Jon Paul Buchmeyer | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Jon Paul Buchmeyer

EVP/Managing Director, Strategy
M Booth

New York

“Brands and organizations that are connecting to — and championing — overlooked audiences in order to solve a problem are the ones doing the most innovative marketing."

Keenly aware of ESG’s growing importance in corporate reputation, in 2020 M Booth’s Jon Paul Buchmeyer enrolled in grad school, earning a master’s degree in environmental science that informs his work with clients – and internally – on a daily basis. The in-depth knowledge Buchmeyer gleaned in the process enables him to identify initiatives that make sense for clients when it comes to ESG (as well as DEI and multicultural marketing, his other areas of expertise), and help businesses reconcile their impact on areas such as climate change. He also has developed ESG strategies that account teams and clients can easily adapt to meet their needs, ensuring an effective use of internal and external resources. At Buchmeyer’s urging, M Booth last year hired a head of a social impact to scale offerings and oversee the rollout of the agency’s ESG Leaders Workshop. Buchmeyer’s leadership has fueled a rise in clients seeking ESG counsel. In the last 12 months, 70% of M Booth’s 20 largest clients have hired the agency to support them on sustainability; the firm has worked with all of its 10 largest clients on diversity-focused campaigns and initiatives. 

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a new way of solving a sticky problem. “Solving” is key because without it, you’ve just got “disrupting,” which often just creates additional problems.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Some of the work being done in the climate space is not just innovative – solving problems – but also attention grabbing. The First Digital Nation campaign from the small Pacific island nation of Tuvalu was incredibly compelling. Tuvalu is at risk of being swallowed by rising sea levels caused by climate change, and when that happens they will literally cease to be a recognized nation. So at COP27 they announced they were transferring everything – stories, ancestral records, flora, fauna, administration and government services – to the metaverse to be preserved forever. Becoming the first truly digital nation? That’s real innovation.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Brands and organizations that are connecting to – and championing – overlooked audiences in order to solve a problem are the ones doing the most innovative marketing. How do you make the outdoors welcoming to all? Outdoor brand North Face showed what it means to be a true ally by doubling down during Pride in the face of backlash with its support of drag queen environmentalist Pattie Gonia. As a queer kid in Texas who had a difficult relationship with the outdoors, this campaign made me a fan of the brand for life. How do you make Pride more welcoming to the original heroes of the movement, seniors? LGBTQ short term rental service Misterb&b program Silver Pride made Pride parades in several cities more accessible for seniors by reserving their properties along the parade routes for viewing sanctuaries for these heroes, who can be challenged by the standing, noise, heat. Solving a problem – and heartwarming! Speaking of seniors, how do you supercharge climate action by reaching Baby Boomers? Environmentalist Bill McKibben’s organization Third Act is flipping the script on the oft repeated idea that "Boomers" don’t about the environment by putting them at the core of environmental activations including their recent protest against banks funding the fossil fuel industry. Images of the “Rocking Chair Rebellion” members cutting up their credit cards in front of the banks were genius.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
In my efforts to help build a world-class climate “solutions” center for M Booth’s clients, I knew I needed to open myself up to a full range of voices and experts to help us think differently. So I took a leap and went to graduate school to earn a Masters in Environmental Studies. From grounding in environmental philosophy with legends like Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold, to learning how to tap EPA air pollution databases to measure environmental inequality, to lectures with Indigenous scientist and best selling author Robin Wall Kimmer of Braiding Sweetgrass fame, the courses have directly impacted my thinking for clients. Go SUNY-ESF Acorns!

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Lin Manuel-Miranda revolutionized culture while innovating theatrical storytelling. To do that, he had to deeply understand and play with the traditional rules, while staying true to his vision.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Seeking out new, diverse and unexpected voices to tackle the challenge at hand, then deeply listening to their perspectives.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Oftentimes I think we confuse disruption with innovation. Disruption is just a new way of doing things that can cause even more problems. But if innovation is about solving problems, then we should be able to embrace it willingly. Just like social media a decade ago, AI is disrupting many of our traditional PR work habits, and many are panicking. But if you focus on how AI is helping solve some of our thorniest problems – visualizing the pain of depression, enhancing early cancer detection – it becomes easier to embrace the innovative power of AI.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Broadway musical lyricist/book writer. I’m a theater kid/queen at heart.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
The flourishing queer representation on Broadway this past season has been incredibly inspiring, and a wonderful representation of the innovation that happens when diverse voices have a seat at the table. The retooling of Some Like It Hot to center a charming, compassionate, heartwarming gender-fluid story brought to life by non-binary Tony winner J. Harrison Ghee took my breath away. While across town, non-binary performer Alex Newell (also a Tony winner) literally stops the show every night with their tour de force performance in Shucked.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Invite some new voices to help us harness the power of DEI and move us forward. We tend to talk to ourselves. But imagine the magic if we created a PR DEI Innovation Lab and recruited filmmaker Taika Waititi, Ali Wong, and the 1619 project’s Nikole Hannah- Jones? The DEI innovation coming out of that lab would be unparalleled.