The Innovator 25 Charlene Li
Charting the future of public relations

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The Innovator 25: Charlene Li 

Founder & CEO at the Altimeter Group since 2008
San Mateo, CA
Research & Consulting, 8 to 12 years

"Analyst firms have traditionally served one audience — the CIO — and it was Gartner that said the number one buyer of IT would be the CMO by 2017. So now you have a whole new group of buyers that didn’t traditionally have relationships with analyst firms."
 

For disrupting the existing analyst firm model by eschewing the paid research model for more risky, albeit interesting, revenue streams. For realizing — long before the rest of the market — that the future of IT doesn’t necessarily sit with CTO or CIO and technology buyers would surface in all parts of an organization. And for being one of the early, authoritative, voices on how the world was being transformed by social technologies with the publication of Groundswell in 2008 and for continuing to innovate and experiment since then.

 

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
More innovative than other marketing disciplines

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics 

I did all of my blogging under Forrester and was still able to start my own firm. What I lost was the ability to take my followers with me easily but I was still able to do it.

How do you define innovation?
The painful process of breaking something to make it better. If it isn’t hard, it probably isn’t truly innovative.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
WestJet Holiday and ASL Ice Bucket

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Amex, Chipotle

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Writing my first book, Groundswell. It was the first book to show the business value of social media.

Who is your mentor and why?
I have too many to name – and I get great advice from all arenas of my life.

How do you get inspired?
Art, music, and stories release me, and helps me let go to free associate, see connections that weren’t there before.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is the key. So build the team that can execute quickly, not necessarily well. If they are good, they will iterate and make it better faster than anyone else, including the competition.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
A teenager’s phone. The pace of change and experimentation is extraordinary.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
10:30pm. That’s when my free association is best.