Kristian Hoareau Foged | Innovator 25 EMEA 2021

Kristian Hoareau Foged

Founder, Director of Analytics & Strategy

Simply Thought


There can be an idea that data stifles innovation. But data isn't just quantitative, it's as much about the qualitative – combining the number with understanding the 'why' is where magic happens."

Kristian Hoareau Foged is one of a rare breed of PR practitioners who really gets data and analytics. After completing a law degree in the UK and military service in Denmark, he was accepted on the graduate scheme at Archetype (then Text100), before moving onto the social and content team and then playing a critical role in establishing the agency’s global insights and analytics function, developing best-practice methodologies on digital audience insights and auditing, whitespace analysis, and influencer identification and evaluation. Last year, he founded Simply Thought, a specialist analytics, insights and strategy consultancy for the PR and communications industry, and now leads programmes for brands across the technology, finance and FMCG sectors. The firm's proposition is based on his belief that while data isn’t a silver bullet, the PR industry can significantly elevate itself by bringing in more insights, data, planning, measurement and strategy to help clients achieve business results. Foged has invested in the latest AI-based social and news media analytics tools, as well as offering classic research methodologies, and has also developed a framework, ‘ABCs of Marketing Intelligence’, to analyse audiences, brands, competitors and category and provide intelligence that can be built into communications strategies. Having grown up in four countries – Uganda, Denmark, Greenland and studying in England – and having roots from a fifth (Seychelles), Foged is a proud ‘Third Culture Kid’ and serves as an advisory board member for The Blueprint initiative for increasing diversity in PR and communications.

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?

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

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

How do you define innovation?
Creating a new solution to a problem. The actual method can be an old one, but applying it in a different way or context can be the innovative solution you need.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
It's going to be controversial, but the answer is the community-led marketing of NFTs. Even if you don't buy into NFTs, as communicators and marketers we should pay attention to the ways these creators are building communities, making audiences part of the development roadmap and creating million dollar brands from JPGs. The status symbol of a CryptoPunk or Bored Ape profile picture, coordinated and community lead promotional postings at celebrities, and free "drops" to surprise and excite community members. You don't need to buy an NFT, but you may want to start trying to hire the people that can create such organic reach and brand love for JPGs on a blockchain when most brands can barely get people to click "like".

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Ryan Reynolds' Maximum Effort agency – their creative approach of content reliant on owned and earned amplification shows the power of entertaining audiences. They've now also merged with an adtech business, MNTN, so will see how the combination unlocks new models.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
A bit naval gazing, but I'd honestly say the Simply Thought model is something I'd consider innovative. Seeing the challenge in many agencies to build these analytics and market intelligence capabilities internally, we created a different model that centralises many costs externally, can be tapped into on a project basis, and helps them deliver better strategies. And we've worked with +15 agencies in our first year (often more than once), so we seem to be meeting a need!

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Zoe Scaman, Bodacious founder. Don't know if she'd call it innovation, but she's rethinking marketing strategy and sharing great thinking around fandoms, creators and flywheels.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I love anything that makes you to look at a problem through a different lens. An old colleague had flashcards with questions to prompt new thoughts, a creativity coach introduced me to a tool called Reframe.Thnk that helps you flip a problem on its head. These don't necessarily give you the answer, but when we can look at a problem differently, we're better able to come with a creative solution. And by the way, it's also why diversity in a team is a creativity boost: we need people who see and come at a problem from different angles.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
There can sometimes be an idea that data stifles innovation, that too much research kills ideas. But I disagree. Data isn't just quantitative numbers, it's as much about the qualitative - and combining the number or stat with the understanding of the 'why' is where the magic happens. Used in the right way and understood broadly, data helps us innovate by understanding the problem, defining a strategy, and giving us the jump off point to find an innovative and creative solution.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Writing a book of rantings and poetry.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
I've become a podcast addict this year, so a few favourites: "Pivot" with Kara Swisher and Prof Scott Galloway (and Scott's own "Prof G Show" as well); "Sweathead" from Marc Pollard; "Revisionist History" from Malcolm Gladwell; "Brown Ambition" from Mandi Woodruff and Tiffany Aliche. Also, TV wise, "It's a Sin" was just everything (insert crying emoji…)

What's your favourite time of day and why?
I'm a night owl and do my best thinking when the world is quiet. Whether reading, writing or just watching something interesting, I love the hours between 10pm and 1am.