Why Nothing Matters More in PR than Creativity

Posted on November 1, 2016 by Marian Salzman

niuton-may_pr-picture

Originally posted on D&AD.

Following the introduction of the new D&AD Professional Awards category for PR, Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR, offers some award-winning creative PR examples and tips. She explains why, in the ever-changing landscape of creative communications, PR matters.

Nothing matters more.

That was the brief I was given when D&AD asked me to write about why I believe in the organization—enough to be foreman of the jury in the PR category for this year’s D&AD Professional Awards. In the ad world, particularly in the UK, the Pencil is a prestigious, career-changing honor—nothing matters more.

So the news that D&AD is broadening its scope to include public relations is very exciting.

The ever shifting landscape has brought seismic changes to PR, and now creativity matters more than ever. And although plenty would say creativity—and a job well done—is its own reward, the industry needs more formal recognition of its strides into that realm.

In the three decades I’ve spent in the communications business, and even in the six years I’ve been specifically in public relations, so much has changed. PR used to be all about having, then selling, the idea. Then it evolved to be about telling the story in a compelling and believable way.

Today it increasingly feels as if the focus of PR is doing. Creating, if you will. A great example is the way creative genius Ty Montague explains the positioning of his co:collective. “Don’t just say. Do” is the guiding principle behind a vision of “StoryDoing” that involves collaborating with “co:conspirators” on a quest for iconic innovations.

My characterization of Montague aside, the role of creative genius is becoming less central in the communications universe. It used to be about a creative god or maybe a team of creative gods (rarely goddesses, sadly) whose powers of divination and innovation were almost mystical. Now creativity is as sexy as ever, but it’s rooted in science: intelligence, data and, yes, also the unique seductive ways that data can be harnessed. Today’s best creative minds are using tools to ensure that they and their target audience truly connect.

And as with Montague, the industry’s most creative outcomes spring from collaborating. For 2013, my agency, Havas PR, named the prefix co- the word of the year in our annual trends report. Now, in 2016, it’s the new normal. Everyone is co-creating and conspiring to conquer. It’s a cooperative approach to doing what we have always done: trying our best to invent wild desire.

Central to creating that desire is doing something that breaks through the clutter, or breaks through the cover—hello, Caitlyn!—and captivates those who see it. It might be a place, a person, an idea/story/brand or just a great viral video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a moving picture is worth a thousand more. (Although plenty of still images still speak—volumes—for themselves.)

Offering a particularly fruitful crop of creative PR examples, the last year has produced some tremendous work: Rogers & Cowan’s work with Caitlyn Jenner, the mainstreaming of Vice as it evolved from a fringe alternative publication into a must-read for the creative class, the packaging of Stanford University as the essential first stop to tech success, and the brilliant rise of Priscilla Chen, who is emerging as this generation’s Melinda Gates–in–training. I have a bit of an obsession with people and institutions that punch way above their weight, but the public relations work that went into all these transformations reflects formidable creativity. It is my hope that PR initiatives like these will be among the entries for this year’s Pencils—an inspiration for all of us to continue trying to collaborate on creative work that will rise to that standard.

Like everything, creativity in PR will continue to evolve—and we need to diversify (multicultural people, multidisciplinary minds, multigenerational offices) and dimensionalize everything (life has become 4-D)—but taking stock of the industry to prepare for serving as a D&AD PR Pencil juror has me feeling pretty good about our creativity now. It also reminds me that creativity will matter more than ever in the coming years. The world’s 24/7, borderless communications landscape has given the good, the bad and the evil the same shot at hijacking the message. The only way the good guys can win is by out-creating the others.

photo:creativecommons.org/Niuton may

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