Désirée Maurd is a freelance PR Creative & Strategist. She has a background as a Partner and Creative Director at Swedish PR agency Prime, PR Strategist at advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors and Creative Director at digital agency Dear Future. Désirée’s industry recognitions include awards at Swedish PR industry awards SPINN, the European Excellence Awards, the SABRE Awards, Clio Healthcare, Eurobest Advertising Festival and Cannes Lions. In 2012 she was selected one of Sweden’s 101 “super talents” by the national business magazine “Veckans Affärer”. In 2014 she was ranked as one of Sweden’s 150 best communicators, the same year she also served as a PR juror at Cannes Lions.
You’re in the rather rare position of having been on two sides of the creative fence…
My background is in PR but I’ve just recently worked at an ad agency where I was a PR strategist educating the advertising people on how PR works. PR is something everyone wants to work with in the ad industry, but they lack the knowledge.
The results of the Holmes Report survey suggest that many PR people see themselves as the ‘poor relations’ to the creatives in the ad world. Did you find that when you ‘crossed over’?
No, I don’t think so. In fact I think the agencies don’t really know what the PR people are doing and they can sometimes find it a bit scary. I think that in a lot of cases a PR person gets closer to the CEO than the ad guys can – the PR person being the person the CEOs call in a crisis – and as a result the PR agencies have easier access to top management and to talk about big strategies with them.
What can you tell us about the last big idea you worked on?
One recent campaign I worked on was with the Swedish pharmacy, which had enjoyed a monopoly until about five years ago when it was all changed and they now have a lot of competitors. To try and keep up with the likes of Boots, the old pharmacy is branching into new areas all the time, and it’s not always easy for them. One idea I did for them – at the ad agency where we had both the PR and the advertising account – was to do with make-up, which is very new area for what is basically a government-run business. Finding make-up in a UK pharmacy is normal, but in Sweden it was a big new thing, kind of weird, because the pharmacy is kind of super-traditional; it’s all health not vanity.
Sounds like a challenge.
It was – when they started selling make-up they put it in the corner because the people working in the shops didn’t really want to be seen with it. The styling of those shops is green and white and kind of traditional, so we made a specific, pop-up store for the pharmacy’s make-up with more vibrant colours: it wasn’t exactly super-feminine, but it was a step towards a new face for the old pharmacy. It went very well and it helped the pharmacy and their customers understand that they could do make up and that it didn’t have to be super-glossy. There was also the chance for people to come in and get their make-up done without booking it months in advance, which was unheard of in Sweden. The inspiration, really, came from the way they do things in big cities like New York.
What tools did you use in the creative process?
I don’t think we used any specific tools, but I obviously picked up a lot of tips when I worked at Prime, an agency in Sweden, which was my ‘school’ for six years. When I first got the title of ‘PR creative’ there it was unheard of. Creative in a PR agency? What is that? What do you do? Are you a copywriter? Are you an art director? People just didn’t understand it. When people ask me now what a PR creative is, I say it’s a combination of a planner and an advertising creative – meaning that a PR idea has to have a better foundation and the foundation becomes part of the idea; the foundation is not something that the creative uses to come up with the idea, it is actually part of the idea. You have to have much more to talk about and to build a story around.
What’s the biggest barrier to creativity in PR?
It’s the old idea that everyone is supposed to be creative, which is good, but it can also hold people back because the old-fashioned PR consultant is kind of supposed to know everything. That’s certainly what’s its like in Sweden and I think it’s true everywhere, that the typical PR person knows a little bit of everything. But I think being afraid of specialising can stop PRs from working harder at becoming more creative.
Finally, what do you think PR agency of 5 years’ time will look like in terms of creativity?
Well, during the past five years I’ve seen people start to talk about PR creativity and really mean it. I was on the Cannes Lions jury this year and there were still very few PR agencies represented in the projects we judged, but I think in five years it will be 50 per cent. That’s my dream, anyway. No one is looking away from creativity, so I think there will be a big improvement.