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Four years ago the Holmes Report and I came up with the idea of trying to measure the state of creativity in PR and settled on an industry-wide survey. At the time, creativity as a general business concept was increasingly in vogue, with companies like Google and Pixar sharing their creative processes and some people even daring to suggest that when it came to great ideas, the boundaries between PR and ad-land were starting to blur.

The background to the decision to kick off our survey back in 2012 was a decade that had steadily changed the face of day-to-day PR work. Aided and abetted by a multitude of then-new tools and the advent of social media – the PR practitioner of 2012 was quite a different PR to that of 2002, and virtually unrecognisable from a decade earlier, whose toolkit now seems quite comparatively very bare.

Since our first Holmes Report Creativity in PR study, several thousand respondents from all over the world have given us an annual snapshot of the state of creativity within the industry. Some things have changed and creativity is a fundamental element of day to day PR life, including in sectors like corporate PR. Ostensibly, that’s great – but there is a downside; our survey this year showed that the days of employees being rewarded for their creativity may well be on their way out. Great ideas, it seems, are simply becoming part of an expected norm.

How this will play out long-term remains to be seen: will a generation of newcomers be drawn to the industry because they feel it is the perfect place to learn about innovation and flex their creative clout? Or will it send big-thinkers to other creative industries where they expect their ideas will come with a louder ker-ching, more awards and a bit more kudos and perhaps putting creative thinking to some greater (and social) good?

If you don’t have time to see the full report but still want something to bring up in the bar tonight, below are some other key findings. And if you find yourself grumbling in disagreement then please do take part next year.

* 70 per cent of agencies say that their clients are demanding greater levels of creativity from them.

* PRs were voted by clients as being more creative than both media agencies and content agencies (but just a shade behind ad agencies and digital agencies).

* 66 per cent of respondents rate the quality of creative thinking in their business as “good” or “inspirational”.

* Agencies know the client wants creativity – only 4 per cent think it’s a low priority.

* 56 per cent of clients think that the quality of creativity in PR campaigns has improved in last 12 months.

* Only 25 per cent of Creative Directors are women.

As creativity increasingly becomes part of the PR industry’s genetic make-up, we certainly see that creative confidence is rising. PRs are feeling more and more capable when it comes to generating big ideas – indeed 73 per cent of clients say they are more likely to approach their agency for a big creative idea than they were a year ago. Alongside this, knowledge of creative processes is steadily improving and agencies are ever more skilled at taking a campaign from insight to ideation to testing and implementation. As a result, perhaps, two-thirds of clients polled this year said they were optimistic that their PR agencies will deliver in terms of innovation over the next five years.

Some members at H+K Strategies, partner this year, lend their thoughts. Among them is Simon Shaw, Chief Creative Officer at the H+K Center of Creative Strategy. He says that:

“Clients have always demanded creativity; we have to become much better at showing how our ideas are going to be effective.”

What do you think? Where do you see the gaps in the industry’s capabilities and how do we plug them? Questions like this and comments like Simon’s lead to conversations, and it is in conversations that solutions often lie. Because while things look pretty good when it comes to creativity in PR in 2015, as with everything, things could be improved. Clients could be happier with PRs’ creative capabilities, for example (29 per cent say it’s a constant challenge). Meanwhile, clients’ continued aversion to risk needs to be addressed if agencies are allowed to shine. Formal assessment of creative ideas could probably be better, too.

“The PR industry needs to ‘unlearn’ as well as learn.” Heath Rudduck

Heath is Chief Creative Officer at PadillaCRT in the US and comes from an advertising background. His view on creativity in 2015: “for many organizations, in order to get traction in today’s roller-coaster marketplace, there’s a great deal of unlearning and learning needed, to reset perspectives on what organizational creativity is. Creativity isn’t a department; it’s a way of being. And to be honest, I prefer to use the word innovation. The word creative so often confuses people because many see it as the commoditized output, the production process itself, or a department.  Every aspect of what we do, can and should be innovative and businesses that take purpose seriously need to find innovative ways to connect internally and externally. They should be focused on extracting deep  human insights that lead to crystal-clear and focused ideas. They need to build bridges to their audiences, delivering that message by whatever means necessary in order to make the vital connection they need. Part of PR’s strength is knowing how to be scrappy and resourceful, and those skills are vital today, but strong organizing ideas that ladder into every aspect of a campaign will win the day. Strong brands demand this type of rigor.  I recently read an article suggesting “creatives” need to understand more about business. I would suggest that today, everyone needs to truly understand what it is we are here to do; to find innovative and effective ways to help our clients exercise their purpose and connect at an intrinsically powerful level to their audience.  Any contemporary agency needs to be innovative because great creativity is great business. Successful agencies use creative methodologies to achieve real business results. It’s an exciting time to be in our changing world.”

The report is available to view right now here. It’s well worth a look (even if you don’t like polls!) because as well as the results, there are some insightful quotes from participants. As a trainer in creativity, one of my favourites is

“Creativity is a learnt muscle – we have to exercise it.”

I’m truly thrilled that the results from the Holmes Report Creativity in PR study suggests that this mindset is being widely adopted.