When I first set foot in the PR industry, at an agency, one of the things that immediately appealed was the way creativity was truly democratised. A good idea could come from anywhere. Not only this, but this open approach to creativity was actively encouraged.
And yet, there are challenges with this approach too. Sometimes an idea comes serendipitously – a sudden dash of inspiration. But sometimes it doesn’t. It requires effort, time and focus. A one hour group brainstorm – which was all the rage when I first joined a PR agency - has been shown time after time to be a poor way of generating ideas. The danger is, because of time pressure, you go for the first idea to land, rather than suffering to find the ‘best’ idea.
Our friends in the advertising world know this. Their ‘product’ is creativity. And they put it on a pedestal (as Cannes repeatedly demonstrates). Creativity is given time, budget, kudos.
In PR, our product is far greater than creativity alone, but I fear that we often fail to give creativity the time and focus it needs. Thankfully that is beginning to change and its part and parcel of a general shift in the PR agency world from generalists to specialists.
Dedicated creative professionals have, over the last five years or so, become a fixture in many PR agencies. And it’s a very welcome shift. In itself, it demonstrates a reassertion of the power and importance of ideas in our business, as a part of our product.
But it’s not without challenges. To begin with, many creatives coming into PR came from the advertising world. But PR isn’t advertising. And it’s a complicated shift. Some welcomed with open arms the wealth of opportunity within the PR ecosystem to be far more channel-neutral. Others found their years of training and dedication to 30 second spots and billboards a hard habit to break.
Those that thrived have succeeded. And it’s great to see that we are starting to develop a new breed of PR creatives that don’t have the baggage of the world of advertising. They’ve come up through the PR ranks and bring a fresh new perspective to creative briefs – and we can support them with the luxury of time and space.
There’s politics at play too, of course. Bringing a creative professional into a business won’t suddenly see the Cannes Lions start pouring in. And the willingness of the business to use them, collaborate with them and give them the briefs and opportunities to succeed are vital to their success: both creatively but also commercially.
At its heart, this approach will result in better work and better results. And yet, there’s a final note of caution. We need to ensure we don’t go too far. In the world of advertising, the ECD is godlike: all powerful and the source of all ideas. When I started in PR, I loved the democratisation of creativity. We need to hold onto that while bringing in our own brand of creative professional to elevate what we do. If we find the balance, then I truly believe our new, collaborative and more open approach to creativity can be transformational.