The Power Of Creativity In PR

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.

4 ways creative PR takes it up a notch

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.

Using Creative PR To Make News

Earlier this week we explored ways that PR pros can keep their clients in the media even when they have no news. The best PR firms create news rather than wait for it to come from the client.

At our agency, we’re fortunate to work with stellar brands, many of whom offer credible news hooks. Some are smaller, innovative companies who make few “formal” announcements throughout the year. One example is the leading mobile navigation and maps provider skobbler.

An app-chart topper in over 20 countries, with over 3.5 million users on iOS alone, skobbler is one of the premier players in mobile location-aware services and development based on the OpenStreetMap. Yet, while skobbler’s applications and services are popular and groundbreaking, the brand does not quite carry the same “brand-name recognition” as an Apple or Microsoft.

How do we compete and generate PR results without hard news or a recognizable name?

Research. Tech moves at the speed of sound, and we’re constantly on the lookout for emerging trends where skobbler can fit in and make a statement. Once we identify a trend or idea, we craft pitches with relevant insights from skobbler, including the sexiest facts and figures detailing why the company is a great source, and how it differs from others in the space.

Go vertical. Each client has its own wheelhouse. Mapping and navigation are skobbler’s, but the company execs also have the ability and knowledge to discuss the technology related to digital mapping, including everything from operating systems to mobile devices themselves. This expands the scope of pitch targets far beyond industry trades like GPS World, into news and tech targets like VentureBeat and CNET. We can then craft a relevant perspective that the journalist or publication may not have encountered or included in the past, in the form of a byline post or an exclusive article or Q&A.

Mine unique data nuggets. Part of our relationship with any client is to ask what’s new and mean it. Our ability to ferret out “ownable” data points that are timely, clever and out-of-the-ordinary helps generate stories around topical subjects, even a skobbler-assisted list of the most sought-after pubs on St. Patrick’s Day! The broader navigation topic offers many kinds of stories, from technology to travel.

As great as it is to have hard news handed to you on a silver platter, there is something a little sweeter about crafting a story from creative thinking and ingenuity.

Six Steps To Creative PR Brainstorms

Many successful PR and marketing campaigns have started with a simple creative brainstorm. Yet, we’re always searching for better and more productive ways to develop great ideas. What many PR pros and others don’t always realize is that every concept doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Some of the best creative sessions produce a small germ of an idea, a new phrase, or a fresh twist on the ordinary.

Look at the most recent promotion from Lowe’s, the home center retailer. #lowesfixinsix centers on a series of Vine videos demonstrating cool home improvement tips. Business Insider calls it, “one of the best uses of the social medium as a marketing tool we’ve seen yet.”

Here are some pointers that have worked for us.

Create a positive atmosphere. Some people associate office meetings with stress or pressure to be brilliant. The best creative sessions feature a positive, welcoming, and humorous atmosphere. It helps to start with a warmup like, “How would we launch this product on the moon?”  Responses to such absurd challenges can never be wrong, and they’re likely to be funny. Above all, don’t make judgments on any of the ideas floated.

Set some goals.  Brainstorms can work well when wide latitude is given for generating ideas, but keep the end goals in mind. Make sure your team is prepared with all the background, and be clear in what the brainstorm is trying to achieve.

Let the fun begin. Once people start shouting out suggestions or solutions, write them down… all of them. Even though some ideas won’t make sense at the time, they may lead to other things. The best ideas often stem from a simple concept or phrase.

Change it up. During a given session, there is typically a time where the enthusiasm wanes and everybody falls into a slightly awkward silence. Sometimes rewording the initial objective or goal is all you need to get a response. Or, if you’re the moderator, have some thoughts in your back pocket to get the juices flowing again. If that doesn’t work, try taking a break and cover an ancillary aspect of the situation. Candy is often helpful.

Try speed-storming. A takeoff on speed dating, this can work as an ice-breaker, or it can help reset the situation to keep ideas flowing. Set a time limit of ten minutes, go around the room, and ask everyone to shout their best ideas. It’s okay if it deteriorates into free association or jokes; what you want is to get rid of blocks.

Never stop brainstorming. Even when the meeting is over and everyone has returned to their desks, create an email chain, or a running word document with the top ideas that are really fleshed out. Work them out with greater details and graphics to ensure the best result.

Have any brainstorms for more successful brainstorming? Let us know.