Nathan Kemp | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2023

Nathan Kemp 

Global Chief Innovation Officer



“Be realistic about the capacity for innovation in an organisation. Do too much and none of it happens.” 

Since he was appointed as chief innovation officer last year, Nathan Kemp has radically redefined innovation at Grayling. He set up an innovation task force representing a diverse cross-section of the agency, to drive organizational change and commercial growth, enhance its service offering and future proof the business. As a result of insights from this process, the agency brought together a team of from across its network to build a new data and analytics model, Advantage Analytics, alongside a training programme to foster a new approach and encourage data experimentation across the business. The effect on client relationships and agency performance has been profound: Advantage Analytics has enabled Grayling to have better conversations, better identify and address client issues, and prove the efficacy of its work, so increasing its win rate and driving revenue growth by unlocking bigger budgets. Kemp continues to develop the model, including building in AI tools. His passion and drive for evolution across the business has made him a true champion of innovation and he is widely recognised as a significant contributor to Grayling’s ongoing growth.

How do you define innovation?
The implementation of thinking plus ideas that leapfrog the status quo.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
It’s got to be Barbie. She’s innovated her identity and gone from a brand in decline to the world’s No.2 toy, the star of the summer and a force for good in culture.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Amazon call it “working backwards” – it begins with the customer. The ones that do it best start there and have a culture of innovation that is both top down and bottom up.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I recently went back to school and signed up for an AI course at Oxford Uni to get a better understanding of AI and how we can use it in a way that maximises value for our clients. The opportunities are huge, but the limitations are very real – and we need to know what that means and how to leverage it for the benefit of our clients and the agency.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
My team for constantly having the ideas and making them happen and with whom I fully share this nomination.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Stop trying and take the dog for a walk.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Be clear on why you’re doing it, how it’s going to add value and deliver on the long-term strategy or vision for the business. Be clear on the KPIs for success. Be realistic about the capacity for innovation in an organisation. Do too much and none of it happens.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
On gardening leave in Ibiza.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Matthew Syed, ‘Black Box Thinking’. You learn together and improve by open sourcing where it’s gone wrong.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
By better understanding the barriers and being braver with how we tackle them.