Once the data was in for the 2014 ‘Creativity In PR’ survey that Now Go Create conducted with the Holmes Report, I set about interviewing some of the key players in the industry to see what they thought about the findings. I had an inkling of what some of them might say because I’ve been seeing growing evidence of a real shift in the way that the big-hitters in PR are approaching creativity. At Cannes Lions, where I was a judge this year, there was a sense that if the PR industry wants to take the creative lead in the future to win gongs then things might need shaking up a little. Here are some of the key themes from our interviews.
Dawn of the crack PR team: small, agile and very, very hot
One of the key findings of the Holmes Report survey was that brainstorming remained the default setting for most companies when it came to ideas generation. I don’t want to bang on again about why I think this isn’t (necessarily) the best way to get kick-ass ideas, but what was interesting was that only 44% of respondents actually believed this group brainstorming was good enough. The decision-making creatives in the industry are taking notice, which is why a number of those that we spoke to (many of them were from the UK’s top 30 PR companies) are in the process of trying something new.
The trend is for smaller, leaner teams – often just two or three people – and often quite a number of these micro-groups working on the same brief. Sitting in a group of 20 and throwing out random ideas appears to be losing its appeal as a creative option; borrowing from the ad agency model, the new, two or three-man approach represents a leaner, meaner way of doing things.
Specialists are on the way
Another recurring theme was the need to have a large group of specialists on hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean more staff, but what seems to be a dream scenario is one in which, several years down the line, a large agency could call on a vast pool of specialist skills when input was needed for a specific brief. One CD suggested that a large agency might even have its own wardrobe department, for example, so that styling for visual imagery became more integral to a campaign. Another suggests that anthropologists, strategists and will be the norm in years to come. Similarly, a network of comedians could be leaned on for of-the-moment humour; psychologists could tell you in advance if consumers might think an idea crass or brilliant.
The thinking seems to be that in today’s demanding creative climate, generalists can only deliver the goods up to a point: with ever more exacting clients, the melting pot of skills and knowledge, it was generally felt, need to be deeper in order to maximise results.
Process-driven thinking = results
I think what united all of the people we interviewed was the belief that creativity simply doesn’t happen by accident. Sure, the ‘Eureka’ moment may come a long way down the ideation process, perhaps – as the cliché goes – even in the shower. But the way the serious and successful PR creatives set about coming up with ideas for a groundbreaking campaign follows a tried and tested format which begins with gathering insight. It also usually involves some sort of incubation period which follows the ‘thinking time’. It’s about application and graft.
The role of the PR needs to change
Less specifically, a general undercurrent I detected from the interviews was a basic need for change within PR. The results of the Holmes Report survey reiterated the commonly held belief that PR is viewed as a “poor cousin” to other creative industries, and the creatives in charge seem to recognise that something needs to be change. Interesting times indeed…