David Kyne | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Innovator 25 EMEA David Kyne

David Kyne 

Founder and CEO


“Innovation isn't a nice to have, it's a must do to survive. And if you want to do more than survive. If you want to thrive and grow, you must be a leader of new ideas and continue to drive innovation”

After heading the healthcare teams at agencies including Hill + Knowlton and GCI Health, David Kyne started his eponymous agency in 2009 with the goal of connecting public and private organisations to help address global health needs. Believing that targeted, strategic and creative communications can be a powerful health intervention, he leads a team working with biopharmaceutical companies, philanthropic foundations, public health bodies, UN agencies and NGOs and has developed impactful and innovative work in areas from ebola to haemophilia, malaria to guinea worm disease. He has led Kyne from a small consultancy to a mid-sized global firm with more than 45 people in Dublin, New York and Los Angeles, who are executing health communications programmes that change behaviour and save lives.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a new method or approach that helps to solve a problem or improve upon what's already there. It's understanding the constantly-changing marketplace and the needs and wants of your key audiences and doing what you need to do to continue to effectively engage them and inspire them to act. It's less about the latest trend, and can sometimes be more evolutionary than revolutionary.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
For me, the Nike Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign stands out because in today's society, social purpose is expected of companies: you can no longer check what you stand for at the door. We need to be vocal about what we stand for. I think the campaign is innovative because it is genuine, risky and brave.

Which brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Those who know how to connect with their key audiences in an emotional and positive way, and who are aligning themselves with important topics that they believe in. Not surprisingly, I'm partial to health-related campaigns, and I was recently really impressed with a film and supporting campaign called “Corazón,” developed by JohnXHannes, New York, which encourages New Yorkers to become organ donors, a topic that is very important to me.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
In the late 2000s when I was working at my previous agency, we had the opportunity to co-create partnerships between the private sector, NGOs and government for the first time in PR. Our approach was to embrace transparency and leverage the skills of each partner, with the goal of tackling big health issues to truly effect change. Previously, communications programmes and campaigns were developed more from a client-centric point of view, an approach that is not always aligned with the needs of the stakeholders involved.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
This may sound a little hokey, but I would say Bill Gates. His and Melinda's approach to bringing technical expertise and business acumen to philanthropy broke the mould of bureaucracy and over-reliance on national political agendas. Gates has had an enormous impact on health, education and other social issues in the developed world over a very short period of time without apologising for being part of a profitable business.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
One of the best ways I'm able to break from creative block is by stepping away from some of the larger, more strategic issues and challenges that I'm working to help solve and taking time to dig into the day-to-day with my teams and clients on tactical execution. This often provides me with not only immediate inspiration, but also the much-needed context and perspective that leads to insights generation and new breakthroughs. Feeling like I was impactful and ending the day with some hard, productive work under my belt always makes me feel good, and that leads to more space for creativity. I hit the rut head on.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation isn't a nice to have, it's a must do to survive. And if you want to do more than survive – if you want to thrive and grow, you must be leader of new ideas and continue to drive innovation.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Honestly, I can't imagine doing anything else – what drew me to health communications was the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. I would probably be working for a non-profit organisation in health or education.

Favourite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
The Blindboy Podcast, hosted by a young Irish musician and comedian, Blindboy. It's a mixture of humour and thoughtful conversations on topics ranging from mental health to politics to art. It's amazing.