Some people don’t think of PR professionals as particularly creative – except when it comes to hatching wild PR stunts or gimmicks, like KFC’s fried-chicken-flavored nail polish. Yet creativity plays a part in much of a PR person’s daily work. They must constantly generate fresh concepts for bylines and story angles for pitching, as well as dreaming up campaign ideas for clients.
According to The Holmes Report’s Creativity in PR study, which surveys PR executives all over the world, 68% of PR agency respondents say their clients are more likely to approach the PR team for “big creative ideas” than in the past. There was also a significant increase in agencies who employ a formally named creative director, from 37% to 56%. Still, a prime impediment to PR teams’ showing out-of-the-box creative chops is clients’ aversion to risk– something not so prevalent in the advertising field.
In today’s atmosphere of continuous communications from a multitude of channels, PR people (and their marketing peers) must come up with original approaches to storytelling and content to break through the noise.
Creativity in PSAs helps make a tired message fresh
We’ve all seen 30-second PSAs on late-night TV that feature a talking head looking into the camera and telling you to adopt a dog, or talk to your children about drugs. The Canadian Ontario Association of Optometrists unveiled an eye-opening approach to getting a simple public service message to the public. To urge people to give their eyes periodic breaks from screens, it filmed a series of snappy, fun viral videos called 20 Second Daydreams.
This fresh packaging of a mundane personal health topic makes all the difference. The video series makes a point through entertaining content, as opposed to a routine “eat-your-veggies” message. Showing beats telling, but it takes more work.
Creativity helps express company values in a distinct brand voice
Advertisements for travel metasearch sites usually involve a cutesy gnome (Travelocity) or a charismatic spokesperson (Trivago). Instead of traditional ads, Danish travel site Momondo produced a short documentary about 67 people doing DNA tests to find out more about their ancestral origins. Does this have anything do with shopping for airfares? Only tangentially, but it’s effective.
Momondo links the documentary to a brand statement that differentiates it from competitors like Expedia. “Our vision is of a world where our differences are a source of inspiration and development, not intolerance and prejudice.” (Expedia’s vision statement is milquetoast in comparison.) Momondo’s creative endeavor was no small project; it involved a heavy lift of DNA tests, interviews, and filmmaking. Yet it started an important conversation by espousing its values through storytelling. Seventeen million views later, Momondo has taken a strong stand and conveyed it an entertaining way through creative content and PR.
A great idea aligns a company’s mission with its market
Intuit reinvented itself six years ago as a provider of services to small businesses. Its Small Business Big Game campaign was not only a contest for small business owners to win a Super Bowl ad, but a way for it to interact with and celebrate SMBs. The 17,000 participating owners had the opportunity to tell their stories and receive additional benefits through the program. The initiative was an inspired method of spreading awareness of the Intuit Quickbooks brand, and more importantly, to position the company as an advocate for small business owners. PR teams need to conceive inspiring ideas to communicate alignment with its audience.
Creative PR helps B2B brands be accessible
B2Bs must scramble to find creative ways to gain competitive advantage in crowded markets. One way is to offer the company’s more human face to the public. Capitalizing on the trend of B2B PR/marketing borrowing B2C tactics, a UK data security company opened up a pop-up retail store in 2017 in London where customers were required to pay for products with personal data from their mobile phones. The Data Dollar Store was a fun, experiential event that raised awareness about data privacy, thereby communicating the company’s purpose to the general public. The event, boasting a playful, performance art ambience, accurately reflected the company’s values (“supporting art, science, and sport”) and the overall brand vibe. A firm’s PR team must bring their best creative chops when envisioning a tactic that generates so much earned and shared media on such a modest budget.
Audacity can add authenticity
All four above examples have the elements of authenticity and audacity in common. Creativity is in itself PR currency, since it’s the x-factor that can boost the inherent value of any campaign tactic. Some say it cannot be taught, but we disagree. The more you exercise those creative muscles, the stronger they become. Creative concepts are by definition outliers, so they may take a leap of faith. Small steps lead to larger strides and big ideas.