Linda Lee | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2019

Linda Lee

Director, Corporate Communications, APAC & China


“Bring in people with diverse experiences…hire people less like ourselves”

After agency roles at Weber Shandwick and MSL, Linda Lee joined LinkedIn to lead employee communications in 2016 and has since risen to corporate communications director for Asia-Pacific and China. Lee’s rapid progress has won her plenty of support across the industry (she was nominated twice for this list) and has seen her develop such products as the LinkedIn Opportunity Index. Lee is also founder of a mentoring programme for ‘seemingly average’ students in Singapore. 

How do you define innovation?
To me, it’s the less trodden path – which is new, exciting and always an adventure.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I’m a marathon runner so I am very inspired by Eliud Kipchoge’s 1:59:40 record for a 42.195km marathon. Innovation didn’t come overnight but there is a massive movement led by Nike for years to enable a sub two-hour marathon time with Breaking2 since 2016. While it’s not without its controversy with Nike shoes being in the centre stage, as a brand, Nike has made a stand to challenge the status quo and went for the moon shot.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Innovation is a business practice and why people want to join and stay with a brand or organisation. With this in mind, Patagonia is a brand that continues to be that innovative brand and company with a great culture – thinking differently and by just doing the right thing. From “Don’t buy that jacket” to hiring people from the bottom of their resume focusing on their interests and not certifications, I’m a big fan.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
My move to Shanghai in China back in 2007 – pre-WeChat days but priming for Beijing Olympics 2008 and Shanghai Expo 2010, and in fact, LinkedIn was only starting out. Major Fortune 500 companies were entering China then and it was a very exciting time for a young budding comms professional. I was looking to learn all things about one of the most innovative economies with massive opportunities. It is the highlight of my career by far and I’m very thankful for the foundation I’ve built for a global communications career. My then-Managing Director, Darren Burns asked if I have learnt what I set out to do – the answer was yes but I think I’ll never stop learning more.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Just watched Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design. I’m blown away by Neri Oxman’s interdisciplinary approach with Krebs Cycle of Creativity marrying Engineering, Science, Design and Art. I think this is the way forward – where the arts, the sciences and the economics are finally coming together to bring impact to economies, businesses and people at scale.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I talk to my work buddy, Hosea Lai who leads social impact at LinkedIn. He comes from a very different background from me so he always able to share a different perspective, which always is helpful! If I get the chance, I just go for a quick run. My best ideas so far came from my me-time while running.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Bring in people with diverse experiences – enough said, hire people less like ourselves.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I might have been an architect – that was my second choice for university!

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
“This is why inequality looks like” by Teo You Yenn, a local Singaporean professor and writer. This is hands-down the most poignant read for 2019 and the book has certainly sparked the forgotten conversations on how our society has progressed or the lack of. Think the opposite of “Crazy Rich Asians” in Singapore.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
Always the evenings when I take time to hang out with friends, families and of course, have some me-time.