The Innovator 25 Jim Weiss
Charting the future of public relations

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The Innovator 25: Jim Weiss 

CEO/founder of W2O Group since 2001
San Francisco
Investor and integrator of influence & engagement, creative services & digital production, paid media & marketing, planning & analytics, 20+ years

"We are constantly reorganizing our firm and adding diverse talent so that integration becomes a fact of life rather than happenstance here. And, integration is not a perfected science either, but it’s an everyday work in progress where we will be perpetually learning (often in real-time) with our clients as they evolve their organizations as well."

For pivoting a PR agency anchored in one of the most conservative sectors — healthcare — into arguably the most sophisticated firm when it comes to analytics and digital products. For recognizing a growth opportunity in acting, in many cases, as a channel partner — rather than a competitor — to traditional PR and ad firms looking for an data-driven steward. And, after several years of rapid expansion, recognizing the pitfalls of growing too quickly in a nascent sector and slowing down to build a sustainable culture and product offering.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing; content creation & creative copy; influencer relations and planning & analytics.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
Lagging the others

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Social media & online marketing; content creation & creative copy; influencer relations; planning & analytics; and management techniques.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CMO

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is something that meets an unmet need in a relatively simple yet profound way.  In my view we see more iteration than true innovation in the world and that’s ok. It’s often better to be a more successful fast follower that executes well than a first to market innovator.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Gene.com website for Genentech in 1993/94
Virtual patient education days for cystic fibrosis patients in 1994
Virtual online media and advocacy briefing on the launch of Rilutek for ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) in 1996

Who is your mentor and why?
I’ve had many but Maria Russell of Newhouse School stands out for her consistent support, collaboration, belief and confidence in me; Dick Brewer who was a loyal boss and client who pushed and challenged me to get breakthrough results and Laura Leber, Greg Baird and Beverly Simons who taught me the importance of quality and integrity and Bob Pearson who has always encouraged and driven innovation and risk taking

How do you get inspired?
By hearing successful industry leaders speak; great movies & art; solving clients’ business problems; young ambitious professionals who work and play hard

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Play like you have nothing to lose; don’t let your boss hold you back; get comfortable playing in the line of fire.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
There are many places but I would still say the SF Bay Area.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Early in the morning (or late at night) when it’s quiet and I can think clearly with none of the day’s baggage to distract the mind.