The power of creativity in Public Relations

Many communicators may say Public Relations is not advertising, and how and why should it be creative?

As I concluded my last column with a David Ogilvy quote, your consumer is not a moron. Whatever ‘brain storming’ that we PR practitioners do with our bosses and clients and the strategy presentations that we make and ‘gyan sessions’ that we do, at the end of the day what matters is what gets printed in The Economic Times of The Times of India!

Sorry, I am not trying to undervalue any other media, but only conveying the mindsets of the corporate world.

Bosses and clients may get highly impressed with the servicing capabilities, lecture baazi and what many describe as hand-holding capabilities. But this impression gets dissolved when we do not deliver even a part of what we promise! In Delhi they say: Goli Diya; in Mumbai, xxxx Banaya. So, back to Abraham Lincoln: You can’t fool all the people all the time!

Friends, creativity comes into play right from the beginning when we start making our PR strategies. It all begins with media familiarisation for the spokespersons in accordance with the rapidly changing dynamics. Let us as PR practitioners, first of all understand ‘what makes the news’. It is no more the case of man biting dog; Today’s headline is: Man bites the snake and kills it! (did someone say yuck?!).

Now, let me present a case study scenario. Our spokespersons and we as PR pundits might feel very happy with a Press Release that we write using all the creativity at our command. But it may not find its way into print the next morning. Worse still, the press conference that we hold, using the ‘highly creative’ press release, turns out to be a damp squib. No one accepts any number of excuses.

At the Press Club, where I get to meet many media friends at leisure, I hear complaints after complaints about ‘you PR guys’. As an old friend from Hindu Business Line often complains: ‘Why can’t your guys write simple, straight stories and send is to us instead of using bombastic language and tables and graphs that may impress your bosses or clients?’ Another friend from ToI says: ‘I don’t even open some PR guys’ mails since I don’t want to waste my time’.

Even at the risk of sounding like a text-bookish professor in a media school, I must stress that the headline (which alone should be the subject matter of our mails), the bullet points and the intro matter a lot. These should be closest to what a reporter writes in his copy. Our job is to facilitate journalists write the news that has correct information from us.

I hear strange responses If I make these statements in my meetings with PR friends. One PR pundit says: “If I were to write like a journalist, I would be sitting in a newspaper office and not here!.” Says another: “I am strategist, writing is not my cup of tea. Any junior can do the writing part”.

Ladies and gentlemen, please do not underestimate the power of writing! This is how many of us commit blunders. The least that we so-called seniors and strategists can do is to oversee what goes out of our offices to the media! Don’t we read newspapers? Don’t we see headlines, sub-heads and the intros in newspapers? Don’t we often check ticker lines on TV channels?

What prevents us from making similar simple headlines and write such simple copy?

Some PR consultancies and platforms such as PRCI often conduct workshops on media relations. It might be worthwhile to send in our teams for such refresher sessions to update themselves with the latest media trends. What is even more interesting is that we get to learn insights from media veterans on expectations from PR people. PRCI also has a guest faculty pool – drawn from among media and PR veterans – who can help sharpen our skills and broaden our horizons.

Finally, yes Public Relations can be creative by creative training! Let’s all work together towards this goal.

BN Kumar
Executive Director at Concept PR
B N Kumar (BNK24x7 to his friends) has almost 40 years of experience as a media professional.

He started his career with Free Press Journal in late 1970s, worked with United News of India and wrote for The Daily, Times of India, Mid-Day and Indian Express. He also ran a county paper called Newsbank New Bombay catering to the needs of Navi Mumbai before returning to mainstream by joining Business India. He started his PR career with the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Industries and was part of the team that set up O&M PR - the first PR arm of an Ad agency - 30 years ago.

He is also the Chairman, Governing Council - Public Relations Council of India (PRCI).

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