Karina Barcellos | The Innovator 25 North America 2022

Karina Barcellos

Chief Strategy Officer

São Paulo

“In short, innovation is about finding better, faster ways to do things.”

In September 2022, Mexico City-based Another hired Karina Barcellos to formalize the agency’s goals and planning with an eye on strategic, organization and cultural consistence across markets. In the time since, Barcellos has accomplished that – as well as unifying an agency that works across 21 countries – by identifying the six key tenets of Another’s ethos and operation and using them as guiding lights internally and externally. In creating the initiative SPICES – which stands for sincerity, passion, innovation, curiosity, expertise and speed – Barcellos has been behind some of the biggest positive shifts in Another’s internal culture by ensuring the firm’s core values guide employee and client success. The effort has fostered a new level of company cohesion and collaboration, while respecting the cultural nuances that differ across borders. SPICES also provides clear guidelines for decision-making and empowers employees at different levels to act with the respective level of accountability. Barcellos’ brainchild has reduced staff turnover to a record low and improved employee satisfaction, which Another’s assessment tool Lara puts at 80%. 

How do you define innovation?
In short, innovation is about finding better, faster ways to do things. In 2023, innovation is closely intertwined with efficiency and speed, and the rise of generative AI will play a pivotal role in transforming how businesses and communicators WoW and how they can offer value to clients.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Le chocolat des Français spices up Valentine’s Day, by TBWA Paris.

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

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
Applying organizational design, upskilling initiatives and internal culture efforts to improve bottomline results at another was certainly one of those. Kickstarting the the practice of influencer marketing in Brazil through the rebranding of Latam Airlines after the merge of LAN and TAM is also a moment I cherish very much.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Mark Thompson, ex-CEO of the New York Times, who reinvented the paper for the digital era and profitability.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Curiosity, relentless research and a "what if?" mindset.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Essentially: do not fear generative AI; always consider the generational differences between the audiences of your client; and invest in retaining talent.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Oh, in my parallel life I could have been a great FBI investigator. I love true crime stories, putting pieces together to get to the root cause of what happens and get to a resolution.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Succession (HBO) and its raw portrait of human ambition, desires and corporate inconsistencies was a strong source of insight. And since my recent work is more focused on the organizational challenges in our operation, the research content at McKinsey's website has been a constant companion.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
We have now an unprecedented opportunity of using AI and data analysis to gain insights into DEI challenges and track progress. It also means addressing biases in communication through AI tools and diverse data sets, creating inclusive content with AI-generated messaging, and using AI in talent recruitment to promote fair practices. Accessible communication tools can enhance inclusivity, while AI-powered crisis management and community engagement aid in proactive responses to DEI issues. The possibilities are endless.