• Bastian Hosan
  • 23.11.2023

How Can You Stay Innovative for 10 Years, Carolin Lessoued?

The media world has undergone massive changes in recent years. New technologies, especially artificial intelligence, have accelerated this change. Agencies are forced to be innovative. Carolin Lessoued, co-founder of the Berlin agency Openers, explains how this can be achieved over 10 years.

Agencies are under fire . The battle for attention is getting tougher as traditional media is pressured. At the same time, the channels through which agencies and their clients can tell stories are rapidly changing – and so are the requirements of their work. Carolin Lessoued, co-founder and boss of the Berlin agency Openers, has been in the business for 10 years. Here she discusses the changes during this time and how to stay on top of the game – and what this has to do with constant innovation.


robotspaceship: You've been in the PR business for 10 years: What has changed since then? 

Carolin Lessoued: Looking at the past years or even decades, many things have remained the same. Channels have changed, approaches too – but often, the way of working has not. Many things have remained somewhat consistent to this day. The same instruments, channels, spreading news, the work mode itself. Although definitely more digital, multimedia, faster, and the number of channels has increased significantly. And of course, we've moved away from the shady MAD MEN agency image where we entertained journalists at hotel bars in the evenings. 

Is that still the case?

Now, however, we are in a time where many things will change in our profession, at least in the medium term. 

Are there changes you're watching particularly closely? 

We've identified four major points that we're keeping a close eye on. Some are already underway, others are just starting, and some aren't so new.

Like what?

It may sound trivial, but content marketing is one area that's becoming increasingly important right now, even though the topic itself isn't that new.

In what way?

Content marketing and PR are merging more and more. Stories are not only told but also experienced or made experiential. Content marketing can dive deep, tell authentic, captivating stories, and thus build a narrative bridge to PR, which then informs through data and facts. This synergy enables building more valid and sustainable relationships with customers, readers, and the like. Messages can be sent with precision and passion!

When we talk about content marketing – which channels are we talking about??

Basically, every channel! That's the crazy thing about it. From classic print and online media to radio and TV, to blogs, social media, and so on. We're delving more into advertising – and that's something new for us as a PR & communication agency. We also see a significant change in the companies we work with..

What kind of change?

For a long time, PR and marketing teams were strictly separated. Now we see that often and increasingly they merge into one unit (yes, there are exceptions and there always will be). And this gives insight into how much you need to function across all channels. Silos no longer work – SEO, performance marketing, influencer marketing, advertising: all of this must and should work hand in hand with PR today and in the future.

If everything merges, will traditional PR diminish? 

I wouldn't say that. This classic and traditional craft of organically placing stories in the media will always exist. At the same time, we think much, much more in terms of storytelling and holistic, strategic media consulting, but also the area of branding in all its facets is gaining more and more importance. This entails a new, much more analytical, and at the same time more creative craft. Because that's what the emerging channels demand now. We're looking for a new definition of what PR is and will be in the future. 

So we have structural changes on one side – what about the technological side?

I could talk about that forever and it's super exciting what we're already experiencing in the USA. In addition to the widespread use of AI, we're also talking about the use of virtual reality in PR – just imagine the significance we're talking about here, making products and situations truly experiential!

Do you have any idea what impact all this will have?

The question is, what won't it impact? In our job, there will hardly be any area untouched, that seems quite certain. And if only on an inspirational level. We talk a lot about this, at the C-level, but also with our employees.

What's the tone like?

There are those who are actually afraid because AI could take over their job. And there are those who see the things that AI can't rationalize away. These are exciting contrasts. 

Are there things that AI definitely can't take over from you?

Rationally speaking, AI won't necessarily replace someone. The person who can handle AI better, probably in perspective. And on the less rational level: And on the less rational level: our intuition is hard to copy.

So, the feeling of how a story works?

Yes, but also who I call, how I build a story, and on which channels it works. The anticipation of what is good and what is not is still our domain.

For now?

As soon as AI is extensively fed with social media, that will change too. I'm convinced of that. Then AI will also be able to sense the feelings of an entire microcosm, a subculture, or a target group. And eventually, it will develop intercultural competencies. But maybe that's going too far for now.

So, be specific: What can AI take out of your hands now?

When we talk about taking off, we mean supporting – that's important to mention. And AI can already help us a lot with writing texts. It starts with research and is no longer a secret. We work a lot with AI tools in many areas: We research, plan, translate, localize. The next big area is reporting. How do we measure success? There's already a lot of AI involved. How are my messages and campaigns received? How are they reacted to? Until now, media monitoring services were used for this. But they are also relatively expensive and sometimes error-prone, or simply do not offer the 360-degree evaluation. The combination of these with AI tools already provides very good results. 

So, does AI actually make you better?

Yes, it makes us better in our work because it helps us understand our target groups better. As mentioned earlier, AI is also becoming "smarter" in terms of lifestyle, and cultures. This is quite exciting for us in a very international environment. AI language models are also developing rapidly. We will be able to make a lot of use of this.

I can understand much better which journalist writes about what topics, how they approach these topics. I can have all this evaluated and then work super individually and adapted to specific needs.

Not one-size-fits-all, then?

Exactly. And that goes for the other side too. I can look at what are the main target groups of my clients, what they are interested in, and then offer content accordingly. This makes our work much better and more efficient.

And do the clients know that you work this way?

Of course, we are very transparent about that.

And how do they react to the use of these technologies?

So far, very well. It's a learning process for everyone. And of course, we often still reach our limits because the easily accessible and low-threshold AI tools are often not that advanced yet.

In the media world, you often hear that we're making ourselves redundant. Do you feel that too?

I understand the fear. But I would argue for a bit more calmness. We can't see into the future – but my feeling is that we still have some time. Time we should use to adjust to the new situation and its conditions and to keep our eyes and ears open. For me and for us, it's also part of our corporate responsibility to prepare ourselves and our employees for this and to take the right direction early enough. Just being inactive now seems really naive to me. Because it's clear that something will change.

Who is Carolin Lessoued?

Carolin Lessoued is the co-founder of the Berlin boutique agency Openers. Her clients include companies that widely shape the lives of (almost) everyone – such as Gorillas, Malt, Spotify. Her agency has been in business for 10 years. For just as long, it has also had to adapt to the circumstances of the world around it.




Bastian Hosen is a business journalist and content consultant. He was trained at the German School of Journalism. Before starting his own business, he worked at Business Punk and Capital.

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