Lauren Thaman | The Innovator 25 North America 2019

Lauren Thaman 

Director of P&G Ventures Communications

P&G Ventures 
Cincinnati, Ohio 

“The science behind communication and consumer conversion is fundamental to the discipline.”

Thaman brings a remarkable scientific perspective to communications: she has a degree in chemistry, plus a master’s in pharmaceutical science (with a concentration of cosmetic science). Adding to this, she holds seven patents, has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at scientific and industry meetings. Clearly, she stands out as a scientist-turned-communicator. This has been a gradual transition made over the last 35 years during her tenure at P&G. In fact, Thaman created the scientific communications organization for P&G over a decade ago.

These days, she is the communications lead at P&G Ventures, the entity that works with experts, innovators and entrepreneurs to create brands and businesses in product categories where P&G does not provide solutions today. Within this fast-learning, startup-like environment, Thaman and her team are building and experimenting with better ways to use communications in both direct-to-consumer and traditional brick and mortar businesses. 

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
PR/communications must continue to evolve to meet the needs of today’s consumer, how they access and consume information, and how they make their choices.  The science behind communication and consumer conversion is fundamental to the discipline.  We need to be rooted in this fundamental to continue to evolve and innovate the capability. Today, digital platforms allow communication to easily and quickly be tested and refined to assure it is optimally effective.

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?
Analytics and measurement. The PR industry continues to struggle with the ability to measure the benefit of the work. There is a key need for the development of technology to better understand the number of digital touch points necessary for consumer conversion to better approximate the benefit of PR. Additionally, there may be some opportunity for the PR industry to learn from the science of outcomes research as this area continues to develop and become less cumbersome.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the ability to improve a process to drive a better outcome.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
There is so much great work happening.  I think the new skincare brand SEEME work is really interesting.  For a big company like P&G to have a grassroots campaign with real employees is quite breakthrough.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Many of the startup brands we have come to love have pushed the envelope, but in fairness the risk is lower for them than a big company.  I am really proud of the work P&G Ventures brand Zevo is doing.  They are testing and learning through every step of the communication funnel and have been highly efficient with resources and budget. I am also proud of the P&G Ventures brand work we have been doing with The Bulleit Group.  We are effectively reaching our non-consumer target in new ways for P&G.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Several big initiatives quickly come to mind.  In all of them every single touch point was consistent and reinforced the exact same message.  We did an initiative for Downy Fabric Softener that was about 7 days of freshness post washing sheets.  The PR team made a true partnership with Macy’s where we had Downy Fabric Softener displays in stores nationwide during the January White Sale. During the sale, with each sheet purchase the customer received a sample to test the claim at home.  We then put a comedian with a sleep disorder in the Macy’s window in Herald Square for 7 days to test the claim live.  We amplified the activation on social media and through Macy’s newspapers inserts and even on the giant billboard on the store.  It was so successful that the advertising team followed our lead with live TV copy of people smelling sheets in Time Square.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
An outstanding PR person is disciplined.  They are clear on their objective and desired outcome.  They make sure every activation clearly delivers against that objectives and measures the work against the outcome.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I take a break.  I definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to be creative.  I often go down the rabbit hole of the Internet and read, read, read.  I love to learn, and I love interesting, often irrelevant, facts.  Sometimes this is just what I need to think out of the box.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Experiment! It might be difficult to get alignment to an entirely new strategy or large complicated plan, but it is pretty easy to get someone to say yes to a pilot project. Stay flexible and keep thinking of small testable experiments that can have important learning and lasting results.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How to tell better stories, how to tell relevant stories that connect to my target, and how to measure that the work we are doing is effective.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
One is hard.  Book by Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace; Book by Paul Smith, The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell; Melissa Marshall, Talk Nerdy to Me,TED