Creativity in PR – A Healthcare Perspective, Caroline Maddock, Weber Shandwick

“Creativity in healthcare shouldn’t just be for Christmas.  Nor should creativity become less of a priority with the continuing challenges of economic pressures, increasing focus on the regulatory environment and ensuring access to medicines.  If anything, an ability to interest and engage an audience, be they physicians or consumers, is even more important in times such as these.  Neither should creativity hide behind the highly regulated environment in which we operate in healthcare communications.  We face rules of engagement in all aspects of communication, written and unwritten rules, but it is the rigour you apply to the creative process in the first place that enables you to work within and respect these regulations, however challenging, and still deliver a great idea that can truly change behaviour.   It’s also the emphasis and value you place on creativity, the investment you make, the respect and kudos it is given within the wider business, the emphasis on planning, preparation and process that ensure you can deliver creative success in healthcare.  It’s not the output of a hastily written brief, a deliver in 24-hour request or a last minute brainstorm.  Much like shopping for the best Christmas gift, you need an insight, a sense of direction or strategy, you might need to talk to some people and seek advice and you may need to throw around a few ideas before you hit on the perfect campaign. 

While planning a creative campaign in healthcare can sometimes feel like entering a labyrinth, full of dead ends, trap-doors and endless, winding passage-ways, if you have the right attitude and aptitude, a thorough understanding of the rules (compliance is non-negotiable), a collaborative and can-do approach, you can come out the other side with a potentially award-winning campaign.  So, it was with mixed feelings that I read the results of the Holmes Report & Now Go Creativity in PR Study.  Buoyed by the value that’s placed on creativity and the fact that it plays such an important role in agency choice but tinged with disappointment to see the disconnection between this value and the quality of delivery.  And I wondered, if you asked these same questions of healthcare agencies and clients would the answers be the same or would the disconnect be greater?  Do we truly invest time and money?  Do we have the right processes?  Are we really delivering inspiring rather than ordinary ideas?  We constantly have to challenge ourselves to ensure we put a priority on creativity.   There are still great examples of creative healthcare campaigns that don’t hit the regulatory cutting room floor and these should be our inspiration.   

I consider myself lucky as I do work in an agency environment that does recognise the value of creativity – we have a creative director and we invest in understanding how best that creativity can engage an audience through the Science of Engagement.  But clearly more needs to be done to ensure that we’re are all the lucky ones.  2014 sees the first Lions Health Festival, part of the Cannes Lions, so what a great incentive and opportunity to show everyone just how creative we can be in healthcare communications. 

Could our New Year’s resolution be not to be ordinary?”

Caroline Maddock, Deputy Managing Director, Weber Shandwick Health,  London

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