Dan Chamberlain | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Dan Chamberlain

Head of Communications, Campaigns & Content, APJ


If you adopt a customer-obsessed way of thinking, you will always find new opportunities and challenges to address.

Dan Chamberlain currently leads the PR campaigns and content team across Asia-Pacific for Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he has simplified and streamlined operations in a complex environment, helping to more effectively build awareness of the benefits of cloud technology as well as the social and economic impact of AWS across the region. Chamberlain is an award-winning communications professional with more than 15 years of experience in the media and communications industry for organisations such as NBN Co, CSIRO, and AWS. He has expertise reputation management, managing national, regional, and global integrated communications campaigns, and making complex information relevant for a broad range of stakeholders and audiences. 

How do you define innovation?
I believe innovation is a mindset versus a specific tool or channel. If you adopt a customer-obsessed way of thinking, you will always find new opportunities and challenges to address. At Amazon, we call this a ‘Working Backwards’ methodology, where we start with the end goal for the customer and write a press release about the future launch. This process helps us stay focused on what our customers want to achieve, and inspires innovation in the path to get there.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
The marketing and communications campaign to promote the Barbie movie was one of the most effective I have seen in recent years. You couldn’t escape seeing pink across restaurants, cafes, and shopping centres for more than a month. While the film had big name celebrities to work with on the mass PR, the way the brand utilized partnerships and physical takeovers was really creative, and reinforced the effectiveness of experiential tactics that have been overlooked since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
The brands that reinvent themselves and challenge the way we think today are the ones that get my attention. A good example is BWM’s recent marketing – the brand has shown repeatedly that its teams are willing to challenge even the most deeply entrenched beliefs and industry practices by pioneering new inventions, and showcasing future-focused customer experiences.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
In one of my previous roles, we were securing positive media coverage about a company priority but it was not effective in driving the message cut through needed to change customer sentiment. I worked with our media buying agency to develop an app that surveyed our customers every day to understand what communications they were receiving from our brand, what messages they were taking from it, and what impact this had on their sentiment towards the company. It turned out that the messages we were landing in the press were reinforcing negative brand attributes. These insights helped us to radically change our communications strategy, which eventually had a significant impact on building our reputation. The app went on to be used as a core measurement tool for evaluating our communications effectiveness.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
My nan. She was never afraid to speak up about the right thing to do. Her work in local communities led to meaningful changes for the disabled community such as installing braille technology on walkways and parks to help the vision impaired be more mobile.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Experimenting. Sometimes we get bogged down or overwhelmed by the size and complexity of challenges. However, I find that instead of coming up with one big strategy that solves everything, starting small with an experiment can help you out of a rut. This way, you can break the problem apart, fail quickly, and get data to help you scale your idea. Another option is to develop a short written narrative detailing your business challenge, strategic objectives, and ideas. Circulate this with stakeholders and peers to get feedback – this will drive new thinking and force yourself to challenge your creative ideas.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
My advice is to embrace change by taking a ‘Day 1’ approach where you remain dynamic, customer focused, and agile enough to make quick decisions. This kind of mindset will breed innovative thinking as you won’t get caught up in analysis paralysis and instead focus on delivering impact.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
If I was to leave the PR industry, I’d consider a sea-change and move to a coastal down to open a cafe. It would be communication on a different scale to hear the stories of local customers and travellers every day.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
The Huberman Podcast. I love science, so it’s a great way to get scientifically backed data on how I can constantly improve my mental and physical performance.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
PR and communications teams are the voice of the brand and the custodians of an organisations reputation, we have an opportunity to showcase the diversity of our customers, employees, and communities every day. This can be through things like calling out when there is no diversity in conferences or speaking panels, or ensuring your spokespeople are representative of the communities you operate in. We also can think bigger and embrace technology to connect people and breaks down walls. For example, Down Syndrome International’s recent campaign to create Kami, the world's first virtual influencer with Down Syndrome, was an excellent way of using technology to raise awareness for an underrepresented community.