Dale Bornstein | The Innovator 25 North America 2019

Dale Bornstein

Chief Executive Officer

M Booth
New York

“Culture is often overlooked, but it’s the biggest driver of an inspired workforce that strives to innovate in big and small ways every day.”

“Humane leadership is her secret power” is what we’ve heard about Dale Bornstein again and again. During her decades long PR career, Bornstein has excelled at inspiring teams to do inspired work. And for anyone who doubts that humane leadership has a business pay-off — when Bornstein joined M Booth as CEO in 2013, the impressively scrappy creative powerhouse was at $16m. Bornstein expanded upon the employee-centric culture started by founder Margi Booth and within six years the firm’s revenues have soared north of $40m. Under Bornstein’s leadership, M Booth has established itself as one of the most progressive midsize agencies in the world when it comes to integrated campaigns, building formidable resources in all the areas that forward-thinking firms are investing in. For evidence of that, see the firm’s jaw-dropping #RepresentLove work for Tinder, among many other award-winning campaigns.  

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Agencies need to make long-term commitments and investments to create environments that enable fearless thinkers, collaboration and bravery. Culture is often overlooked, but it’s the biggest driver of an inspired workforce that strives to innovate in big and small ways every day.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
Lagging the others

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Integrated marketing

How do you define innovation?
Busting paradigms.Thinking boldly about how to address problems in new and different ways. It starts with asking why we do something one way, how we could do it differently and how we could do it better. These simple questions drive business and organizations forward.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I love campaigns that marry societal good with business success. One that truly stands out for me is IKEA’s ThisAbles, focused on making the brand’s most popular items accessible to people who suffer from serious disabilities. Nothing like democratizing design. Sales of IKEA’s 13 iconic items grew by 33%. What can be better than that?

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Burger King has a long track record of innovation and success. I admire BK for being among the first to stand up for gay rights, and creating a path for others to follow. On the agency front, DAVID, the agency, consistently produces awesome work for iconic brands.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Almost six years ago I took the leap from “big agency intrapreneur” to “midsize agency entrepreneur” and I quickly learned how to zig when others zag, fail forward and inspire others to do the same. I am proudest of those moments when I have been able to create a role for someone that unleashes their “superpower” in a way that is game-changing for them, the business, their clients and their colleagues.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Authenticity. That’s the power of our profession. The best PR people understand how to engage and persuade in trustworthy ways. In today’s world where marketing disciplines are converging, we have to make sure we don’t lose that edge.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Aqua Zumba. Ice skating. Tennis. Walking my dog. Move my body, move my mind.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
We can’t just say we’re going to be innovative. We must have a culture and process that fosters it,celebrates it and rewards it.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
Talent. Always. I love this notion of “polymathic” talent. But where do you find them, how do you develop them and how do you keep them? And most importantly, being committed to nurturing the kind of inclusive and progressive workplace where polymathic talent thrives.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
 Celestine Prophecy.