Kelli Richardson Lawson | The Innovator 25 North America 2020

Kelli Richardson Lawson 

Founder and CEO

JOY Collective  
Washington, DC

“Asking the key question around 'how can we end hair discrimination' and calling a Black lawyer to strategize about a legal approach to change legislation to ultimately change lives.

As founder and CEO of the Joy Collective, Kelli Richardson Lawson has built an agency focused on campaigns that truly change behavior and outcomes for people. For instance, Unilever and Joy Collective were awarded the Platinum SABRE for the best public relations campaign of the year at the Global SABRE Awards ceremony this year. The work bested more than 5,000 other entries from around the world for PRovoke Media's top honor. 

This campaign focused on Dove’s support for the Crown Act, a piece of state-level legislation that sought to make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of hairstyles—a political issue that most profoundly impacts the African-American community. Dove also co-founded the Crown Coalition, which helped to see the legislation pass in California, New Jersey and New York last year.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 
Urgent a breakthrough way to need to end systemic racism in this country and drive trust between Black America and the police. Need major innovation in this area given the 401 years of systemic racism and oppression against Black people in this country.

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

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

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Industry diversity and equal pay

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
Hybrid - partial remote and office (safely)

Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
Focus 100% on purpose-driven communications that drive positive, meaningful change for communities of color.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
Nike - always on the pulse of the pain points of our country with perfect comms responses

What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Not being afraid to speak up and speak out against injustices is critical to making change.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Asking the key question around "how can we end hair discrimination" and calling a Black lawyer to strategize about a legal approach to change legislation to ultimately change lives.

Any habit/activity that you have added to your life during Covid-19 that you hope to carry with you when the pandemic subsides? Transcendental meditation and praying daily.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity? What is the biggest roadblock standing in the way? Being bold and brave. That's the key. The biggest roadblock standing in the way is fear and a lack of trust in Black agency executives that can lead the way.

What are you thinking about most these days?
How to keep my family safe (Black boys) and mentally healthy.

Bold prediction for 2021
It will be better than 2020! (not sure that's bold; that's pretty clear).