Jackie Cooper, Edelman

Jackie is a PR veteran with over 30 years experience, predominately in brand marketing, creative conception and personality strategy. In 1987 she co-founded JCPR, the eponymous award-winning consumer PR agency in London. Acquired by Edelman in 2004, she then served as Creative Director and Vice Chair of Edelman UK. Jackie is currently the Global Chair, creative strategy and a member of Edelman’s executive committee, overseeing the firm’s creative offering collaborating with teams across the Edelman’s international network.

Tell me about the last ‘big idea’ that you developed:

With 5,000 staff across 65 offices across the world, we have a huge raft of ideas being developed every day. The interesting point about these ideas are that they are increasingly integrated and feature a strong element of production and experiential.

Where did the idea come from?

Our best ideas feature an own able insight driven by propriety research and our own planners. There is immense pride and reassurance for the creative teams and therefore the clients when this is at the base of the idea.

What process did you go through?

We are building a new planet. Taking the best of the ad agencies and their process (and their staff!) and the best of the PR account teams (and their business nous and media specialism) and creating shareable, earnable ideas with strong creative teams.

How long did it take?

As long as it takes…..

Did you use any creativity tools?

Yes. Alcohol. Going out. Knowing stuff. Experiencing stuff. Outside ambassadors. Groups together. Taking time out and being on your own. TedTalks. Chocolate. Whatever it takes.

Have you been able to implement anything that improves creativity with your organisation this year?

Our new planet features more and more specialists: from scriptwriters to anthropologists; from brand strategists to inventors; from film producers to technologists; from neuroscientists to trend analysts; from researchers to producers. We are heroing our book of work much more internally – we also want to ensure we “show up differently”. We have a heritage to respect and a no.1 position to maintain which means our work must be stellar. We also launched our Ticket to Cannes competition, open to all staff, for each region to have winners for the best creative idea submitted. Not only did this incentivise our guys, whatever their role, it also liberated them to think and create with an open brief. We also ended up with hundreds of totally brilliant ideas to take to new and existing clients.

Any campaigns you’re especially proud of?

Delivering the integrated creative and producing beautiful work for Nikkei Asia Review; our emotive campaign using poets to fuel conversation around PayPal micropayments with “poemgrams”; our small Madrid office spun Cannes Lions award winning work for Albal around a non-food wastage message – educating Spain about the value of leftovers; our counsel and guidance for (now) Nobel prize winner Malala.

Have you identified any unique/unusual ways of harnessing creativity or bringing it/interviewing for it with new employees?

We are definitely in the middle of a movement….our hires are increasing rapidly and they are bringing long-standing expertise and tenure from a myriad of agencies and business. There is hunger to join Edelman – our independent position and entrepreneurial nature is very attractive to frustrated creatives! Thank goodness!

What are the biggest barriers to creativity within PR?

So the PR company wants to own the big idea? This is a challenge. But the agencies are up for it…it’s the clients who we have to convince which will only happen when we show up brilliantly, researched and deliver a creative solution to a business problem.

What is your vision of PR utopia, in terms of creativity?

Great business supporting ideas grounded in the earned mindset but not limited to any one channel. Truly integrated teams focused on market defining campaigns for clients.

Do you think that creativity is set to flourish equally in smaller or larger companies – why?

Small businesses can be more nimble which is creative oxygen but then big companies have resource and read which is another kind of fuel. Common denominators are how we nurture creativity, support the time to think and create, allow for resource to be allocated to liberate strategic thinking.

Almost half of respondents thought that the quality of creativity in PR had improved in the last 12 months. What are your own thoughts?

We have raised the bar certainly in the last 12 months – more people, more range, and more concentration on our creative output. But when you look at the Cannes Lions for example, one wouldn’t say it’s advanced enough by the standards of the international creative community.

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Everyone seems to agree that ‘great storytelling’ drives great PR work. What does that mean to you?

PR companies have a heritage in understanding the power of editorial. We are bedded in earning our way to have a profile/drive a conversation and this certainly is super-relevant for community outreach today. Great storytelling needs to reach out emotionally, factually and powered by great content.

Content creation is seen as the biggest area in which creative thinking is needed. What is the ‘secret sauce’ for creating compelling content?

An editorial mindset plus professional production.

Do you formally assess your team’s creativity?

We have a formalised quality management programme – E2 – and creativity is one of the key factors for clients to assess our performance. We then revert according to the feedback and this has maintained our quality of work in all areas very successfully.

Clients say they are considerably more likely to approach their PR agency for big ideas than a year ago. What’s changed?

Well hopefully the clients are recognising that the 30 second spot is a challenge to justify and engaging people needs engaging content which PR agencies with their earned heritage are better placed to deliver. The recognition of the multi platform multi channel ability is part of these increasing requests: content and ideas have to work harder, cross platform. Media buys are increasingly supporting an editorially rooted idea rather than the other way round.

Over 50 per cent of respondents say that budget holds back creativity. Is that a valid complaint or a cop-out?

A cop-out. Be creative – that means finding solutions. As Einstein said. “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else”

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If you could only change one thing to improve creativity either in your business or the wider industry what would it be?

Understand that creativity is a business imperative, grounded in strategy, powering a campaign…not the ‘bit at the end’ from a one-hour brainstorm.

What do you think the PR agency of 5 year’s time / the future will look like in terms of creativity?

Not sure we will have PR agencies. Think we will have agencies who survive and flourish because they do great work.

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