Creating a culture of creativity in Public Relations

Gabriela Lungu - Founder, WINGS

Creativity in advertising is common, and is seen as a crucial component of success and competitive advantage. But, where does creativity stand in Public Relations? That was what Gabriela Lungu, Founder, WINGS Creative Leadership Lab concentrated on as she spoke about Creating a Culture of Creativity in Public Relations.

How to lead, and manage for creativity was what she focused on. Her opening shot was – “Creative people don’t like rules. Creativity will never be commoditised”.

How to manage creativity? It means bringing out the full potential of your people. There are blurred lines between PR and creativity. Having worked in a PR firm, she noticed that there are no structured efforts for creativity. So, was creativity is a gift from God? Certainly not! She believed there is a way to organise creativity. Recalling Aristotle she reminded us that “Excellence is never an accident. It is the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution, choice not chance”.

There are five elements to look at here:

  • Make creativity a business priority
  • Make creativity personal to each individual
  • Focus on the creative process
  • Take clients along on the creative journey
  • Compete for and celebrate creative excellence

Making creativity a business priority – Make creativity a company shared core value, was her clear point of view. Set clear specific creative objectives, equally important as financial ones or any other business goal. So support financially and invest in creativity. She recommended that it would be ideal to have top management as ambassadors, committed to creative excellence; have a formal creative leader C-suite level to drive creative excellence efforts. Promote creativity across the company and explain how every unit can contribute. Have a specialised creative structure. We should try to create an organisational climate favourable to idea generation and creativity. It’s not just about having some fun, but making sure there’s a sense of play and fun. Practice corporate selfishness and allocate time to spend with your people. As in her case, “every Friday, we took two hours to focus on us!” Play, risk and give permission to fail – any creative idea is risky – if it wasn’t done before, how do we know if it will work? “In PR, I believe the role of the creative officer is a facilitator,” she said firmly and urged – “please appoint or recruit a creative leader (or choose from the current team). Promote creativity across the company and explain how every unit can contribute”.

Making creativity personal to each individual – Set clear and specific creative KPIs for each person in the firm; there should be accountability for creativity. Involve individuals in creating a creative culture. Recruit and develop for creativity. Reward creativity and creative behavior. She added a word of caution here – avoid the “league” syndrome, take care of creative champions, and promote healthy competition. Give to originators of big ideas the public recognition they deserve. It’s not just ego support.

Focusing on the creative process – Her advice was – put in place a thorough creative process: from brief to assessment, to presentation and then to implementation. Have an “obsession for research and insight hunting”; have a passion for craft and the beauty of execution. It’s advisable to have a wide variety of creative techniques. Ditch the all-team brainstorming. Activate the “silent half”.  Value collaboration and often use external resources (bring people aboard).

Taking clients on a creative journey – Be inclusive as far as clients go – so, inform and incite,  co-create with clients, share credits and also celebrate success. Present braver work, sell it creatively and explain why it matters!

Competing for and celebrating creative excellence. Put awards in the centre of creative strategy, she implored because, “It’s the best tool for motivation, evaluation and celebration. Aim from the start for award-worthy work”.  Allocate awards-related budget for case studies, entry fees, people participation. Compensate the lack of budget with time investment. Celebrate awards, not only the wins, but the festivals themselves. Create a momentum inside and outside the organisation.

So, the answer was – to go all out for creative excellence. Then she quoted Leo Burnett to point out that “When you reach the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either”.

In the Q/A session, Aniruddha Bhagwat from Ideosphere observed that creativity is what everyone is focusing on. How do you see the approach to creativity has changed? She felt that when she worked on the client’s side, she had very little time for creativity. But today, she would encourage everyone to go for something new and relevant. Having worked in both ad and PR firms, she noted the difference – for PR creativity is a skill; and in advertising it is treated as a discipline and they work to make ideas happen. The solution?  “In PR you need to treat it as a talent, a method – you could do a lot more and create a culture for creativity,” she said.

When Aniruddha noted that 70% of her clients are award-winning clients, she said:  “All our clients had to become ‘creative’ clients. We are very good at exciting clients to be creative and we celebrate together with clients, as a team – for winning awards.”


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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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