Creativity in public relations takes center stage

Even when persistent overuse and empty apps conspire to rob you of all meaning, the transformative impact of genuine business creativity has never been more significant. It’s the difference between cutting edge campaigns and monotonous marketing, between genuine innovation and copycat mediocrity. In short, it’s the not-so-secret ingredient behind every great marketing and public relations initiative.

Three years ago, the ‘Holmes Report’ and ‘Now Go Create’ set out to explore whether the public relations industry is truly creative enough to meet the demands of the 21st century. Our findings have shown a significant gap between rhetoric and reality, between an industry that often talks about creativity but has struggled to ensure that it is paying more attention to the notion.

It is encouraging that the 2015 “Creativity in PR” study suggests that things are changing rapidly. The findings indicate that creativity is increasingly viewed as a central element in organizational culture, rather than being viewed solely in terms of creative output. More resources are being devoted to creativity. Creative confidence is high.

And clients are more likely than ever to turn to PR agencies for great brand-building ideas. These demands are clear across the board, and many of those surveyed noted that consumer brands tend to give creativity the highest priority.

What drives great work?

There are great case studies that validate that creative ideas are more effective; Volvo Trucks’ ‘Epic Split’ campaign won the Grand Prix for Effectiveness at Cannes Lions or Always #LikeAGirl, the year’s most awarded PR campaign, generating measurable sales results for P&G.

And when it comes to what drives great work, embedded content and ideas emerge as two of the key areas where the PR industry needs to step up its game. While there is considerable flow when it comes to customer demand for creativity, some issues are clear, specifically a demand for better creativity when it comes to content (19%), embedded ideas (17%), knowledge / planning (16%) and storytelling (15%).

Storytelling (83.5%) is still the biggest influence on creative PR work, but there is considerable progress thanks to brand transparency (53%) and visual communication (52%), compared to last year. The social good (49%) also emerges as a major influence, even as digital-driven trends, such as wearable technology, seemingly lose importance.

Storytelling (71%) also retains its top position as the engine of great PR work, ahead of understanding / planning (57%), emotional resonance (47%), and content creation (38%). The increases by purpose (21%) and results (14%) stand out.

Investment concerns and talent challenges, but not everything is rosy in the garden of public relations creativity. The concerns still linger. Techniques for generating and evaluating creative ideas continue to work and, perhaps most importantly, the challenge of creative talent remains the thorniest of all.

Respondents were also asked to compare the quality of creativity in the public relations industry with other disciplines. Interestingly, clients seem optimistic: more than 30% think that the creativity of the public relations industry is better than advertising agencies, with equally positive results also registered against digital, media, experiential and content agencies.

Budget remains the biggest barrier to creativity in public relations, ahead of customer feedback or risk aversion. Meanwhile, when asked about three things that would help them be more creative, respondents again noted “improved use of information,” increasing from 33% to 40% this year. Almost as important is the “ability to take more risks” (38%). “More budget” and “educate clients” are in third place, while clearer summaries for clients are also important.

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