Jo White | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Jo White

Partner & Creative Director
Headland Consultancy


“We need to get past the perception that innovation is about set-piece ideas and think instead about longer-term transformation of culture and of business."

After more than five years at Freuds, where she focused on communications around environmental and societal issues, Jo White left to join reputation consultancy Headland in 2021. This year she launched its new ‘citizen and community’ brand campaigning offer, which deliberately moved beyond the term ‘consumer’ with the aim of helping brands forge more meaningful and empathetic connections with the public, as well as corporate, financial, political, regulatory and employee audiences. Over 20 years in the PR industry, White has worked with start-ups, scale-ups, charities, NGOs, multinationals and megabrands to tell stories, spark conversations and drive change. Notable recent projects including helping The Body Shop reclaim its brand activism roots by pushing for better youth representation in politics, changing the conversation about age representation for Saga and boosting community engagement for KFC. Outside of Headland, White campaigns on social causes including conservation, social justice and biodiversity and is a member of Creatives for Climate and a number of environmental activism groups. She is also half of one of the PR industry’s most innovative power couples: husband Stuart Lambert is a founding partner of Blurred, the agency model-busting creative corporate consultancy.  
How do you define innovation?
Creativity - just by another name that invokes less fear and cynicism

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Pinatex - a vegan leather alternative made from the waste pineapple leaves created by Dole Sunshine Company and Ananas Anam. It won multiple categories in Cannes but stood out as an idea that drove impact on multiple counts - reducing agricultural waste from the fruit, reducing animal products from traditional leather; reducing plastic waste from other vegan leathers and creating a whole new income stream for farmers. This is the type of meaningful work we should all be stretching for.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Extinction Rebellion - I've seen activists creating media stories and social content out of ripped up cardboard and face paint. Sometimes belief trumps budget I guess! Agency-wise, freuds has innovated over decades - it was tough but I learned more there in five years than the rest of my career combined.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
Launching Headland's brand campaigning offer, Citizen & Community. Brands have an incredible power to shape culture but we wanted to challenge some of the hierarchical posture and help them to earn their place in society.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Nik Govier - she's stroNik Govier - she leads from the heart so all of her many innovations have made the world a better place

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Alcohol helps! As does working from home - creativity needs quiet time as well as collaboration, for me at least.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
We need to get past the perception that innovation is about set-piece ideas and think instead about longer-term transformation of culture and of business.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I'd run a wholesome little haberdashery... with a whisky selling speak-easy out the back

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Exquisite escapism.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
Office environments should be part of inclusivity conversations - accessibility is vital but we should make space for expression too. We communicate so much identity through our home environment and I'd love to see that bleeding into hybrid office working.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
It has to start with empathy - we can't design policies and programmes to support people if we don't understand their perspectives. Sometimes we skip over this step and its vital not only for our client work - to understand the real human needs that sit behind a brief - but also for our own businesses and how we go about driving equitable change.