PRWeek’s inaugural Innovation 50 list profiles the most impressive young PR pros who are leading the way in the technology, social, and startup spaces.
As many of this week’s major news stories demonstrate, these communicators are right at the heart of constructing the narratives around some of the biggest issues out there, such as computer security, the cloud, hacking, disruptive businesses challenging the status quo, and the next generation of social media.
Uber, Lyft, Waze, Pandora, Airbnb, Tinder, OpenTable, Nasty Gal, Square, Etsy, Git Hub, Secret, Nextdoor, GrubHub: these fresh and exciting ventures are all disrupting established markets - and their communications functions are all represented among The Innovation 50.
These startups aspire to have the same impact as what have become a new social media and tech establishment, comprising outfits such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, also represented in the 50. And the list also extends to the cutting-edge agencies and VC firms that are the support structures behind many of these companies.
This week, in the context of the Apple iCloud hacking of celebrities’ photos and videos story, the Mail Online felt the need to explain to its readers that "the cloud" was not a visible gray or white mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere, rather it is a "bank of gigantic humming and whirring computers in vast warehouses thousands of miles away in California or North Carolina."
Responding to crises like this, and correcting such misperceptions and misinformation, is meat and drink to our Innovation 50, and the nature of the groundbreaking industries within which they operate ensures there are, and will continue to be, plenty of such issues to deal with.
Whether operating quietly and stealthily in the background, or fronting up high-profile stories, the Innovation 50 are proving their crucial value to their organizations.
It is also highly encouraging to see that 44 of our Innovation 50 are women. This is in a sector that has oft been criticized for a startling lack of diversity as regards both gender and ethnicity.
It was not a deliberate policy on our part to overload the list with women – our web editor Brittaney Kiefer and other PRWeek senior editors simply identified the people we thought were the 50-most-innovative operators and it transpired many of them were female.
And if women are at the center of the crucial storytelling and communications processes driving the development of the new economy, that surely bodes well for the evolution of Silicon Valley, DUMBO, and other tech hubs into more representative communities than they currently are.
Another noticeable trend across the list was the influence of well-established West Coast PR firms such as Bite and OutCast, both in the Next Fifteen group of specialist technology agencies.
Bite may have fallen on hard times in recent years, but I can vouch from my time on the West Coast last year setting up our sister technology brand The Hub, that "Biters" can be found in all corners of the PR scene. And they still have a strong attachment to their former home, despite many of them having long since moved on to pastures new.
Just as with our annual 40 Under 40 initiative, which identifies the rising stars in PR, and our Power List, which recognizes the power brokers at the top of the pile, politics and public affairs also provide a fertile breeding ground for our Innovators.
The skills learned by the likes of Nick Papas in the Obama administration, Laura Covington at the Alliance for Health Reform, Andrew Noyes in DC for Facebook, Semonti Stephens with Michelle Obama, David Mack at 463 Communications, and Elizabeth Shepherd at the Democratic National Committee stand them in good stead for constructing the smart comms strategies that will drive their current employers forward.
So, we’re happy to present to you this, our newest list. And we hope it will become a staple of our annual output in the same way as 40 Under 40 and the Power list have done. Please let us know your thoughts on the Innovation 50 - and feel free to suggest candidates for next year’s iteration.