Paulo Simas | The Innovator 25 North America 2020

Paulo Simas 

Group President, Managing Partner

W2O Group  
San Francisco

“New ideas come from a burning desire to solve a problem through curiosity and courage so, if you have the right DNA along with the support of key decision-makers, anything is possible.”

Paulo Simas comes to the table with over 25 years of agency experience across a multitude of expertise in addition to a deep understanding of analytics. As a leader at analytics-driven W2O Group, Simas took on the new role leading the agency’s branding and design practice last November. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Simas leveraged an opportunity through to develop an initiative addressing the ventilator shortage within hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. With W2O’s pro-bono support, the project has resulted in over 2,500 donations of sleep apnea machines to be repurposed as ventilators.

Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry? 
So much of innovation can be thought through the lens of technology or digital automation, but the PR industry also needs to think about innovating around the role it plays in addressing the challenges many businesses face today. Companies are struggling to remain relevant within an ever-changing audience landscape and PR agencies are extremely well poised to help them identify novels ways to engage with them in a more meaningful way. As a whole, the industry has always been about knowing who matters and who they matter too, it’s time to leverage that knowledge and position PR as more than just earned media. There is an opportunity to win both across marketing and communications by innovating around the deep understanding of audiences.

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? Please elaborate on your response. More innovative 

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation? Integrated marketing

What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
It’s hard to imagine anything can take away the place of in-person collaboration, workshops and blue sky sessions but current events have forced us all to rethink how to continually adapt in a virtual world. Innovation can happen anywhere so long as the right people are in the room (or on the Zoom). New ideas come from a burning desire to solve a problem through curiosity and courage so, if you have the right DNA along with the support of key decision-makers, anything is possible.
Has 2020 changed the way you define/approach innovation? How?
We have been moving to a digital first world for years, 2020 has simply been the rocket fuel in launching the next normal. Companies have been forced to adapt their business models, work environments, growth strategies and hiring practices or risk falling too far behind. There are many aspects of today’s reality that may be forever changed such as business travel and workplaces, but none more important than the way we will connect with one another in the future. While many may look at this time as everyone being disconnected, we somehow have found the ability to become even more connected through the adoption of digital platforms which have now become the we meet.
What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
Staying fluid. Trying to control the outcome when there is so much uncertainty all around is simply a recipe for disappointment and frustration. I watched as many went into analysis paralysis sheltering in place which led to a cathartic mind. Fortunately, I was able to see this moment for what it was, a chance to take advantage of focused time in creating new ways for us all to move forward. It felt like a booster shot and there was a great sense of urgency to ensure our company was on the frontlines of changes. I had to shed any preconceived notion of how long something takes (or what it takes) if I was ever going to deliver something impactful.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
At the beginning of the COVID shutdown we were all struggling to make sense of what we could do. We decided to build a digital platform that provided real-time curation of top stories, influencers and topics connected to the virus. In three weeks we had a live dashboard ( that refreshes itself every 60 seconds and allows users to hyperlink directly with the most up-to-date content. There are thousands of daily users who rely on the dashboard to stay current and leverage the insights in their marketing/communications programs.

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 have been practicing mindfulness for years and it has been a major coping mechanism during these times.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity? What is the biggest roadblock standing in the way? It’s not just the PR industry, we all need to do a better job. Sitting on several DEI committees one specific action I believe can make a significant difference by having well-defined internship and mentorship programs. So much of what is missing is access and leadership, we must expose those who have been marginalized to a positive work environment where they can see themselves flourish and then ensure they have a mentor who shares in the responsibility for their success.

What are you thinking about most these days?
Music festivals:-)

Bold prediction for 2021
The blurred lines between marketing and communications are erased forever and we all just focus on solving business problems for our clients without labels. It’s time we stop thinking about these as separate industries and instead look at them as strategic disciplines we use in designing plans to meet their objectives.