Corbin Hsieh | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Corbin Hsieh

Managing Director
Weber Shandwick China


In the agency business, the core value lies in offering advanced expertise and access to information. However, in this digital age, the perceived value of this has diminished

It has only been a couple of years since Corbin Hsieh took charge of Weber Shandwick in China, but already his dedication to advancing DEI in the country stands out, along with pioneering a number of initiatives to drive innovation, leading to transformative outcomes for the firm’s operations in a critical market.

These have included the ‘Project X’ bootcamp to inspire innovative thinking among young PR practitioners, resulting in the development of ‘Diamond’, a data-driven tool to generate ideas that has rolled out across the firm’s four China offices. There have also been specific initiatives focused on content incubation, livestreaming, cultural insights and influencer management. Meanwhile, Hsieh has also focused considerable energy on gender equality, launching the Weber Women World programme that  is designed to empower women in their career journeys through training, networking, mentorship, and more.

How do you define innovation?
Like a gear system. Innovation requires a seamless interlinkage of an organization with its capabilities, tools, and the overall business.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Luckin Coffee recently partnered with Kweichow Moutai, the manufacturer of China's fiery national liquor baijiu, to create an extraordinary offering: alcoholic lattes. On the first day of its release, the Chinese coffee giant sold more than 5.42 million cups of the coffee cocktail, setting a new sales record. Moutai's collaboration with Luckin Coffee is a novel approach to popularizing the flavor and brand of its product among China's younger generation. This collaboration goes beyond a mere publicity stunt; it represents an innovative strategy for Moutai to lay the groundwork for future sales.

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

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
Recently, I interviewed a candidate, and together, we co-created a role that would significantly elevate our business - the Head of Innovation. Collaboratively, we crafted a job description and established short and long-term goals for our organization and the industry, resulting in a tremendous success.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I draw inspiration from creative tools, current trends, cultural influences, and my personal life.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Sustaining the S curve: Business growth does not continue indefinitely, instead following a natural S-shaped curve with ups and downs. During downturns, fostering imagination is crucial. Broadening perspectives and fueling growth through customer-centric innovations or exploring new opportunities are essential to cultivate a new growth curve.
Keeping ahead: In the agency business, the core value lies in offering advanced expertise and access to information. However, in this digital age, the perceived value of this has diminished. It's vital to address this gap and leverage creative prowess to create innovative offerings and new approaches to traditional work, maintaining a competitive edge.
Bringing the spark: Work plays a significant role in agency life, often blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. Infusing moments of joy and daily explorations for fresh perspectives fuel self-growth and enable thriving alongside work. Imagination acts as a catalyst, igniting these sparks and adding inherent value to work.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Show biz

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Everything Everywhere All At Once. Barbie. Past Lives

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Innovate to tell a broader story. Here is an example which is something we are supporting at Weber Shandwick using an innovative approach.
The United Nations has reported that 17 million tonnes of food are wasted in China each year, primarily consisting of expired food discarded by supermarkets and shops. To combat this issue, Foodbank has been providing nearly-expired food to those in need. The initiative has recently garnered support from funders and volunteers, especially after the anti-food waste rule enacted last year but there is more to do.
Weber Shandwick recognized that there is still work to be done and aims to assist with raising awareness about food waste within the communications industry and society overall. To this end, we have created our first "food cemetery and burial," which will be unveiled on Halloween in 2023. During this event, we aim to display nearly-expired foods through photos and tombstones, each accompanied by an epitaph provided by a funeral director. These epitaphs will include QR codes linking to Foodbank, encouraging donations and volunteering. Additionally, guests will have the opportunity to express their regrets by burning glow sticks. Our hope is that this event will raise awareness about the issue and garner support.