When it comes to creativity, it often feels like PR plays second fiddle to advertising. After all, advertising takes the limelight, as proven at the infamous Cannes Lions Festival this year where advertising agencies took home more PR Lions than PR-focused firms, *sigh*.
The question of ‘why’ can be answered in two parts. Firstly, creativity is embedded in advertising’s DNA. For decades, advertisers have proven just how brilliant creativity can be in brand campaigns. As such, they’re incredibly experienced in understanding what idea will land and what will flop. The industry carved out the role of the ‘creative’ for this reason – to ensure creativity reigns supreme.
Secondly, as PR has evolved to become multifaceted and complex, it has left creativity on the sidelines. Picture your PR campaign as a nightclub. The urgent aspects of PR, like crisis comms, are the nightclub bouncer and your creative ideas are regular club-goers. The bouncers are stopping club-goers from having a good time because the club is simply too busy with VIPs.
Metaphors aside, this is not to say that creativity hasn’t got a place in PR. In today’s PR landscape, creativity is just what the doctor ordered. It’s the golden ticket to cutting through the noise, differentiating your brand from its competition, and offering more impactful brand experiences which resonate with your target audience. This is especially true online, where we all know that getting your message heard is only becoming harder. As PR pros tackle the upheaval of the pandemic, creativity has climbed up the priority list. 88% of PRs now believe that creativity will be either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to business recovery – as reported by PRovoke Media and Now Go Create.
But while the need for creativity is becoming more widely understood, PR must adapt in order for it to be welcomed with open arms. With traditional PR rapidly evolving as the digital, sales and marketing worlds collide, we’re certainly on our way there. However, PR is still cautious by nature. The guardrails the industry has put in place to carefully manage how a brand is presented to the media and its customers can limit creative thinking. Particularly in the b2b PR world, engaging prospects by entertaining or inspiring them is seen as ‘fluffy’ compared to conveying corporate and product messaging through typical means. But the world is changing and emotion and excitement are what’s needed to capture b2b professionals’ attention.
It’s therefore important for PR to take down its guardrails and get those creative juices flowing. But how?
Diversify your creative input
We’ve all heard the saying that two minds are better than one. However, there’s more to brainstorming creative ideas than just numbers, it’s about diversity too. Involving people of different backgrounds, ages and genders will prevent tunnel vision by opening up lots of perspectives, all based on different people’s experiences and interpretations of ideas.
Implement a flat hierarchy
Great things can happen when you even out the playing field. Creativity can sometimes stall when creative ideas have to pass through the ranks, only to be shut down when they reach the final stage of approvals. If possible, flatten your hierarchy by opening up creative brainstorms to people beyond your team and level.
Seek inspiration in unlikely places
At the lorries, we once held an internal survey to learn how we all get inspired. From watching Netflix to brushing your teeth, it became clear there’s no strict recipe for inspiration. In fact, it can lie in the strangest places. So, next time you’re thinking of how to season your campaign with some creativity, look back at the last time you watched or read something, or even went out for dinner, as it could spark an idea you wouldn’t have thought of within your four walls.
Adopt a less is more mindset
Creativity doesn’t always require fanfare. Manage your expectations for ‘The Big Creative Idea’, as some of the best concepts are simple and no-nonsense. Remember that creativity doesn’t have to be delivered via a fully integrated campaign. Next time you opt for a press release, question whether it can be presented differently. How else can you encapsulate your messaging? Take the leap and give it go – the results may surprise you.
Redefine what creativity actually means
Creativity is the buzzword of the century and if I had to ask a million people what it actually means, their responses would greatly vary. This article in Campaign is a prime example of why creativity is in desperate need of reframing, arguing that it’s been “painted into a corner” for being associated primarily with “verbal and visual artistry.” While vague in definition, the meaning of creativity should be unique to your business. How brave and experimental would you like to be? How bold are you willing to go? Ask yourself what creativity means to you and your business and it’ll set you on the right path.
Experiment with tried-and-tested formats and concepts
The world is full of great ideas. Just open Spotify or visit the supermarket to see how other people’s ideas have come to fruition. Providing you remain sensitive to trademarks and licences, you can start with someone else’s idea and then adapt it to your business needs. For example, our Find Your Prospect campaign took the concept of Where’s Wally? and put it into the b2b setting to reiterate that prospects are tough to find in today’s crowded marketplace. Long live Wally (or Lottie and Laurie in our case)!
Get creative with how you ‘create’
A brainstorm! A day out! A bungee jump! The possibilities are endless!
Implement creativity in places beyond your PR output
When creative thinking is championed across departments, from sales to HR, it ripples throughout the business and becomes a key part of your company culture and strategy. Not only does this make room for creativity, but it creates an environment where people are encouraged to offer their ideas. We liked the sound of this so much that we’ve done it ourselves.
Take note from the b2c world
Ah, the b2c world ,where the target audience isn’t always after professionalism. Sounds chaotic yet fun. And that it is.
Because b2c brands need to market themselves to a broad pool of people, they have opened up more space for creative ideas. These are what turn people’s heads and make a lasting impression. Treating creativity as an essential component of PR and marketing output is an important lesson for the b2b PR sector. It’s not that b2c brands are more worthy of good creative than b2b brands. B2c brands have just done a better job of championing it, and as a result, can be a valuable source of inspiration.
Do the background check on your brand and audience
It’s tough to know whether your creative idea will land safely – we get it. This is why we advocate carrying out audience research before you even go into a creative brainstorm. Learn about your targets’ behaviours, needs, sentiment and buying patterns. You can then set off on the right foot with more confidence.
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