Mary Elizabeth Germaine | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Mary Elizabeth Germaine

Partner, Managing Director, Analytics

New York City

“Innovation can be as simple as bringing a new method to practice, or as big as launching a transformative product that allows people to do things they never have before."

A tireless advocate for elevating data and analytics as an essential comms tool, Mary Elizabeth Germaine is credited with building the largest and most respected data and analytics team in the industry. Her latest success on the way to steering Ketchum Analytics to double-digit growth is the rollout of omnilearnedID, a tool to leverage Omnicom’s tech stack to ensure communications are actionable and impactful. Having adapted the tool to be relevant for every Ketchum client and programme Germaine has intricately woven it into the agency’s core offering. The proof is in the growing industry recognition, and an AMEC platinum award to boot. 

Described as a quiet genius, Germaine has more than 20 years experience as a marketing and comms researcher and a strong background in corporate reputation research. Today she’s a thought leader in the research space, regularly speaking at industry conferences and events, and is a global board member of AMEC. 
How do you define innovation?
There are multiple levels of innovation. Innovation can be as simple as bringing a new method to practice, such as automation in data processing that allows teams to be more efficient. Innovation can be as big as launching a transformative product – one that allows people to do things they never have before. Within Ketchum and my team specifically, we innovate across the spectrum. Always on our minds is how can we do things in new and different ways that drive efficiencies, make the best use of resources and deliver the most value for our clients. We also spend time creating and investing in new capabilities, like omniearnedIDTM , that are game- changers – this time focused on how we can best infuse data into client programming and attribute meaningful business impacts to our work.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I was fortunate enough to judge the Creative Data Lions category for Cannes last year and I have to say I saw some pretty amazing stuff. But the one that stuck with me, and actually won the Grand Prix, was a Warner Music Group campaign that used music to help children with speech impediments. I think it was an innovative way for the brand to use the biggest asset, its music catalog, to create a unique and different way for kids to overcome challenges. You often hear about musicians using music to overcome their own speech impediments (Ed Sheeran rapping Eminem songs); this program gave that access to millions of kids around the world. A Gold Lion winner, For Seasons is another one. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was rewritten to showcase the impact of climate change – using a different medium to connect with stakeholders.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Wendy’s (full disclosure, Ketchum client) is innovative in what they do. On social, they were one of the first brands to push the limits with a distinct, provocative voice. The activations that they have done within the gaming space, specifically Fortnite integrations, are setting the bar for what brands can do. And, they do it consistently – these aren’t one-offs. It is how the brand shows up all the time.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
The past few years have been a whirlwind in expanding the role of data in PR/Comms. I was fortunate to be given the latitude and space to work in partnership with OPRG’s CIO on the development of a precision communications platform (omniearnedIDTM) which allows us to realize the full potential of our discipline within the marketing communications world.

Having lived in the data and research environment for so long, I have long believed that within the PR/Comms space there was a need to elevate and dedicate more resources to leveraging data as the primary tool in developing marcom strategies and tactics, upping our own level of accountability, beyond clicks and clips, to showcase the business value that our discipline delivers. Now is the time for PR and Comms professionals to think about data differently. Technology has evolved to the point where data can realize its full potential in the communication process.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Talk to teenagers -- I spend a lot of time talking to my son and his friends -- just listening to them, and some of their nonsense, can be inspirational (as well as quite humorous).

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Take the shot -- fail/succeed fast and move on.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Living simply on the beach - biking, reading, drinking wine and cooking. But, if I must work, own a wine/tapas bar (on the beach)...there is a clear theme here.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Tough question -- truth is, I watch mindless TV and enjoy simple beach reads, using them as my escape. One show I can't get out of my mind is Succession, which I binged it last December. The utter dysfunction of the family -- which is what makes the show soooo good -- has so many examples of how not to lead.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
The office is the town square, where people congregate when there is something meaningful, sharable and community based. As professionals, we can choose the moments that we come together to benefit the business but that we are given the freedom to work where we want at other from the beach.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
We need to be more creative in where we find talent. Taking a proactive approach to seek out diverse talent - backgrounds, ways of thinking, different experiences etc. If we simply rely on who comes to us, we are missing opportunities and things won't progress.