Sera Holland | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2023

Sera Holland

Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer



“If you’re not in the business of solving problems for clients, then what business are you in? Work in partnership with your clients and your people, focus on their needs, not what might feel shiny and new.” 

Since joining Ketchum in 2021, Sera Holland has continually pushed the boundaries of what is possible at a communications consultancy, and her impact on business growth, talent development and commitment to diverse representation and inclusion has been transformational. In 2022 she led a global team in developing an industry-leading DE&I consulting model that is already helping major organizations to focus more strategically on their DE&I progress. As chief strategy and innovation officer for global markets at the agency, she is responsible for global strategic priorities and driving growth in all markets outside the US, as well as working with market and practice leaders on developing and scaling innovations across the network. Still a passionate practitioner, Holland sits as senior counsel across many of Ketchum’s multi-market and integrated accounts, including Adobe, Royal Philips, Merck, Roche and Liquid IV, as well as working in partnership across the agency’s global client and specialist leads to drive integration and growth.

How do you define innovation?
Solving a problem, improving a process or elevating our work in service of meeting the needs of our clients, our people and our business.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Like many, I’ve been looking to gaming for the sharp end of data-driven, culture-first inspiration over the past 12 months. So much great work in this space but I keep going back to the Greenpeace ‘Los Santos’ campaign. Layering scientific data into one of the world’s most popular games, Grand Theft Auto, to create an immersive experience, pushing people to interact with the impact of climate change in a cityscape they knew and loved, without actually messing with the classic game play was true comms innovation with a purpose.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
I wear my bias with pride: I think [client] brands like Adobe, Samsung and Mastercard who carry innovation in their DNA through to their communications are the benchmark. Take Mastercard: to be able to flex from ‘pay with your face’ as a human way into a complex biometrics payment campaign, to game-changing work like the ‘True Name’ initiative requires a deep commitment to innovation. On the agency side, massive hat tip to the team at John Doe, who have consistently smashed out innovative offers, campaigns and ways to move our industry forward this year.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
This moment, right now. We are doing some incredible work at Ketchum and the investment and focus from our whole senior leadership team is really motivating. I’m laser focused on innovating for growth: based on the needs of our clients (current and future), our business and our people, in service of our global strategic priorities and ultimately, the work. It’s not all new and shiny product stuff; a major part of my focus is on elevating the fundamentals, on solving operational challenges and driving excellence through the system. I’ve never felt more challenged and enabled at any point in my career, and that only drives me further.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation. Running the resistance like a tech company, building an innovation ecosystem to support survival. Beyond admiration.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Close the laptop. Get out for a walk. Headphones on. Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ on loud. Tried and tested.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
If you’re not in the business of solving problems for clients, then what business are you in? Work in partnership with your clients and your people, focus on their needs, not what might feel shiny and new.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
There’s definitely a version of me in the multiverse somewhere who’s working at a health or femtech scale up, trying to solve women’s health inequality through technology. (Brands in this universe: hit me up.)

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
The second season of The Bear. Apart from being an incredible piece of storytelling that had me laughing, crying and literally holding my breath with tension at times almost simultaneously, episode 7 (“Forks”) was a masterclass in falling in love with the fundamentals of your craft.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Innovation can help break bias and exclusion, or it can reinforce it. We must make sure it’s the former – utilising innovation as an inclusive lens, with DE&I at the core. Ultimately we’re a people business: when we talk about tools, platforms, process, product and service, they’re all in service of people, whether it’s driving efficiency, collaboration, connection, insight, creativity… Innovation can help make our industry more accessible, and we have a collective responsibility to ensure that we are designing solutions that help not only bring diverse talent into our industry but make it a more inclusive and equitable place to thrive and grow for all.