At Communications Week: Forging a Path to Innovation

Best practices from PR and corporate execs.

Comme des Garcons Store Final2“People don’t want to spend every weekend doing the same thing, and that also applies to work. It’s a good idea to shake things up at the office with occasional stunts,” said Ephraim Cohen, general manager of Fleishman Hillard New York. He believes that’s one way to motivate staff to handle client assignments from a different perspective.

Cohen participated in a recent Communications Week panel in New York about how to approach innovation, moderated by Scott Fedonchik, vp of marketing at Business Wire. The discussion centered on how companies hire the right talent, what to do about adopting the latest digital platforms (aka “bright, shiny objects”), and ways they encourage staff to divert from their work routine for more exposure to what’s around them.

Here are the key takeaways.

Cast a wide net when hiring:

“We shouldn’t always hire from the same talent pool. We can’t be afraid to surround ourselves with those who challenge us. I look for those with critical thinking skills, curiosity about the world, self-motivation and ambition. I don’t just want someone to “yes” me, instead I prefer agitators,” said Leslie Campisi, svp, digital practice lead, at MSL Group.

Adam Hirsch, global evp at Edelman Digital, said they’re looking for people who seek the latest and greatest in technology and are interested in immersive journalism. Marcy Cohen, vp of digital communications at MasterCard, likes people on her team who can dive into data.

“You need to listen online and in your job,” added Ed Moed, CEO & co-founder of Peppercomm. “If you can’t listen you can’t communicate.”

Selectively adopt new digital platforms:

“We need to filter the new tools through the clients’ perspective and not just be chasing the latest technology,” Campisi observed.

“We’re always looking at a 360 degree view, including paid, earned, shared and owned (or PESO),” said Cohen of MasterCard. “We’ve done paid content projects with Mashable, but earned media is still critical and we can’t move away from traditional media relations.”

“It’s ok to chase bright shiny objects for the right reasons,” added Cohen of Fleishman Hillard. “We need to show our clients the data so they see the adoption rates of the new tech and social platforms. But for every MasterCard there are many companies who are not ready, either organizationally or financially, to adopt tech changes.”

Comms Week Schedule CroppedUsing video: not a new platform, but still tricky:

“Video is the most complicated investment, the hardest to execute on, and it’s expensive,” said Hirsch. “We found that it’s better to have a scalable series of videos, rather than one-offs.”

“There are so many different use cases for videos, and one place it’s often overlooked is at the CEO level during crises and for employee communications,” added Campisi.

“MasterCard introduced our Priceless Surprises platform 1.5 years ago, and we’ve done behind the scenes videos,” said Cohen. “Recently we hosted a concert with Gwen Stefani, where MasterCard employees got involved by entering a contest to win tickets.”

Take breaks from daily work routine:

MasterCard’s Cohen agrees with Fleishman Hillard’s Cohen about the need to mix it up, and she does so in different ways. “We need a well rounded approach to what others are doing, so for the past few years we’ve hosted social jams. We invite digital and social teams from other companies to discuss what’s working and what’s not. It’s an opportunity to hear from outsiders and we hold these sessions several times per year.”

She also encourages external cultural experiences. “I like when our team gets out of the office, and sometimes we go on field trips to museums. Work is not just about sitting with our heads down on the desk.”