Guest blog post by Gabriela Lungu, Chief Creative Officer, UK & EMEA, Weber Shandwick
There is a lot of emphasis on creativity lately in the PR industry, and for a good reason. For many years PR practitioners acted as if we were in a “networking” industry, and not in a “creative” one. For many years we relied in our PR campaigns on who we knew (journalists, opinion leaders, analysts, celebrities etc.), instead of amazing ideas that would make even those who we didn’t know want to engage with our campaigns. We were for so many years the only ones responsible with earned media. So now, when boundaries between disciplines have become blurrier and communication specialists from many other domains have started fighting for a share of the Holy Grail of “non-paid”, PR people quickly realized that in order to stay ahead of the game they couldn’t count only on their traditional and natural “relations building” skills anymore. They had to quickly add a new one, the weapon of choice of their advertising competitors - “creativity”. Therefore here we are: an entire industry trying to change the way we always did things and rewire ourselves around creativity (while still preserving the good old “relations building” skills that made us so valuable in the earned media era in the first place). Creativity can be a scary thing. Creativity was always perceived as something quite ethereal, indescribable. Yes, learnable to a certain degree, but definitely more of an innate talent than an acquirable skill. What if we simply weren't born with it? Creativity is imagination, inspiration. We’ve all heard of creative blocks, even in the case of the greatest artists. What if we have a block at a certain point or on a specific brief? Creativity seems to be like luck. Some are lucky, some just aren’t. What if we just aren’t??... Well, let me remind you of a wise saying, one that we all seem to agree on: the harder I work, the luckier I get. Luckily (sic) the same goes for creativity in PR! In the day-to-day PR work we’re not required necessarily high creativity, but… little one. Although authentic innovation is totally welcome, the truth is no one asks us to be pioneering inventors or fantastic new worlds’ creators; no one expects groundbreaking contributions or game changing art. Our clients just want us to be relevant communicators, finding clever new ways of framing the reality; they want problem solving with, yes, some surprising expression. Ideas in our field therefore do not come so much from heavenly inspiration, but from good perspiration! They should not be sought out in the clouds of imagination, but dug out from rigorous research of the reality. To be creative in communications nowadays does not mean becoming daydreamers, but actually means getting down and dirty with clients’ stuff (all the information about product, brand, market, consumer, context etc.) to search for buried, forgotten, overlooked but true and exciting insights. In PR the insight is the INCITE (and I love the fact that we, at Weber Shandwick, own this thought). Once you have found the existing surprising truth that the insight represents, in PR you often already have that idea that would incite consumers’ engagement; there is a quite little leap from the insight to the campaign idea. Think about a great PR campaign you love and its main idea; doesn’t it sound remarkably… insightful? Is it imagination or rather reality presented in a surprising way? Does it look invented, made-up in some moment of inspiration, or actually (and I would bet this is the case) rather discovered, revealed, already existing but now suddenly amazingly uncovered? We should therefore talk less of dreaming, and more of digging in PR. Let’s guide our good PR people, who are learning to play in the “creativity” field, to embrace… research and data analytics – acquirable, controllable skills, and not a perceived innate talent, a burden that intimidates rather than inspires. Let’s focus on smart processes that lead to good outcomes every time, and not so much the fruit of lucky inspiration or a stroke of genius that may not repeat again. Let’s look for insights and then, of course, use some less worn-out ways of expressing them. This might just lead us to some big ideas as well! Because, yes, the harder we will search and research, the more creative we will be.
Gabriela Lungu is one of the most awarded people in the industry, an active advocate for building a culture of creativity in PR and award worthy work for clients. She has received over 150 awards and nominations during the last years, among which the most coveted trophies in the industry such as Platinum SABRE, Global SABRE, Gold SABRE, PR Lion, European Excellence Award, IPRA Golden World Award etc. At Weber Shandwick she is the firm’s first regional Chief Creative Officer, based in London, driving the creative output for UK and EMEA. Previously she held positions at Ogilvy, where she was Managing Director of Ogilvy Public Relations Romania before founding her own multi-awarded agency The Practice in 2006. Under her creative leadership the independent agency in Bucharest was ranked number 13 on The Holmes Report’s Creative Index 2012 of the most creative PR firms in the world and won the title of Eastern European Consultancy of the Year in 2013.