Brandy Fleming | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Brandy Fleming

MD & Senior Partner


“Creativity is all about the idea. Innovation focuses on making ideas viable. It’s the imagination plus implementation. Innovators put ideas to work.”

Since July this year, Brandy Fleming has been managing director of Methods+Mastery, a new specialist agency in the FleishmanHillard global network that brings together social, creative and data-driven experts who strive to improve upon the ways brands reach their audiences. Over her career, Fleming has built teams that deliver data-driven, creatively-led, and socially-designed content and campaigns, including as a global digital leader with client Philips, global content strategy lead for client AkzoNobel, and head of creative strategy and EMEA digital and social lead at FleishmanHillard Fishburn in London She has also played a key role in driving innovative, best practice digital and social comms at FleishmanHillard, from online reputation management to content marketing, as part of the global social leadership team.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Despite making strides in better measuring PR impact and efficacy, it’s still challenging to find PR programmes that have data at their core rather than “gut instinct” thinking. PR can reach next-level outcomes by finding meaningful ways to integrate audience and landscape data. Doing so will open up new angles on old problems, and provide bullet-proof rationale for strategic decision making.

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

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Business/management practices.

How do you define innovation?
Creativity is all about the idea. Innovation focuses on making ideas viable. It’s the imagination plus implementation. Innovators put ideas to work – and are just as happy to break them as to make them.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Marshmello’s live set on Fortnite. Brand partnerships in gaming are not new, but this one was done so incredibly well. It was immersive, shareable and authentic to Fortnite players and Marshmello fans alike. And it’s become part of the in-game lore since. It’s clear that the marketers behind the gig knew their audiences deeply and knew that even in-game sponsorship could feel vastly different from what’s come before.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
I’m watching the new breed of direct-to-consumer brands with intense interest at the moment – Glossier, Thinx, Huel and Casper, to name a few. They're digitally-native and own the customer experience end-to-end so can deliver something truly special. The best of them have managed to capture a massive amount of customer data that helps them shape product strategy, laser-focus their marketing and acquisition, deliver better experiences and build community in the longer term. I think we’ll continue to see DTC brands shape “what’s possible” for marketers across every category.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
The moment I realised that I didn’t have to know everything. When you’re young and starting out, you can feel the pressure to become an expert on every aspect of our discipline. But as I gained confidence in my own strengths, I learned the importance of intellectual humility, too. It allowed me to confess my ignorance of a topic or lack of a specific skill without fear of sounding like a failure. It gave me the gift of surrounding myself with brilliant colleagues who are true experts, operating deep in their specialist disciplines – whether they are research analysts, crisis counsellors or UX specialists – who can help me solve problems that would otherwise be out of my depth.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I talk with my six-year-old son, Charlie. While endless questions can be one of the most exhausting parts of parenting, his curiosity about the world is inspiring. He’s never satisfied with boilerplate responses and we end up in some real rabbit holes trying to figure out the answer to “does the universe ever end?” and “what comes after infinity?” I try to channel my inner Charlie when I need to dig a bit deeper.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Agency priorities are driven by the client, so find the right client. Structure that relationship so innovation is a driver behind key metrics for the progress of their programme and the health of your partnership. When innovation is equally valued by both partners and a critical success measure, things will really get done.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
New beginnings. I’m in a new leadership role with a relatively new agency, and the sky is the limit. It’s been equally thrilling and terrifying to let go of old ways of doing things. The work is challenging and my new colleagues and clients are inspiring. I’m constantly amazed at the level of talent that surrounds me and I’m learning more than I have in years.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
Read The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan (or go for the audiobook!). It was written 20 years ago but his derision of pseudoscience and disinformation couldn't be more suited to everything happening in the world today. Sagan has a way of making science feel romantic.