Elian Wiener | The Innovator 25

Elian Wiener

The Innovator 25: Elian Wiener

CEO, Epic MSLGroup


Influence & Engagement

"The most important element is to be completely passionate about the ideas or change you want to introduce. Change is hard for some people, so they need to be inspired"
Wiener has shaken up South Africa’s clubby PR market with Epic, which in just five years has turned itself into one of the smartest consultancies in EMEA. Little wonder that MSL acted fast and bought the firm earlier this year, putting their Africa strategy in the hands of a young executive who is not afraid to take risks. Wiener started Epic with just R350k in the middle of a depressed economy, and has succeeded by linking public relations with results in a market where media awareness still holds sway. That kind of entrepreneurial zeal is likely to serve him well as he steers MSLGroup's broader African ambitions.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content & creativity.

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

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

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

How do you define innovation?
True innovation is not about finding new solutions to existing challenges, its about redefining the challenges themselves.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
When setting up my agency in 2009, I deliberately implemented innovations that would differentiate it from most competitors. These included creating a newsroom atmosphere with daily editorial meetings and topical issues awareness sessions and presentations. I also provided entrepreneurial opportunities within the agency in terms revenue and profit sharing for key individuals on the portfolios they managed. More recently, in response to the changing nature of the industry that has seen a shift towards integrated communications strategies, I took the decision to completely restructure the agency. We dismantled the silo approach we had been following and integrated all our digital, traditional PR, internal and stakeholder management teams into multi-skilled teams that can conceptualise and execute on strategies from the top down to ensure clients achieve their overall objectives. 

Who is your mentor and why?
I prefer to have many mentors as I believe each person has something unique to offer and which I can draw from. If I had to choose the most important of these, it would be my father for instilling in me the importance of holding yourself to a high ethical standard and the importance of maintaining a good name. 

How do you get inspired?
I am inspired by people who, despite all their very real fears and risks, have taken on challenges with all their hearts and have succeeded through a combination of brilliance, determination and sheer hard work.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
The most important element is to be completely passionate about the ideas or change you want to introduce. Change is hard for some people, so they need to be inspired.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
In South Africa, innovation is on every street corner, with people coming up with ingenious ways to eke out a living.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Sunset — its the time when i reflect on what I accomplished that day and look ahead to the challenges to come.