Celine Schillinger | The Innovator 25

Celine Schillinger

The Innovator 25: Celine Schillinger

Head of innovation & engagement, Sanofi Pasteur


Influence & Engagement

"Dare do something that has not been done before; do it for a purpose — to make a difference and contribute"
Now based in Boston, France native Celine Schillinger is living proof of how even a highly-regulated business like Sanofi Pasteur can benefit by embracing diversity and social engagement. Initially described as a 'troublemaker', Schillinger's persistence and vision paid off once she wrote to her CEO about gender imbalance at the workplace, with the resulting campaign helping to elevate her into a newly-created stakeholder engagement role before she became head of innovation and engagement last year. In the process, she won Businesswoman of the Year from La Tribune and helped to usher in a more progressive, social culture at Sanofi Pasteur. Schillinger's efforts are not just internally-focused, though — her commercial background has also seen her oversee numerous business successes, including the creation a global community against Dengue and growing the company's vaccine business in Asia-Pacific.

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?
Lagging other industries.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Stakeholder engagement.

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

How do you define innovation?
Innovation = taking meaningful risks. Dare do something that has not been done before; do it for a purpose, i.e. to make a difference and contribute.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Break Dengue, a community of activists against the Dengue disease. Sparked by Sanofi Pasteur with ZN as an agency. Managed by an NGO, driven by a collective of partners, Break Dengue is a multi-channel, multi-stakeholder engagement community aimed at creating new solutions against the dengue disease, by connecting activists around the world. The initiative emerged as a result of deep social listening, using big data and data visualization. Winner of the 2014 Shorty Award for Best Use of Social Media for Healthcare, and 2015 EyeForPharma Award for Most Impactful Emerging Initiative.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
ZN (Brussels), Jericho Chambers (London),

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
In 2010, I wrote a letter to my CEO, suggesting the company do more to foster gender balance in the workplace. This email went viral and sparked a social movement that gathered 2,500 co-workers across 50 countries. This made me realize the power of connecting people around a common purpose, using social media, in an inclusive, non-hierarchical mode. I then suggested my company let me apply this "recipe" to a business-related topic. In 2012, I created the first ever 'stakeholder engagement' position at Sanofi, covering both internal and external engagement, at the service of the company's largest business project — a new vaccine against dengue. There, I triggered innovations such as a collaborative newsletter and a community of activists against the disease (250,000 followers on Facebook in less than a year). This has attracted the attention of the new VP in charge of quality. In order to improve quality, companies usually operate in a 'command and control' mode: more procedures, more controls... What if we engaged people around quality? What if there was a social movement of quality activists? This is now my job (since Nov 2014), as head of innovation and engagement for quality. A vital stake for a company that manufactures vaccines.

Who is your mentor and why?
I've met so many inspiring people I could call mentors, it's hard to name just one. They have made me learn and grow, they've challenged me, they've trusted me to act and move forward. The number of thought-provoking people I meet has grown exponentially since I've started using social media. Thanks to them, I keep learning, everyday. It's an amazing journey. 

How do you get inspired?
I get inspired by reading from others (blogs, Twitter, Facebook...), by talking with them, by attending conferences... My personal values also inspire me to act the way I do. I believe in connection, diversity and bravery.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Get on to social media, now!

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
The communities of change agents, such as Change Agents Worldwide or Corporate Rebels.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Walking to my office along the Charles River, early in the morning. It's magical.