Jonny Bentwood | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Jonny Bentwood

Global Head of Data & Analytics


“Innovation is critical in staying competitive but do not fall into the trap of creating a new shiny toy every few months. Unless you get people using it, it's a waste of time.”

Jonny Bentwood joined Golin in 2017 to “bring rocket science to communications.” He heads global data and analytics at the agency and is behind this year’s introduction of Golin’s impressive new bespoke data, analytics and measurement tools. Bentwood has not only been instrumental in putting data at the heart of Golin’s new “progressive” approach, but also challenging historic approaches to measurement in the communications industry, taking it seriously well before most agencies. Bentwood champions using data throughout the customer journey and has evolved the agency’s approach “from descriptive to prescriptive to predictive.” He's a firm believer that when art is combined with science and decisions purely based on instinct are rejected, then clients – including Walmart, McDonalds, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Amgen, Unilever, the World Bank and Facebook – will have winning communications programs. His latest project for Golin isn’t his first big analytics development: Bentwood has a track record of creating award-winning, innovative analytic and measurement tools including the Relevance Radar, Command Center, TweetLevel, BlogLevel and the patented Flow140. He was previously chief innovation officer at Edelman Intelligence, and Edelman’s head of influencer engagement.

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
We need to innovate not in the technology but in the application of what is available. Cool new approaches mean nothing if they are not applied – just as much effort needs to be made in application, culture change and adoption as with innovating a new solution for market.

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

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Analytics and measurement.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation has frequently been confused with having a great idea. It's not – it’s a combination of technology, people and process and can be summarised as: 1) Having a great new idea that solves a problem 2) Turning this idea into a tangible solution 3) Getting people to use your idea 4) Making money from it, in a repeatable way.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. A revolutionary approach to TV that engages the audience in a way that hasn't been done effectively before.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Banksy – genius brand PR in getting one of his artworks to shred in an auction.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
My tipping point was when I couldn't understand why PR pros confused influence with popularity. Instead I created a new approach that analysed multiple criteria that ended up with MTV using my innovation to create their first ever Twitter Jockey and winning me Time's Twitter moment of the year.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 
A combination of curiosity in questioning how can something be done better. Or as Al Golin would say "fix it before it breaks," combined with the courage to tell your colleagues that there may be a superior way to accomplish your goal.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Take my four dogs for a walk.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation is critical in staying competitive but do not fall into the trap of creating a new shiny toy every few months to stay innovative. Unless you get people using your innovation then it's a waste of time.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
The customer journey and what data points I can find to understand each stage in the process.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (the book, not the film).