Sean O'Brien, PadillaCRT vice president of technology and innovation

Sean O'Brien is helping brands use marketing technology to connect with audiences in his new role as vice president of technology and innovation at PadillaCRT, a Minneapolis-based public relations and communications agency.

O'Brien leads PadillaCRT's digital strategy, user experience and development teams. As an independent, employee-owned agency, PadillaCRT can bend and flex to try new marketing technologies that have been disrupting the communications landscape.

"A lot of these disruptions — (artificial intelligence), big data, machine learning — these things have become almost mainstream," O'Brien said. "So we have lots of ways to leverage lots of different innovations to help our communications efforts. We can be very tailored, customized and personalized with our strategies and with everything that falls out of it."

With brands highly interested in reaching millennials, O'Brien recommends bearing in mind their tendency to spend lots of time watching online video and using mobile devices and messaging apps.

"Many people talk about mobile first. I would say for millennials you could probably get away with mobile only," O'Brien said.

O'Brien's digital experience includes marketing and strategy, data science and analytics, app and web development in addition to marketing technology. He joined PadillaCRT after six years at McCann Minneapolis. He previously was senior vice president of technology at MRM Worldwide.

Q: What appealed to you about this opportunity?

A: PadillaCRT is a top 10 independent public relations and communications agency. They've been investing in digital and creative, and that's what brought me on board. The task for Padilla — for any PR agency — is to stay on top of the digital landscape, and that's my role.

Q: How do millennials think about brands, and how does that affect your work?

A: If you're trying to reach millennials and you do something poorly, you're going to alienate them. It needs to be well-made, authentic, entertaining and have high production values. They understand the role of a brand maybe more inherently than past generations did, and because of that they have high expectations.

Q: Why should a company bring its public relations and communications business to PadillaCRT?

A: We have deep expertise in many different industries and deep expertise in marketing technology, in digital and in creative. We can bring a very integrated, specialized team to bear on your company's particular issue. We are a diverse organization, and I like to think diversity is a big tenet of innovation and creativity.

Todd Nelson