Dustin Chick | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Dustin Chick

Head of Strategy, Influence & PR

South Africa

“Innovation is not a moment. It’s about constantly striving to deliver better in new ways. It can be the granular everyday things and it can be the giant leaps.”

Dustin Chick is one of South Africa’s most prominent voices on developing effective PR, influence, crisis and reputation management campaigns. He has led the strategy team at Ogilvy in South Africa – covering strategy, planning, insights, data & analytics and issues & crisis management – for nearly 10 years and has been a key part of the team that built Ogilvy into the country’s biggest and most award-winning agency. A former journalist, he has developed reputation-changing narratives for brands including Anglo American, Audi and Avis, including increasing trust scores in mining communities to some of the best levels ever recorded, building a purpose platform for Audi, pan-African communications for Western Union, lecturing on public lobbying behaviour in South Africa, and developing reputation management strategy for Brand South Africa – including managing issues around the country’s profile as an investment destination.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
Increasingly PR needs to define its business value. It continues to make strides in areas like creativity, but there is a need to focus on business impact. We need to address the question: how is the work being done by PR driving business performance? Secondly, PR needs to better define the principle of influence. Too often we equate influence to influencers, and they are not the same. True influence speaks to how we impact a variety of areas across a traditional earned environment, but also how we consider paid, owned and shared platforms to achieve this. Only then can we consider the “who” that makes us influential and why they are important in achieving this.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
PR is by its very nature nimble and adaptive. This often results in innovation ahead of the curve. The challenge remains how it is understood across the marketing mix.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
PR has the opportunity to truly lead integrated marketing. It naturally drives conversation, and has a keen cultural link to what truly influences brands, reputations and organisations. The shift is in how PR moves from being the traditional "amplifier" in integration, to being the leader.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is not a moment. It’s about constantly striving to deliver better in new ways. It can be the granular everyday things and it can be the giant leaps. The best way to start is by saying “what if we ...?”

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
In the consumer space Burger King continues to do work that is edgy. It makes it talkable and relevant. In the corporate space, the work being done by Anglo American in building trust in the communities who live and work around its mines stands out for me.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
An agency I have always admired is Weber Shandwick.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
I don't think there is one moment. It’s about a collective frame of reference that builds challenger thinking.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Coffee and travel.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Stand up and be counted. Any really good idea has PR in it. Beyond that PR is not limited to the earned-only space – true influence is a naturally integrated view on what is influential. If we focus on that we establish a new value proposition that really speaks across CEO/CMO and CCO.

What are you thinking about most these days? 

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
I spend a lot of time watching The Crown on Netflix. It’s great entertainment and allows your mind to switch off a bit. I would also recommend reading Mark Manson's “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.”