Melissa Lawrence | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Melissa Lawrence

Taylor Bennett Foundation


“Embrace innovation because it will make you stand out from the crowd.” 

Melissa Lawrence has worked in the not-for-profit sector for more than 20 years and is a passionate advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion. She joined the Taylor Bennett Foundation – the UK charity that encourages people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to pursue a career in communications – as chief executive in 2018. Lawrence is energetically driving forward the organisation’s mission to improve ethnic diversity in the PR and communications industry and encourage new ways of thinking in how agencies and businesses approach all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion. One of her more recent innovative initiatives is the launch, with the CIPR, of the PR industry’s first reverse mentoring scheme for practitioners from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, with the aim of helping senior leaders understand the challenges faced by PR practitioners from diverse communities, supporting the creation of inclusive cultures, and create lasting change in the industry. Before joining the foundation, Lawrence worked for social mobility charity The Brokerage for more than 16 years, working with businesses in the financial and professional services sector to develop corporate social responsibility, diversity and talent pipeline initiatives. 
How do you define innovation?
Staying ahead of the curve.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Pinterest. I love their latest idea to launch their first beauty school, working with brands and creators to bring to life what people find on Pinterest.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Weber Shandwick.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I've worked with a number of employers over the years to create ED&I programmes. The programmes that exist many years later (without me) are the ones that I consider to be most innovative, because they've stood the test of time.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Steven Bartlett.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I'm a jeweller and when I get in a creativity rut, nothing beats heading to my bench and working on a piece of jewellery. Granulation, fold forming and wax carving takes me to a good place.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Embrace innovation because it will make you stand out from the crowd! Staying on top of trends, developments and what's coming up is key for gaining the best results.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Making jewellery and art!

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I've enjoyed reading The Good Ally by Nova Reid, The Anti-Racist Organisation by Shereen Daniels and Closing the Influence Gap by Carla Miller

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
We work in a hybrid way at the Foundation and it's working for us. Recent research by the CRF found nine in 10 UK employers are operating a hybrid model of some kind and although there are complexities, overall it is working. I believe you can work in this way and still create a strong team and work culture.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Involve ED&I experts to strategically lead, devise and deliver the work and collaborate with others. DE&I is an industry wide issue and the industry needs to come together to significantly move the dial.