Adrian Rosenthal | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Adrian Rosenthal

Head of Digital and Social


“The merging of curiosity with an analytical mind is the most underrated trait in a PR person.”

Adrian Rosenthal is a digital innovator who made a significant contribution to the development of MSL Fluency, the agency’s proprietary end-to-end global influencer marketing service that “supercharges influence at scale”. He brings broad thinking to MSL’s focus on influence that extends across the business, from classic B2C influencer co-operations to B2B projects, digital public affairs and search impact. Rosenthal was an early enthusiast of social and digital in the days when it was merely an add-on in PR: he has worked with influencers since 2008, implementing some of the first strategies and brand campaigns in this area. Today he is focused on widening the boundaries of MSL’s capabilities in influencer and digital by developing strategies for organic search and pushing data analytics to make the agency’s work more measurable and insights-driven. He is also the EMEA digital lead for MSL’s work across the P&G portfolio. Rosenthal has been working in digital communications for 13 years, including at Ketchum Pleon and MSL Germany, and has a passion for sharing his knowledge through workshops and mentoring young journalists on social media and digital.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
We need to make smarter, data-driven decisions to create more effective and impactful campaigns and activities for our clients. This means starting with an insight that's based on data, and then coming up with the right creative solutions and ways to generate reach (and not just create stories and content only a few people see) within the identified target or stakeholder groups. Thus, we need to a) invest more into tools/technologies that help us generate these insights and b) align more closely with – in our case for example – our partners (sister agencies) in marketing and media.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Analytics and measurement. I think this is where we have to do most of our work.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation can come in many ways, so there’s not a fixed definition in my head, as my field of work has changed quite a bit in my 12 years in the industry. It can be a creative idea, it can be a new technology, it can be a new tool, it can be a unique spin to an existing story. Common attributes I look for when it goes beyond just a creative idea: a connection between data, technology and creativity that truly creates something new or better – and fits the brand and its values.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
I really liked the Nike campaign with Colin Kaepernick as it combined great storytelling with a cause (and certainly looked at data on how far they can go here).

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
The problem here is that you often just see the PR stunts or campaigns celebrated by awards. However, you don't often see what's really effective, who has come up with really integrated communications, etc. Creating broad reach with a lot of paid media support can be done by everybody, but converting reach into tangible results is a thing we don't often see. I really like what P&G is doing as they have creative highlights coupled with a data-driven integrated communications/marketing approach. I also like what Nike is doing and what Nivea is doing in the influencer sphere.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
This dates back a couple of years, but when working for the first time with a comprehensive path-to-purchase, with all the data insights PR people usually don’t get (at least this was the case several years ago), we developed a dedicated model showing how PR can help influence the whole P2P. One of the outcomes was developing a strategy to influence organic search (which is super-important in almost all customer journeys) via different activities, something that is usually not in the scope of PR agencies. Influencing organic search has been part of our toolbox since then. The next thing is the creation of our own influencer service, MSL Fluency. Drafting our needs, coming up with the name and implementing it globally across our network and clients has been a great experience. 

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Merging of curiosity with an analytical mind.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I have mainly one strategy here that works: take my mind off the current task and immerse it into a set of inspirations. “Just browse” could be a good name for what I do. I read (on- and offline), I watch and digest information, pics, ideas. The subconscious always works, the mind is a machine of associations, and the association chain works to come up with ideas, even at night in bed when just reading or when walking around the city and keeping a curious mind. I take a lot of notes every day that have nothing to do with projects I’m working on – but once written down, they are in my head and return when I need them.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
I think as an industry, we are on the right way, but using different speeds and pathways. Exchanging ideas and best practices beyond the PR industry is key here.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How to better connect data (insights), technology and creativity, as this is at the core of what I do. How to become more efficient and effective both internally at the agency as well as externally for clients is at the core of this thinking.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
I'm behind too many of these things, but if you haven't seen “FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” go watch it now. Very interesting from a professional perspective.