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Is it time for Indian PR to take a creative leap?

19th December 2012


When Felix Baumgartner leapt from the edge of space and made history, it wasn’t just a record being broken in terms of the highest freefall or breaking the sound barrier. Red Bull Stratos also broke the barriers for marketing. From owned content, strong social media presence and a well-orchestrated media campaign, everything that Red Bull did around this event was focussed on just a single idea – "The Big Idea" – the jump.

Could a PR firm have come up with an idea like the Red Bull Stratos activity? Could it have conceptualised and executed it in the same way? Here are some fundamental issues that challenge most PR firms when it comes to the Big Idea:

Creativity:
 

Basically Red Bull Stratos would be serviced by one PR lead and his or her team would be responsible to come up with an idea. Can we expect a single individual to have the ability to conceptualize an idea like this? Well, not all the time. And the biggest issue is that within PR firms we tend to work in silos. Therefore the opportunity to leverage the larger creative strength that exists in an organisation is lost.

Another perspective to consider is the lack of a creative function internally; there is no creative director or specialist within a traditional PR structure. Furthermore, few firms seriously look at developing a creative culture within the organisation. The fear of challenging a brief and sticking to what is traditionally tried and tested is what limits creative ideas from coming to fruition. A creative culture encourages an open mind that would allow for acceptance of an idea rather than its’ dismissal. It also allows for the creation of better communication models that can be effectively applied.

The Big Picture:
 

The ability to show the client the bigger picture and convince him or her to put budgets into a program like Red Bull Stratos is another challenge. The first part is to demonstrate to the client insights behind the idea and how it delivers results effectively. Secondly, the PR firm needs to demonstrate ability and knowledge to deliver the idea. Both of these can’t be done in the short term.

Delivering insights beyond media coverage, share of voice; to the actual behaviour trigger of the target audience is something PR can do. The profession has always had its ears to the ground listening to the client’s stakeholders. Therefore gleaning the trigger points of a consumer, their thoughts, fears, etc. is a lot easier.

However the demonstration of ability and knowledge can only happen over time and experience. PR firms need to start by delivering experiences to the client where they demonstrate multi-platform reach, collaboration with other marketing arms. Thereby establishing how PR thinks beyond square centimetres and sees the bigger picture.

Ownership:
 

The Red Bull Stratos idea had multiple elements to it – execution needed to be tied across marketing functions, across the jump itself and the logistics. A PR firm would need to take lead and own the idea, collaborate and get the different players of the idea aligned and guide it to execution. We’ve seen how advertising firms successfully do this, but PR firms rarely ever go beyond what they consider the PR domain.

This lack of ownership by PR results in the idea losing momentum or getting hijacked by another function. For PR to lead a program like the Red Bull Stratos event it needs to have the confidence and capability to drive the program. The fact is that most PR professionals rarely get exposure/training/understanding on how the other platforms or marketing functions work, how to tie the different players together and integrate a campaign. Having this in place is critical if PR is to deliver a Big Idea.

So can a PR firm deliver and idea like Red Bull Stratos from concept to execution? I’d like to believe that it can and one day will. But the journey to that requires changes internally in structure and mind set.

Shane Jacob is Principal and Head (Digital Media) at The PRactice


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