Caroline Dettman | The Innovator 25 North America 2019
Charting the future of public relations
2019-innovator-25-americas-caroline-dettman

Caroline Dettman

Founding Partner

Have Her Back Consulting
Chicago 

“I would like the story out of Cannes Lions each year to stop being about ad agencies winning all the PR awards, so let's finally commit to creative as a priority in the day-to-day business of PR.”


When the Harvey Weinstein story broke, opening the floodgates to untold accounts of sexual harassment, Golin chief creative officer Caroline Dettman took stock of her own experiences over the years working in agencies. On the back of that, she started the “Have Her Back” campaign at Golin, aimed at increasing the number of female creative directors within the industry by creating cultures of empowerment. This summer, Have Her Back spun out into an independent company that Interpublic Group is taking a minority stake in — with Dettman as one of three founding partners. “The cultural zeitgeist bringing diversity, inclusion, belonging and equity to the forefront for companies is an undeniable opportunity and not without its challenges,” said Dettman. HHB is ready to take those on. 

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
The talent pipeline - the PR industry needs to better reflect the diverse and inclusive world we live in to ensure we are reflecting our audiences in the ideas we put out in the world and the tactics we execute.  This isn't just about making hires but creating cultures where they can thrive.

The creative product — PR still lags our marketing counterparts in terms of the respect for creative and how it is valued. Too often, PR agencies demand it for new business pitching but don't staff accounts correctly to have creative playing a key role in clients business every day. This approach results in top creative talent focused too much on winning new business and not focused on the production of great ideas for clients.  We need a better balance here. I would like the story out of Cannes Lions each year to stop being about ad agencies winning all the PR awards so let's finally commit to creative as a priority in the day to day business of PR.

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?
Industry diversity and equal pay

How do you define innovation?
In business, innovation is the thing you haven't seen before - a product, a service, an idea, an act, a technology, etc. that gives you or your client a competitive advantage. Without it, you lose your edge. With it, comes bravery.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Everything that the Parkland students/March for our Lives are doing to combat gun violence.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Nike, Patagonia, Unilever, Burger King, P&G

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
When we pitched IPG the idea of Have Her Back going from a mission for our industry to a woman-owned consultancy helping companies authentically address gender equity inside and out to drive business outcomes. The fact that IPG came on board as a minority partner is a testament to the power of this idea at the right time in culture. We plan to make our impact worthy of IPG's support. Consumers are demanding gender equity and businesses are stepping up to the plate — now they are looking for help moving from good intentions to intentional actions. Have Her Back Consulting is an innovative idea for a business whose time is now.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Pride in what we do for a living

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Take a break to feed your soul, however you soul gets fed. Second, try something new to awaken a different perspective within you, have diverse talent to think ideas through with as different points of view get you to better ideas.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
The best views come from the bravest climbs.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
We are living in an age of authenticity as never before. Brands can't have gaps between what they say they stand for and the actions they take for employees and customers. Gender equity is a huge opportunity for companies to show authentic actions toward progress both inside and out. Many are stepping up to the plate.  It's an exciting time to build a business. In a world not built for women, we are creating a consultancy that IS.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
I'm obsessed with anything involving actress & writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  If you haven't seen "Killing Eve" yet (it's second season debuted this summer), then that is a must.  It's an assassin thriller but the catch is the complex characters of the assassin and the spy are women, played extraordinarily by Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh.  Waller-Bridge is also responsible for the less intense but very funny "Fleabag," in which she also stars.  She's even been tapped to polish the script for the next James Bond film — which means I'm now looking forward to seeing the next James Bond film.