Terhas Asefaw Berhe | The Innovator 25 2016
Terhas AsefawThe Innovator 25:

Terhas Asefaw Berhe

Managing director

Brand Communications


Innovation is recognizing when you have stumbled upon a winning idea and knowing what to do with it"


Terhas Asefaw Berhe has a more compelling background than most agency leaders, having grown up in war-torn Eritrea before moving to Canada and then the UK. In 2003 she launched Brand Communications, and has since built it into one of the region's foremost diversity consultancies, with a particularly strong focus on African companies that are looking to grow beyond their borders. In 2006, Asefaw Berhe smartly anticipated the need for a network and conference platform focused on diversity, to capitalise on the upcoming 2012 London Olympics — it is that kind of thinking that marks her and her firm out as one to watch.

How do you define innovation?

To me, innovation is recognizing when you have stumbled upon a winning idea and knowing what to do with it. It is these Eureka moments that lead to true innovation.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?

Wari, a mobile payment company in a continent with little uptake for bank accounts. By tying in mobile technology to the traditional African wrestling also know as "Laamb", which is hugely popular in West Africa, Wari managed to take 41% of the market from many established money transfer brands and at the same time spread money transfers capabilities to many who might not otherwise have done so.

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

Ecobank, the pan African bank. Having worked with them for the last 8 years, I have seen the journey they have been on as they embraced the challenges of working in a complex continent with a challenging market place. Seeing how they embraced every evolving method of branding and communications to dominate the market place from a small bank to the largest banking network in Africa.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’

In 2006 following the successful bid by London to host the Olympics in 2012, I noticed that the Olympic organizing committee which was led by Lord Coe had made the engagement of the Multicultural community in London a key component of their strategy. I realized that there was no single platform that could be used as an effective communications channel for reaching those communities. I created a network and conference platform which enabled the Olympic organizing committee to effectively address this group. It was this innovative moment that helped my new agency become the foremost agency for diversity communications.

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?

About the same as other marketing disciplines.

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

Social media & online marketing.

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

Communications/PR agency

Who is your mentor and why?

My father. Because he taught me from a young age that every disadvantage can be turned into an advantage and every challenge is an opportunity.

How do you find inspiration?

Watching documentaries about the history of nations specifically birth of nations and revolutions and how people rise up to lead change. This resonates with me because of my own upbringing in war torn Eritrea where I saw first hand how nations are born and how leaders emerge. My inspiration comes from brave people turning their ideas and convictions into reality.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?

Don't be afraid to try something new and if it doesn't work remember the lessons.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?


What’s your favorite time of day and why?