do you get out of a creativity rut? 
Convene a group with diverse perspectives and then actively listen.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation? 
Don't talk. Listen. Learn. And then move forward with intention and without fear.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job? 
Teaching American history and coaching.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not directly related to PR/marketing/business? 
"I, Fatty" by Jerry Stahl. Josh Lohrius loaned it to me and it's an unreal tale of Hollywood's first celebrity scandal and the personal destruction suffered by Roscoe Arbuckle. It certainly relates in some ways to PR, but it's really about cruelty, exploitation and the human condition. 100 years later it’s as relevant as it’s ever been.