Cornelia Kunze | Innovator 25 EMEA 2021

Cornelia Kunze

Founder & CEO



My approach to innovation has always been to mix and match somewhat unusual teams and people. Diversity and inclusion creates innovation."

Cornelia Kunze saw the Great Resignation (and maybe even the dramatic shift in agency models driven by Covid-19) coming: over a year before the pandemic kicked off, she left Edelman – after almost 20 years in various senior positions – to co-found I-Sekai with former colleague Moritz Kaffsack: an innovative agency model based in Germany with a network of independent senior practitioners offering strategic and creative consultancy to in-house teams. At the time, she told PRovoke Media: “There are so many senior people globally who have left the agency system and are working independently – agencies are losing talent. There is so much technology now that enables us to work together like an agency without overheads.” A year later, at the end of 2019, Kunze and Kaffsack launched I-Sekai’s global collective of independent PR practitioners, Fluid, with members across the world acting as sparring partners, advisors and external project managers to in-house teams and agencies. A strong advocate for women to take on leadership roles, Kunze – who started her career in corporate affairs at Mars – was last year also named as chair of the international board of Global Women in PR, and is one of the driving forces behind the recent launch of GWPR’s Empower programme, Empower, an international initiative to support mid-career women.

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

Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative?
Yes. As in any other sector, our industry has been pushed to go beyond our same old patterns, embrace the gig economy. Each of us is more self-sufficient and efficiency has risen.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Creative ideas.

Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is?

How do you define innovation?
An as-yet-unheard, effective solution to a problem.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
The creation of virtual teams and networks during the pandemic, enabling the formation of strong teams, networks and friendships.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Patagonia. They create activism platforms, sue the American president, ask consumers to 'vote assholes out' – all in support of their purpose to save our planet.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
My approach to innovation has always been to mix and match somewhat unusual teams and people. Diversity and inclusion creates innovation. Hence, the founding of fluid, our virtual consultancy and the founding of Global Women in PR’s Germany chapter have both picked up a lot of energy through this approach.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Dan Edelman, the founder of Edelman. He relentlessly and courageously pushed for innovation, took some experiences and re-mixed them into something completely new, like his first PR roadshow in the US.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I listen and talk to people, who think differently than I.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Reduce the number of central staff, especially in controlling and finance. Stop monitoring talents' billable time. Stop having headquarters and hubs, especially in London and the US. Curate new teams for every clients, co-create ideas and contents with local markets, led by local markets. Celebrate freedom, diversity & inclusion.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
A traveling author and a sustainable fashion label entrepreneur.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
A mix of many podcasts from around the world listened to during my almost daily morning runs. Podcasts were my big discovery in 2020 (yes, I know - late to the club).

What's your favourite time of day and why?
Early morning, when everything's silent and I can read while foxes, squirrels and birds are visiting me.