Paul Quigley | The Innovator 25 North America 2019

Paul Quigley 

CEO & CoFounder 

New York 

“Imagine the best advice, counsel, and work you could do.”

NewsWhip seems to be the perfect platform for these times when disinformation proliferates and social media virality dominates the news cycle. The platform, which Quigley co-founded, for instance can predict whether a story is going to catch fire based on social media engagement — and also the way fake news spreads online to seep into the collective mainstream. Quigley, a former litigator at two New York law firms, is deeply interested in how ideas spread, and in the recent rise of tribal political identity and misinformation. “I believe the world has become harder for brands to navigate, as people are politicized by what they see on social networks, and by content, and filter bubbles,” Quigley says. “That increases the importance of good decision making by communications professionals. In turn, that increases the market demand for data to support those decisions.”

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
PR professionals must invest in understanding the new landscape of digital communication and how it is changing and rewiring society, groups and individuals. Mastering this landscape will make PR/communicators professionals the key stewards of brand reputation and messaging in the next decade.

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?
Brand and messaging leadership including helping companies engage with the social, political and environmental world beyond their obvious bottom line.

How do you define innovation?
Bringing some idea, framework or technology to a place it was not used before, and figuring out how to successfully put it to work in the new place.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I've given up picking one sorry!

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
The firms thinking in an intentional way about what they do best, what data and technology they need, and what clients they should focus on.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
We built NewsWhip for newsrooms - to show them which stories, trends, writers and publishers were getting engagement. When our earliest communications customers recognized that this data could be applied in communications, we were fascinated. We were the inventors but did not even see the potential ourselves.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
With all the data, creative and other things - good clear copywriting is so critical - and underestimated.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
A quick walk and then return and ask yourself what problem, exactly, are you trying to solve?

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Imagine the best advice, counsel, and work you could do. Think about how emerging technologies, changes in the information landscape and other changes in the world can (and will) make that work more possible. Think about where the clear wins are that you can embrace.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
I'm thinking the degree to which changes in human culture, identity and values can be predicted from content engagement. Is this engagement a leading indicator ahead of surveys, research, or other data sources? And how should we harness it?

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
The Great Silence, a very short story by Ted Chiang, available for free on The Nautilus website. It's all about our blind spots in communication.