David Parkinson | The Innovator 25 North America 2019
Charting the future of public relations
2019-innovator-25-americas-david-parkinson

David Parkinson

CEO

Method Communications 
Salt Lake City, Utah

“I really look at it as curiosity - the curiosity that drives you to look at how things are done and think, 'There has to be a better way to do things.'”


While most technology PR firm founders have been clamoring around Silicon Valley, Parkinson saw opportunity elsewhere. He founded Method Communications in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2010, zooming straight past $10m in just five years and then entering into Silicon Valley after having conquered the underrated Utah technology scene. In 2018, Method became one of a handful of technology firms to be sold in recent years. The sale to the UK-based Chime Communications Group took the technology PR industry by surprise, much like Method’s entire trajectory from obscurity to a formidable tech player in less than a decade. As the operating costs for running agencies in San Francisco soars, more firms are eyeing the model of basing talent in smaller markets — a vision that Parkinson was ahead of the game on.


In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Today we’re in a culture of immediacy. If you’re a high-growth company, you need an agency that’s nimble and flexible and that can adapt just like your company is. That’s why you see mid-sized agencies like Method thriving compared to large agencies owned by conglomerates - we move at our clients’ speed.

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?
Integrated marketing

How do you define innovation?
I really look at it as curiosity - the curiosity that drives you to look at how things are done and think, “There has to be a better way to do things.”

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I love what Nike is doing - they’re not afraid to take a strong stand on social issues, which I admire. Patagonia took a similar approach with their “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign. But campaigns like these can’t be superficial - consumers will see right through them if they are. They need to be real.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
I think the best work right now is at mid-sized agencies like Method. These are the agencies that are managing to bridge the worlds of earned, owned, paid, and shared. And at this size we have the resources to be creative but the ability to be nimble.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Definitely starting Method Communications. Method is the outcome of what I had learned working with agencies - I was frustrated by the bait and switch of having senior people come to the pitch and then disappear, by the poor quality of writing I saw at most agencies, and by the fact that a lot of programs weren’t strategic - they weren’t aligned with my business objectives. I started Method to be a different kind of agency - one where we understand our clients’ business objectives and design programs specifically to address them, where content is great and where senior people work on accounts as partners with our clients.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Writing. Some people will tell you in the age of twitter and texting it doesn’t matter anymore but I think it’s as important as ever.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Take a break and focus on something completely different. For me, it used to be taking a bike ride or going to the gym. Now, it’s spending time with my twin babies.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
In addition to earned media make sure you’re investing and innovating in marketing and digital. You have to look at the entire spectrum of earned, paid, shared, and owned to get the best results for clients.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
Talent. It’s a competitive market right now. How do you find and keep the best? It’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about and one of the reasons it made sense to combine forces with Chime - our team is really excited about the chance to work on global accounts.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
James Sorenson was a billionaire entrepreneur and my mentor - we worked closely together for a decade. His book Finding the Better Way is all about taking calculated risks and that’s what Method is based on.