Darren Bosik | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Darren Bosik

Senior Director, Data Science
APCO Worldwide

New York, NY

“It is because I’m driven by inspiration through my connections and experiences that I can develop ideas and create innovative solutions for challenges I face."

A data scientist who specialises in creating new and innovative solutions using first, second and third party data sources, AI and machine learning, Darren Bosik was responsible for the PR industry’s first early warning and crisis management detection system. Using multiple data sources including AI and ML to detect shifts in media coverage, organic online conversation and other narrative signals, the solution can predict when an issue in the marketplace is going to pose a risk to a company’s comms, business objective and corporate reputation. In short, he’s helping many a crisis and issues management specialist sleep better at night. 

With more than 20 years in PR and data science, he’s also in recent years built proprietary methods and indices to measure the holistic effects of customer behaviour through the purchase funnel, measuring the impact of digital PR, search engines and marketing on consumer buying. 

The foundations of Bosik’s research prowess came from his early days as B2C analyst for eMarketer and as a business technology analyst for Gartner. Since then he’s led multitudes of data-driven projects for big-name agencies and clients including Pepsi, Nintendo and Unilever. 

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the cross section of ideas and inspiration. We are inspired by people we know and and places we visit. These experiences are catalysts to ideas. I execute my ideas because I know it will improve the lives of people I care about. This is a symbiotic relationship between having an idea and being inspired to develop something new that can improve the lives of people I care about or places that matter to me. I look for innovation opportunities in everything I do whether at work or in my personal life. It is because I am driven by inspiration through my connections and experiences that I can develop ideas and create innovative solutions for challenges I face.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste initiative because it brings together over 90 member companies, project partners, allies and supporters who are committed to ending plastic waste in the environment. From technical leaders, engineers, scientists and practitioners, it is working together to create and scale innovative solutions around the world and is driving and delivering transformational change: to end plastic waste in the environment and protect the planet.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
CPG and pharma brands are most innovative in how they leverage current events, social and geopolitical issues to make statements and influence changes that improve humanity. I am inspired by campaigns such as Pfizer and its work to help promote the importance of vaccines for flu and COVID-19.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
My current role heading the data science team at APCO enabled me to launch many new products and solutions based on thinking differently about research and insights. One moment that stands out is when I created a predictive analytics approach to identifying new trends that can help or harm a client's reputation. This AI and machine language-driven approach came to me as a result of hearing about new ways to use text analytics to identify changes in online narratives. I was able to execute my idea because of the entrepreneurial and supportive environment that APCO affords to its employees. The freedom to bring new ideas to teams and colleagues enables innovation to succeed.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
I admire Elon Musk because he has brought innovative solutions to solve many different challenges facing humanity. The electric vehicle is helping to slow climate change. Space exploration is accelerating the possibilities of solving many issues plaguing humanity and may find cures to diseases. Musk is also a smart businessman who knows how to bring together a cross-functional team to execute his ideas effectively.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
When I feel less creative I will return to nature by going on a hike or birdwatching. I find that looking at animals and plants helps me see the world from a different perspective. A bird building can build perfectly round nest from things it finds on the ground yet it does not have arms. When I see marvels of nature my creative spark is lit again. I know that I can take ideas from what occurs naturally and transfer it to real world problems.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
We need more leadership in PR from outside of communications. We need agencies to hire scientists, engineers, and other STEM degrees to bring a fresh perspective to client challenges. Their backgrounds can help deliver more innovative solutions to communications challenges. We can blend more science with art, which is lacking. But we need experienced STEM leaders who know how to manage these challenges and execute solutions.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I am eager to travel more. COVID-19 stymied my travel plans for two years. I want to go to Asia and Africa and become more inspired by the cultures there.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Severence on AppleTV has inspired me. The show portrays the duality of humans and the need to live life to the fullest. We are all challenged by life each day but we need to have a balance - we need to do our best at work but not forget those who need us at home. We have a conscience that can guide us to make the right decisions and our choices affect others. We must choose carefully to lead us down a path that will inspire others, improve our livelihood, and positively impact humanity.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
We have seen from the pandemic that an office need not be a destination and that progress is made by collaborating with others virtually. I would like to see a permanent hybrid work environment that involves online anytime and in-person when necessary. We need to see each other in a real office to connect on a personal level. But online is also beneficial to accelerate work, connect with others globally, and avoid stresses, such as travel time to an office.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
PR agencies and corporate PR departments need to leverage AI to make better hiring decisions. They can use technology to analyze profiles, resumes, pictures, and other data to ensure that they are hiring employees with more diverse backgrounds and being more inclusive of women and minorities. They can also leverage technology to make sure current employees are given fair and equitable chances to succeed in their jobs, such as more promotion opportunities or chances to lead projects that involve CSR or ESG.