Kunal Arora | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Kunal Arora

MD & Head of Studio Operations
Edelman India & Asia-Pacific


We bond with people who respond to difficulties in ways that complement our own responses. Together, we can conquer obstacles and share successes—or failures—as we work through problems.”

Kunal Arora leads Edelman’s Digital Centre of Excellence in India, as well as building digital capability and operationalizing Edelman Studios across the Asia-Pacific region. In particular this has seen him develop the ‘Connected Crisis’ offering that addresses crisis management in the digital world, which has already led to 10 projects in India and is now being implemented across 11 other Asia-Pacific offices. 

How do you define innovation?
In communications, innovation involves the development and application of novel approaches, technologies, and strategies to effectively engage, inform, and influence target audiences in the digital realm. It encompasses creative solutions that leverage digital channels, data analytics, and emerging technologies to enhance communication, reputation management, and stakeholder engagement. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a pivotal role in driving innovation in this field. Innovation involves leveraging AI and emerging technologies to optimize communication strategies, enhance engagement, and improve overall effectiveness.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
AI plays a critical role in automating tasks, personalizing content, analyzing data, and predicting trends, ultimately helping communication professionals stay competitive in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
New-age brands, specifically in the e-commerce or D2H platforms, have been super effective in their marketing and communication strategies. I am not going to name any, but it’s been really interesting to see how they are connecting with the audiences.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
It’s not a moment but a phase which lasted for about 6 months. This is when, after having built the digital business to a respectable size, I was asked to change focus to integration. That is when I started the journey, with all partners across corporate, brand, sectors practices and offerings, to see how Digital can play a role in transforming the solutions being provided to clients. It took some time, butthat’s when most of us were innovating internally.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
A big name, but Mr. N. Chandrasekaran has been an inspiration. The way he is transforming the TATA group is super interesting.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Creativity is a journey, and it's normal to encounter blocks along the way. I focus on being patient with myself, staying curious, and experimenting with different techniques until I find what works best for me to rekindle my creativity. I take a break by changing my environment – I step away from my usual place and work in a new environment that makes me think differently. I explore new experiences and focus on brainstorming; collaborative thinking breeds new ideas and insights. I seek feedback, revisit old work, and I meditate. These things really help in a sticky situation, where creativity is scarce.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Embrace technology and collaborate. Make data your ally. Content will always be King, but experiment with formats; be innovative in storytelling. Stay authentic. Be agile in responding to crises. Take calculated risks, and focus on client and stakeholder engagement. And consider global perspectives.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Running a small-time agency on Digital Transformation.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last is a book that stayed with me. By describing every facet of the leadership problem, the book explains why certain organisations succeed where others fail. In order for a business to succeed, its leaders must believe in the organisation’s purpose and let it guide them in their professional conduct, and in the way they look after their teams.I have also been inspired by the TV series, Friends. As much as it is fun watching this epic sitcom, the show is inspirational in terms of team-building. Friendships are fostered by shared experiences. We bond with people who respond to difficulties in ways that complement our own responses. Together, we can conquer obstacles and share successes—or failures—as we work through problems.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The PR and communications industry can harness innovation to make significant progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Data-driven insights can help assess the diversity within the organization; it can analyse demographics, retention rates and promotion patterns and disparities, all of which can eventually guide DEI strategies. There are AI tools to reduce unconscious recruitment bias and talent management, to ensure inclusive practices. Employing AI-driven content analysis tools can assess the inclusivity of your communication materials. These tools can identify potential biases and suggest more inclusive language and imagery. We need innovation in recruiting by tapping into non-traditional talent sources. Technology can help us reach underrepresented groups, apart from allowing flexible work arrangements, inclusive leadership development, and fostering partnerships and collaborations that focus on DEI. These can help build cultural sensitivity, accountability, and transparency at the workplace.By integrating innovation into your DEI strategy, the PR and communications industry can foster a more inclusive culture, attract and retain diverse talent, and create communication campaigns that resonate with a broader audience. Innovation not only helps drive progress, but also reinforces the industry's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.