Michael Brito | The Innovator 25 North America 2021

Michael Brito

Global Head of Analytics

Zeno Group  

Santa Clara, CA   

Hometown: San Jose, CA

“My mind is constantly wandering and thinking of different ways to use, interpret and visualize data. As an industry, there is still so much opportunity to improve the way that we identify audiences, uncover hidden narratives, and measure the performance of media relations.

Having grown Zeno analytics to a mainstream part of client work, Michael Brito in the last 12 months, further expanded these capabilities with the launch of Zeno’s Media & Audience Intelligence Platform. The platform was built with: technology and the human insights that make data relevant to clients; proprietary measurement framework using a scoring system that directly ties to clients’ goals and objectives; and a global analytics certification program to increase data literacy across Zeno’s offices. The increased capabilities have impacted Zeno as well as client performance. The firm’s analytics revenue is up more than 200%, and Brito’s team is now 30-people strong.

Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative? If you would like, please elaborate on your response.

More innovative.

The pandemic has forced PR agencies to start thinking out of the box about delivering value to clients. The only way to be innovative is to dig deeper, flex our creativity and go beyond the expected media approach. The status quo of media relations and PR in general just won't cut it in today's world. The challenge with this is that it forces us and our clients out of our comfort zone.

But in a world where consumer attention is at a premium, it is creative thinking and data-driven storytelling that will help brands reach their audiences with powerful stories. B2B and retail brands have been at the forefront of innovation. For them, it was all about survival. B2B brands rely on in-person events, customer and industry conferences to drive customer leads. For the last 18 months, they have had to think about different ways to achieve the same goals by using virtual events, integrating influencers into their stories, and using data to uncover the hidden narratives that differentiates them from their competitors.

Still today, with the uncertain future that lies ahead, PR agencies must continue to innovate the way they do business when hiring and attracting top talent, maintaining a positive work environment, using data to inform everything and of course pitching news stories.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? 
My first professional experience was becoming a US Marine at 19 years old. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my entire life. Many people, including those close to me, didn't think I would make it through boot camp. Physically, I was out of shape, lazy and could barely run a mile in 12 minutes. Mentally, it was difficult being yelled at and forced to step out of my comfort zone on a daily basis.

The military taught me to take personal responsibility for my own life experiences, be accountable for my actions and how to work cohesively with a team of individuals who come from a variety of different cultures, economic backgrounds, to solve for difficult challenges. These are skills I continue to use today.

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?
The remote work trend will continue to evolve even after the pandemic is over. Giving employees the option to work from home or go into the office has a positive impact on culture, quality of work and work/life integration. Although work/life integration can have a positive impact on employee mental health and the overall business, we can’t ignore the challenges of working too much or not knowing went to turn off our laptops and stop checking email.

So the evolution of office work culture must emphasize an employee-first mentality regardless of where they are physically sitting. I have been fortunate enough to grow my team during the pandemic and hire top talent regardless of where they are physically located. Doing so in my pajamas is the icing on the cake.

How can the PR industry make real progress in diversity, inclusion and equity?
Real progress takes real action, transparency, accountability and abundant opportunities. The need for businesses to be more and do more, especially when it comes to DE&I, is paramount and the PR industry has the power to lead the way. We can push for bold commitments from clients and more importantly, ourselves.

Capitalize on our industry’s wealth of creative power to innovate ways to attract, elevate and advance diverse talent to open up career-building and leadership opportunities. We should also seek new ways to collaborate with minority-owned businesses that is purposeful and mutually beneficial.

Recently, our agency did just that making a strategic investment in Egami Group, a multicultural communications agency allowing them scale and still hold their independent minority enterprise. The partnership also expands Zeno’s multi-cultural competency, building on existing strengths and commitments.

What makes you most excited or proud to be part of the PR industry?
I’m proud that as an industry, we serve on the front lines to instill real change in society. It’s heartening to see the shared values between colleagues and peers, such as kindness and courage, drive our everyday actions and produce meaningful work. It’s exciting to see our industry taking action against racial injustice, focusing on employee mental health, and caring for colleagues more than ever.
What inspires you? This could be a person, place, activity, etc.
I turn to the desert as a source of inspiration and comfort because it reminds me of my mom. The Tucson desert gave her peace. She spent hours every day just sitting in her backyard, drinking coffee and gazing into the desert sunset. The desert was her safe space and that no amount of negativity in the world could take that precious time away from her. She passed away in 2017. Her inspiration is now mine.

What are you thinking about most these days?
Data. Analytics. Insights. Measurement. My mind is constantly wandering and thinking of different ways to use, interpret and visualize data. As an industry, there is still so much opportunity to improve the way that we identify audiences, uncover hidden narratives, and measure the performance of media relations.

What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is just being a dad. Watching my girls persevere through high school, college, friend drama, boyfriends, breakups, and other life challenges makes me feel like I am doing a good job as their dad. When the world is chaotic and stress levels are high, I think about my girls. They are my happiness.