Courtney Berry | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Courtney Berry

Senior Consultant - Crisis and Litigation, Strategic Communications
FTI Consulting

New York

“I think limiting ourselves to just one aspect of communications limits our innovative spirit, and we should instead approach problems using all aspects of our discipline.”

After FTI identified a disconnect in communications around cybercrime between information security leaders and executives, Courtney Berry led the creation of a new offering addressing focused on remedying this gap, which involves not just comms skills but how individuals steeped in tech can effectively convey the intricacies of fighting cybercrime in laypersons’ terms. The result: Secure Your Seat, an innovative one-to-one comms training program that helps information security leads accomplish that – an imperative as security leads are increasingly called on to confer with non-tech senior leaders due to heightened security risks and regulations. Colleagues have lauded Berry’s cutting-edge thinking and tenacity in creating the offering, saying she “has punched above her weight throughout the process.”  All of which she did just two years out of Washington and Lee University where, as a college volleyball player, she learned, “I am at my best in a team environment.”

How do you define innovation?
To me, innovation comes at the cross-section of problem solving and creativity – to innovate, there must be a problem or challenge at hand to address, and we must look at it from a new angle, with a new lens, with a creative solution. This requires out-of-the-box thinkers and minds from all generations and all industries to collaborate.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
While the release dates were not necessarily coordinated on purpose, the marketing and communications initiatives surrounding “Barbenheimer” were both entertaining and innovating. While it may not have been planned, the teams chose to lean into the co-promotion of inherently opposite movies to create a nation and world-wide must-see double feature that opening weekend. The sales skyrocketed and so did numerous trends on social media – combining two seemingly opposite movies and fanbases was brilliant and innovative. They took advantage of a cultural moment.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Aerie has been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to inviting accessibility into the modeling industry, which used to be a place known for a certain body type and image that fed unhealthy stereotypes and self-confidence struggles in young women. Aerie was the first mainstream brand to launch a campaign with a wheelchair model, and that model happens to be a friend of mine. The way she talked about the experience and "feeling seen" made me greatly respect Aerie and the way they have innovated marketing intimates, where there has traditionally been hypersexualized and “perfect” imagery, with accessible and relatable models.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
Last year, I and some very talented colleagues at FTI conducted research into 160 Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and found that CISO integration with business objectives is critical for companies, but a large majority of CISOs have felt increasing pressures in their roles and difficulty communicating to their senior leadership, with an increased demand to have to communicate their operations to higher-ups at their organizations, which has come with difficulties in translating technical information to business-oriented minds. With this alongside new reporting regulations, the team and I recognized that organizations must increase their focus on cybersecurity and risk concerns, requiring CISOs to be able to clearly communicate their programs and needs at the board level. From here, we developed “Secure Your Seat,” a unique one-on-one cybersecurity reporting and communications development program. I have helped get this program off the ground by working to develop the content and structure of the program, which has now completed its pilot course and is now on the market.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
My parents. They raised me to think of creative solutions to solve my problems.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I take a moment away from the task or project that has gotten me into the rut. I make space for myself, take a moment to breathe, try to focus on other topics, maybe take a walk, and then return to the project hopefully with a new light. I also love to talk things through with my colleagues, so I am always up for a brainstorming or verbal processing session.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
As an industry, we should embrace the communications industry holistically and stop saying “public relations” – I think limiting ourselves to just one aspect of communications limits our innovative spirit, and we should instead approach problems using all aspects of our discipline, and then using a variety of communications practices to produce innovative results.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I’ve always been impressed with small business owners and entrepreneurs and could see myself opening up a coffee or smoothie shop some day that is open to groups gathering to discuss ideas and share beliefs. I also have an eye for graphic design and visual communications, so that interests me as well.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Ted Lasso brought me a lot of laughter but also taught good lessons – it inspires us to not underestimate yourself and that anyone can make a difference when given the chance, even if you feel underqualified, which has proven to be very true in my life.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Innovation is driven by changing the way we look at things, and we will never change the way we look at things until we change who is looking at it. I think DE&I and innovation are inherently tied, because as you bring more diverse minds to the table, you are getting fresh perspectives and therefore more innovative ideas, which starts with making DE&I a recruiting priority for the industry.