The Innovation SABRE Awards — North America 2020
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Jesper Wigardt has a track record in spotting unicorns, joining Northvolt in 2017 from Swedish fintech Klarna, where he led the communications team overseeing the company’s PR activities and agencies across 18 markets. He was one of the first employees to join Swedish start-up Northvolt, which builds lithium-ion battery gigafactories to enable the European transition to electrification and e-mobility. As vice president of communications and public affairs, Wigardt was charged with the task of setting up the comms function from scratch and introducing Northvolt’s story to the outside world. Supported by a PR programme built on the principles of ‘lean communication’, Northvolt has grown to more than 1,000 employees with operations running in five countries, attracting investors and customers such as Volkswagen, BMW and Goldman Sachs. Before making the leap into the corporate world, Wigardt spent a number of years in politics, serving as press secretary for the leader of the Swedish opposition and other elected officials.
Where is the most urgent need for innovation within the PR/communications industry?
The PR and communications industry is behind other related industries in leveraging technology and data to develop new formats and platforms to engage with our audiences. There’s plenty of opportunity for the ones who understand these parameters, and have also mastered the traditional PR toolkit, to bring new creative solutions to the market over the coming years.
How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
It is lagging behind. To a large extent, the tools we use today are the same as 10 or 20 years ago. Primarily because they still work. But with news desks being increasingly flooded with information and non-traditional media platforms full of noise, the PR industry will inevitably need to find new creative paths to ensure that good stories and ideas don’t get buried.
How have the events of 2020 impacted innovation in the PR and communications industry?
As it did for most other industries, 2020 has fast-tracked digitalization in the communications industry. The winners coming out of this will be the ones who can fastest develop new creative solutions based on the new digital normal.
What is the ideal working scenario for innovation?
A work environment centered around creating value, and down-prioritising anything that does not, while encouraging calculated risk taking and trial and error.
What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen this year?
The German government’s Covid campaign using comedy to reach a younger audience with a crucial message.
What is the most important lesson you've learned this year?
There is no technology that will ever be able to replace human relations and face-to-face interaction. Both in business and outside.
Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
I believe the way we have approached digital storytelling at Northvolt has been innovative. We built chronicles.northvolt.com in-house, as a side project on the weekends, with the intention of taking control over the narrative around our corporate history and present it in a novel way. We ended up creating a multimedia format that feels similar to scrolling a social media feed, built for mobile first, which has been very successful, not least from an employer branding point of view.
Any habit/activity that you have added to your life this year that you hope to take forward post-pandemic?
I have almost entirely stopped travelling for business. I hope this is a trend that will continue.
How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and what is the biggest obstacle?
There are several problems that need to be addressed, but the two most urgent ones are creating diversity at the leadership level and putting processes in place which mitigates the unconscious bias from the recruitment process.
What are you thinking about most these days?
World politics and food. 50/50.
Your bold prediction for 2021…
It’s going to be a better year than 2020...
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