Birgit Soellner | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2023

Birgit Soellner

Managing Partner



“Innovation is being curious and bold in rethinking things, without necessarily throwing successful elements completely overboard. And then really follow through with ideas and fill them with life.” 

Birgit Soellner has worked within the Publicis group for the past 15 years. Over her 12 years in the top job at MSL Germany, she has modernised the agency’s portfolio, introducing innovative new ideas at speed, and has been instrumental in shaping offerings in sustainability, DE&I and AI. Her outstanding contribution in 2023 was to devise and introduce 360° Connected Positioning, a thought leadership and personal branding service to help executives cut through the clutter and make their voice heard. This was a direct response to the reduction of earned media space and the proliferation of potential digital platforms that make it more difficult for individuals to make a mark, at the same time as leaders needing – more than ever – to connect with staff, shareholders and stakeholders. Connected Positioning joins the dots between executives’ performances at conferences and events, their earned media and social media presence and their networking and relationship-building, fusing strategy and storytelling. The confidential service has been Soellner’s greatest success to date, and has already opened significant new business doors for MSL with large corporations. Besides her role at MSL, Soellner is part of Publicis Groupe’s country leadership team in Germany, and is an active member of Global Women in PR and executive network Working Moms. 

How do you define innovation?
Continuously challenging the status quo. Being curious and bold in rethinking things (without necessarily throwing successful elements completely overboard). And then really follow through with ideas and fill them with life. Innovations have a lasting effect and lead to significant positive change.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I really like the award-winning ‘NFA: Non-fungible Animals’ campaign, which, together with WWF Germany, addresses the extinction of endangered species by using the topic of cryptotechnology in a clever, creative and meaningful way. It created a new fundraising system that turned limited edition artwork into unlimited donations, and changed the conversation about NFTs by highlighting an important issue. A truly innovative case that was also great fun as a joint project between Publicis agencies MSL, Saatchi & Saatchi and Digitas Pixelpark, bringing together different perspectives on communication to create impact.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Patagonia and Oatly are classics. However, it is also really exciting to observe how brands with less radical business models and less stringent success stories stay in the driver’s seat in terms of communication – or not.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
My kids constantly pull me out of all routines and also ensure that I put things into perspective in good time. Otherwise, I like to get outdoors to recharge, preferably in the mountains or on the water.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Beyond the obvious advice to embrace AI and data, I would like to highlight two other aspects. Firstly, openness and alertness to new strategic partnerships and alliances, and secondly, the ambition to create a culture of curiosity, of dialogue, of ownership, of dealing productively with mistakes in teams: encourage them to test new approaches and tools, to think about new collaborations and to trust in creativity to better serve customers and stakeholders and to drive transformation.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Good question. I pressed pause once many years ago and checked whether I wanted to do something completely different. In the end, I made a conscious decision to go back to PR consulting. I love the mix of communication, consulting and entrepreneurship and I have a lot of love for the leverage that good PR has.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
PR is in a powerful position to drive DE&I forward. As communicators, we help bring narratives, products, people and their stories to life and ensure their reach and impact. If we integrate DE&I parameters into our strategies and communications in an authentic way, we can have great leverage in our work.