Chelsea Perino | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Chelsea Perino

MD, Global Marketing & Communications
The Executive Centre

Hong Kong

Innovation is the alchemy of imagination and action, and the fearless leap beyond conventional thinking.”

With an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Linguistics from NYU and after a four-year solo trip around the world, Chelsea Perino first discovered her love for advertising in Cape Town, South Africa. There, Perino spent two years running all things marketing related for an experiential marketing startup, before returning to New York to complete her MA in Public and Organizational Relations. Since then, Perino has worked in advertising both in New York and Seoul, South Korea, leading digital strategy for Samsung Global Mobile’s AOR. Now based in Hong Kong, she oversees marketing and communications for The Executive Centre, whom she has helped establish as the leader in workspace experience, community and corporate-culture facilitation.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is the alchemy of imagination and action, and the fearless leap beyond conventional thinking. Innovation stems from the belief that there is always a more brilliant solution waiting to be discovered and that we must never become complacent. But it's also about purpose and strategy, because innovation for innovation's sake is rarely valuable. True innovation roots itself in insights, behaviours, and data, using those as foundations to create truly meaningful change.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I think the Korean "Knock Knock" campaign by Korean National Police Agency, which is a silent and alert system that allows victims of domestic violence to contact the police in Korea in incredibly innovative in its simplicity. It is inspired by Morse code and is a response to an alarming increase of domestic violence during COVID-19, but the even more so concerning low number of reported cases. This mostly silent campaign was visually compelling, emotional and used other techniques such as music and visual cues to tell its story. Their use of unconventional KOLs and targeting of locations such as nail and beauty salons (i.e. places more frequented by women, the main sufferers of this issue) was also innovative.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
I have to say that Nike/Wieden & Kennedy have always been at the forefront of PR/marketing innovation. Their ability to maintain a consistent brand message that unifies an enormous portfolio of products, yet also allow for regionalisation and space for cultural relevant is inspiring and should be something we as marketers should always aspire towards.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I lead marketing for The Executive Centre, a premium flexible workspace. During COVID, the relevance of the office really came into question and so we had to think about how to convince our target that we are still relevant. So, we developed a campaign that was inspired by 'The Office' - a story told through a combination of 'real life' scenes cut in with front facing interview-like shots of the main characters, which in a playful and positive way highlighted why working from home is actually much less appealing and reminded people the forgotten benefits of returning to the office.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is someone I have always considered to be a visionary in the innovation space, not just because of their products, but becomes of their integrated marketing approach. They take risks, such as with their "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign, which reinforced their brand purpose and also resulted in a huge increase in revenue.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?

I love to cook because it allows for a different kind of creativity and reminds me that while there's often a tried and true recipe, you can always test new things, and sometimes the result is even better.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Remember to look outside of PR and engage cross-functional teams. Their insights and perspectives might help you look at your business in a completely new light and unlock opportunities that you would never have thought of before.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I'd be a full time author, lecturer, and public speaker (instead of just doing all of the above part time) :)

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I'm not one for TV, so books and podcasts are my go to. "The Good Enough Job" should be on every person's list. It's a good reminder that while your job is important, there's much more that makes you who you are and defines your purpose. The Daily and pretty much all The Economist podcasts are a ritual, if you like politics, Breaking Points is an excellent example of alternative perspectives, and for all things pop culture Attitudes is my favourite.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
START THE CONVERSATION. Don't wait for it to come to you. Encourage your clients and colleagues to build awareness for these sometimes taboo issues and use your network to create connections and to provide opportunities to elevate those communities that need support.