Francesca Davidson | The Innovator 25 North America 2020

Francesca Davidson 

Account Supervisor


“The first step is acknowledging that systemic racism is real in our country and our industry. We will only start to make progress when organizations have a common language and forum for having these hard discussions."

Francesca Davidson was that helm of the award-winning campaign "It's About Respect" Sexual Violence Prevention Pilot for Washington State Department of Health. Unlike so many youth-targeted campaigns, this one took input from teens. The result? A remarkably effective campaign that targeted young people to explain the importance of respect — and ultimately changed behavior, for the better.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 

At this moment in time, diversity, equity and inclusion are crucial focus areas. Right now, every industry and organization is being forced to reckon with missteps from the past and present. All must take measurable action towards real change in order to remain relevant in a rapidly diversifying world and the PR industry is no exception.

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

How have the events of 2020 impacted the the industry's innovation?
More innovative 

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

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
Innovation happens when a diverse, talented and creative group of people are able to come together in an environment where all are able to bring their whole self and be heard. This is something I've found at C+C and I used to believe our fantastic office space was the foundation for it. Now six months into remote working, I continue to be blown away by the team and what we have been able to accomplish for our clients.

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
When I think about innovation, I think of it as pushing against what’s possible. In 2020, what's possible, typical or predictable has been constantly changing. In this new environment, something that would have been routine pre-pandemic, like a media event, can no longer be carried out the way it was in the past. The industry is being forced to find more interactive and innovative ways to put spokespeople and messages in front of audiences. In some cases, these new formats are giving audiences better access and more authentic ways to connect with brands and public figures.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
I've really appreciated partnerships that help reach unique or hard to reach audiences. For example, using Lucha Libre wrestlers to raise awareness about wearing masks amongst Hispanic audiences, or bringing in Cardi B as a spokesperson to encourage young and Spanish-speaking people to fill out their census form. REI also joined forces with several Washington state agencies this year to form the #RecreateResponsibly Coalition that’s working to keep outdoors enthusiasts safe during the pandemic.

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Flexibility and speed are everything. The days of developing a great strategy and executing it over a typical timeline are no more. You've got to be incredibly proactive, fast moving and nimble, and (dare I say the word of the year) ready to pivot when needed.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
It was really eye opening to apply the findings of audience research with middle schoolers to bring to life the creative and outreach strategy for Its About Respect. Both in the process we used and the final results, you could really see the value it brought in creating an effective overall campaign.

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 think this year I’ve just learned to appreciate and be more present with the small, everyday and even mundane parts of life in a whole new way. From conversations with friends and family, to walks in my neighborhood and new recipes, I’ve cultivated a sense of gratitude that I’d really like to hold on to.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity? What is the biggest roadblock standing in the way?
The first step is acknowledging that systemic racism is real in our country and our industry. We will only start to make progress when organizations have a common language and forum for having these hard discussions. Only then can you start to see change - changes in culture, changes in hiring practices, changes in pay equity.

What are you thinking about most these days?
Honestly, Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Bold prediction for 2021
I’m not sure how bold a prediction this is, but should the pandemic subside in 2021 the future of work will remain forever changed. Most organizations are now going to have to offer a lot more flexibility to their employees. While there are absolutely many challenges with remote work, there are also huge environmental, societal and personal benefits too.