Joe Libutti | The Innovator 25 North America 2021

Joe Libutti

Insights Principal


New York, NY

Hometown: Monmouth County, NJ

“It’s easy to succumb to the assumption that more math and technology is always better, while failing to acknowledge the biases inherent in new technology and devaluing human intuition."

Joe Libutti leveraged his expertise in data, innovation and public policy to create a 50-state geopolitical risk analysis framework that helped Kivvit navigate the fast-moving cannabis industry, and where it offers opportunities. The methodology used policy tracking systems, news and social media listening analytics and qualitative analysis that analyzed geographic risks and key stakeholders in addition to opportunity. After building the national database of cannabis policy data, Libutti ranked states based on opportunity, more than 10 of which Kivvit has worked with clients on shaping legislation, regulations and opinion on issues related to cannabis use such as patient access, public health and social equity.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Playing a small role in the growth and development of team members. As I get a little older, I get to see old team members winning significant achievements, earning the most impressive academic credentials, and leading smart teams doing complicated work. Hoping I had some small impact on their success makes me most proud.

We're at a pivotal moment on the future of the office and how we work. How would like to see 'office/work culture' evolve?
We’ll see an endless supply of research on this subject for a decade or more to come. My hunch is that, when the dust settles, some leaders will have made it look surprisingly easy. They will be the leaders who embrace the humanity of their employees and don’t treat them like machinery. Formal policies and procedures on remote versus office work will continue to be essential, especially the larger an organization gets. But in terms of culture and “how we do things around here,” I think the leaders that will succeed in this new environment will be those that focus on deliverables and offer the flexibility needed for employees to be human, leveraging presence as a tool similar to the way we leverage video chat or instant messaging as tools.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity?
Firstly, the research is clear that people with diverse experiences combine to make for far better teams. Leaders who do not prioritize diversity are probably not optimizing their team’s potential. Beyond that, good intentions don’t often change habits. I think successful organizations are taking a fresh look at old systems internally. They’re reevaluating their typical hiring funnels, they’re looking past “industry standards” for salary offering, and they’re placing the proper weight on lived experience.

What makes you most excited or proud to be part of the PR industry?
Our job is often to galvanize. As a society, the more innovation and technological advancement we’ve achieved, the seemingly more siloed and disconnected from each other we’ve become. As a public affairs practitioner, successfully galvanizing people around common ideas, emotions, and goals is most exciting, continually proving that we’re much more similar than we are different.

What are your fears/concerns for our industry? 
I’m concerned about innovation that attempts to replace quality public affairs practitioners instead of optimizing their performance. I think it’s easy to succumb to the assumption that more math and technology is always better, while failing to acknowledge the biases inherent in new technology and devaluing human intuition. As an industry, we can be more innovative and savvy in many different ways, but I think it’s a mistake to leave the work entirely to the machines.

What inspires you? This could be a person, place, activity, etc.
Professionally, seeing growth and achievement among team members. We’re lucky to work in a field that can be as much a pursuit for social impact as a professional one, so seeing colleagues leading this sort of social impact is exciting.

What are you thinking about most these days?
Sourcing data in an appropriate and efficient way, the new era of digital targeting, and other next-generation adaptations we’ll need to make as an industry, but mostly getting back to a post-pandemic life without the constant paranoia of illness among myself, family, and friends.

What is your idea of happiness?
Let’s be real - drinking margaritas on the beach in the middle of the day.