Sep 13th 2019

The creativity in PR conundrum

What makes a PR campaign ‘creative’? How can you encourage creativity among your team? And what must creative content deliver for clients?

The answers to these questions are just as abstract as the definition of creativity itself. We’re aware of the common elements uniting creative campaigns: those which are grounded in human insight, inspire dialogue, provoke emotion, feature an element of surprise etc.

Yet it’s the elements that differentiate one campaign from the next, and which distinguish the madcap from the memorable, which are harder to distil, and (for anyone who’s suffered from writers’ block will know), often the hardest to illicit.

The value of creativity

As oxymoronic as it’ll seem to many free-spirited creatives, creativity must also deliver value – to an agency, to its clients, and to the industry in which they operate. However, back in 2014, ‘creative’ was revealed as the most overused word on LinkedIn by the UK marketing industry. It remains a staple of many a CV, and can be found in the blurb of many a PR agency. It seems that a term for original thought and creation has lost some of its worth, become a badge of conformity and homogeneity, and – in reaching buzzword status – a synonym for ‘dull’.

Are we now therefore operating in a post-creative PR industry, where the ability to generate and deliver original, multimedia campaigns is not a differentiator, but a given? And has this fired the starting gun on a creativity arms race, with agencies ramping up wild and wacky PR campaigns (under the guise of ‘creativity’) in order to stay one step ahead of the competition? Quite the conundrum.

This brings us neatly back to the rather murky definition of creativity, and the question of what’s in it for your clients. A creative PR campaign must inspire a reaction and influence behaviour, but it’ll have little value (or negative value) if it fails to accurately communicate a brand’s messaging/ethos to the right audience.

Madcap or memorable?

Take for example the ‘bounce back’ campaign featuring Malala Yousafzai in a mattress ad, where the concept was relevant to both Malala (who survived an attack by the Taliban and went on to be nominated for a Nobel prize) and the brand (bouncing back being a basic requirement of a mattress). But in depicting the teenager being shot (and literally rebounding from the mattress), a campaign idea which may have emerged from some fertile seeds of creativity, quickly lost all of its value.

So, creative PR campaigns must be relevant and inspiring to be of value, but how do you encourage this thinking across your team? Within an agency setting: take risks, remain open-minded and listen. Remember that generating creative ideas often requires stimulus. In brainstorms: set an agenda, get team members to draw ideas, pair people up, provide trigger words, use personas through which to filter ideas, do a five-minute follow-up session the next day. The office (or in whichever remote location your team members are working) is the environment where wild and wacky should be encouraged. And the ‘safe space’ in which some of the more ‘out-there’ ideas should be parked indefinitely.

Following this comes further research, analysis, budgeting and strategy, and the transformation of creative ideas into actionable, relevant, valuable and creative PR campaigns.

An education in creativity

The definition of ‘creative’ and the specific elements of creative PR campaigns are constantly shifting, and as such, we see the value in continuously developing and updating our creativity skills. Babel wouldn’t have been going strong for 13 years if we weren’t consistently creative – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and adopt new, practical approaches to continuously hone the skills of all of our team members.

Interested? Get in touch to find out more about Babel’s own brand of PR creativity, and the results we’ve achieved for our clients.