Paula Quintas | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2023

Paula Quintas

Head of Communication 
BMW Foundation



“We have the opportunity to influence tremendous change in the world through this work, and this can only happen if we listen and see people. All people.” 

Paula Quintas has led the communications strategy, vision, and execution for BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt – a global organisation that promotes responsible leadership and aims to inspire leaders to work towards a more peaceful, just and regenerative future – and its Responsible Leaders Network since 2019. Over 20 years in strategy and brand communications, Quintas has worked with clients including Abbot, Pfizer and B Lab/B Corporation. She has also lectured at universities throughout South America on creativity, design, trends and business, and contributed as a pro bono strategist to initiatives such as Cities Can B and Impact: The Future of Business. Over the past year, Quintas has led a transformation in the voice, look and feel of the foundation’s brand, through a huge variety of projects, events, inspirational content and beautifully-designed books. With a Master’s degree in strategic design management and a specialisation in trends research and urban sociology, Quintas bring an unusual combination of perspectives to her communications work. This has helped her to develop innovative, creative and impactful narratives and solutions for social change; no-one who has worked with her doubts the sincerity of her mission to use her strategic and creative skills to empower organisations and their leaders to become agents of positive transformation in the world.

How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a systematic practice and an ongoing emergent process. It is not only about the final result – improving or revolutionizing a sector or area of work – it is about the tools and methods that bring transformative and impactful ideas to life. To do so, we must stir our imagination, connect information, and enable people's creativity to flourish.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Innovation walks hand in hand with inspiration for action. The best cases I saw were related to companies transforming and being willing to do more for a better future. And this can go hand in hand with profit. See the example of Lush Cosmetics, Patagonia, and more.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
As a professional working in the intersection between corporations and non-profits, it inspires me when an organisation can holistically present itself: through people, work, actions, products, and results. I am impressed with how IKEA is going through its transformation as a retailer and also with its foundation. Besides them, I must mention a Brazilian brand doing an impressive job internationally: Farm Rio/Grupo Soma. An impact-driven media agency I admire is, for the way they work to influence and inspire for change.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
In Brazil, my home country, we are daily trained to adapt to the circumstances, to use our creativity, and to work together to solve any problem. I bring this with me: it's my natural way of seeing my work on communications and how this influences the strategies of the organizations I work with. So the most innovative stories I have come from this place, in which a PR/brand-related provocation led to a whole new way of doing things in the organisation I work with.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker and entrepreneur. Systems change starts with narrative change. The revolution promoted by her in the media industry in the US and around the globe is where I think we all should be looking at how we can do it, from the best of our professional experience and inspired by our lives and roots.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Together, we can explore different visions from different cultures. “How does this sound or look like in your country?” is a question that I often ask my colleagues. I am from a generation rooted in competition; collaboration was not embraced as a fruitful process. My team is where the best ideas are co-created.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Listen to people. We have the opportunity to influence tremendous change in this world through this work, and this can only happen if we listen and see people. All people.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Probably something similar. I am passionate about strategy, design and communications and how we can contribute to a more regenerative future. If I didn't have to be paid for it, I would probably offer support and expertise to non-profits in Latin America and Africa, and be more in the field, working from there with my family.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Projeto Querino is a Brazilian journalistic project inspired by the ‘1619 Project’ from the New York Times Magazine. Querino brings an Afro-centered gaze to bear on Brazilian history, revisiting a handful of key moments from the perspective of Africans and their descendants. When I spoke before about building new narratives, Querino widened my perspective on how we tell stories and how they can perpetuate systemic oppression.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
People tend to focus on the D, but diversity is nothing without equity and belonging – a word that I prefer to inclusion. You can include a person once, but if they don't feel that they belong there, it will be a one-time effort. We must embrace the daily responsibility of checking our privileges, understanding our biases, and rethinking attitudes.