Kristen Stippich | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Kristen Stippich

Executive Vice President
SourceCode Communications

New York

“The ability to identify and apply learnings from past, possibly unrelated, experiences or industries can often spur innovation."

When tech PR shop SourceCode hired former Weber Shandwick VP Kristen Stippich the agency was buying into her experience developing business and leading client services for a variety of organisations, not least Microsoft for which she had led a global programme at Weber. Her career highlights include a full rebranding initiative for global tech education nonprofit Technovation, opening and establishing the NYC office for Airfoil and starting the healthtech sector focus at Weber Shandwick. 

Her lightbulb moments for SourceCode have included seeing an opportunity to evolve the agency’s narrative process, StoryHub, by tailoring it to critical moments for clients whether those be focused sessions around specific high-profile campaigns, or bigger picture work to develop compelling overall narratives. 

Stippich also saw an opportunity to use data to better inform and guide clients, tell richer and more compelling stories, and prove the value of the agency’s work. She oversaw the development of the strategy and analytics practice within the agency, and the embedding of the team in client conversations to incorporate new offerings into new business proposals and organic growth conversations.
How do you define innovation?
I believe innovation is finding a new or interesting solution to a challenge. However, what's innovative to one individual, company or industry may not be the case for everyone. The ability to identify and apply learnings from past, possibly unrelated, experiences or industries can often spur innovation.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Dove's toxic beauty campaign employing deepfake technology to capture and highlight social media's influence on teen girls through online beauty advice was very clever.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
There are many brands/agencies challenging the status quo. Dove has done a lot of campaigns that go against convention or make us stop and think. Another really recent campaign I find interesting is Duolingo’s adoption campaign. While so many companies are trying to crack down on subscription sharing, their latest campaign is encouraging it.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I’m incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with so many brilliant people throughout my career. PR is an incredibly collaborative field and so I don’t think there is an innovative moment I could single handedly take credit for.

One innovative, “lightbulb moment” that stands out for me was seeing an opportunity to evolve our narrative process, the SourceCode StoryHub, by tailoring the approach to critical moments for our clients. These moments range from strengthening a short or long-term campaign strategy to crafting a company’s overarching business narrative on their path to IPO.

Another is establishing the Strategy & Analytics practice at SourceCode, formalizing our approach to data-driven storytelling, market research, and measurement.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
It’s important to always find ways to fill the “creative well.” For me, that most often comes from learning new things and/or laughing with friends/family. The best way to climb out of the rut usually takes the form of learning something completely unrelated to my “day job” because it forces me to think differently. If I’m roadblocked on a specific solution, I will read a bunch of materials around the topic or challenge at hand and then immediately do something physical - run, yoga, lift weights, etc. During the workout the physical exertion frees my mind to find solutions swimming in my head from the readings.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Be curious and be bold. We have to be willing to make and learn from mistakes so we can be better than we were yesterday. Fear and perfection kill innovation.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I’d probably be running StippFit, teaching people about fitness and healthy food.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I have a pretty exhaustive list. Highlights include “The Daily,” and “Don’t Stop Us Now!” podcasts. I love reading The Economist and fiction with a fantasy bent such as stories by Neil Gaiman. Being in NYC I’m lucky to have access to a number of cultural experiences that inspire: the Tenement Museum, MET and walking tours from Boroughs of the Dead are favorites. And when I just need positive vibes, “Ted Lasso” often feels like a warm hug through the screen.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
Essentially, I’d like to see companies use their offices as hubs. SourceCode has always had a flexible working environment. I’d like to see individuals continue to enjoy the flexibility of working from home while also making the office a hub to connect, collaborate and create. Recently we had all our team members - across 12 states - come together for “Camp SourceCode,” a team building and agency planning retreat. The positive impact on individuals and the work was immediate.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
We need to get better at not only committing to improve, but measuring, benchmarking, and reporting our DEI progress. PR has historically had the reputation of being difficult to measure. But we’re making strides as an industry due to the expectations and demands of ourselves and stakeholders. As we continue to create benchmarks and identify ways to measure and demonstrate the value of our work, let’s apply those same learnings to better measure, benchmark and report our progress fostering DEI and the value it has for our industry and society as a whole.