Claire Bridges, Q&A with PR Week

Claire Bridges, Q&A with PR Week

As I write, I’m reflecting that I’ve been working in and around the PR industry for almost 3 decades! I turn 50 this year and a lot has changed since I started my PR career doing work experience in-house for Whitbread’s corporate comms team.

In the nineties I earned my PR stripes in agencies including Ketchum, H+K and JCPR. These were the ‘good old, bad old days’ of PR when the boss told you to buy a suit for a pitch on expenses, lunches really were long and media relations was at the heart of our jobs.

Q: What’s been your creative career highlight?

The early noughties were spent in the creative Wild West that was Cake; working backstage at V Festival, lanyarded up in the photographers ‘pit’, running the Rizla-café at Glastonbury and brokering a deal with Kylie for Evian which saw bottles of water selling for £100’s. This was renegade, full-force creativity way before we really knew how to measure it or take it as seriously as we do now.

The rest of the decade saw me become Consumer MD at Cohn & Wolfe, then one of the first (female) Creative Directors in the industry. Whilst confident in my own abilities, I struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’ with the new title.

Q:… and lowlight? (ie: a campaign idea that never materialised or took off as planned)

And whilst it was an exciting new challenge and sideways step, this time in my career would also definitely include some lowlights. Working in a big agency can be relentless, and the constant pitching cycle and client demands took their toll on my wellbeing. Things were very different then – presenteeism was rife, subsidised yoga was not yet a thing and pitch all-nighters were real.

After 18 months as CD (and a messy divorce), I upended my big agency career, started training others in creative thinking and haven’t looked back.

Q: What’s your favourite campaign of the past three months (not one that you or your organisation were involved in) and why?

I’ve chosen something yet to happen – I love a cheeky, rule-bending, sock-it-to-the big-boys workaround idea and this one brings in the shiny-new Metaverse! Miller Lite is hosting a virtual bar in the Metaverse for the Superbowl 2022, thus creatively circumventing arch-rival Anheuser-Busch InBev’s exclusive rights as national beer advertiser on this key date.

Q: How do you solve creative writer’s block?

I stick my hands in the dirt. My home office is filled with seedlings, bulbs and things I’m trying to revive. Give me a pair of secateurs and I’m happy! Manicures don’t last long.

Q: How should PR grow its creative prowess?

We need to upskill PRs with better planning and strategy know-how or hire for it. I think that these roles will become the norm over the next few years for agencies. In my experience people attracted to a career in PR love ideas, problem-solving, thinking on their feet and the alchemy of creating something from (almost) nothing. Developing strategic and critical thinking provides the evidence and robust foundation for ideas that clients need.

“Think of it as ‘imagination + maths’”

This article first appeared in PR Week

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