Innovation SABRE Awards — North America 2022
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Bringing emotion and innovation to B2B communications isn’t always the simplest proposition, but Jennifer Cheung makes it look easy, with her talent for humanising complex business models and telling powerful and moving brand stories that hits the target audience in the heart. After working in entrepreneurial, fast-growth companies in the business services, consultancy and digital technology sectors, including MindGym, four years ago Cheung joined workforce planning SaaS platform Orgvue as global head of B2B marketing. She succeeds in pushing the status quo and industry comfort zones because her approach is based on insight that ladders up to commercial objectives, so the boardroom can see a clear path between the brand communications work she develops and the growth in the business. Cheung effortlessly moves between putting hard commercial detail into a brand strategy, and then creatively extracting the essence of the technology and value it brings, crafting messages, campaigns and communications platform that cuts through noise.
How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
Do you think the global pandemic has made the industry more innovative?
Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is?
How do you define innovation?
Challenging the conventional, subverting expectations, being braver than the business might dare to be, especially in a B2B setting.
What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Innovation has been hard to come by as marketing budgets have largely been trending downwards in the wake of the pandemic. But clever initiatives like KFC’s public abandonment of their ‘finger lickin’ good’ slogan or Zoom’s free 40-minutes (and unlimited over a locked-down Christmas) dared to make the best of the dire circumstances with empathy and humour. Who can ever forget the ‘I’m not a cat, judge’ viral moment of levity?
In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
I value how our agency, Don’t Cry Wolf, continues to challenge and push our brand and comms to be big, bold and brave. In terms of brands, I’ve followed with interest how Monzo smashed what banking could be. Also, the increasing number of purpose-driven brands such as the growth of B-Corp and Ecosia.
Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to deliver for Orgvue, in the direction of the brand, its bold positioning and the national media coverage we’ve been able to secure for an HR software business. The team and agencies have pushed and elevated the brand, and I should also call out that the company itself has committed to investing in building awareness and not just demand – this is rare in start-up SaaS.
Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
I really admire anyone who is brave enough to set out on their own and create something. I’ve worked with two women, Ekaterina Solemeina and Emma Sexton, who have both built their own companies offering creative services based on new ways of working before hybrid was even a thing. They exude vision and determination and operate in a generous and humanistic way.
How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I personally need to step away and do something, be somewhere completely unrelated. And also talking it through with others on the team or the agencies – a problem shared and all that. Overthinking in a situation and zeroing in is completely counterintuitive. I find my best moments of inspiration tend to come when I’m brushing my teeth or hoovering, basically when I’m not thinking at all.
What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Get to the heart of the brief and challenge your clients. I love it when I see a couple of campaign concepts plus the really ‘out there’ option presented as well. Agencies are there to bring the expertise and spark that we don’t have in-house and the campaign creation stage is a really exciting time to engage business stakeholders in what’s possible.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Another job in marketing. It’s great to daydream about what I’d do in another life, but right now, my career and work is a key part of my identity. Ever more so over the past 18 months. Work has provided sanctuary and structure; problems I know I can solve whilst the world has gone to pot. I am thankful for that.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
K-dramas for escapism. Every and any mindfulness app. Apple Pay and Paypal for enabling an excessive amount of online shopping during lockdown. There’s a podcast that Matthew Walker did with Joe Rogan on the importance of sleep that’s well worth a listen.
What's your favourite time of day and why?
Whenever I take the time to get on the yoga mat. I prefer a longer practice so the mind can settle and focus on the flow. It feels like a real treat to shut out the world.
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