Heer Chokshi | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Heer Chokshi

Communications & Marketing, Senior Specialist – South Asia
Women’s World Banking


Have more women in leadership roles. Having a gender-intentional approach works.”

After establishing and expanding the purpose and social impact practice at Edelman, Heer Chokshi was appointed as the first regional communication and marketing lead at Women’s World Banking (WWB) — a pivotal step for an organisation aiming to localise its communication. Chokshi’s role, initiated in mid-2022, marked the first concerted effort to drive thought leadership, stakeholder engagement, and reputation-building at the regional level. Leveraging her extensive experience in integrated communications, Chokshi has been instrumental in making women’s financial inclusion synonymous with WWB by establishing authority on the subject, backed by insights, and delivered by experts. Specifically, Chokshi has developed communications programs that help to mainstream savings for low-income women, address gender bias in lending and drive affordable credit in women-owned lending, and make financial systems more inclusive.  

How do you define innovation?
Ideas or products or services or policies that improve people's lives in some way is innovation. Innovation can make systems efficient; reduce drudgery; change the way we do things; and make it possible to do new things that weren't possible earlier.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
To me, PR and marketing must aim for being true to and right by the audience/ customer/ shareholders. It is not about creating one-off award-winning campaigns. It is about consistent brand or reputation building or product/service uptake in an ever-changing market, in a volatile world, or with the advent of other technological advancements in our environment. PR and marketing teams/firms are innovative when they can leverage existing opportunities, platforms, ecosystems, environments, influencers, markets, etc. to advance their narratives.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
In continuation to my earlier point, those brands and companies consistently growing in reputation or market share or enjoying investor/stakeholder trust are innovating.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
At Women's World Banking, being a young organization, we decided to start with building media relations with key journalists rather than aim for coverage. We honestly and passionately spoke on issues of women's financial inclusion and the commercial value financial service providers are leaving on the table by ignoring women customers- instead of our projects and achievements. This was innovative in the reputation-building business, especially in the non-profit world. In a year's time, our work/reports get references/quoted; our speakers get invited to share our perspectives; our messages resonate in the highest and relevant offices; partners take pride in association; etc. are some of the outcomes. Rather than a moment, it is this consistent and strategic move that was innovative and yielded the desired results.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
There are many people I admire for being innovative themselves; for allowing innovation to be realised; and for creating a culture that nurtures innovation (as well as failure). In all the common thread is their passion for and commitment to doing the best for their company, customers, etc.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I wouldn’t acknowledge the creativity-rut. One is either creative or not. A campaign is creative only if it achieves the desired intended outcome, if not it was just a 'cool-idea' that had the luxury of budgets, but didn’t move the needle for the brand or reputation. I have had awful experiences where taglines would be created to 'sound cool' but were counter-productive to the message that had to be delivered.Also, sometimes in the PR and marketing industry too much focus is given on creativity in the campaign ad film or poster, or 'social-experiment'. Instead creativity could be in the delivery of a message, the choice of brand ambassador, the timing of an announcement, etc.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Being innovative is a mindset that requires one to think out of and within the box. The former helps in coming up with the solution to the thing we want to solve and the later helps in executing it. Embracing innovations is inevitable today, in a fast-evolving technological world. e.g AI will soon take over tasks such as digital marketing and may be doing it better and error-free. We have to be discerning and smart about how we use it and for what.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
If I weren't in my current job, I would be creating edutainment content for children, as there is a dearth of relevant and good quality content for children that is freely available at scale.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Over the past year, I have been exposed to a lot of children's content (0-5 years) and have been inspired by the genre of 'kids-rock'- simple concepts (numbers or friendship or opposites) presented through rock music. The intersection of simplicity of the content/lyrics and the complexity of music was fascinating!

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
PR and communications industry can make progress in DEI in many ways: 1. Have diverse teams from all parts of the country, with diverse educational backgrounds and experiences. (e.g. a fantastic relationship-oriented media professional sometimes is rejected because of lower English language proficiency) 2. Have more women in leadership roles. Having a gender-intentional approach works (I have witnessed this at Women's World Banking) 3. Innovation can bring transparency in talent recruitment; career planning; nurturing talent; to reward, recognize and retain; and help diverse people to grow within organizations. This will reduce the incessant concerns around cliques, favoritism, human biases and truly be inclusive. This will also challenge existing notions about career paths and progressions and make it possible for individuals to charter their desired career trajectories.