Frank Eliason

In2′s Innovator 25: Frank Eliason

on July 26 | in | by | with Comments Off

Director of global social media at Citi
  New York
Digital marketing, 6+ years
Aarti Shah (152 Posts)

I tend to be more interested in holistic change driven by crisis.

For knowing that customer service and social media are inevitably intertwined, even before the PR industry was ready to face this. For cultivating goodwill for Comcast, despite its consistently dismal corporate reputation – and ultimately, advocating for customer service to take greater control of the brand at Citi. And for being able to articulate, and act upon, the urgency to move beyond the social media ‘like’ to the social media ‘share.’

Innovation in PR and marketing is most closely related to?
Social media

Describe the PR industry’s level of innovation.

Who most influences a brand’s PR/marketing innovations?

What’s the most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen recently?
I tend to be more interested in holistic change driven by crisis. As an example, the turnaround created when Howard Schultz returned as CEO of Starbucks. It was more than just a message, it was a shift in the way they have done business. In a socially connected era we are in, it has to be more than a campaign. Instead it must represent the core of who you are as a business.

Which brands or agencies do you consider most innovative? 
In my view Edelman has been the most disruptive in the agency space, at least from the larger firms. What I like about Edelman is the way [global CEO Richard Edelman] not only guides his team, but leads the industry toward change. Here is a post that provides an example.

What has been the most innovative moment of your career, so far?
Career moments are not easy for me to look at. In my view I have been lucky to be surrounded by supportive team players who wanted to achieve like goals. Ultimately, I live my passion for the customer in everything I do. This passion has helped guide my way. Most would look to my efforts at Comcast with their ComcastCares effort, but I like more subtle, deeper changes. One example would be the broad efforts to improve the way Citi interacted with struggling homeowners. We created a broad way to reach these customers, and even provided an anonymous means for them to interact with each other, and us.

One little change in this process was shifting the department that helped homeowners. The industry refers to this team as “loss mitigators.” Do you think “loss mitigators” have your interest in heart? At Citi they are “homeowner support specialists” and their metrics are geared toward serving homeowners in need to find solutions.

Who is your innovation mentor?
Brian Solis from Altimeter Group would be a mentor, as well as a design person from within Citi, Andrew Brunger. Beyond these individuals, one that had profound impact on me is Steve Burke, president of NBC Universal (subsidiary of Comcast). We met in a leadership program where the team discussed the turnaround of Euro Disney. His candor with people has served as inspiration to me.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
Private moments tend to be the time that I do the most impactful thought. Sometimes if you step away from a situation the answers float right to the top. The trouble is, we are not always good at stepping away.

Where is the most innovative city?
I am not sure city is the right question. I have seen innovation come from all over the world, often from some of the smallest of places. The key is being surrounded by people who are not trying to live up to the buzzword, but instead trying to deeply drive change. If forced to answer, I would say New York, but that is due to the bias of working here.

What’s the hardest thing about pushing for innovation?
People are not always at your current thought process and it takes time to get them there.

Advice for overcoming this?
First, do not rush. Rushing never creates long term change. Instead I like to focus on something all PR pros are good at. Tell stories. Around business we have been inundated with metric and numbers, yet often we glaze past them. Tell a good story and you will drive people your way. Also ask a lot of questions. The right questions are also great at guiding change.

Tell us your favorite time of day. 
Evening or better yet, late at night. I often do my best thinking in the quiet. I like to sometimes sit up late at night doing other things, but it always helps clear the mind and the right idea comes to you.

In2's Innovator 25


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