Crystal W. Harrell | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Charting the future of public relations
Innovator 25 NA Crystal W Harrell

Crystal W. Harrell 

Senior Communications Manager    

Procter & Gamble/ North America   
Cincinnati    

“When you are able to embrace, embody, and embolden a culture through authentic storytelling, it leads to transformational innovation.”
In 2006, P&G created My Black is Beautiful to “spark a broader dialogue about black beauty” and last year the group unveiled the heart-wrenching ad “The Talk” that addresses the conversations that black parents have with their children about racial bias. (Among its many awards, the work was shortlisted as Best in Show at the 2018 Innovation SABRE Awards.) Harrell, a PhD in analytical chemistry who has been part of the P&G team communications team since 2003, has been integral to this work and others produced by “My Black is Beautiful.”

In what area(s) does the PR need to innovate the most? 
Social media 

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

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? 
Advertising agency 

How do you define innovation? 
Innovation is bold, transformative, authentic storytelling rooted in an undeniable consumer and/or cultural truth.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
The Frito-Lay’s Tostitos special-edition Super Bowl package initiative was quite innovative. Tostitos delivered new package technology, credible partnerships, matched with an authentic story/storyteller during a relevant moment in time for the brand.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing? 
Brands in the rideshare industry, such as Lyft, have been innovative with their grassroots event marketing and entertainment integrations.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.' 
The most recent example was leading the holistic communication strategy for the P&G/My Black is Beautiful campaign, "The Talk" – creating a national movement to end ‘the talk’ and racial bias. This campaign stands out because it stemmed from deep rooted insights and understanding of African-American consumers led by the PR/Comms. team. When you are able to embrace, embody, and embolden a culture through authentic storytelling, it leads to transformational innovation.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?  
Teneshia Jackson Warner, CEO, EGAMI Consulting – keep dreaming.

How do you get out of a creativity rut? 
I keep my creative juices flowing by surrounding myself with a diverse group of people who talk ideas, share thoughts, and love pop-culture (you have to stay in the know).

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation? 
We must continue to disrupt the industry and integrate more as there are blurred lines and a blending of digital, marketing, advertising, and PR. I have found that true innovation reveals itself when we keep the audience we are trying to reach at the forefront of the campaign and tell authentic stories that will resonate when they are most receptive to the message. The most innovative campaigns are those where the genesis can’t be identified as paid, owned, or earned; but where one is surrounded and engrossed by the consumer’s truth.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job? 
I would have to follow my passions by working in a field that provides a meaningful impact, such as driving public policy on social issues or shaping young minds as a chemistry teacher.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not directly related to PR/marketing/business? 
Marvel’s Black Panther – “Wakanda Forever