Charlotte Witte | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Charlotte Witte

EVP Brand Transformation EMEA

Prime Weber Shandwick

“Innovation can be groundbreaking ideas or products that change the world, but also other smaller things that create positive change. But it needs to be applied, not innovation for its own sake.”

A brand strategy and integrated marketing specialist, Witte is known for leading on innovative, high-impact client assignments that create genuine business or social value for clients. Based in Stockholm, she joined Prime in 2006 and following its acquisition by Weber Shandwick in 2014, quickly became a respected member of the wider business community, known for her energy and an eye for seeing client problems in new ways. Under her marcomms leadership at Prime, the agency become the most-awarded PR agency ever at Cannes, with a client portfolio including Clear Channel, Electrolux, Essity, IKEA and Visit Sweden. Witte is a huge believer in data and planning being embedded in work from the start, and in how data plus creativity can help brands steer a course through disruption and uncertainty. A member of Weber Shandwick’s EMEA Strategy Board, Witte – with a very personal leadership style – has played a critical role in the growth of the EMEA B2B practice, doubling it in size in two years by putting a focus on performance marketing, informed by data, and re-shaping the way B2B businesses tell their story. 

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
The biggest opportunity for our industry and our clients is to use PR/comms to address social issues to drive and make real change and create real value for society and brands. On the internal side, the PR industry also need to be more innovative in automating to free up more time for creativity. Our industry needs to be more about outcome than output, and it requires innovative tools and ways of working to achieve that.

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

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Creative ideas.

How do you define innovation?
To me, innovation means improvement. It can be groundbreaking ideas or products that change the world, but also other smaller things that create positive change. But it needs to be applied, not innovation for innovation’s sake.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Gillette's “Handle with Care” is a fantastic initiative built on the simple but strong insight that that shaving someone else is different from shaving yourself, creating a whole new category, product and business for Gillette. And at the same time also strengthening the brand through its humanity and emotional connection to its consumers.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
My Swedish heritage shines through: I love the way IKEA and Volvo renew themselves all the time, being creative and bold and at the same time staying true to their overall business mission and purpose they've had for decades, almost for a century. Their work has set new standards for comms and marketing many times.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
One of the highlights of in my career in terms of innovation was when launching our campaign “Vac from the sea” for Electrolux, a new standard for how to put sustainability on the agenda for a commercial brand in an engaging and creative way. It was a huge success and led to an offer we named “commercial sustainability” that is now one of our most valued.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
Being broad-minded and understanding there’s value in synthesising ideas from different sources to come up with something new.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I listen to music I normally don´t listen to.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Stop being too focused on what the client is asking for and start thinking more about what they (and society) really need. Step outside of comms and marketing lingo and think about how you would solve a problem on first principles.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
How to bridge the gap between words and actions – in daily work, in our industry, in the world with the challenges we’re facing.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
Read Melinda Gates’ “The Moment of Lift” or listen to the “Conan O´Brian Needs a Friend” podcast.