Jeff Beringer | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Jeff Beringer

President, Global Digital

Dallas/Fort Worth

“A monumental shift is underway, and I am convinced that the groundwork is being laid for one of PR’s most significant periods of innovation ahead.”

Jeff Beringer’s may be Golin’s digital guru, but his strength also lies in his cerebral approach to evaluating new technologies, their implications for Golin’s work and the impact and effect it could have on audiences, and when and how to use them – if at all.  Case in point: AI. Beringer has led Golin’s study of the promise and pitfalls of the technology (which much of the industry is still holding at bay), launching an AI incubator in Asia; offering employees training in using AI-powered tools; and establishing a global AI advisory board to serve as a resource. Beringer’s deep knowledge of the digital world, and helping non-techies understand it, plays a key role in clients’ confidence in their business plans and readiness for what comes next. Beringer is  a big thinker: he expanded Golin’s data-driven newsroom, The Bridge, now operating in more than 25 regions worldwide. He is also an astute PR practitioner, who helps lead the agency’s work for Adobe, McDonald’s, Walmart, Patrón Spirits, Unilever and more.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is creative problem solving which creates change that matters. Utility is the most important marker of innovation – did our idea or approach make an impact?

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Amazing campaigns appear every day that make an impact; brands and agencies, including my own, continue to do work that delivers results. But over the past 12 months, I’m most excited about how quickly our industry is embracing emerging technology and techniques – especially AI – to transform how we work and what we create. A monumental shift is underway, and I’m convinced the groundwork is being laid for one of PR’s most significant periods of innovation ahead.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
We’re fortunate to partner with Adobe, which I view as one of the most innovative communicators in its industry. While plenty of startups catch fire by putting customers at the center of their PR and marketing strategies, category leaders sometimes struggle to put their communities first, focusing more on themselves and their products. Adobe is masterful and methodical at casting the creative community as the stars of its stories in novel ways, across every touchpoint. They’re truly a customer and community-led brand at scale, and the approach is paying off.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
The past 18 months have been some of the most invigorating of my time in public relations. Every day, we’re discovering new methods – many which didn’t exist even a year ago – to find human truths, create bravely, and collaborate obsessively. It’s great fun to learn new ways to solve problems and figure out how to empower a global agency to work differently, blending data, new technology and human creativity.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
I admire innovators who know how to buck headwinds and get things done, no matter the setting. They aren’t afraid to try something new, and never give up. Innovator lists are often populated with business leaders, but plenty of people outside a C-suite have qualities to emulate. Have you seen Patrick Mahomes play?

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Fresh air. When I’m in a creativity rut, often it’s because I’ve been thinking about nothing but the challenge in front of me and when its solution needs to be delivered. A long walk can do wonders to de-stress and unlock the human brain for creative problem solving.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Welcoming more people to our craft with different experiences and backgrounds. And being more assertive about PR's important role in the mix – never more necessary nor impactful than now.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I’m the son of an architect. Nothing made me happier as a child than Saturdays on construction sites, watching buildings come to life that once existed only in dad’s mind. I would be happy following in his footsteps, designing beautiful spaces that make a lasting impact. But AP calculus pushed me in a very different direction!

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I’ve been listening to 'How I Built This' for a long time. It’s classified as a business podcast, but every story is really about innovation. It is inspiring to hear first-person accounts of creative problem solving that creates change that matters. Entrepreneurs are passionate innovators at heart.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
I’d reframe the question. Instead of how can innovation improve DEI, how can we drive innovation without diversity? The fact is, the best ideas are borne from varying experiences, so if we as practitioners value innovation in our craft, we need to do a better job welcoming people with diverse backgrounds into our field and involve them in innovation workstreams. A fast track to more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces is putting diverse talent into positions where their voices are heard, and their ideas can directly contribute to change that matters.