Aubrey Quinn | The Innovator 25 North America 2020

Aubrey Quinn

Partner & Managing Director

Clyde Group
Washington, DC

“This year reminded me how little control we ultimately have, and pushed me to think bigger and stop putting things off that I always said I’d do 'someday.'"

In the five years since Clyde Group launched as a two-client firm, Aubrey Quinn has grown the DC public affairs firm into a thriving business built on a model that puts insights gleaned from both data and real-life experience at the core. A big believer in in the power of real-time information, Quinn leverages data throughout the entire client relationship, starting with its new business pitches. Knowing, however, that analytics alone can’t craft or carry persuasive campaigns, Quinn ensures all data is couple with expertise gleaned from experience.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 
The media landscape is changing: newsrooms are closing, reporters are losing their jobs, and trust in the media is rapidly declining. PR efforts can’t afford to be singularly focused on media relations, and instead need to consider new ways to get their message out to diverse audiences.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
There’s a broad spectrum with some continuously innovating, while others are slow to adapt. The organizations and firms that excel will be the ones that embrace change.

How have the events of 2020 impacted the the industry's innovation?
2020 accelerated changes that were already in motion, but moving at a glacial pace. Two key areas seeing change are 1) adoption of new technologies; and 2) more people-first attitudes toward employees.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
The power of the communications industry is that we can and should influence many areas, and we shouldn’t avoid one for the other. We can be creative, we can build integrated marketing campaigns, we can build those campaigns on data insights and measure our success, and we should lead on better management practices that benefit a diverse workforce.

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
It truly depends. Virtual environments allow us to connect with people in different areas of the country, who bring different perspectives. I also find that a two-hour white-board session can be more efficient than any technology platform. And, as a working parent with three kids at home, some days I need to get out of my house and into my office. Ideally, we will move toward a hybrid model that recognizes different people succeed in different settings.

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
I’m less risk averse in 2020 than I was in 2019. This year reminded me how little control we ultimately have, and pushed me to think bigger and stop putting things off that I always said I’d do “someday.”

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s video in March; Denny’s jumping into Animal Crossing; Getty Museum’s recreations challenge.

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Clyde Group’s lead value is People First. We are committed to doing right by everyone we interact with—our colleagues, our clients, journalists, vendors, etc. What 2020 has reinforced for me is that respect, compassion, and support are truly what matter most.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
After years of having to provide clients with artificial media metrics like circulation and ad equivalency, I developed a system—the POWER score—that scores the value of the story to the client, ranks the influence of the earned media coverage we secure, and diagnoses what we need to do differently.

Any habit/activity that you have added to your life during Covid-19 that you hope to carry with you when the pandemic subsides? 
I bought a new bike and taught my youngest child how to ride. I’m excited to see the world with her on two wheels.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity? What is the biggest roadblock standing in the way?
First, I think everyone has a responsibility to get their own house in order. Clyde Group was founded by a gay man, so diversity and inclusion have always been integral to our culture. That said, I know we still have room to grow: we’ve been working with a diversity consultant since early 2019, and are constantly looking for ways to improve.

Secondly, communicators are in a position of influence: we have the skills to persuade, and access, key decision makers within powerful organizations. If we want to do our part to force change, we can refuse to work with organizations that don’t respect diversity and human rights. We can make recommendations for campaigns, strategies, and initiatives that make meaningful differences in people’s lives. We can advise when our clients get it wrong. Change won’t happen overnight, but we have a responsibility to try.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
The short term challenge is how distance learning is going to work for my three kids (16, 14 and 7). The underlying concern, of course, is the effect 2020 is going to have on an entire generation of kids.

Bold prediction for 2021 
The Washington Nationals are repeat World Champions.