Carolyn Cox | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Carolyn Cox

SVP, Head US Digital Planning & Optimization 
H+K Strategies

“Innovation happens when there is a team of individuals who are looking to change the way things are done in order to continuously improve.”

Carolyn Cox has the makings of a true integrated PR pro, with both the technological expertise to create and execute multi-pronged campaigns and the ingenuity required to ensure they reap results. The work Cox does at Hill+Knowlton, where she leads US digital and optimization, is the embodiment of her long-term vision of PR going beyond traditional restraints; She sees opportunity for agencies extending integrated campaigns to add paid media to a mix that already includes earned, owned and shared, ensuring comprehensive and cohesive brand messaging. 

Cox’s data-driven, audience-centric approach to integrated communications – her process is heavy on experimentation – has earned accolades for success reaching and resonating with target audiences across platforms. Her work includes Intermountain Healthcare’s Primary Promise campaign , which has secured $500 million toward the $600 million necessary to build a holistic healthcare system for children in Utah, and Pfizer’s Living Proof campaign used science education, patient stories and science education to drive home Pfizer’s commitment to ensuring healthier lives for all.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is using new methods or applications to solve a real problem that drive results.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Renault "Plug In" App for Rural EV Charging.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Brands that are interested in solving real problems that will help improve society for the better.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
We proved paid media to be an efficient testing tool during the re-launch of H+K and All Nippon Airways' influencer marketing campaign. Our campaign objective was to generate awareness of our new campaign “Wake Up in Japan” while driving meaningful engagement with our affluent millennial target audience. The campaign was designed to captivate the attention of potential travelers with thoughtfully-crafted copy and influential creator content and directed them to compelling editorial landing pages. These landing pages served as platforms to educate the audience about traveling to Japan and the exclusive benefits tailored to their unique travel needs.

To optimize our efforts, we tested different paid tactics using influencer content and created editorial landing pages. The data and insights garnered from our testing empowered us to make data-driven decisions, ensuring that the campaign resonated profoundly with the audience. Through an innovative testing strategy, our campaign successfully engaged and inspired travelers with informative yet aspirational editorial content. Targeting the competitive millennial audience, we achieved remarkable results, including 43+ million impressions across social media, native, and display channels, solidifying H+K's position as a pioneer in crafting immersive travel experiences.

Our efforts not only reignited travel aspirations but also captivated travelers worldwide, showcasing the powerful impact of our strategic approach. ANA exceeded profit expectations in their last fiscal year, reporting a significant net profit, due to a surge in inbound international travel demand. The surge in demand allowed ANA to recover nearly 68% of its pre-pandemic international capacity.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
I have a hard time naming just one person as I feel like innovation happens when there is a team of individuals who are looking to change the ways are done in order to continuously improve.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Going for a run or walk and listening to music.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation doesn't always mean something brand new, but how the application.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
In-house marketing for an athletic/wellness brand.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Book about behavioral economics, such as Nudge (Richard H. Thaler).

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Innovation allows us to process more data to better understand the root of the problems we are solving for and provide guidance on how to correct blindspots.